Tag: Maria Sheffield

29
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 29, 2012

Lovers of small dogs should head directly to the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter as they have a large number of little guys and girls, including a half-dozen Chihuahua and chi-mixes, a Dachshund, Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu, Maltese, and a Yorkie, among others.

“25222” is one of the chi-mixes and is said to be playful and friendly. Every dog adopted these days is a life saved, as shelters across Georgia are filled with dogs and are being forced to euthanize healthy dogs and cats.

The Humane Society held workshops for employees at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter focused on improving the care of animals; staff members from DeKalb also attended.

Officer Joey Brooks with Gwinnett County Animal Control said some of the key points hit on during the courses included “animal handling and sanitation, proper care … what we’re looking for when stray animals come into the shelter … disease-wise.”

The tour aimed to educate shelter staff in a variety of areas.

Brooks said he and fellow attendees also discussed the warm weather approaching this weekend.

“It’s worse this year,” Brooks said. “The biggest thing right now is, as hot as it is right now, animals should not be left inside of vehicles. They can get dehydrated in a matter of minutes with this kind of heat. … Even if you leave your window down, an animal can die.”

Supreme Court decision and reactions

I won’t belabor yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, as there is plenty of analysis out there, but I’ll hit a few high points and some Georgia reactions.

SCOTUSblog solidified its place as the premier source for timely information on Supreme Court decisions, while larger players CNN and Fox News ran stories that initially misstated the result. Their plain English review is a good starting point for developing a good understanding of what happened.

Dave Kopel argues that the decision is a strong statement limiting Congressional powers:

“The States are separate and independent sovereigns.” So affirms the Court today by a 7-2 vote, in the most important decision ever defining the limits of Congress’s power under the Spending Clause.

While the constitutional implications are tremendous, the practical effect on state budgets may be even greater. Today (and from now on!), states do not need to provide Medicaid to able-bodied childless adults. Likewise, states today have discretion about whether to provide Medicaid to middle-class parents. Undoubtedly, some states will choose to participate in the ACA’s massive expansion of medical welfare, but fiscally responsible states now have the choice not to.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens came to the opposite conclusion:

Olens said the ruling carries with it the strong implication that, contrary to the text of the Constitution and the vision of this country’s Founding Fathers, there is no longer any meaningful limit to the power of the federal government.

As Georgia’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Sam Olens has led the state’s legal fight against the president’s health care reform law. Immediately following his swearing-in as attorney general in January 2011, Olens joined the multistate lawsuit against the law. He has steadfastly defended Georgia’s interests throughout every phase of the litigation.

“I disagree with this decision. Congress explicitly said this was not a tax,” said Olens. “I call on Congress to act swiftly, repeal the law and replace it with real reform that respects the Constitution as written.”

“Governor Deal and I are grateful to the outside lawyers who have served Georgia in this lawsuit as special assistant attorneys general at no cost to the state: Frank C. Jones, Jason Alloy, Josh Belinfante, Pitts Carr, Ben Mathis, David Oedel, John Parker, Mike Russ, and former team member and Supreme Court Justice-designate Keith Blackwell,” Olens said. “Their pro bono efforts have ensured that Georgia could participate fully in this vital lawsuit at minimal cost to taxpayers.”

Governor Nathan Deal said:

“My battle with Obamacare didn’t start when I was elected as governor of Georgia,” said DeaI. “I wear with pride my bruises and scars from the fight against its passage in the U.S. House. Today, the highest court in the country let the American people down.

“While we recognize this is a huge setback for fiscal sanity and personal liberty, we are not giving up. Georgians and the American people deserve high-quality, sustainable health care. Congress must now work steadfastly on repealing this law and replacing it with reforms that help taxpayers instead of hurt them.”

Deal also said that Georgia will hold off on taking action required to implement Obamacare until after November’s election.

“We are probably just going to be in a holding pattern until such time as we see what the events of November bring us,” Deal told reporters during a Capitol news conference.

While the nation’s top court generally found in favor of the law, it faces staunch resistance from Republican state officials tasked with turning that law into reality.

“The medical system was broken before, and now it’s broke,” said Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville.

Rogers said he liked pieces of the bill, including a provision that keeps insurance companies from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions. But he likened the requirements the law puts on states to a hostage situation.

