Archive for February, 2011

Your morning jolt: Teeth fall out of immigration bill

The two major bills intended to combat illegal immigration in Georgia are undergoing major revisions. State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, is to unveil his changes to HB 87 today.

The state’s business and agricultural forces have mounted intense campaigns against both measures. Revisions unveiled Wednesday by state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, to his bill, SB 40, showed that the lobbying appears to have had its effect.

From my AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon:

Sen. Jack Murphy’s Senate Bill 40 no longer includes penalties for certain private businesses that do not use the federal E-Verify program. That program seeks to verify newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States.

He said he would also amend the bill to exempt businesses with four or fewer employees from a requirement to use E-Verify. His original bill exempted only businesses that participate in federal guest worker programs. An exemption is still in place in the new bill for businesses that hire …

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Behind the $635 million that Georgia owes the feds for unemployment benefits

Since 2008, the federal response to the Great Recession has resulted in a deficit that has become the focal point of Republicans and tea partyers alike.

Far less talked about has been our state government’s response to the downturn — and the borrowing of $635 million from the federal government to cover unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of jobless Georgians.

The bill is about to come due. Almost certainly, the result will be a hike in payroll taxes for businesses across the state, or a reduction in benefits for the hard-hit unemployed. Or both.

Other states, like California and North Carolina, owe far more. But Georgia’s case is special because of what was squandered. First by Democrats, then by Republicans.

Gov. Roy Barnes, early in his term. AJC file

Gov. Roy Barnes, early in his term. AJC file

In 1999, the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund — fueled by record growth — had squirreled away an astounding $2 billion for hard times. Far more than any recession required, thought the new governor, …

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Daytona-bound bikers protest State Patrol checkpoints

The American Motorcyclist Association is calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to block a federally funded Georgia State Patrol program to set up traffic checkpoints targeting Daytona-bound bikers next month:

Tens of thousands of motorcyclists from around the nation could be subject to Georgia motorcycle-only checkpoints if those checkpoints are in place before, during and after Daytona (Fla.) Bike Week, which runs March 4-13….

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave Georgia a $70,000 grant to conduct one or more roadside motorcycle-only checkpoints. New York state has operated a similar program. The AMA has been tracking this disturbing development of motorcycle-only checkpoints since it first appeared in New York several years ago.

“The AMA believes that the primary source of motorcycle safety is in motorcycle crash prevention and not in arbitrarily pulling over riders and randomly subjecting them to roadside inspections,” [said Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice …

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Poultry company president: Georgia’s anti-immigration climate has made Latino workers scarce

Last night, a Senate committee held a hearing on immigration in Gainesville.

One of north Georgia’s top businessmen – and former chairman of the National Chicken Council –addressed the lawmakers. A passage from the Gainesville Times:

Tom Hensley, president of poultry company Fieldale Farms Corp. that has locations in North Georgia, told the Senate Special Committee on Immigration and Georgia’s Economy that 287(g) already had a detrimental effect on the poultry industry in Hall County that would only be worsened by statewide legislation.

Hensley said despite using measures to ensure the company hired documented workers, the anti-immigrant climate in the state has driven the Latino workers he depended on away from his business.

“We were 67 percent Hispanic in 2004. Our turnover was 25 percent. Our workers (compensation) cost was $50,000 a month. Our health care cost for the whole year was $8 million. It was about that time that the federal, state and local governments let it …

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Your morning jolt: Complaint alleging Casey Cagle affair headed for dismissal

The state ethics commission appears ready to dismiss the complaint lodged last October against Casey Cagle that accused the Republican lieutenant governor of having an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer and overpaying her with campaign funds.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Case No. 20010-0066 – a Cagle spokesman confirmed this is the one — is listed on the “dismissal” portion of the March 1 agenda for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The complaint was filed by Ray Boyd, the real estate entrepreneur who last spring considered a Republican run for governor – but would not sign the loyalty oath required by the state GOP.

Boyd’s complaint offered no proof of the affair, which allegedly occurred around the time Cagle, then a state senator, was elected lieutenant governor in 2006.

Cagle called the allegation “absolutely false,” and declared the complaint to be the work of his Democratic opponent, …

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Senate Democrats on the Sunday sales bill: ‘Rules? What rules?’

