Archive for November, 2010

Democratic state senator switches parties

Joining the parade of House Democrats who joined the Republican Party since the Nov. 2 election, Sen. Tim Golden of Valdosta announced Monday he will join the GOP caucus.

Golden, recently elected to an 11th term in the General Assembly, becomes the first Democrat to switch parties in the Senate. Five House members have left the Democratic caucus for the GOP.

“I am changing my party affiliation in order to better represent the views of the majority of my constituents and my own conservative, pro-business philosophy,” Golden said in a statement. “Our state continues to face great challenges. As a member of the majority caucus, I will be able to more effectively represent the people of the 8th District on important issues including the annual state budget, tax reform, reapportionment and helping our businesses put more Georgians back to work.”

Republican leadership said they welcome Golden to their side.

“He has been a real leader on issues that help create jobs and support …

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State legislators prefile bills aimed at illegal immigrants

A lawmaker has introduced legislation aimed at blocking state agencies and counties from hiring illegal immigrants for taxpayer-funded projects in Georgia.

Sen. Judson Hill’s “Georgia Public Works and Contractor Protection Act” would toughen existing state laws targeting illegal immigration. Among other things, it would require state and local government contractors to prove they have been using a federal work authorization program – such as e-verify — for six months prior to getting government work.

E-verify, for example, confirms prospective employees’ eligibility to work in the U.S. by comparing information they submit against federal records, including those held by the Social Security Administration.

Anyone caught lying on an affidavit about their compliance with this part of the law would face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to five years in prison.

The bill would also require state agencies, cities and counties to send annual reports to the state auditor, certifying they …

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Big tax changes could be coming; what should they include?

A state tax council will soon come out with suggestions to change the tax structure.

How would you like to see the state tax structure changed?

One proposal may be to put the sales tax on more services – including groceries – and lower the state income tax. Would you be willing to pay more in sales taxes for everything from groceries to car repairs if they lowered the state’s income tax?

Please send your responses, with your name, occupation and where you live, to James Salzer at jsalzer@ajc.com

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State legislators consider Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigrants

A state legislative panel studying whether Georgia should adopt an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration has received a long list of proposals to consider, including authorizing all local and state law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

Also on the list is a proposed requirement for all businesses to use the federal E-Verify database to ensure their employees are in the country legally. Other proposals include creating new criminals offense for people who stop vehicles to hire and pick up day laborers; conceal, harbor, or shield illegal immigrants; or encourage illegal immigrants to move here.

These proposals are outlined in a Nov. 3 memo from deputy legislative counsel Terry Long to the Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Immigration Reform. Long does not identify the sources of the ideas in her memo, but she said they did not come from her office.

But Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, co-chairman of the committee, said the ideas came from …

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Georgia lawmakers already filing bills for next year

Legislation has already started flowing in the state Capitol, weeks before the Georgia Legislature is set to convene.

By late Monday afternoon, state lawmakers had filed 24 bills and eight constitutional amendments with the House clerk’s office.

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, filed legislation that would allow DeKalb County voters to decide how many people serve on their school board, five, seven or the current size of nine. If the bill passes, a ballot issue would be put before the voters in the November 2011 general election. Oliver said her legislation is aimed at creating a more effective school board that could better work with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and maintain is accreditation.

Oliver also filed a bill that would require state officials to develop regulations for the use of psychotropic drugs for foster children.

Also, Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, filed legislation Monday that would adopt certain federal rules of evidence, …

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Another statehouse Democrat talks about a possible party switch

Georgia Rep. Amy Carter, D-Valdosta, confirmed today she is considering switching to the Republican Party in the state Legislature.

“I have yet to reach a decision about switching to the Republican Party,” she said in a statement she released today. “I am currently seeking the advice and thoughts of my constituents in order to determine what is best for Valdosta as a whole.

“As a moderate conservative, I am concerned about the recent direction that the Democratic Party has taken. I fear it has become disconnected from rural Georgia. Ultimately, I have a lot to consider, but I will not make a final decision until I have had time to fully evaluate the desires of my district.”

She is one of at least two House Democrats from Valdosta who are considering making a switch. Rep. Ellis Black, D-Valdosta, confirmed Friday he is also weighing moving to the GOP, complaining the national Democratic Party “has gotten too far to the left and certainly much further to the left of what Georgia …

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‘New arena is vital’ for Atlanta Super Bowl

Mayor Kasim Reed said his meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell went well Thursday evening but indicated more work needs to be done to bring the Super Bowl back to Atlanta.

“Commissioner Goodell and I had a very good conversation regarding what Atlanta needs in order to be competitive for a future Super Bowl,” Reed said in a prepared statement. “He clearly expressed that a new arena is vital as we seek to host this signature event. I told him that I would welcome the opportunity to compete for the game, and that I strongly support Arthur Blank and the leadership of the Atlanta Falcons in this effort.”

Atlanta hosted the pro football championship game in 1994 and in 2000. Estimates put the value of a Super Bowl to the host city in the range of $500 million, although some analysts question whether those figures are inflated.

Kasim has teamed up with Gov.-elect Nathan Deal to bring the game back to Atlanta. Deal also met with the NFL commissioner Thursday. A spokeswoman for …

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Georgia’s House Republican majority could grow — again

Could some more Democrats be switching sides in Georgia’s Legislature?

State Rep. Ellis Black, D-Valdosta, said Friday morning he remains in the House Democratic Caucus. But when asked about a possible switch to the majority Republican caucus, he said: “I have had discussions with some of the folks about doing something a number of times over the years. We have had some discussions here recently. But at this point and time, we are still just having discussions.”

He said Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been part of those discussions. Asked if a decision was imminent, Black said: “You never know about how the pace of negotiations will go.” But he said nothing would happen before the beginning of next week.

Three House Democrats have switched parties since last week’s election. Those defections left the House split among 111 Republicans, 68 Democrats and one independent. The Republicans now have their largest majority since Reconstruction. For the GOP, reaching 120 …

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Georgia ties 29,113 jobs to stimulus funds

Federal stimulus money funded 29,113 jobs in Georgia during the last quarter, mostly for teachers, college professors, police officers and other public positions, according to a state report released this week.

Between July 1 and Sept. 30, state agencies spent $979.3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, bringing the total spent in Georgia to $4.6 billion. Georgia has been awarded $6.9 billion in federal stimulus funds so far.

The federal program is paying for a mix of tax breaks; entitlements; and contracts, grants and loans. Nationwide, the program funded 671,607 jobs during the last quarter, according to the federal website recovery.gov.

Proponents say the program has helped save and create jobs and thereby has softened the impact of the recession. But critics have questioned the federal government’s job-counting formula, which counts jobs as full-time equivalent positions funded with federal stimulus dollars, whether or not they were in jeopardy of being …

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Deal names two deputy chiefs of staff

Gov.-elect Nathan Deal on Wednesday added two new people to his team, choosing deputy chiefs of staff for legislative and external affairs and for communiciations.

Michael Shaffer, 47, will be Deal’s liaison to federal, state and local officials. Shaffer served as district director for the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., and is a partner in Oglethorpe Public Affairs. He served Deal’s campaign as a consultant, and was a registered lobbyist in parts of 2009 and 2010.

Brian Robinson, 35, will oversee Deal’s communications department. After spending seven years in Washington working for members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, Robinson returned to the state to serve as Deal’s campaign spokesman.

“Michael and Brian have served the people of Georgia as dedicated public servants,” Deal said in a statement. “Their talents were on display for all to see during the campaign and now they will put their talents to work on behalf of …

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