“I’ve always felt that the health care companies, especially on individual coverage, they were looking at the special specimen of an individual and if you had anything and everything wrong, they would turn you down,” Rogers said.

“I’d like him to say I’m not going to follow it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Debbie Whelchel, 49, of Suwanee, an opponent of the law who joined a small tea party rally at the Capitol just before the court ruled. “That’s what I would like to see happen. Honestly, I’m so disappointed.”

Sen. Butch Miller, a Republican from Flowery Branch, said lawmakers are still trying to get their “arms around” the specific impacts of the ruling.

“I am clearly disappointed in the court’s ruling,” Miller said. “In my view, it just goes against everything that I believe is the proper role of government. Since when did Congress require or mandate that the American public buy a particular product and then penalize you if you didn’t buy it?”

But he said lawmakers have already done some work toward implementing the exchanges.

Deal was noncommittal on whether Georgia would expand its Medicaid program, a government-funded health care system that serves the needy, aged, blind, disabled and poor families with children.

The Supreme Court’s ruling struck down part of the law that required states to expand the program or lose their federal Medicaid funding.

Now that choice is voluntary. If Georgia makes such an expansion, Deal’s administration estimates 620,000 people would join the government-run health plan in 2014. Over a decade, it would cost the state an estimated $4.5 billion in additional expenses.

Rep. Jack Kingston wrote on Twitter to rebuke Chief Justice John Roberts, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush. Roberts voted with the majority to back the law.

“I feel like I just lost two great friends: America and Justice Roberts,” Kingston said.

Democratic Rep. John Barrow, who voted against the health care law, is running for re-election and walked a middle-of-the-road line.

“We have to cut spending and cut health costs, but its starts with rejecting the false choice being offered by both parties, that it’s all or nothing,” Barrow said.

Others like 9th District Rep. Tom Graves asked their supporters for political donations, saying only the ballot box can undo the court’s ruling.

“A full repeal of this law is now our only option, but that can only happen if we elect more conservatives to the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and Mitt Romney as the President of the United States,” Graves told supporters in an email.

And like Deal, state Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Oakwood, placed hopes in the election of a Republican president in November.

“Romney, if he wins, will have to repeal it or at least try,” Dunahoo said.

Georgia Democrats predictably celebrated the decision:

Sens. Vincent Fort and Horacena Tate, both Atlanta Democrats, said Thursday that the GOP-controlled General Assembly should now act to expand Medicaid and create the health care exchanges called for in the federal health care law.

The Supreme Court’s ruling said states may choose not to expand Medicaid eligibility without losing all federal funding as the federal law had originally threatened.

“Be responsible,” Fort said.

While Tea Party activists vowed to continue fighting Obamacare:

“We’re going to use it as a stepping stone to get Republicans and conservatives elected and get this thing turned around and repeal it,” Julianne Thompson, co-leader of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, said.

Debbie Dooley, the other leader of the group, said she was “disasppointed” in Chief Justice John Roberts, whom she likened to former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, another Republican pick who disappointed conservatives with decisions from the bench.

Dooley said the decision would energize the GOP.

“This is going to be our rallying cry for the November election: Repeal Obamacare,” Dooley said.

Debbie Dooley told the Gwinnett Daily Post,

Debbie Dooley, the Dacula woman who is a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, said the part of the decision concerning Medicaid actually gave the states a victory.

The ruling that the federal government can’t punish states that decide against implement federal provisions could set a precedent for other regulations, like the federal No Child Left Behind Act, she said.

“Everyone’s still analyzing everything, but (if the interpretation stands) tea party activists statewide are going to contact Gov. Deal and his lawmakers to get them to opt out of the Medicaid expansion,” she said. “It could have far-reaching implications.”

As far as the Medicaid expansion that is part of Obamacare,

many of the law’s opponents are taking solace in the fact that the Supreme Court struck down a key provision that forced states to expand its Medicaid rolls. Under the law, the federal government could have stripped states of all Medicaid funding if they didn’t agree to expand. The justices, by a 7-2 vote, said that was overly coercive.

“This is the first time that the Court has held that an act of Congress has exceeded its powers under the Spending Clause,” said Nels Peterson of the state attorney general’s office. He helped develop Georgia’s lawsuit against the health reform law.