Notice to state Senators: You do not have to cite the Political Insider in order to be quoted. That said, it doesn’t hurt.

Sen. Doug Stoner of Smyrna and two other Democrats, Steve Thompson of Powder Springs and Steve Henson of Tucker, laid out their concerns over Senate Republican handling of SB 10, the Sunday sales bill – and their worries that it could bode ill for the way the chamber conducts future business.

Below is a transcript of Stoner’s remarks:

My fellow senators, I come to the well today to register my disappointment.

Disappointment in the failure of this legislative body, the Georgia Senate, to live up to its proud past and traditions as an institution of open debate.

An institution of open debate governed by rules agreed to by all those who are elected and serve in this chamber. A set of rules agreed too that allows all members of this body to represent their districts, their communities, and their constituents.

State Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com

State Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna. Ben Gray, …

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The untouchables in the state Capitol

My AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon has this today:

A North Georgia motel that is at the center of a lawsuit involving Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Graves and state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is facing condemnation after its electricity was shut off last week amid financial troubles.

A top Calhoun official confirmed Monday the city will likely move in the coming days to shut down the Oglethorpe Inn, citing safety concerns over the lack of power there.

But the article also includes this:

Meanwhile, a lawsuit connected to the inn is still pending in court. The Bartow County Bank is suing Rogers and Graves, alleging the two owe the bank $2.2 million for a business loan that is now in default. Rogers and Graves, who took the loan out to buy and renovate the Oglethorpe Inn, have denied they owe the money….

An attorney for the Bartow County Bank said Rogers has invoked a provision of state law that allows for lawsuits to be put on hold during a state legislative session.

That was …

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Your morning jolt: A low-interest loan program to fill the coming HOPE gap?

This morning at Georgia State University, Gov. Nathan Deal will announce the most sweeping changes to the HOPE scholarship since the inception of the lottery-cash-for-college program.

“Decoupling” amounts granted by the scholarship from tuition increases is certain to be one of his recommendations.

That could leave a critical gap between the cost of college and what a student receives from HOPE.

The difference could be covered in a low- or no-interest loan program likely to be proposed this session, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said Monday.

“There has been a lot of discussion of how we create a workable loan program for students,” Rogers said.

One suggestion has been to turn all HOPE awards into loans for first-year college students – “much like the home school students have to do now,” Rogers said at a weekly news conference.

He continued:

“I think that’s a great idea. It may be difficult to put that in place overnight, because that incorporates a lot …

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Wisconsin comes to Georgia on Wednesday

Georgia Tea Party Patriots said this evening that they’ll attempt to counter a rally by local unions to show support for public employees in Wisconsin – scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday on the front steps at the state Capitol.

Tea partyers are to gather catty-corner from the Capitol, on Courtland and MLK.

Writes Tea Party coordinator Debbie Dooley in an e-mail blast:

Folks, this is the start of the 2012 campaign. In contrast to Tea Party rallies in support of the rule of law and the constitution and election of folks who would vote as we desired, these rallies are against the duly elected representatives of the folks who turned the nation red in November. I’ll let you make up your own minds as to who may be behind that site…. “workers of the world?”…. We cannot let our elected government officials be intimidated by these ill informed people who will show up for these rallies. We must let them see that ‘the folks’ are here to support them in the difficult decisions we …

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Sunday sales supporters gear up for Wednesday rally

The stakes can’t be compared with those, say, in north Africa, but supporters of Sunday package sales of alcohol are attempting to foment their own Facebook revolution.

They’re attempting fill the front steps of the state Capitol at noon Wednesday, to voice their disappointment in a decision by Senate Republicans to deep-six SB 10 on a private vote of their caucus.

The effort is being coordinated on the Georgians for Sunday Sales fan page on Facebook.

Jamie Dempsey, one of the organizers, said no groups – i.e., grocery retailers or business groups – are behind the rally. But Dempsey does bring some expertise to the issue.

He is the owner of a small Gwinnett County public relations firm and president of the Greater Eastside Chamber of Commerce. Dempsey organized turnout for last summer’s passage of the Snellville referendum that allowed restaurants in that city to serve alcohol on Sunday.

“The issue in and of itself is not alcohol. The issue is more who is calling …

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