Archive for December, 2009

Rep. Jim Cole will be new Secretary of State

Republican  Rep. Jim Cole, a three-term lawmaker from Forsyth in Middle Georgia, will be  picked by Gov. Sonny Perdue to be the next Secretary of State, sources tell the AJC.

Cole, Perdue’s House floor leader,  will replace Karen Handel, who announced last week she would resign to concentrate full time on her race for governor. Perdue’s office is expected to make the announcement Monday.

Cole, 38,  will serve out the final year of Handel’s term. He will also run in 2010 for a full, four-year term.

Cole has been on Perdue’s House team for three years, carrying and pushing the governor’s legislation.

The Secretary of State’s Office  incorporates business and oversees professional licensing boards and elections. The last three Secretaries of State have each gone on to run for governor. The Secretary of State before that, Max Cleland, wound up serving a term in the U.S. Senate.

Cole, who is married and has two children,  has undergraduate and MBA degrees from Mercer University. …

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Handel quits as Secretary of State, says she’s “all in” for governor’s race

Secretary of State Karen Handel, who has been in her job less than three years,  said today she will resign to put all her efforts toward running for governor.

Handel’s decision will allow her to raise money during the 2010 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11. Under state law, lawmakers and elected  officials can’t raise money during legislative sessions.

Former Senate leader Eric Johnson of Savannah quit the General Assembly earlier this year to boost his gubernatorial campaign as well.

“The people of Georgia need to know I am all in for the governor’s race,” Handel said. “This decision allows me to focus 100 percent on becoming the Republican nominee and winning in November.”

Some of the other GOP candidates, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, Rep. Austin Scott and Sen. Jeff Chapman, will be barred from raising money during the session.

Handel said she also is resigning to steer clear of any potential  accusations that she is using her office to benefit her …

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Open Georgia website adds contracting info, C.W. Matthews still top the list

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle urged state officials to continue making more information available to Georgians on the Open Georgia website, which provides state salary and contracting data and state audits.

Cagle made the statement after the site, at,  recently began posting vendor and professional contractor spending for fiscal 2009.

The website was created by the Georgia Senate’s Transparency in Government Act of 2008.

“There is still much to be done to shine a bright light on how Georgia spends taxpayer dollars, and I call on the Georgia Senate to continue to lead on this issue,” Cagle said.

The site includes a list of the top 1o state contractors in fiscal 2009, which ended June 30.

The largest single private contractor was once again C.W. Matthews, the Cobb County road builder.  The company was paid $368 million for work in fiscal 2009. That’s down from fiscal 2008, when it rang up $522 million in state business.

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Hear Richardson’s speech

WABE’s Denis O’Hayer, the ace local host of “All Things Considered” on 90.1 has put together a nice edit on Speaker Glenn Richardson’s farewell speech to the House Republican caucus on Thursday.

If you didn’t get to hear or see it live yesterday, it’s worth a listen here.

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Live blogging the caucus meeting: Ralston wins speaker vote

Update 2;28 p.m.: Rep. Jan Jones of Atlanta has been chosen as speaker pro tem.

Update 2:04 p.m.: OK, folks live blogging is gonna curtail considerably now. I’ll post the results of the elections but have to start focusing on the two stories for tomorrow’s paper. Thanks for reading along with me and don’t forget we’ll have the results of the vote for pro tem and whip soon.

Update 1:56 p.m.: A friend just wrote to remind me that today is the second anniversary of the death of legendary House Speaker Tom Murphy (D-Bremen). It’s quite a coincidence that the next speaker is all but elected today.

Update 1:51 p.m.: Rep. John Lunsford, who is running for majority whip, said in an interview moments ago that he intends to submit a petition to the caucus calling for all caucus officers to face election today, meaning there could still be votes for majority leader and caucus chair.

It’s a significant step if it happens because it would amount to votes of confidence on Majority Leader …

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Richardson is in the building

House Speaker Glenn Richardson is in the state Capitol, but it’s unclear if he plans to participate in the House Republican caucus meeting that begins in about 10 minutes.

AJC columnist Jay Bookman said he rode the Capitol elevator with Richardson, although the two did not speak.

Sitting here in the House press gallery, members are starting to filter in to the chamber, but Richardson is not among them.

Richardson, of course, is why there is a meeting today at all, as it the gathering comes on the heels of his announced resignation.

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Can’t get to the Capitol? Watch it live on the interwebs

Political junkies rejoice: If you can’t make it to the Gold Dome to watch the House Republican caucus choose a new speaker, you can watch it live on your computer.

The caucus meeting begins at 11 a.m. in the House chamber and will be streamed live at this here link. The link might not work until just before the meeting begins, so don’t fret if you can’t see anything just yet.

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Burkhalter: ‘My heart is going in a different direction’

Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter on Thursday reaffirmed his commitment to helping the Georgia House make a smooth transition to a new leader, but also reconfirmed his intent to pursue the executive director’s position with the Georgia World Congress Center.

“My heart was going in a different direction for many months,” Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before the House Republican caucus meets to nominate a new speaker.

He said if he is named to the GWCC job he will leave the General Assembly.

But he does not yet have the job, he stressed.

Burkhalter also said he has not been avoiding the media and didn’t “slip in and out” of a caucus meeting last week, as it’s been reported.

His son, he said, was at Northside Hospital alone preparing for surgery this past Monday. Burkhalter left him at the hospital to get to the caucus meeting and leave as soon as possible to return.

Still, the confluence of the events of the past month have …

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Smith drops out of race for House speaker

Georgia Rep. Tommy Smith (R-Nicholls) is withdrawing his candidacy for state House speaker, the day before the Republican caucus was set to vote. Smith, a South Georgia blueberry farmer, said his support didn’t materialize.

“It doesn’t look I’ve got the votes,” he told the AJC.

The former Democrat and a 30-year member of the House was considered a long shot. Smith was the first representative to announce he wanted House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s job earlier this month.

In his note to colleagues, Smith took his failed bid in stride.

“Stop by and see me when you are in south Georgia and we will see that you leave happy and healthy with plenty of blueberries,” he wrote.

Richardson, the once-powerful speaker, shocked the state last month by revealing that he recently had attempted suicide. He said at the time he was depressed because of his divorce but that he intended to stay in office.

However, his ex-wife appeared on television and declared he had an affair with a lobbyist and …

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About that O’Neal letter and what it means for Perdue

When Rep. Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire) revealed to his his fellow House Republicans last night that the IRS cleared him in the handling of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s purchase of land in Florida, he also revealed something of perhaps greater importance: The governor himself was the subject of the audit.

O’Neal is running for House speaker and the Republican caucus will gather at the Capitol tomorrow to choose between four men seeking the post. But O’Neal’s bid has resurrected speculation over his role in both Perdue’s land deal and in legislation passed in 2005 that gave the governor a retroactive $100,000 tax break for the purchase. O’Neal, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, sponsored the legislation, although it was a Senate amendment that made Perdue a beneficiary.

In his Tuesday letter to the GOP caucus, O’Neal said the IRS “sent a team of federal auditors to conduct a full forensic audit of every aspect of this land issue transaction. It was a multi-week, full-blown, …

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