“There’s going to be a lot of policy calls for the policymakers to make as a result of this decision.”

State leaders estimate the expansion will cover an additional 600,000 to 700,000 Georgians. From 2014 to 2020, it’s expected to cost the state $2-3 billion.

Greensboro Republican Mickey Channell, chair of the powerful House Ways and Means committee, said Medicaid is already $300 million in deficit for the upcoming year. He said lawmakers should take a serious look at opting out of the expansion.

“It becomes a policy question – policy based on available funds and where we can spend those funds,” said Channell. “I think certainly that the state of Georgia will take a long hard look at where we are  now.”

Americans for Prosperity Georgia will rally against Obamacare at the State Capitol this afternoon from 3 to 3:45 PM

Speakers will include State Attorney General Sam Olens, AFP-GA State Director Virginia Galloway, Docs4PatientCare’s Dr. Brian Hill, Atlanta Tea Party Patriots President Julianne Thompson and Georgia Tech Professor of Economics Dr. Christine Ries among others.

Virginia Galloway said, “This decision will go down in history as one of the most momentous ever made in regards to economic freedom. We want our friends who have fought with us against this outrageous government overreach to have a chance to share their responses to this decision.”

The Macon Telegraph reviews midstate reactions to the decision, the Ledger-Enquirer covers reactions around Columbus, and the Marietta Daily Journal talks to Cobb County lawmakers, party officials, and private employers.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark released a statement:

“We are greatly disappointed in the decision rendered today by the Supreme Court and believe that the path on which our nation is being forced to move forward will be detrimental to both employers and employees throughout the nation as a result of increased costs and new regulations.  Businesses will be forced to make difficult decisions that will likely result in employees losing their employer-provided coverage.   Our organization will look forward to working with the Governor and other leaders at the state and federal level to implement the law in a way that takes into account the important role businesses play by providing this important benefit and the overall impact on our economy.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The first results from the July 31st elections are in, as attorney Beth Hilscher was the only candidate to qualify for the Suwanee City Council seat vacated by Jace Brooks, who is running for County Commission.

Elvira Rogers, administrative services director… said the city’s charter states that if only one candidate qualifies, an election is not needed.

Rogers said city officials would discuss when Hilscher would be appointed, but she expected a called meeting would be in July to make it official. Hilscher could potentially sit at the July City Council Workshop, Rogers said.

Upson County will hold a special election for District 3 County Commissioner on July 31st to fill the term of the incumbent who stepped down to run for Commission Chair.

According to the Registrar’s Office, Norman Allen, Sylvia Chapman, Brandon Creamer and Ralph Ellington all qualified as Republican candidates and Joel Pitts qualified as a Democratic candidate. However, due to it being a special election, all the candidates will be on one ballot in the July 31 election, with the candidate receiving the majority of the votes being the winner. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the two candidates with the most votes will face off in a Runoff Election on August 21.

The special election is being on July 31 in conjunction with the Primary Election. However, those who live in District 3 will have to vote on two separate ballots, as the commission seat will be on a different ballot than the rest of the candidates for the primary.

In the Hall County Commission races, the level of county debt will be an issue.

At last week’s candidate forum, sponsored by the South Hall Republican Club, former Sheriff Dick Mecum declared that the county government was facing a $90 million debt problem.

“We’ve got a Barack Obama, liberalistic-style government that’s going on and spending us into a situation,” Mecum said.

“If we don’t save us some money and pay off this debt, it’s going to bite us big time in three years,” he said.

The statements were quickly challenged by incumbent Chairman Tom Oliver, who said the county’s finances were in “great shape.”

Voters in Varnell will decide on Sunday retail sales of beer and wine at the July 31st election.

Former Taylorsville Mayor Cary Wayne Rhodes pled guilty to computer and electronic child exploitation and was sentenced to two years in prison, ten years on probation, $2000 fine, and 240 hours of community service, as well as restrictions on interacting with minors.

Grovetown City Council member Sonny McDowell will plead not guilty to Alabama bribery charges and insists he is innocent.

“I am not guilty,” McDowell said. “I intend to defend myself through this process with everything that I have. … I have tremendous confidence in this country’s justice system for the most part. I’m going to defend myself and I fully expect, at the end of this, to be cleared.”

