Archive for April, 2009

Ga. Supreme Court halts white supremacists’ execution

William Mark Mize was granted a temporary stay of execution by the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday, with justices offering a trial judge time to rule on a motion for a new trial. 

Mize, of Madison County, was to be put to death at 7 tonight for the 1994 murder of Eddie Tucker, a white follower who was shot and killed after he failed to burn down what Mize considered to be a crack house in Athens. 

Mize’s attorney had filed a request for a new trial. Chief Judge Lawton Stephens of the Western Judicial Circuit on Monday denied the request for a hearing on the motion, but did not rule on the motion itself.

The order from the high court expires 24 hours after the judge rules.

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Four samples tested by state negative for swine flu

Four samples suspected of being swine flu have been sent to the Georgia public health lab in the past few days but have tested negative for the disease. 

Dr. Elizabeth Ford, director of the state Division of Public Health, said Tuesday that no confirmed cases of swine flu have been found in Georgia. State health officials are asking physicians who have “suspicious cases to first contact their local health departments for a preliminary screening,” Ford said. 

Specimens considered possible swine flu cases will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control for confirmation. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, Ford said, no specimens have been sent to the CDC. 

Ford also said state officials believe they have plenty of anti-viral medication needed to combat any swine-flu outbreak. To be safe, she said, they have asked to tap a stockpile of medication kept by the federal government on the state’s behalf.

The state already had 1.3 million courses of the anti-viral drug and has an additional …

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Surgeon: Cagle surgery a success

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is recovering from spinal surgery this afternoon, an operation that went without complication, Emory University Dr. John Heller said.

Heller performed the nearly two-hour procedure at Emory’s Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital in Tucker.

“The surgery was rather of matter of fact, went according to plan,” Heller said. “There were no complications noted to date. The lieutenant governor is recovering rather well and is in perfectly good spirits.”

If Cagle continues to progress as planned, Heller said, he could be released Tuesday morning.

Cagle, 43, had surgery to repair a degenerative condition in his cervical spine – in his neck. The procedure involved bone grafts, Heller said.

“The nature of his problem involved two different levels in his neck,” Heller said. “It generally was a wear and tear process involving a disc that joins two veterbrae in at one level and a joint at his neck in another.”

Cagle should know in “days or weeks” if the surgery solved the …

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Surgeon to brief media on Cagle’s condition

Emory University surgeon Dr. John Heller will brief reporters at 1:30 p.m. today following Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s operation to repair a degenerative spinal condition. 

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle presides as the Georgia Senate begins the 2009 legislative session in Atlanta Monday Jan. 12, 2009. Photo by Kimberly Smith / staff ksmith@ajc.com

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle presides as the Georgia Senate begins the 2009 legislative session in Atlanta Monday Jan. 12, 2009. Photo by Kimberly Smith / staff ksmith@ajc.com

Cagle withdrew from the governor’s race on April 15 saying he needed time to recover from the painful back and neck problem. He’d been considered a front runner to win the GOP nomination for governor next year. Instead, the 43-year-old from Gainesville said he’ll seek re-election as lieutenant governor.

Heller will, according to a joint press release from Cagle’s office and the hospital, discuss Cagle’s condition, the surgery performed and the outlook for recovery. 

Cagle is at the Emory University Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital in Tucker.

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Johnson joins race for governor

State Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) made it official Monday: He’ll seek the 2010 GOP nomination for governor, and he called on his fellow Republicans to clear the path for Casey Cagle to seek re-election as lieutenant governor.

Johnson had previously announced a bid for lieutenant governor, but incumbent Cagle’s decision to seek re-election rather than run for the top job changed Johnson’s options. 

tate Sen. Eric Johnson R-Savannah, (foreground) announces he is introducing legislation to allow a universal school voucher program for Georgia students during a press conference at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. In background is Majority Leader State Sen. Chip Rogers R-Woodstock, who also spoke in favor of the legislation. Photo by Kimberly Smith / ksmith@ajc.com

tate Sen. Eric Johnson R-Savannah, (foreground) announces he is introducing legislation to allow a universal school voucher program for Georgia students during a press conference at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. In background is Majority Leader State Sen. Chip Rogers R-Woodstock, who also spoke in favor of the legislation. Photo by Kimberly Smith / ksmith@ajc.com

Johnson, a former Senate president pro tem, made his announcement via press release as Cagle was in an Atlanta area hospital under going surgery to correct a degenerative spinal …

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Vernon Jones a ’spectator in the stands’

Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones has been the subject of much speculation of late over whether he will make another stab at statewide election in 2010. 

