Archive for August, 2009

Update: Watchdog files ethics complaint against Deal

A non-profit legal watchdog group in Washington has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga) in response to a story in this past Sunday’s AJC.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed the complaint Wednesday, arguing that Deal violated House rules and federal law by intervening with Georgia political leaders to preserve a program that financially benefits him.

CREW’s complaint comes the day after a North Georgia Republican activist asked the U.S. House Committee on Standards to look into the questions raised by the AJC.

CREW contends that Deal “may have committed a federal crime by using his positions and congressional resources to engage in self-dealing, thereby depriving his constituents of his honest services.”

The AJC reported Sunday that Deal, a 2010 Republican candidate for governor, pressed state leaders, including Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham to preserve a state program that earns his …

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DOT Planning Director Confirmed

The House Transportation Committee has confirmed the governor’s pick for director of planning at the state Department of Transportation.
Todd Long, a longtime engineer and manager at the DOT and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, won confirmation in a unanimous voice vote.  Last week, a House subcommittee also recommended him unanimously.
Long made some of the same comments Wednesday that he made last week, assuring the committee that while the director of planning has a close relationship with the governor, he would weigh the governor’s priorities alongside others, and that he was dedicated to serving all of Georgia’s transportation needs, not just urban, suburban or rural.
He also addressed some of the difficulties with the bill that created his position this year, SB 200.  It gave the bulk of the power to pick projects to the governor’s appointee, but the DOT board gets to approve the list, and DOT implements the projects.
Long said he is working …

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Sid Johnson named as Georgia’s new federal stimulus chief

Georgia has a new federal stimulus czar.
Gov. Sonny Perdue on Tuesday named Sid Johnson, a veteran state government worker, as Director of Stimulus Accountability.
He takes the job as Celeste Osborn, who doubles as the state’s deputy financial officer, announced her retirement at the end of this month.
Johnson will oversee how Georgia spends its $6.35 billion in federal stimulus dollars.
He recently was a faculty member at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Prior to that Johnson was the director of the Implementation for the Commission for a New Georgia, formed by Perdue to create a more efficient government.

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State Ethics Commission head quits

Rick Thompson, executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission, resigned his post today.

The commission handles campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure reports and judges complaints filed against politicians, lobbyists and political groups.

Thompson has been with the commission since January 2004 and took over at a time when state officials said the agency had a backlog of 200 cases, some dating back years.

That backlog has been largely wiped out.

Thompson said he gave the commission’s chairman 60 days notice. He said he will start a public strategy company.

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Andy Young endorses Hodges for AG

Former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young has endorsed Ken Hodges in the 2010 Democratic primary campaign for attorney general.

Young’s endorsement of the former Albany prosecutor is significant, because Young remains one of Georgia’s most influential Democrats, and because African-Americans could make up half of the electorate in July’s Democratic primary between Hodges and Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna).

“It’s very important to me,” Hodges said Monday. “I’m very well known in southwest Georgia, but I’ve got to get my word out to 8 million people, several million voters and I need help doing that.”

Young’s stature will help.

“People trust him and hopefully trust his judgment,” he said.

In a statement, Young praised Hodges for “his commitment to equal rights and the fair application of justice during his years of service in Albany.”

Hodges, Young said, “developed successful diversionary programs that still today keep our at-risk young people in school and out of prison.”

Young’s …

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Alabama governor agrees to talk about water, now waiting on Florida to come to the table

By Kristi E. Swartz

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has agreed to meet with Gov. Sonny Perdue an an attempt to hash out a water-sharing agreement, Perdue said Monday.
Now it’s up to Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida to join in as well.
Perdue sent the two governors a list of 40 possible dates in which he was willing to sit down and talk about the use of Lake Lanier, which a federal judge last month said could not be tapped for drinking water.
Riley faxed a response with about 20 dates on Monday, Perdue told reporters at the Governor’s Mansion.
“Now it’s up to us to contact Gov. Crist and get a date and a venue,” said Perdue, flanked by 10 of the members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation.
Riley’s response comes two weeks after he and Perdue were trading barbs over exactly what happened when a water-sharing agreement fell apart in 2007.
Perdue accused Riley of walking away from a proposed agreement. When a Riley spokesman said any claim to that is “completely false,” …

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Update: Perdue to brief gov candidates on water crisis

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday will host a briefing on the ongoing efforts to solve the tri-state water war for those who want to succeed him.

Perdue’s communications director, Bert Brantley, said Friday that the governor offered the 2010 gubernatorial candidates an opportunity to learn more about the situation and the state’s efforts at resolving the crisis.

As of Friday afternoon, Republicans Karen Handel and Eric Johnson and Democrat David Poythress had confirmed they would attend. Vivien Scott, wife and spokesman for Republican Austin Scott, said she believed he would be there as well.

We have contacted the other campaigns to see who else plans to attend.

Update 2:30 p.m.: Republican Nathan Deal also plans to attend, his spokesman said. Update 3:05 p.m.: Republican John Oxendine will also be there. Update 3:29 p.m.: Democrat Roy Barnes will be there, too, sitting across from the man who unseated him as governor in 2002. Update 4:45 p.m.: Democrat Thurbert Baker will also …

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Handel asks Justice Dept. to reconsider on voter verification

Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel on Wednesday said she has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to reconsider its ruling that the state’s system of verifying voters’ unfairly flags minorities for extra scrutiny.

Handel had two options to continue the program: ask the Justice Department to reconsider or appeal its decision to the U.S. District Court in Washington.

“It is my hope that the Department of Justice will review this request, with the information and data provided, and grant preclearance to the state of Georgia for these verificdation processes,” Handel said in a statement.

Handel, also a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, has slammed the decision as being politically motivated by President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration. She has consistently referred to the decision as having come from “Obama’s Justice Department.” That phrase, however, was absent from Wednesday’s release.

Handel devised the voter verification system in response to the federal …

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2010 not starting well: July revenue figure drop 10 percent

State revenue collections in July fell nearly 10 percent compared to July 2008, a negative harbinger to the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced last Tuesday that the first full month of the 2010 budget year saw the state’s stream of personal and corporate income taxes and sales taxes fall 9.6 percent.

It is the eighth consecutive month of declining state revenue.

That’s the bad news. The good news — if one can call it that — is that the drop in year-to-year revenue is in line with estimates and with the cuts the state has already made.

“This is in line with the reductions that have been made already based on revising the revenue estimate down,” Perdue communications director Bert Brantley said. “The other thing to remember is that July, August, September of last year were still relatively decent months. We hadn’t hit the free-fall yet.”

Those cuts have included orders that all state employees take at least three furlough days and that agencies …

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Georgia Power, AGL spend big for House Republicans

Turns out last month’s get-together of the House Republican Caucus on the Georgia coast was largely paid for by two big utilities.

Lobbyists for Georgia Power and AGL Resources chipped in a combined $20,000 for the July meeting of House Republicans, according to reports filed with the State Ethics Commission. The money went for meals, beverages and meeting facilities.

Georgia Power had a lot to thank legislators for this year, since the House and Senate approved legislation allowing the company to begin charging customers for new nuclear reactors before they come online.

In all, lobbyists reported spending $26,000 on the House Republican Caucus meeting. Among the other big spenders for the meeting were Kevin Perry, lobbyist for the Georgia Beverage Association ($2,209) and Haydon Stanley, lobbyist for, among others, AT&T, Georgia Beer Wholesalers, and Georgia Natural Gas ($2,000).

The other big spender since May 1, according to the reports, was the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. …

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