Archive for February, 2010

Education official: Consider reducing 180-day school year

Wrapping up a morning of hearings on the state’s 2011 budget and the monster cuts that could come with it, Scott Austensen, the deputy state school superintendent for finance, touched not one, but two third-rails of Georgia politics.

First, he told lawmakers at the Capitol, the state needs to look at reducing the 180-days of instruction now required for K-12 students. Secondly, lottery money could be used to offset some technology expenditures in public schools – something lawmakers haven’t approved in years.

Afterwards, in a scrum with reporters, Austensen said that, depending on the severity of cuts to come, budget writers need to look beyond the teacher-training days now used for mandatory time off:

“Thus far, the six-day furloughs have come out of professional development days because – by law – even though the governor [declared] the furlough days, he didn’t change the requirement of 180 days or the equivalent…

“We’re suggesting looking at how deep those cuts may be. If …

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Your morning jolt: Glenn Richardson and Paulding County’s sense of irony

Updated at 1:50 p.m. with statement from Paulding County candidate Daniel Stout:

Voters in Paulding County today could choose a replacement lawmaker for Glenn Richardson, the former House speaker – who resigned his district seat earlier this year after his ex-wife confirmed that he’d had an affair with a lobbyist.

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact notes that something must be in the water:

Ironically, the issue of extra-marital [involvement] has also been raised in the special election where three candidates are competing to win Richardson’s old House seat.

Daniel Stout, a 29-year-old banker from Dallas, has been compelled to address a personal incident from 10 years ago: he had an affair with his first wife’s mother while his first wife was pregnant with their daughter. Stout and his first wife subsequently divorced.

Stout confirmed the incident in a telephone interview with Crawford.

“It’s not something that’s a beautiful thing with me,” he said. “I hurt some people.”

Also …

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Teilhet wants grand juries to look at use of illegal immigrants — and Olens says he’s good with that

Cobb County is home to two candidates for attorney general: state Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) and Sam Olens, the Republican chairman of the Cobb County Commission.

So it should come as no surprise that Teilhet has sent letters to Cobb District Attorney Pat Head and newly appointed U.S. Attorney Sally Yates, requesting (presumably separate) grand jury investigations into whether illegal immigrants have helped build the new Cobb courthouse.

Read the one to Head here. It says in part:

I respectfully request that your office consider empanelling a grand jury to investigate the relationship between the general contractor, subcontractor and sub subcontractor and what the respective parties knew or should have known about the illegal conduct at issue. It is important to also determine whether similar conduct has occurred on other projects involving these same parties.

Allegations that illegal immigrants were used on the $63 million courthouse project surfaced earlier this …

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Rasmussen poll: Could Roy Barnes be fading in race for governor?

This just posted by Rasmussen Reports:

Three out of the four top Republican candidates are now slightly ahead of the Democrat one of them is most likely to face in this year’s race for governor in Georgia.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds all three Republicans earning 43% to 45% of the vote, while Democrat Roy Barnes picks up 36% to 37% support.

This marks a fallback for Barnes from last month when he was in virtual ties with the three GOP hopefuls, all earning support in the low 40s.

John Oxendine, Karen Handel, and Nathan Deal are the three GOP candidates polling above Barnes. Eric Johnson, the former Republican senator, ties the former Democratic governor.

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The link between obesity and the federal deficit

Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University will be in D.C. tomorrow to draw the link between obesity and the federal deficit.

You pack on the pounds, you grow old, and you send Medicare costs skyrocketing. Your grandchildren pick up the tab.

Twenty years ago, heart disease was driving growth in Medicare costs. Now it’s rotundity.

“You see it in the Medicare population just as you see it in the general population,” Thorpe said. “The prevalence of obesity among senior citizens has doubled. Virtually all the increase in diabetes — that’s all due to obesity.”

Thorpe is executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. He’s got a good blog going on the health care overhaul.

At the National Press Club on Tuesday morning, he’ll make two points: First, that Medicare costs can be partially controlled by paying more attention to the “blocking and tackling” aspects of treating chronic problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and such.

