Archive for May, 2009

Oxendine launches statewide radio ad

Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Oxendine has launched the first paid advertising campaign of the 2010 race. 

Oxendine’s team announced Tuesday the launch of a statewide radio ad that asks voters to call his campaign with ideas for improving state government. 

To hear the ad go here. The script follows at the end of this post. 

The ad comes the day after a series of articles by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailing the more than $120,000 in campaign contributions Oxendine’s campaign has received from a series of Alabama-based political action committees with links to a pair of Georgia insurance companies. Oxendine is the state’s insurance commissioner. 

After the AJC’s initial reporting, Oxendine decided to return the money and has asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion as to the legality of the contributions. A state government watchdog, meanwhile, has filed a complaint against Oxendine with the commission. 

The ad does not address the …

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Busy Perdue gives 16 bills the legislative boot

House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) and House Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) were among the lawmakers to have pet projects vetoed Monday by Gov. Sonny Perdue. 

Perdue, to top off a busy day of signing and vetoing, issued 16 vetoes, including the promise killing of H.B. 481, the jobs tax credit and capital gains tax cut bill. 

But also in those 16 were H.B. 100, which made major changes to the year-old tuition scholarship tax credit program that Ehrhart championed in 2008. The program allows taxpayers to get credits for giving to organizations that offer scholarships for private K-12 programs. 

Ehrhart’s changes would have streamlined some of the steps needed to apply for the credit. But Perdue said he objected to another change that would have allowed taxpayerse to receive both a tax credit and a deduction for contributions. Perdue said it would have actually reduced the amount of money available for scholarships. 

Richardson saw his BRIDGE bill make it to …

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Perdue: April revenue figures ‘not encouraging’

Gov. Sonny Perdue just met with reporters after a bill signing and made much news: 

– The governor said the April revenue figures will be released today and they “are not encouraging.”

– He said he will veto H.B. 481, the tax credit bill that offered breaks to companies that hire unemployed workers, but which also included a late amendment to cut the state’s capital gains tax in half.

– But, he will sign S.B. 200, which overhauls the Department of Transportation by creating a new director of planning and giving the General Assembly much more power to oversee road spending.

– He signed into law H.B. 261, which gives anyone buying a home during a six-month period this year a $1,800 state income tax credit over three years.

Let’s take them one-by-one.

On April’s revenue figures, Perdue said it will be another negative month, meaning the April 09 collections of state personal income, sales and corporate income taxes will be below the April 08 collections. But, he said, April 2008 …

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Update: Oxendine returns contributions; watchdog files complaint over Oxendine contributions

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine said Monday he has returned contributions that came from a series of political action committees tied to a Rome-based insurance company. 

In a statement just released, Oxendine, who is the state’s insurance commissioner, said the contributions from the Alabama-based PACs appeared to be “from different entities, not controlled by the same person or people. Under those facts, as we understood them, accepting these contributions was perfectly legal. 

Oxendine also said that, “based on facts that have recently come to light, previously unknown to us, we have concerns whether our understanding of the facts were complete. Last week, before these facts fully came to light, we filed an advisory opinion request with the Georgia State Ethics Commission.”

The allegations first came to light last week through the reporting of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The paper asked Oxendine about the more than $100,000 in contributions on at …

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New law freezes property assessment hikes

Attention homeowners: Your property assessment cannot increase until after January 2011. 

Legislation Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law on Wednesday makes sure of that. House Bill 233, sponsored by Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta), prevents local governments from increasing the assessments used to calculate property taxes for three years, ending with the 2012 tax year.

Of course, assessments may be lowered, a distinction that is important as counties deal with the effects of another new law that requires assessors to consider foreclosures and other distressed properties when setting property values. That has led to thousands of homes seeing assessed values fall.

Some counties have needed a little extra push to convince them to do that, however.

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Thurmond won’t rule out bid for governor

By Kristi Swartz/kswartz@ajc.com

Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond was at the Loudermilk Center to talk about the state’s job market today, but people couldn’t resist asking whether he’s going to run for governor.

Thurmond, a Democrat, said he hasn’t decided and likely won’t until former Gov. Roy Barnes announces whether he will run. That will be in early June, Thurmond said. Three other Democrats have already announced a bid for governor: House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin), Adjutant Gen. David Poythress and Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

Thurmond offered two caveats Wednesday:

“I love what I’m doing,” he said.

But, “my mother always told me you should look to the hills.”

Thurmond has said previously he’ll play utility infielder and “go wherever he’s needed” — whether lieutenant governor (where no Democrat has announced) or remaining in his current post. Or running against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson in 2010.

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More stimulus bucks hit the road

Gov. Sonny Perdue approved $187 million in federal stimulus money for 51 paving, sidewalk and other transportation projects throughout the state Tuesday. The list includes repaving I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties, the most expensive stimulus road project in metro Atlanta so far.

That’s all on top of $207 million in highway projects Perdue approved in April.

Altogether Georgia is expecting $931 million in road money and more than $100 million for mass transit from the stimulus. The $787 billion federal program is meant to stimulate the economy with quick spending on shovel-ready projects.

The I-575 repaving, from I-75 to the Etowah River, is estimated to cost $29 million. That’s not the most expensive stimulus project in the whole state, and it’s far from a record-breaker in the state’s overall project lists. But the vast majority of transportation projects in the stimulus check in at under $10 million.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials hope to spread the …

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New voters to face citizenship hurdle

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 86, which requires anyone registering to vote beginning Jan. 1 to produce proof of U.S. citizenship first. 

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) and Rep. James Mills (R-Gainesville), would require would-be voters to submit a driver’s license, birth certificate, U.S. passport, U.S. naturalization documents or Bureau of Indian Affairs card before being allowed to register. 

“Georgia’s election procedures, including the registration process, are a model for security and protection of every vote,” Secretary of State Karen Handel said of the new law. Handel was a major supporter of the legislation. 

According to Handel, the bill was modeled after an existing Arizona law, which has already been precleared by the U.S. Justice Department. Georgia, as a Voting Rights state, must submit any change in voting laws to the federal government for approval before it can take effect.

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Lawmakers who don’t file taxes will be outed

The Department of Revenue must begin to release the names of lawmakers who fail to pay state income taxes, thanks to legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Senate Bill 168 was given final approval about an hour before sine die adjournment of the 2009 legislative session. 

The new law requires the Revenue commissioner to inform the chairmen of the House and Senate ethics committees the names of any lawmaker who doesn’t pay or file state income taxes. The lawmakers would have 30 days to try and remedy the situation.

The bill was designed originally to simply eliminate the redundant requirement that public officials file a paper copy of their campaign records that they are already filing electronically.

But when the bill came before the House Governmental Affairs Committee, it was amended to include the tax-dodge requirement. 

That language, however, originated in an emotional fight in the state Senate, when Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah)  argued for a change …

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Perdue signs bill cracking down on ’super-speeders’

Gov. Sonny Perdue today signed legislation into law creating new stiff fines for drivers who are caught speeding well over the posted limits. 

The fines — expected to total about $23 million a year — are intended to help the state’s cash-strapped network of trauma hospitals while discouraging dangerous driving, although state lawmakers will have to specifically mark the money for that use. 

Perdue signed the bill Tuesday after touring Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite trauma center.

Perdue has been pushing the measure for three years now. Drivers caught speeding faster than 85 mph on four-lane highways and interstates or 75 mph on two-lane roads will face a new $200 fine (in addition to existing fines).

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