McDowell will remain on the council because the indictment is only an accusation. If he is convicted of or pleads guilty to charges, he’ll be removed from the council, James said.

The Democratic Party of Georgia’s finances improved enough over the last quarter to allow them to reward recidivist Political Director Rashad Richey with a $2500 bonus. That will make a nice down payment on the nearly $25k that blogger Andre Walker is seeking from Richey for legal fees related to Richey’s now-dropped lawsuit against Walker and two Democratic party activists.

In they May disclosure, the DPG revealed that, but for a $10k bailout from the DNC, they would have spent more than they took in, which may meet the criteria for “cash-flow insolvency.”

DPG spokesperson Eric Gray said

“For what it’s worth,” party spokesman Eric Gray added Monday, “our former treasurer suggested we had less than 30 days of operating funds in February. He was wrong.”

[The DPG's] most recent monthly report showed income of $139,932 and expenses of $130,454.

Meanwhile, the state GOP filed a report with the FEC saying it had nearly $933,000 in the bank, up from about $826,000 at the end of April.

Fulton County’s elections board appears to have its hands full with a proposed cleanup of county voter rolls.

Fulton County may have more than 1,200 registered voters with empty lots for addresses, but that hasn’t impacted any recent elections, a key county official told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“It appears that none of those people voted,” Registration and Elections Board Vice Chair Stan Matarazzo said, “so that’s a good sign.”

Detractors, however, want proof. The county plans to purge ineligible voters from its rolls, and the clampdown has raised questions about the integrity of the elections process, as well as the prospect of disenfranchising low-income, minority voters, during a busy campaign season.

Matarazzo, one of the elections board’s Republican Party appointees, is firing back, saying the department is following a process laid out by state law to clean up voter rolls. Staff members have visited addresses to make sure demolition records are accurate, he said.

Though staffers have assured him that none of the 1,200 voted recently, he could not say how far back that’s the case. Fulton’s elections department hasn’t responded to questions about votes from the 1,200 possibly cast in prior elections, and the Secretary of State’s Office declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

The Savannah Morning News review how many times Effingham County candidates voted in the past five years, but does not discuss whether they voted in Democratic or Republican primaries.

Reverend Joseph Lowery denounced Democratic Congressman John Barrow, calling him “a Republican hiding in Democrat’s clothing,”  after Barrow voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, which is probably good news for Barrow’s campaign. No word on whether Lowery would prefer Democrat Republican Wright McLeod.

Records show real estate attorney Wright McLeod and construction company owner Rick W. Allen have both given money to and voted for Democrats in the past decade.

Voting records show McLeod, of Augusta, has voted in five Democratic primary elections since 2002 — including the 2008 presidential primary that featured then-Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton. In 2010, the GOP candidate and his wife contributed to the campaign of one of McLeod’s law school friends, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Georgia attorney general.

“Based on his voting record, he probably should have gotten some advice before he put his name in the hat to run for this district,” said Allen, who began attacking McLeod for his crossover voting record weeks ago.

However, voting records from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office show that Allen also cast Democratic ballots in state primaries from 1998 and 2004. In 2001, he gave $1,000 to Charles “Champ” Walker Jr., a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the same House seat that Allen is campaigning for as a Republican.

“He’s a tremendous hypocrite,” McLeod said of Allen. “He’s slinging mud and if it means anything to voters— and I don’t know that it does — that mud should be sticking to him as well.”

McLeod insists he cast his 2008 presidential primary vote for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richard, not for Obama or Clinton. He said he voted in four other Democratic primaries to support candidates for local office such as sheriff — the exact same reason Allen said he voted Democratic twice since 1998. Allen said he gave Walker money in 2001 after they became friends leading a men’s Bible study together.

Georgia Public Broadcasting has a nearly-fifteen minute interview with Republican Congressional Candidate Maria Sheffield, whom they call the race’s “Grassroots Conservative.”

Power Station

Southern Nuclear, the Southern Company subsidiary that is building reactors 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle announced that minor changes to the foundation “mudmat” will proceed after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission made no objection. Changes to the rebar to bring it into compliance with plans for the reactor construction also will begin.

