Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for March 15, 2013


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for March 15, 2013

Elections Next Week & Today

You should double-check before you head to the polls, as some of the information about these elections is minimal. If it doesn’t say that early voting is available today, that doesn’t mean it isn’t, it just means that I couldn’t confirm it.

Town of Bethlehem Special Election on Sunday Sales Tuesday, March 19, 2013. I believe that Bethlehem is the only incorporated “Town” in Georgia.

City of Buchanan Special Election on Sunday Alcohol Sales Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day of early voting.

City of Decatur City Council Special Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013 with early voting ending today. From the City of Decatur website:

Greg Coleson and Scott S. Drake have qualified as candidates for the special election to be held on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 to fill the unexpired term for City Commission District 1, Post B. District 1 generally encompasses the areas of the City of Decatur north of the CSX railroad tracks.

City of Canton Bond Issue Referendum Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day for early voting. Sample Ballot.

City of Dasher Special Election for City Council – today is the last day for early voting. Hat tip to the Lowndes County Democratic Party.

The only precinct open for this election will be the Dasher City Hall Precinct, 3686 US Hwy 41 S, in Dasher.

City of Forest Park Mayor and City Council District 1 Elections Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

City of Grovetown Council Special Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

City of Kingsland Special Election on Sunday Sales Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

City of Springfield Council Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

City of Sylvester Election on Sunday Alcohol Sales Tuesday, March 19, 2013, with early voting today.

Baker County Special Election for County Commission Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day for early voting.

Bartow County Special Election for Board of Education Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Camden County SPLOST and Probate Court Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The City of St. Marys has some additional information on their website.

Catoosa County SPLOST election Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day for early voting.

Chattooga County SPLOST election Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Cobb County E-SPLOST election Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day for early voting.

About the Cobb County E-SPLOST:

The one-cent sales tax, if approved by voters, would begin in January 2014 and would be collected through December 2018.

But before the vote, representatives of a local taxpayers group and the Georgia Tea Party spoke out against a March referendum.

And the chairwoman of the school board’s SPLOST citizen oversight panel predicted that the finalized SPLOST IV “notebook” (see attached PDF) will fail at the polls.

The board voted only 4-1 to adopt the resolution, which sets a special election on March 19, 2013, and that will cost $300,000.

Hart County Special Election for Magistrate Judge Tuesday, March 19, 2013 with runoff April 16, 2013 if needed.

Jones County E-SPLOST Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Monroe County E-SPLOST Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day for early voting.

Newton County E-SPLOST Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013 More information about the SPLOST and about the City of Social Circle participation in the SPLOST.

Paulding County Special Election on Sunday Alcohol Sales Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day for early voting. More information from

Pickens County Special Election on Sunday Alcohol Sales Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Telfair County E-SPLOST Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Union County E-EPLOST Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Fort Oglethorpe City Council Election Tuesday, March 19, 2013 – today is the last day for early voting.

Kennesaw may change the terms of city offices from three years to four in order to sync them with state and local elections.

Council member Cris Eaton-Welsh urged the group Wednesday to join elections for Kennesaw officials and issues with the county, stating it would save Kennesaw money by eliminating special elections. She also said there would be a higher voter turnout for larger elections, bringing people to the polls who may not vote in a Kennesaw-specific election.

The belief of many on the council is that Kennesaw would get lost in the shuffle of Cobb County, state or national elections.

State Rep. Barry Fleming wants to change the composition of the Columbia County Board of Elections to reflect changes as the county has grown.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said he plans to file legislation to change the way members of Columbia County’s Board of Elections are chosen and increase the number of members.

“We’re no longer a county of 60,000 when that thing was probably put together,” he said. “We’re 125,000 people.”

News of the legislation came as a surprise to Larry Long, the board’s chairman.

“There’s no basis for that at all,” said Long, who discussed the proposal with board members Neal John­son and Ann Cushman, who also had not been notified.

All of them plan to ask lawmakers to oppose the change, Long said, because the proposal would impose more political control over a body that has stayed neutral since its structure was created in 1993.

The county’s Republican and Democratic parties each appoint one member to the board; those two then appoint the third.

Four members of the Mount Zion, Georgia City Council are unable to agree upon a new member to fill a vacancy, so Mayor Randy Sims is asking Governor Deal for an assist.

“We’re hopelessly deadlocked,” Sims said Thursday. “We’ve had a tie vote on everybody nominated. So now, I’m pretty well dependent on the governor to do the appointment for us.”