Jones, who lost a runoff bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, has been rumored to be considering a bid for either governor, lieutenant governor or secretary of state next year, depending on which particular brand of rumor you hear or believe. 

Efforts to reach Jones himself have been — completely — unsuccessful. But his spokeswoman from his Senate campaign, Camille Kesler, took a question from the AJC and got an answer (sort of) back from Jones. 

The question: Are you running for office in 2010 and if so, which office? Also, we asked: What have you been up to? 

Here’s the response, from Kesler: 

“As you know, Vernon Jones is well aware and still concerned about the challenges facing Georgia and the country we all love. He shares the same disappointment as many others that Georgia’s elected leadership …

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UPDATED: Oxendine hits back at Handel

Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Oxendine on Wednesday took back the offensive in his early-season match-up against Karen Handel, accusing the Handel campaign of touting everything but what matters. 

In a news release announcing positive new poll numbers, Oxendine, the incumbent state insurance commissioner, said Handel, the incumbent secretary of state, has made a point of aligning herself with campaign staff who helped elect Sonny Perdue governor.

And it’s true: Handel has hired acid-tongued spokesman Dan McLagan, who worked for Perdue; as finance director she has Leigh Ann Gillis who worked on both of Perdue’s gubernatorial campaigns, as well as uber-ad man Fred Davis, he of the famous “Rat” video during Perdue’s first race. Davis, in fact, also worked on Oxendine’s 1998, 2002 and 2006 insurance commissioner campaigns — an additional fact that has to hurt just that much more. 

Oxendine’s response to all this? He’s calling it as he sees it. Oxendine accused Handel and …

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Perdue: ARC-MARTA deal a good one

Gov. Sonny Perdue said Wednesday he was pleased that the Atlanta Regional Commission and MARTA have worked out a deal that gets the beleaguered transit system $25 million in federal funding to continue operations. 

Through the deal with ARC, MARTA would receive the money, which is part of the federal stimulus package approved in Congress, and MARTA would pay for projects useful to the ARC counties with money the state says can be used only for projects, not operations. MARTA has $65 million in capital reserves.

The deal still faces some legal approvals, and might require the governor’s official OK, but Perdue said Wednesday he is all for it.

“It’s a good decision, a positive decision,” Perdue said at a Capitol news conference after an unrelated bill signing. “This is a good example by both entities of working together.”  

MARTA would still likely face serve reductions under the plan, but not nearly as severe as the ones feared before the deal.

MARTA depends on a sales tax …

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Perdue signs math, science bill

A robot delivered Gov. Sonny Perdue the official copy of House Bill 280, which Perdue promptly signed into law to grant the state’s math and science teachers higher pay. 

The robots that frolicked in the Capitol’s north wing were created by Georgia students for a robotics competition this past weekend at the Georgia Dome. Those creations, Perdue said, are indicative of the need for the bill. 

HB 280 would encourage would-be educators to choose math and science tracks in college by automatically granting new teachers the pay-grade of a fifth-year instructor. Any current math and science teacher would likewise see a pay raise. 

The state has faced a shortage of qualified math and science teachers emerging from colleges. In 2007-2008, he said, Georgia produced 2,000 early childhood teachers but only one to teach physics, nine in chemistry and 140 in math.

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Perdue signs unemployment, Ga. Power bills

By Kristi E. Swartz

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday signed legislation extending unemployment benefits to eligible Georgians by an additional 13 weeks and allowing people looking for part-time work to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Georgians also may receive unemployment benefits if they are training for a job in a high-demand industry because they were laid off from work in a declining one.
The state will be able to apply for $226 million in federal money to pay for the extended benefits.
Perdue also signed legislation allowing Georgia Power Co. to charge customers  in advance for some costs of nuclear power plant construction.

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