Archive for March, 2010

Watchdog slams Ga. House ethics bill

By Cameron McWhirter/Cmcwhirter@ajc.com

Common Cause Georgia, the nonpartisan group promoting open and honest government, issued a position paper Wednesday blasting ethics legislation proposed by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

“We had high hopes that a turnover in leadership at the Capitol would result in a new attitude about lobbying and use of campaign funds,” said Bill Bozarth, the group’s executive director. “The general climate is definitely better, but that hasn’t produced strong ethics legislation yet. We’ll be working hard to get Senate support for strengthening the bill when it gets over there.”

Bozarth argued that Ralston’s legislation, which has yet to pass out of the House Rules Committee or the House, would not require members of state boards and authorities to file financial disclosure report or exempt lobbyists from reporting money they spend on travel, meals, and hotels for legislators attending meetings.

The law would require those …

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Henson, Butler deadlocked on Senate Minority Whip vote

Senate Democrats will go without a party whip for the remainder of the 2010 legislation session.

In a bid to replace former Whip David Adelman, who was recently confirmed as a U.S. Ambassador to Singapore, the Democrats were deadlocked on two potential candidates.

In a caucus election Tuesday, Steve Henson of Tucker and Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain both received 10 votes for the position.

Minority Leader Robert Brown of Macon said that as the Senate winds down toward the final eight days of the session, the position will just remain open for a while.

“We will wait until after the elections this fall, then come back to it,” Brown said.

Brown added that caucus might reconsider the vote in the event that the General Assembly goes into a special session to pound out the budget.

With the departure of Adelman, there are now 21 Democrats in the Senate. The tie-breaking vote would have belonged to Valencia Seay of Riverdale.

But late last week, Seay, who suffered from a heart …

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Senate pauses for Schaefer funeral

This morning the usually raucous Senate is a bit somber. Still reeling from the news that their colleague, Sen. Valencia Seay of Riverdale, is in the hospital, the Senate on Tuesday adjoined quickly to attend the funeral of former Sen. Nancy Schaefer.

Members of the General Assembly chartered a bus to take them to Toccoa where Schaefer and her husband, Bruce Schaefer, are to be buried. The Schaefers were found shot to death last Friday week in their Habersham County home. Investigators believe it was a murder-suicide.

Schaefer was a former two-term Georgia senator and a former Atlanta mayoral candidate known for her Conservative leanings.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown said that he and Schaefer often found themselves on the opposite ends of ideological debates.

“But I always found her to be a person of integrity. I will miss knowing her,” Brown said. “Even though she wasn’t in the Senate anymore she continued to let us know what she was concerned about.”

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Senate to drivers – Speak English

According to state Sen. Jack Murphy, there are 13 languages in which someone can sit and test for their Georgia driver’s license.

For him, that is about a dozen too many. So on Tuesday, the Cumming republican revised and got approved a bill that would make English the official and only language someone can use to get their license.

Murphy, who chairs the public safety committee, said it was naturally a safety issue. Drivers who can’t read road signs pose a danger to everyone, he said.

But critics of the bill, point to the fact that illiterate Georgians are still allowed to drive and are helped with the test. But their overriding concern is that the bill is anti-immigration and stunts economic development in the state.

They even have a name for it.

The “Kia Go Home” bill, named after the South Korean automaker which builds cars here in Georgia with a sizable Korean workforce.

“This bill would tell Kia that it is okay to invest a billion dollars here in Georgia, but …

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AJC investigation: Complaint against Deal filed with Justice Department (updated)

Update 4;17 p.m. Former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal just finished a nearly 30-minute news conference with reporters in Gainesville.

In it, a defiant Deal said he has done nothing wrong, has no intention to exit the race for governor and renewed his effort to paint his recent troubles as a scheme by Democrats to damage his campaign.

“Sometimes in the world of politics there’s a price for doing what’s right,” Deal said.

More to come.

Original post

A Washington-based government watchdog group on Tuesday filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department against former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into Deal’s conduct. On Monday, the U.S. House Office of Congressional Ethics announced they believe Deal might have committed six violations of House ethics rules in connection to a lucrative agreement with the state of Georgia.

Deal, who is a Republican candidate for governor, …

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Senator Seay hospitalized, in Emory ICU

Seay

One noticeable absence in the Senate during last Friday’s Crossover Day was Sen. Valencia Seay of Riverdale. Today, her colleague Emanuel Jones revealed why. Seay is in the ICU of Emory Hospital.

It is unclear why Seay is actually in the hospital, but several years ago she suffered a heart attack.

“I spoke to her daughter last night and she told me to pray for her,” Jones said from the well.

Jones said that Seay began feeling bad mid-week. Several senators said that she was complaining of slurred speech and blurred vision.

“She decided to go to emergency and she went in,” said Horacena Tate of Atlanta. “Her family is asking that we not call and visit. But we can take a moment to send up a prayer for her to continue to do better.”

Tate called for a moment of silent prayer for Seay.

Jones went on to say that he does not expect Seay to return at all during this session.

Politically, Seay’s absence, could have an impact on the future of Clayton County’s public …

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Bullying bill could have new life

The Georgia House passed a controversial bill designed to give more strength to the state’s anti-bullying laws.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) didn’t make it through the House by last Friday’s Crossover Day, the deadline for measures to clear one chamber.

But the bill on Tuesday made it through as an amendment to a measure dealing with school bus safety.

The amendment was approved 95 to 55, and the bill then cleared 119 to 45.

House members previously considered, but tabled the bullying legislation.

Rep. Carolyn Hughley (D-Columbus) said the measure was needed and timely.

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U.S. House panel accuses Deal of ethics violations

Congressional investigators have accused former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of violating House ethics rules for earning too much outside income and of using his office to protect a lucrative state program that earned his company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday made six allegations that Deal, a Republican candidate for governor, violated House and federal government ethics rules in a report that also raises questions about attempts by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to influence officials at the state Department of Revenue. The report could have major implications in a crowded Republican primary for governor, where Deal has been running in the top three in most polls, behind Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and former Secretary of State Karen Handel.

Deal’s campaign called the report part of a “witch hunt” by Democrats out to hurt his campaign.

But the ethics office said it is “undisputed” that Deal “took active steps to …

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House OKs health insurance purchases across state lines

After nearly 90 minutes of debate, the House has overwhelmingly voted to approve legislation allowing Georgians to purchase health insurance across state lines.

HB 1184 was approved 108-55 despite long and boisterous opposition from Democrats.

A similar bill passed the Senate earlier in the week.

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House puts the brakes on texting while driving

The House declared texting while driving illegal for drivers of all ages, voting 134-31 in favor of HB 938.

The bill by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) makes it illegal to text while driving, but will not affect drivers’ right to use navigation devices, even if they are hand-held.

The bill as originally written only applied to teen drivers but an amendment extended the ban to drivers of all ages.

“I realize there are various positions held about this ban,” Peake said. ” I respect those strongly held beliefs. My hope is you’ll give strong consideration to the one fact, that is the bottom line on this issue, and that is that this legislation will save lives.”

But other lawmakers, including Rep. Kevin Levitas (D-Atlanta) and Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough) argued that the bill criminalizes a common practice and that driving while distracted is already illegal.

Teens under 18 would also be banned from talking on a cell phone while driving.

The bill must still pass the …

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