Archive for June, 2009

Community health centers get federal stimulus money for equipment, new technology

By Kristi E. Swartz

kswartz@ajc.com

Georgia’s community health centers will get a $16.4 million shot in the arm to help buy new medical equipment or software to store medical records on a computer instead of on paper, the White House said Tuesday.

The money, part of the federal recovery act, will go to 28 community health care centers in Georgia. It is the third bucket of stimulus money going to community health centers since March.

Previously, funds have been allocated to build new health centers as well as to expand existing ones to care for more people.

Including this recent grant, Georgia has received $697.3 million in stimulus money from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Other funds have been sent for foster care, drug and immunization programs, among others.

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Roberts named new Transportation chairman

State Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) has been named the new chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Roberts replaces Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain), who resigned his seat earlier this month to become the new commissioner of the state Department of Transportation.

“As chairman of the House Republican Caucus, Rep. Roberts has shown that he is a proven leader,” Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) said in a statement. “I am confident he will bring the same skills to the House Transportation Committee as we continue to work towards a solution and solve one of the most important issues facing our state today.”

Roberts said he wants to address transportation needs on a statewide basis.

“Transportation is not just a rural or urban problem, but an issue that affects the entire state,” he said.

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State gets $50 million in stimulus dollars for weatherization

By Kristi E. Swartz

kswartz@ajc.com

Georgia will receive $50 million in federal stimulus money to expand the state’s weatherization program, the U.S. Department of Energy said Friday.
The money — 40 percent of the total stimulus dollars Georgia will get for its weatherization program — will go toward improving the energy efficiency of 13,600 homes over the next three years, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Friday.
The weatherization program — which includes sealing air ducts and adding weather stripping to windows — was set up to help cut utility and gas bills for low-income families. Under the federal stimulus package, the income threshold for free weatherization service to twice the poverty level, up from 125 percent of it.
A family of four must make less than $44,100 to qualify for aid of up to about $6,000.
Georgia is in line to receive $125 million to help with weatherization, the federal energy department said. It received 10 percent to train workers and …

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Agencies told to cut another 3 percent in July

State agencies are being told to cut spending in July by 3 percent as prospects for tax revenue continue to slide.

In a letter sent Monday to agency heads, Trey Childress, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s budget director warns that more difficult times could be ahead.

Out of an abundance of caution, “we encourage you to reduce expenditures by at least 3 percent for the month of July.”

Childress said given the uncertainty of the coming fiscal year, which begins a week from today, agencies will receive their 2010 appropriations in monthly allotments. Each agency will receive a full share in July, Childress said, but that could change in future months if revenues continue to fall.

Perdue communications director Bert Brantley said the move is necessary as the governor expects that the state will end up in the red when the 2009 books are closed June 30.

“We’re going to be short of what we expect for revenue,” Brantley said. “We don’t know how short.”

It will be mid-July before it’s clear, once …

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Supreme Court issues narrow Voting Rights Act ruling

By Bill Rankin/brankin@ajc.com and Aaron Gould Sheinin/asheinin@ajc.com

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled narrowly in a closely watched case that sought to overturn a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The high court, in a decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, allowed a small utility district in Austin, Texas, to be exempted from having to seek U.S. Justice Department approval before instituting changes in voting procedures. The 8-1 ruling avoided deciding the weighty question as to whether Section 5 of the act is constitutional.

“Our usual practice is to avoid the unnecessary resolution of constitutional questions,” Roberts wrote. “We agree that the district is eligible under the act to seek bailout.”

Gov. Sonny Perdue, in a legal brief filed in the case, had asked the high court to overturn the Section 5 preclearance provision. Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who oversees elections in the state, had also called for the Court to overturn …

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Obama nominates Beverly Martin for Court of Appeals

President Barack Obama on Friday nominated U.S. District Judge Beverly Martin of Macon to a seat on the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Martin, a former U.S. attorney, has been a district court judge since 2000, serving the Northern District of Georgia.

Martin, 53, would take the place of District Court Judge Lanier Anderson, who took senior status in February.

Martin is a graduate of Stetson University and the University of Georgia School of Law. After working in private practice in Macon, Martin became assistant state attorney general in 1984 and then assistant U.S. attorney in 1994. She was nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as U.S. attorney in 1997.

Martin, married to Knox Dobbins, lives in Atlanta.

Her nomination to the Court of Appeals must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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Federal stimulus dollars to help recently unemployed in Fulton County

By Kristi E. Swartz

kswartz@ajc.com
Fulton County is getting a $2.4 million boost to help re-train residents recently laid off from their jobs as well as to help young Iraq veterans look for work.
The money — part of the federal stimulus package — is going to the county’s Department of Human Services and is only available to a specific number of people.
The funds include $1.4 million for 5,682 people who have been laid off from full-time jobs within the last year.

The money will help pay for career training at state-approved vocational schools and other apprenticeships.

It will also help pay for rent, utilities and transportation costs.
Other money includes $655,710 to help 350 people ages 16 to 24 look for jobs.

The county’s Human Services Office of Workforce Development said it will use this money to help Iraq veterans train for new jobs.
Another $300,690 will go toward helping 1,200 low-income adults train and look for jobs.

The agency said it also would use the …

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Federal stimulus money helps back water and sewer projects in Cobb, Gwinnett counties

By KRISTI E. SWARTZ
kswartz@ajc.com

Sewer tunnels in Cobb and Gwinnett counties are among $91.5 million in water and sewer projects statewide that the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority approved at its board meeting Tuesday.
Of the 11 projects, five of which are at least partially backed by federal stimulus money. Gov. Sonny Perdue has approved that money — $40.5 million — for use, his office said late Tuesday.
The 11 projects are to help pay for water and sewer infrastructure projects in Cobb and Gwinnett counties as well as Colquitt County. Cities receiving the money are Camilla, Hiawassee, Port Wentworth, Portal, Sparta, Stillmore, Valdosta and West Point.
“Investment in infrastructure creates jobs, promotes economic development and increases our citizens’ quality of life,” Perdue said in a statement. “Improving public health and safety is critical to a community’s economic growth and prosperity.”
President Barack Obama last week praised a list of …

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Isakson: Hope, but much work left, in Sudan

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said Monday there are “signs of hope” in troubled regions of Africa, including the war-torn region of The Sudan.

Isakson just returned from a late May visit to several African nations, including Darfur, the Sudanese region decimated by civil war and a recalcitrant government.

Isakson, in his role as vice chairman of the Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, toured parts of Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.

In Sudan, Isakson and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) met with the country’s vice president and chief of security before traveling to the Darfur region where the United Nations has estimated more than 300,000 have died and 2.7  million have lost their homes since fighting began more than six years ago.

“There have been signs of hope that help may be on the way,” Isakson said Monday in a speech at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The Sudanese government, Isakson said, continues to be a …

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Watchdog coalition wants more federal stimulus info from state

By KRISTI E. SWARTZ

kswartz@ajc.com

A coalition of watchdog groups Wednesday formally called on the state to be more open with how it spends federal stimulus money.

The group, called the Georgia Stimulus Transparency and Accountability Coalition, or GSTAC, is asking for more oversight over how the dollars are funneled down from Washington and spent on transportation, energy, public housing and other projects. It also wants to know how many jobs have been created or saved and how much those workers are being paid as a result of the federal stimulus package.

The group’s nine members include Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia Watch and Georgians for Smart Energy. They are calling for, among other things, that the state ban ex-parte conversations about stimulus projects and require written proposals instead.

GSTAC also wants a Web site that includes how each state agency will spend its share of the stimulus money.

A spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue …

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