Mainstream media stories have played up a dispute over whether $3.2 million dollars that was contested before the Public Service Commission met the criteria for being disallowed, but failed to mention that it totalled less than half-a-percent of the more than half-billion dollars in savings to ratepayers that was at issue in before the PSC. We won’t link to the stories.

15
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 15, 2012

This is “Reeces,” a black lab mix who  is in run 118 at Cobb County Animal Services and his ID# is 544247. He is probably in immediate danger of euthanasia, as his hold is expired and Cobb County had 63 animals come into the shelter on Tuesday, and possibly even more yesterday.

If you’re considering getting a dog or cat, please consider a shelter animal or adopting from a rescue organization. Thousands of healthy dogs and cats are put down every year in Georgia, and we’re in the middle of the worst part of the year for strays.

Cobb County’s Shelter hours for Adoptions are: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 AM. to 5:30 PM and Sunday 2 to 5 PM.

 

Happy belated birthday to Augusta, which celebrated with 276 candles on their cake yesterday.

[I]n a letter that was dated June 14, 1736, James Oglethorpe ordered authorities to lay out our town.

In 1739, Oglethorpe himself came to visit the town he had created. He stayed 10 days, then left, but not before leaving Augusta leaders with a thoughtful and logical growth plan.

Augusta’s leaders appear to have disregarded much of it, beginning a tradition that some would say continues.

GaPundit’s Event Calendar

We have launched out Event Calendar and invite political professionals, lobbyists, county parties, and other organizations to post their announcements. Email me for instructions on how to begin posting. We will be including events posted on the calendar in our morning emails. Anyone who is interested in helping maintain the calendar is also asked to let me know.

Posting your political events on our calendar will help get them in front of our more than 5000 daily email subscribers.

To check out the Event Calendar, hit this link or visit GaPundit.com and click on “Events” in the menu bar.

Republican State Rep. Robert Dickey is holding a Peaches and Politics fundraiser at Dickey Farms on Thursday, June 21st from 6 to 8 PM. It will feature Speaker David Ralston, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, House Majority Secretary Allen Peake, Ag. Commissioner Gary Black, SOS Brian Kemp, and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Peachtree City’s council is docked the Mayor’s pay from $750 per month to $75 in order to reimburse the city for expenses incurred to defend the Mayor against a libel suit. Former Mayor Harold Logsdon sued current Mayor Don Haddix personally, not as Mayor; the city’s insurance company denied coverage to Haddix twice before agreeing to cover defense costs. Haddix is threatening to cost taxpayers even more money by either resigning and triggering a special election or unspecified legal action.

Apparently, PTC council is serving as a cautionary tale; when the Fayette City Council started arguing, Mayor Greg Clifton said, “I don’t want this to turn into a Peachtree City Council. I want this to be a council that gets along.”

Fayette County Commissioner Robert Horgan is running for reelection in the Republican Primary, and PTC municipal judge Stephen Ott qualified for Fayette County State Court Judge against incumbent Judge Carla Wong McMillian.

Richmond County Sheriff candidate Scott Peebles had campaign signs set on fire last week, one-upping candidate Richard Roundtree, whose sign was used as a weapon in a fight between two women. Roundtree will remain in the race after a complaint alleging he owed back federal taxes was dismissed upon a showing that Roundtree has a payment plan.

Five candidates have announced challenges to incumbent Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken. Qualifying is next week.

Jeremy Hobbs remains on the ballot for Columbus Council District 8 after producing a Georgia Power bill that was accepted as proof that he meets the residence requirement.

Democratic lawyer Scott Drake announced his campaign against incumbent Republican Senator Don Balfour, saying, “I can no longer stand silently on the sidelines. Democracy is not a spectator sport and public office is about service, not feathering one’s own special interest nest.” In a heavily Republican district, I’ll go ahead and predict that Drake does indeed stay on the sidelines after being crushed in the General Election.

Former state Senator Lee Hawkins, who is unopposed in the election to succeed State Rep. Doug Collins, has signed the pledge to support a cap on lobbyist gifts to legislators. He is the only Hall County legislative candidate to do so.

The South Hall Republican Club will host a debate for candidates for County Commission next Tuesday, June 19th at 6:30 PM at the Spout Springs library in Flowery Branch.

Governor Deal sat for a Q-and-A last week to discuss the $1 billion project to add lanes to I-75 and I-575 in Cobb County.

