Archive for September, 2009

Update: Johnson resigns from Senate to focus on gov bid

Updated throughout 2:36 p.m:

Republican Eric Johnson on Tuesday resigned from the state Senate, giving himself a leg up in the money race as he makes a bid for the 2010 GOP nomination for governor.

Johnson, who was chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and served in the General Assembly for 17 years, made the announcement at a Capitol news conference.

By resigning, Johnson would freed himself from a state law that bans elected state officials from raising money during the annual meeting of the General Assembly. He will be one of only two of the top Republican challengers who will be able to raise money during this critical period before the July primary.

The legislature meets for 40 days beginning in January, but the session typically lasts until at least early April. The prohibition on fund-raising during this time can be a severe limitation for candidates.

But Johnson said campaign finances were not his motivating factor in the decision.

“I became convinced I couldn’t do …

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Sears endorsing Hodges for attorney general

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears is endorsing former prosecutor Ken Hodges in the Democratic race for attorney general.

Sears, the state’s first female member of  the  Supreme Court, retired this summer. She joins former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young as top Georgia Democrats to endorse Hodges.

Hodges faces state Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smryna) in next year’s primary. Teilhet has been endorsed by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), the chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, as well as a several top Democrats from the Savannah area.

“Ken has the legal abilities, backbone and character critical for a strong attorney general,” Sears said in a statement.

Sears was the first African-American female in the nation to become a state’s chief justice when she was sworn in in 2005.

“As a prosecutor in South Georgia, I fought for the rights of victims and worked to create a safer place to live, and as attorney general, I will continue to do …

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Chambers picks up opponent for N. DeKalb seat

Elena Parent, an attorney and former state Senate aide, will challenge state Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta) for the North DeKalb seat in the General Assembly.

Parent, former chief of staff to Sen. David Adelman (D-Atlanta), is the development director for HOPE Atlanta, also known as Travelers Aid of Metro Atlanta.

Chambers is a four-term lawmaker who chairs the Legislature’s MARTA oversight committee and serves on both the Appropriations and Rules committees.

Parent, 33, said she will focus her campaign on education, transportation and fiscal responsibility.

Although Chambers won her most recent re-election in 2008 by nearly 10 percentage points, Barack Obama carried her district with 53 percent of the vote.

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State tax collections still tanking

State tax revenue dropped 16.2 percent in August, in part because the state was still sending income tax refund checks to Georgians from returns they filed in April.

Collections were off $207 million from August of 2008. Income tax revenue, which was affected  by the refunds, were down 20.8 percent from last year. Sales taxes were off 12.5 percent. Corporate tax collections were down only slightly.

For the first two months of the fiscal year, collections are down 13.1 percent, or $324 million.

While the news isn’t good and comes on the heels of another round of big state budget cuts ordered by Gov. Sonny Perdue, it probably won’t change the state’s fiscal outlook.

Numbers for the first quarter of the fiscal year, which began July 1, are being compared with relatively good collection figures for the same period in July-September of 2008. The recession didn’t start hammering tax collections until late 2008. State officials hope by the end of this year, the numbers will start …

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Update II: GOP senators plan move to stop health care reform in Georgia

A group of Republican state senators on Thursday said they want to amend the state’s Constitution in an attempt to stop Democrats in Washington from enforcing health care reform here.

Sens. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) and Chip Rogers (R-Marietta) were joined by about half a dozen colleagues to unveil their plans. The resolution would be introduced when lawmakers return in January.

The proposed amendment would, Hill and Rogers said, would allow Georgia to invoke the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment says that any power not explicitly granted the federal government in the Constitution is preserved for the states.

Hill and Rogers argue that the health care reform bill being debated in Congress would violate the 10th Amendment and that their state amendment would protect Georgia from having to participate in any federal reform.

“The 10th Amendment protects us from such federal mandates,” Hill said. “United we stand to protect Georgians, united we stand to …

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Furloughs bad, but four-day weekend? Better

When is a four-day weekend not necessarily a good thing? When one of those four days is an unpaid furlough.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of state employees are taking a forced unpaid day off Friday as state government continues to deal with its budget crisis.

Employees across state government have been ordered to take at least three furlough days the rest of this calendar year and many state agencies circled Friday for one.

Building a furlough day into a four-day weekend, with the Labor Day holiday on Monday, might ease the sting of losing pay, agency leaders say.

The flip side, however, is that for the public, many state agencies will be closed entirely Friday.

Many state employees are facing additional furlough days. The Department of Education, for example, has ordered five furlough days for all workers except teachers, who have three unpaid days. The department will be closed Friday.

“Giving employees a four-day weekend was certainly part of the discussion, but it wasn’t …

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