Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for July 3, 2013


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for July 3, 2013

Today’s morning news will be brief and we’ll take tomorrow and Friday off for the Independence Day weekend. We will be posting updates and adoptable dogs on the website, and hope you’ll visit.

Fireworks on the Fourth of July

Fireworks shows and parades are in danger of cancellation with rain forecast for tomorrow, and because actual fireworks are against the law in Georgia, except with a license, there will be no “private” fireworks displays anywhere in the State. For now. But State Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis wants that to change. After the Senate passed his bill this year to allow more types of fireworks via statewide referendum, Mullis says he’ll try again in 2014 to pass it through the House.

Mullis estimates that Georgia could rake in $10 million in additional tax revenue from fireworks sales annually, though he admitted that surrounding states were not forthcoming with their sales information. He says people drive just across the state line and bring fireworks back into Georgia.

“We flock to the borders and buy fireworks that are illegal to shoot off in Georgia and yet it happens in every community,” said Mullis. “So, I’m hoping people are kind of paying attention this year in the legislature, so that they will understand the value of putting some safety regulations on this product that is used in Georgia without any safety regulations currently and then use the tax revenue for something good like trauma and fire services.”

The bill would impose a 10 percent tax on fireworks, which would be divided equally between the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission and the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council.

Republican Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens warns us to be careful with any fireworks this week.

While sparklers and similar non-explosive fireworks devices are legal in Georgia, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is urging citizens to use extreme caution to avoid injuries when using legalized fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday.

“Even legal fireworks should only be used with close adult supervision,” Hudgens said. “For the sake of safety and seeing a spectacular display, your best bet is to attend a professional show.”

Consumers may be confused when they discover certain types of fireworks on sale at local retail outlets near our state’s borders, Hudgens said. Sparklers and fountains are not classified as fireworks by law and are legal and available for sale or use in Georgia.

He added that in a typical year, two-thirds to three-fourths of all fireworks injuries occur during the four-week period surrounding Independence Day. On the Fourth of July itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined.

He did not add, “If one of your buddies says, ‘hold my beer, and y’all watch this,’ run away because he’s about to do something stupid and possibly life-threatening.”

Campaigns & Elections

Our friends at Rick Thompson & Associates asked me to remind all Georgia candidates that Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports are due to be filed with the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission no later than midnight on July 8th. If you need help getting your disclosures done on time, you can visit their website or call them at 404.492.8878. Mention for a discount; also, if you do that, they’ll deliver a paper sack full of dollar bills to me.

Former State Senator Doug Stoner is seeking a job steering the S.S. Titanic election as Chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party.

“I am excited about the opportunity to put my party, legislative and fundraising experience to use in helping to build the Democratic Party of Georgia,” Stoner said. “It’s very clear that Georgia is shifting away from a one party system, and I am prepared to work with my fellow Democrats to shape an agenda for the future.”

After redistricting, Stoner lost the 2012 General Election to Republican Hunter Hill.

Citizens United PAC is investing heavily in Georgia, sending $5000 to Congressman Tom Graves and maxing out to Bob Barr’s Congressional campaign with a $15,000 check. Also receiving a love letter stuffed with cash was Congressman Doug Collins.

The Bibb County Board of Elections scheduled the first elections for the Macon-Bibb consolidated government for September 17th, overruling the County Commission, which voted for November elections. Shortly after the County Commission decision, Mallory Jones filed the first voting rights suit after the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking Section Four of the Voting Rights Act and mooting Section Five.

Former Macon NAACP President Al Tillman will run for Macon-Bibb County Commission in District 9. Meanwhile, the Bibb County Democratic Party voted to remove Steve Allen as their appointee to the Bibb County Board of Elections after Allen voted for September elections this year instead of November.

Albert R. Hunt of Bloomberg thinks Michelle Nunn has a snowball’s chance of winning the United States Senate seat next year. LOL.

A counter-upset might well occur in the Republican stronghold of Georgia.

National Democrats are growing increasingly optimistic about Nunn’s prospects, especially if Republicans nominate one of the state’s three right-wing House members to replace Chambliss, though their first choice, Congressman John Barrow, has already said he won’t run.

Republicans are painting her as an out-of-touch left-wing national-party Democrat. They also note that her father, a four-term senator, hasn’t been on the ballot since 1990 and a Democrat hasn’t won a Senate race in Georgia in 17 years.

Matthew Riedemann was sworn in to the Kennesaw City Council; he was appointed to serve out the term of late Councilman Bill Thrash.
After twenty-eight years on the Carroll County Board of Education and a previous six years as Mayor of Carrollton, Joe McGinnis will not run for reelection to the BOE.

Three seats on the school board will be open for election: Ward 2, Ward 3 and an at-large seat.

The Ward 3 seat is currently held by Dr. Jason Mount. David Godwin currently holds the at-large seat that will be voted on in November.

Qualifying for the November election will take place in the office of the elections supervisor, 423 College St., Room 402, in Carrollton. Qualifying will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 26, and will end on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 4:30 p.m. A qualifying fee of $108 is required.

The last day to register to vote in this election will be Monday, Oct. 7. Early voting will start Oct. 14, with the general election on Nov. 5.

As a citizen, the first thing I want to know the local jail has is working locks. Keeping prisoners inside has to be job one, right? Fulton County will take up to a year to replace 1400 often-faulty locks in the county jail.

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office must figure out where to house about 400 inmates while the job is being done, since cellblocks have to be emptied while locks are being switched out. The county won’t be getting any help from the nearby Atlanta jail, even though it has about 700 empty beds.

Fulton Chief Jailer Mark Adger said talks ended abruptly earlier this month when his counterpart with the city told him that, because of the public tiff between Mayor Kasim Reed and the county, Atlanta wouldn’t be entertaining any offers. Patrick Labat, who heads Atlanta’s jail, said it wasn’t because of politics, but rather that Fulton County never submitted an offer in writing, and now the city is mulling other options to house inmates for other law enforcement agencies.

Also having trouble with that most-important part of a prison or jail cell is Hays State Prison and other state facilities.

After three prisoner deaths in two months at Hays State Prison in northwest Georgia, state officials say they may have addressed one of the root causes of violence at the high-security facility: locks that don’t lock.
Yet, records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show several other high-security prisons — facilities rife with gangs, hardened criminals and constant threats of violence — continue to be plagued with doors that won’t lock, a problem one top lawmaker said needs to be explained.

A state audit in September found that 184 locks failed out of 442 locks inspected at Hays. Other state prisons also struggle with locks, the AJC found in a review of audits at each of the state’s highest-security prisons.

Valdosta State Prison scored a 41 out of 100 on its 2012 audit. Inspectors found problems so pervasive they questioned whether staff was making the required daily lock inspections.

Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, said he wants to “hear a real clear excuse” about why so many locks fail at state prisons. Ehrhart, who serves on both the committee that writes the state budget and the committee that oversees the Department of Corrections, said there should be a systemwide review of prison security.

“That’s what prisons are for,” he said. “That has to be a major expense.”

Ehrhart said if locks are failing, the state should investigate where the locks came from.

“That floors me,” he said. “I want to know who sold them to us, I want to know if they’re still in business in the state of Georgia.”

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