Sims said he and Ward 2 Councilman Earlis McGraw have voted in favor of the nominations, while Ward 3 Councilman Andrew Richie and Ward 4 Councilman Bobby Mullenix have voted against.

At the Feb. 12 council meeting, Sims appointed John Griffin, a former two-term Mt. Zion mayor, for the post. The vote was a 2-2 deadlock. On Tuesday night, Sims tried another appointment, former mayor and councilman Donald Newman, but met the same fate.

David Mecklin, Mt. Zion’s city attorney, said there’s a provision in state law that allows the governor to fill an open council seat if there continues to be a vacancy for more than 45 days.

“As city attorney, I’ve sent a letter to the governor’s office, notifying them that there continues to be a vacancy for 45 days, the triggering date, and asking them what procedures they might follow to fill that seat,” Mecklin said. “They’ve had the letter a few days and I haven’t heard back. I’ll probably call back Friday to check if they’ve received it.”

General Assembly

The General Assembly is adjourned and will convene again on Wednesday, March 20, 2013. Sine Die, the last day of the 2013 Session is expected to be March 28.

While pro-Marijuana activists may have found the Capitol yesterday, that doesn’t mean they found a warm reception.

For James Bell, the hardest part of doing that is getting lawmakers to listen.

James Bell is director of Georgia CARE. He admits it’s hard to get state lawmakers to sponsor marijuana reform legislation, but he says he’ll keep trying.

But he’s trying.

Bell is Director of the Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform and Education—Georgia “CARE.”

As he walks the halls of the Gold Dome, he carries a list of legislators he believes could spearhead the legalization issue in Georgia.

Some are Republicans; some are Democrats.

And, Bell admits, all are hesitant to take the initial step.

“We have talked to two lawmakers who promised a bill for a study committee would be filed this session,” he says.  “So far, the bill has not been filed. We know this is a tough issue for everyone to look at.”

Ginseng, however, did get a bill passed in the House to regulate its harvest, which is primarily done on government-owned property.

Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, presented the bill in the House and said some people say ginseng “is like coffee, Viagra and Prozac all together. That’s why people pay $350 a pound for it.”

That line led to a series of playful questions from colleagues.

The bill also prompted this quip about the Senate from Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge: “So this what they’ve been doing over there?”

The state Senate passed House Bill 487 by Rep. Matt Ramsey to allow the Georgia Lottery Corporation to regulate and tax coin-operated gaming machines. Because the Senate version amended the House-passed version, the two chambers will have to reconcile the bills in order to reach final passage. Maggie Lee of the Macon Telegraph writes,

“This bill makes nothing legal that is not already legal,” said state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, the Senate sponsor of House Bill 487. What it would do is link already legal machines to a central database that tracks how much they are used.

The Senate decision came after about three hours of floor debate on a dozen amendments.

One by state Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, would have killed the gaming machines altogether.

“We ought to do away with these things and be done with it,” he said, arguing that the social damage from gambling outweighs the benefits that HOPE provides.

The Senate came close to agreeing with him, but GOP supporters demanded reconsideration and used the time to whip their party into line. On a second try, Williams’ amendment died.

State Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, acknowledged that the bill cannot clean up all rogue video poker machine operators. But he argued that the Internet makes it impossible to ban gaming, so “we can get cash in HOPE or we can do nothing.”

Local legislation to enable fractional-cent sales tax referenda in Cobb County appears to be dead for the session.

Current law requires all SPLOSTs to be 1 percent, or 1 cent on the dollar, but state Rep. John Carson’s bill would allow for a fraction of that amount to be collected.

The tax could be cut in such denominations as a fourth of a penny, half penny or three-fourths, with collectors rounding up.

Carson, a Republican who lives in northeast Cobb, said the pressure against his bill from groups like the Georgia Municipal Association was too great.

“They believe that if we split the penny, then your hard right conservative groups are going to push these small counties that are strapped for revenues to begin with. They think these hard right conservative groups are going to say, ‘No, you don’t need a full penny. You need a half a penny,” Carson said.

The bill only applies to county and city government SPLOSTs. To consider changing the education SPLOST from a full 1 percent to a fraction of a percent would require a constitutional amendment.

House Bill 276 by Rep. Chad Nimmer was amended in the Senate to weaken limitations on the state government’s ability to spend dedicated fees on other items in the state budget and the bill will be sent back to the House for adoption  as amended or reconciliation through a conference committee.

County officials have complained for years that money meant for the Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste trust funds is regularly being diverted. Since 2004, about $165 million has been collected, but only $63 million has gone to cleanups.

