Archive for January, 2010

Cagle, Ralston volunteer state lawmakers for six days of furloughs

The leaders of the Legislature want to make sure they feel your pain.This just hit the inbox:

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston announced today an additional six furlough days for state legislators through the remainder of this fiscal year. With these additional days, legislators will have taken a total of eleven furlough days in fiscal year 2010.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston issued the following joint statement:

“Now that we have an even more realistic picture of our state’s revenue for the remainder of this fiscal year, we are announcing an additional six days of furloughs for General Assembly members, including ourselves. As elected leaders, we must lead by example and we are not immune to the revenue shortfalls that are affecting our state and our families. That is why we are committed to doing our small part to balance the budget.

“We are confident that by making the tough budget decisions now, we will set the stage …

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Your morning jolt: Lawyer indicted in Glock fraud was federal prosecutor, GOP candidate for AG

One of three men indicted by a Cobb County grand jury on Thursday, on charges of trying to bilk Smyrna-based gun maker Glock of $3 million, is a former federal prosecutor and 1998 candidate for attorney general.

Jim Harper, now 55, was a Republican in a primary contest ultimately won by David Ralston of Blue Ridge, who is now House speaker. Harper was released from the Cobb County jail on $100,000 bond.

Harper came in fourth in a GOP field of the same number. Ralston was defeated in the general election by Democrat Thurbert Baker.

Harper worked as a prosecutor under U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander. An article from the AJC archives includes these paragraphs:

During the past year, Alexander oversaw a heated personnel dispute involving Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Harper, an ex-Marine who once prosecuted cases in the office’s drug division.

Earlier this year, Harper accused Buddy Parker, the former head of the drug division, of compromising an ongoing FBI investigation by leaking …

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Republicans urged to ‘redeem’ past campaign pledges with tough ethics bill

Monday afternoon featured a joint meeting of the House and Senate Ethics Committee met to talk about legislation.

Sen. Dan Moody, chair of his chamber’s panel, made no mention of former House Speaker Glenn Richardson, but spoke of the “ethics reform opportunity” that the new year offers the Legislature.

According to my AJC colleague Cameron McWhirter, Republicans – who make up the majority in both the House and Senate – found themselves called out by an old GOP colleague.

Former House minority leader Bob Irvin of Atlanta spoke to the committees as chairman of Common Cause Georgia, a good-government group.

Irvin urged tighter lobbyist disclosure requirements and campaign contribution limits; an end to transfers between the campaign funds of different candidates; an independent ethics panel to review complaints; and a code of conduct for all legislators. His suggestions were met with stern faces and little comment.

Irvin said that when he took office in the early 1970s, …

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Kasim Reed to host $500-a-head debt retirement party for Lisa Borders

Within the last hour, former Atlanta mayoral candidate Lisa Borders sent the following message via Twitter:

Join Mayor Reed and I @ the 191 Club on 1/28/10 from 5:30-7:30 for a debt retirement reception, minimum contribution of $500 at reception.

Which argues well for graceful exits. Borders endorsed Reed in the December runoff, and served as Reed as a co-chairman of his transition team.

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Getting rough in the Democratic race for attorney general

The Democratic side of the race for attorney general has formally entered the let’s-you-and-him-fight stage.

This morning, state Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) was getting some decent ink – and more importantly, attention from four TV stations – for a bill that would require police to take DNA samples from anyone arrested on felony charges.

Teilhet’s rival is former Dougherty County district attorney Ken Hodges. His spokesman, Jonathan Williams, couldn’t resist throwing some sand in the works:

“Ken’s a prosecutor, and he’s long supported strong DNA databases. But it’s ironic that, during an election year and in the midst of budget cuts, our opponent would propose an unfunded mandate for law enforcement, when he opposed giving it the money it needed only nine months ago.”

Williams helpfully pointed out that Teilhet voted against last year’s budget bill, which included $24.2 million for Georgia Bureau Investigation crime labs. (Which many local law enforcement authorities say …

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Ralston: House budget won’t include hospital tax

It’s not altogether a surprise, but the House apparently isn’t biting on Sonny Perdue’s 1.6 percent tax – fee, whatever – on hospital beds, which the governor said is needed to balance out Medicaid increases.