GPB’s Orlando Montoya discusses the race in the 12th Congressional District:

Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield is courting Tea Party voters focusing on her history as a grassroots organizer.

“This race is just about electing a true conservative who comes from our movement.” Sheffield says. “I think it’s about going to Washington and not just simply casting a vote but it’s about doing the hard work that needs to be done.”

Cherokee County school board district 2 candidates debated.

The candidacies of Willie Saunders against Augusta Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet, and Christopher NeSmith against Northern Circuit Superior Court Judge Thomas Hodges have been challenged in letters to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Clarence Johnson’s campaign against Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle is also being challenged. The eligibility challenges in all three cases relate to taxes owed.

The Atlanta Tea Party sent out a press release yesterday saying the campaign to increase your taxes via T-SPLOST is deceptive and calling T-SPLOSt advocates are “worried and desperate.”

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

The State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission will meet today and may consider complaints filed against Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.

Snellville’s City Council will consider banning guns in city parks at the July 9th meeting. Mayor Kellie Kautz, a Democrat, said, “I’m all for people having the right to carry their weapons but, we want to make sure that they’re using them properly.” They may have a problem doing that, as Georgia law preempts municipalities from regulating gun rights.

President Obama is not only leaking white voters, he’s also leaking dollars as roughly 90% of donors of more than $200 to his 2008 campaign have not yet renewed their pledges.

“The 2008 donors who were most likely to give again in 2012 are those with ideological scores most similar to Obama’s, whereas moderate-to-conservative donors and those on far left are significantly less likely to re-up,” [Stanford political scientist Adam] Bonica said.

Obama may try to make up for the shortage of donors by hitting their cells: a ruling by the Federal Elections Commission will allow his campaign to tap its database of more than a million mobile numbers for donations via text. According to The Hill:

Text donations would be capped at between $10 and $50 per billing cycle and campaigns would enforce that restriction through tracking donations from a single user’s mobile phone number to a single premium short code assigned to the political committee. The short code would also enable the aggregator and carriers to ensure “the $50 limit is never exceeded for one political recipient.”

Newt Gingrich’s former head of digital operations Vincent Harris says it will be a game-changer:

The ability to accept donations via text will greatly increase the percentage of donations coming in from mobile users as a whole. On the Gingrich campaign mobile users made up 18% of visitors to the campaign website but only 8% of our donations came via mobile users. The ability to text in a donation should help close that gap. In 2009 I ran the mobile operations for Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial race in Virginia. We briefly tried raising money off of our opt-in list and had users text back a donation amount that was followed up by a live caller who took credit card information. If we had used the technology discussed on Monday, our program would have been much more successful.

Contrary to previously-published reports, a Gingrich spokesman says that the Newtster’s speaking fees have gone up in some cases and remained steady in others.

Gingrich spokesman RC Hammond said the new rates are not in fact a discount:

Inside the beltway has bounced from $20,000 to $25,000. Continental U.S. remains at $60,000 a speech. And, heading abroad is as much as $150,000.

Turns out there is a demand for new ideas, solutions and innovation Newt is booked into the fall.

Former Georgia State Rep. Gloria Bromell Tinubu (D) may not have escaped a runoff in the Democratic Primary for South Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District after all. A lawsuit asks a judge to order a runoff election.

The state Election Commission will decide Friday whether to call a runoff between Coastal Carolina economics professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu and attorney Preston Brittain. At issue is whether to count the votes of state Rep. Ted Vick, who withdrew May 25 following his arrest on a drunken driving charge, but remained on the ballot.

Without Vick’s more than 2,300 votes, Bromell Tinubu won the four-way race outright, with 52 percent of the vote to Brittain’s 39 percent. But five names were on the ballot. Both the Democratic Party and Brittain’s campaign argue none of the five received a majority, so a runoff is necessary; otherwise, voters are being disenfranchised, they argue.

Days after Vick withdrew, top Democrats called a news conference to endorse 32-year-old Brittain of Myrtle Beach, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn.

The director of the state Republican Party, Matt Moore, on Wednesday accused Harpootlian and Columbia insiders of “trying to steal the nomination from Gloria Tinubu,” after getting egg on their face with the endorsement.