House Bill 198 to license Healthcare Navigators under the federal ObamaCare has been passed by both chambers and will head to Governor Deal’s desk for his signature or veto.

The federal Affordable Care Act calls for health insurance navigators to help uninsured people and businesses use the new federally run online health insurance marketplaces starting this fall. The bill would require navigators to have at least 35 hours of training, be licensed and take continuing education classes.

Navigators will be called on to help consumers determine what type of coverage they are eligible for — commercial health plans or a government program — and whether they qualify for federal tax subsidies. They will be overseen by the state insurance commissioner and paid for with federal grant dollars.

Privatizing more MARTA functions under legislation by State Rep. Mike Jacobs could trim 800 jobs from the transit agency.

General Manager Keith Parker, an advocate of judicious privatization, acknowledged a management audit says the transit authority might eliminate nearly that number by outsourcing functions such as cleaning and para-transit service over five years, but he believes many of those people might transfer to whatever private company that will be performing the service.

“I think they will pick them up at very competitive wages,” he said. “It will just be a different paycheck. They will still be wearing a MARTA uniform.”

Union officials and other analysts, however, contend privatization usually mean forcing down wages and benefits and cutting jobs because private companies need to perform the same work at a lower cost while making a profit.

Legislation to reduce the 100-yard buffer preventing alcohol sales near college campuses was passed by the Senate.

InsiderAdvantageLogoMatt Towery writes in InsiderAdvantage about pitfalls that face the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party.

I was early to the “Tea Party” so to speak. It wasn’t hard to recognize that Republican and independent voters were weary of big government, taxes, and handouts to everyone in line including big industry and entitlement lifetime achievers. And all that still resonates with most Republican and independent voters in Georgia. But I have seen great movements fall apart before and I fear, and I do mean fear, that Republican primary voters will take a turn to the hum-drum center if Tea Party leaders and many legislators who heed their various calls for action continue taking things too far. Moreover, I fear the potential beginning of the end of GOP control in our state.

The polling I am seeing is rather amazing. A poll for Fox5 we conducted last month showed most Georgians opposed to letting school administrators be armed to protect students. Letting licensed gun owners carry guns on college campuses, in bars, and at church scare the daylights out of a majority of voters.

And this talk is now taking its toll on the Tea Party itself. Our most recent private polling shows identification with “the philosophy of the Tea Party movement” dropping like a brick among independent voters, who up until recently made up the lion’s share of newer and more ardent Tea Party supporters. And support among Republicans has dropped by some 28% since last summer.

Senate 2014

After competing accounts claiming that former Congressman Bob Barr said he would run for Congress from the 11th District, Barr issued a statement:

“It is certainly my strong intention to run for Congress, but I would not make a formal announcement before my good friend and the current 11th District Congressman, Phil Gingrey, formally announces his intentions.”

Also mentioned by Jim Galloway for the CD 11 seat are State Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Buckhead) and State Senator Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville).

Rothenberg Political Report wants everyone to know that they were saying this back in February.


Real Estate and Construction

An Atlanta home inspired by the Playboy Mansion is House of the Week in the Wall Street Journal this week and is on the market for $3.75 million.

The most-expensive home on the market in Atlanta is in Buckhead’s Tuxedo Park and lists for $19.9 million, including 7 kitchens, 9 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms and includes a private spa, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a recording studio.

Construction of two new reactors at Plant Vogtle hit an important milestone as the concrete was poured for the first island.

Once the concrete has cured, the first components for erecting the unit’s containment vessel will be installed.

“We are very proud of this accomplishment and of all the hard work and collaboration that went into making it happen,” said Buzz Miller, executive vice president for nuclear development at Atlanta-based Georgia Power Co.

Porsche at the Atlanta Auto Show

Atlanta-based Porsche Cars North America is showing the 2014 Cayman sports coupe at the Atlanta International Auto Show, along with a new 550 horsepower Cayenne Turbo S SUV. The Auto Show continues through the weekend.

2014 Cayman _6

The 2014 Cayman is powered by a 2.7-liter engine with 275 hp, while the Cayman S produces 325 hp with a 3.4-liter engine. Both models will arrive in dealerships in spring 2013 at a base price of $52,600 for the Cayman and $63,800 for the Cayman S.

PI-VR GmbH vred 6.04

The U.S. continues to be Porsche’s largest market, with 35,043 cars sold here in 2012, representing an increase of 21 percent compared to 2011. The Cayenne and 911 models contributed to the strong sales performance, increasing by 20 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Worldwide, sales for the manufacturer were up 18% in February over the previous year.

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