This from Travis Fain of the Macon Telegraph:

Speaker Ralston said he’s asked House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin to “make cuts anticipating that that (tax) will not be in the budget.”

He said the cuts will likely be throughout the budget, not simply within the medical portion of the budget where the tax would send revenue, but he wasn’t specific. Their hands are tied in someways. When the state accepted federal stimulus funds, it agreed not to cut Medicaid funding.

He re-iterated a common refrain for Republicans looking to balance the budget without new taxes: “There’s a lot of concern, and I share that concern … that any kind of (new) tax in this environment is counter productive.”

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The property tax burden in rural Georgia

The Jacksonville, Fla., News does a nice job explaining that, contrary to what many think, the property tax burden is highest in some of Georgia’s poorest, more rural counties – and it’s not a situation in which a sales tax would fix anything:

Getting away from the hustle and bustle, the noise and the traffic sometimes comes with a larger tax burden. The tax rates that property owners pay in rural Southeast Georgia counties are as much as 50 percent more than those living in counties with higher populations.

The property tax rate is set in mills – one-tenth of a cent. One mill produces $1 in tax revenue for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

In Glynn County, for example, the millage rate differs between districts depending on the level of services, such as fire protection and other factors. Because it has its own fire department and law enforcement, Jekyll Island residents pay some of the lowest tax rates in the county and region at 20.461 mills. The rate at Sea …

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Oxendine incident involved a single shooter, DNR to say

Last week, WSB-TV quoted Russell “Monty” Robertson, the fellow who was sprayed with shotgun pellets Sunday while following a John Oxendine quail hunting party, as saying that two types of pellet were removed from his leg.

Oxendine’s Republican campaign for governor had said the shooter in the accident was the candidate’s 13-year-old son. But Robertson’s statement raised the possibility – and only the possibility – that two shotguns were fired in his direction, not one.

We’re now hearing that a state Department of Natural Resources investigation will report that a single shooter was responsible and that a shingle shot came from a 20-gauge shotgun, the kind carried by the youth. All of the pellets dug out of Robertson’s leg, the DNR is to report, are the same size.

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Your morning jolt: Georgia Public Broadcasting rejects Phoebe Putney documentary

Last year, we told you of an independent documentary that looked at the 2003 clash between two whistle-blowers in Albany, Ga., and the nonprofit Phoebe Putney Health System – southwest Georgia’s largest hospital group.

The film, “Do No Harm,” has political implications. It includes a deal of footage on the actions of then-Dougherty County district attorney Ken Hodges, who is now a Democratic candidate for attorney general. Hodges faces state Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) in a July primary. Hodges leads in fund-raising.

Public broadcasting stations and networks in several states, including South Carolina and Louisiana, have scheduled “Do No Harm” for broadcast. But you will not see it in Georgia – at least not now.

Nancy Zintak, a spokeswoman for Georgia Public Broadcasting, said the statewide network has rejected the film. “The reason that we’re not airing it is basically is it was not balanced,” Zintak said. “It didn’t come to us like a vetted news journalistic program like …

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Sleepless in Atlanta: Cash, schools and a Legislature on edge

The ability to sit on one’s duff for hour upon hour, without losing consciousness, is an unappreciated talent in politics.

For three full days last week, a bipartisan collection of state lawmakers gathered at the Capitol to slog through the dismal details of Sonny Perdue’s 18-month spending plan for state government.

The large room was packed. The joint sessions of the House and Senate Budget committees were a rare opportunity for rank-and-file lawmakers to question department heads about the reach of the governor’s ax.

Those who endured, those who stayed awake, were offered hints of the worrisome arguments likely to wrack the Legislature over the next several weeks. Cash, of course, is the common thread.

On Day One, for instance, state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham was questioned about the efficiency of the state’s system of sales tax collection. A dull topic, yes. But Perdue has declared state government to be in the midst of its greatest financial crisis since the Great …

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