It must be done early, targeting …

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A bill to ban paperless ballots dropped — Kemp opposes on economic grounds

We’ve known that electronic voting machines – like the ones used in Georgia – attract skepticism from some of the most liberal members of the Democratic community, and the most conservative wing of the GOP.

Now we’ve got legislation to prove it. Just before the Legislature went on a two-week, budget-driven hiatus, state Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica) dropped HB 1215, would would mandate an end to the use of Georgia’s paperless voting tabulators, in favor of an optical scan system whose ballots could be recounted by hand in any dispute.

Signers of the bill include state Reps. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica); Karla Drenner (D-Atlanta); Bobby Franklin (R-Cobb County); and Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville). Another signer was Austin Scott (R-Tifton), the Republican candidate for governor.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he won’t support the legislation:

“Requiring county and local governments to implement new voting systems in this fiscal year, when every local and state agency is …

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Your morning jolt: Towery the pollster was also the fixer

Matt Towery, the CEO of InsiderAdvantage, runs the only political polling operation based in Georgia.

The outfit’s last poll, on Feb. 11, showed state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine leading the GOP race for governor with 25 percent of the vote. Towery has partnered with WSB-TV, and is occasionally quoted by this newspaper.

But for several days this month, Towery also became a fixer knee-deep in the race for governor.

“Boy, can I be stupid,” is the headline over his first-person mea culpa, published this morning on his web site.

In addition to his polling duties, Towery, is affiliated with the well-connected law firm of McKenna, Long & Aldridge. Several days after that last poll, Towery the lawyer began working for Clark Fain, the former chief executive of Southeastern U.S. Insurance, a workers comp provider under criminal investigation by Oxendine’s office.

Towery went to Oxendine’s office to plead Fain’s case. During that conversation, Towery said it became clear that …

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One year later, what’s next for Georgia tea partiers?

Thousands gathered last year at an April 15 tea party at the state Capitol. AJC file

Thousands gathered last year at an April 15 tea party at the state Capitol. AJC file

One year ago, Debbie Dooley was an occasional Republican activist from Gwinnett County who joined 21 other angry people on a national conference call.

The purpose was to organize a series of protests over federal spending and bailout programs.

The first tea party in Georgia came together on a soggy Friday in February. Hundreds made their way to the state Capitol. Dooley’s speech notes fell apart in the rain.

The agenda was modest. “We were battling for the soul of our country,” Dooley said.

It has been a heady year for the tea party movement. A Fox News-driven rally on April 15 drew thousands, again to the Capitol. Then an August rally against a health care overhaul in Centennial Olympic Park, followed by a September march on Washington.

Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats have received most of Dooley’s attention. But she and her friends have been a thorn in the side of Republicans, …

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Teen party fallout could prompt trouble for Cobb senator

This from the Around Town column in today’s Marietta Daily Journal:

The newspaper ink was barely dry on last weekend’s front-page story reporting a teen drinking party busted by police at the home of a local judge before bloggers began bashing state Sen. John Wiles (R-Kennesaw) on the MDJonline.com Web site for his actions as the party wound down.

And now comes news that popular retired Cobb school board member Lindsey Tippins is “seriously, seriously” thinking of mounting a challenge to Wiles in the July 20 GOP Primary. Wiles, an entrenched incumbent in a heavily Republican district, had not been expected to have serious opposition.

Cobb police on Dec. 22 cited 10 teenagers who attend the prestigious Walker School in Marietta for drinking alcohol at the home of attorney Diane Busch, a municipal court judge for the cities of Woodstock and Marietta. Four teenagers older than 17 and six juveniles were cited for “minor in possession of alcohol” after police arrived at Busch’s …

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Waterboarding is torture, says Bob Barr — boos follow

Former Georgia congressman, presidential candidate and AJC blogger Bob Barr got himself booed on Friday at the CPAC convention in Washington. His sin: Barr declared that waterboarding is torture – and suggested that U.S. courts are capable of handling trials for terrorists.

This video was posted by the liberal group Think Progress:

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