But Harpootlian called that nonsense, saying the party is only trying to ensure voters aren’t disenfranchised.

Republicans “need to take a deep breath and some medication, and go home and let us try to resolve this in a legal fashion,” he said.

Nydia Tisdale, who was ordered out of the Cumming City Council chambers by Mayor Ford Gravitt for daring to assert her rights under the state Open Meetings Act, filed a federal lawsuit against Gravitt, also naming the police chief, and deputy chief.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed against Gravitt last week by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

Tisdale’s attorney Gerry Weber said while his client appreciates what Olens is doing, her lawsuit seeks personal damages.

“[First] we’re seeking an order from the court ensuring that Ms. Tisdale and other citizens are able to attend the Cumming City Council meetings and to film them,” said Weber.

“We’re also seeking damages for her for what happened to her on the day that she was physically pulled out of the meeting by the chief of police and deputy chief. And the last thing we’re seeking is under the new Open Meetings Law, when it’s violated, that there are civil penalties.”

In the suit, Tisdale asks for a jury trial to hear the case.

“City council meetings are the public’s business,” said Weber. “We think it’s entirely appropriate for a jury to evaluate the excluding of a citizen, a taxpayer from a public meeting.

Tisdale is a blogger for AboutForsyth.com, and Weber said she was recording the meeting so that citizens who could not attend would have access to the proceedings.

According to personal financial disclosures on file with the Georgia Ethics Campaign Finance Commission, Chatham County legislators did nearly $6.5 million in business with the state in 2011. The vast majority of the money was from Medicaid payments for consumers who chose to do business with pharmacies, a home healthcare company, or medical offices owned by legislators.

Speaking of Medicaid, Georgia’s program may be $300 million short for the next fiscal year.

The state Department of Community Health plans to ask the state legislature for roughly $308.2 million to make up the gap for fiscal 2013, Vince Harris, the agency’s chief financial officer, told board members.

The looming deficit comes at a time when the state health agency is also facing the addition of another 600,000-plus Georgians to its Medicaid rolls starting in 2014, as part of the program’s expansion under the health care law.

“The budget numbers that we have are very daunting,” Commissioner David Cook said.

The health care program is also looking at a $90 million deficit for the current fiscal year.

Florida legislators’ net worth got hammered by property value declines and stock market losses. If you think that’s tough, Florida Governor Rick Scott was dead, according to state voter rolls.

Georgia leads the nation in foreclosures with a 30% increase over May 2011, and Atlanta is in second place among the twenty largest metro areas. Carroll County also saw foreclosures up both month-to-month and over the past year.

“There’s no positive news in foreclosures in our region,” said Dr. Joey Smith, assistant professor of economics at University of West Georgia. “We’re seeing foreclosures going up from last year and last month.”

Smith said housing prices are starting to rise some in the area because buyers are bidding against one another for foreclosed homes.

“A lot of neighborhoods where we’re seeing foreclosures are transitioning from owner-occupied homes to rental units,” he said.

The Grantville City Council says, “I’ll see your foreclosure and raise you two demolitions,” as it moves forward to demolish two houses owned by Mayor Jim Sells.

“Some of you think this is about houses that need to be demolished,” Sells said. “What it is about is contempt for your mayor.”

Carrollton’s open carry ordinance — for alcohol — appears to be working for the community.

The Carrollton City Council on June 4 approved two amendments to its alcoholic beverage ordinance. One amendment allows people to carry drinks they have purchased at downtown businesses anywhere in the downtown business area. The second amendment gives the city manager authority to issue special-use permits for organizations to serve alcoholic beverages on city property, such as the amphitheater or city parks.

“What I’m proposing is for people of legal age, if you legally purchase the alcohol, that you be allowed to go from place to place, with the drink in a solo cup,” Coleman said at the June 4 council meeting. “If it’s a Styrofoam cup, with an Irish Pub logo on it, it’s even better, because it shows it was legally purchased there. You can’t sit on the square and bring your cooler and knock down two dozen beers. This is not Savannah, New Orleans or Las Vegas.”

If you’re considering filing a false lien against a public official, you may want to rethink that, as it’s now a felony.

a new state law against so-called sovereign citizens who engage in “paper terrorism” to harass public officials…. makes it a felony to knowingly file false liens against government employees.