Archive for February, 2011

African-Americans cast 28 percent of November ballots in Georgia

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has posted the demographic breakdown of those who cast ballots in the November 2010 general election.

Which helped prompt Jim Coonan, the Atlanta-based Democratic consultant, write this quick note:

There are two very interesting reports out today, especially so when read together and in the context of Georgia’s 2006 and 2010 elections.

The first is the demographic breakdown of votes cast in the 2010 election posted on the Secretary of State’s website. It shows that the African-American share of both the pool of registered voters and the actual votes cast continued its upward trend in 2010. Here are African-American voters as a percent of all registered voters at the time of the general election:

– 2002: 25.62%

– 2006: 27.18%

– 2010: 29.27%

And here are African-American voters as a percent of all votes cast in the general election:

– 2002: 22.60%

– 2006: 24.06%

– 2010: 28.18% [of 2.6 million cast]

In other words, the Democratic …

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The struggle over what to do with a 15-year-old hooker

Last year, state Sen. Renee Unterman ran into a buzz saw when, as part of legislation designed to address child sex trafficking, she included a provision that would have prohibited the prosecution of those 16 and younger for prostitution.

Because that’s the limit for statutory rape in Georgia – under the presumption that young people cannot give informed consent.

Attorney General Sam Olens. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Attorney General Sam Olens. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Unterman was accused of attempting to legalize prostitution – and the measure died. This year, a House bill again attempts to tackle sex-trafficking. And Attorney General Sam Olens is backing a compromise on the issue of youthful prostitutes, which he explained to Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM).

Listen to the sound here, but below is an exchange that grew rather testy:

Olens: “Section 4 actually deals very ably with this issue. Section 4 provides an affirmative defense. The child can still be charged as a prostitute. But she or he has the ability as what we …

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Your morning jolt: Georgia’s $588 million unemployment benefit debacle

There’s nothing more encouraging on a Monday morning than to have your state cited as an egregious example of poor judgment. From the Associated Press:

Washington — State officials had plenty of warning. Over the past three decades, two national commissions and a series of government audits sounded alarms about the dwindling amount of money states were setting aside to pay unemployment insurance to laid-off workers.

“Trust Fund Reserves Inadequate,” federal auditors said in a 1988 report.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler/AP

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler/AP

It’s clear now the warnings were pretty much ignored. Instead, states kept whittling away at the trust funds, mostly by cutting unemployment insurance taxes at the behest of the business community. The low balances hastened insolvency when the recession hit, leading about 30 states to borrow $41.5 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits to their growing population of jobless.

The ramifications will be felt for years….

Each state …

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Shirley Franklin and her new blog: ‘Maynard Jackson would have Tweeted’

One of the open secrets of Shirley Franklin’s eight-year tenure as mayor of Atlanta was her night-owl addiction to local political blogs.

Sometimes under the sobriquet of “Millie Lou,” sometimes under her own name, Franklin would answer critics in detailed fashion — or weigh in with late-night, unfiltered observations on the issue of the day.

Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

It was enough to give any press secretary heartburn.

One year after leaving the mayor’s office, Internet opinionating has a stronger grip on Franklin than ever before. Last week, she launched her own Democratic-oriented political website, Blogging While Blue.

“I come to my own conclusions. There are people who say, well, if you have positions that the governor or mayor or someone doesn’t like, it’s problematic. I just don’t see it that way. I think that public dialogue and discussion of the facts is valuable,” Franklin said over an iced coffee at her neighborhood …

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Tom Price: Democrats to blame for talk of government shutdown

U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, offered the weekend message for Republicans, laying blame for talk of a federal government shutdown on Democrats and President Barack Obama:

Here’s how Price’s remarks fit into the mix. From the Associated Press:

President Barack Obama says better education in math and science is critical to pushing the U.S. forward in the global competition for innovation and jobs, and he wants the private sector to get involved in making it happen.

Obama recorded his weekly radio and Internet address during a visit this week to Intel Corp. outside of Portland, Ore. He praised the company Saturday for making a 10-year, $200 million commitment to promote math and science education — and held it up as an example of how corporate America can make money at the same time it builds the country.

“Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete — that instead of just being a nation that buys what’s made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around …

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Is ‘Obamacare’ a disparaging word?

In a debate today over a Republican amendment to defund last year’s legislation to overhaul health care, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, attempted to interrupt U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger – over his use of the word “Obamacare.”

From a video issued by Graves’ office:

Afterwards, Schultz pointed out that House rules forbid personal invectives against the chief occupant of the White House. As for “Obamacare,” she said:

”That is a disparaging reference to the president of the United States. It’s meant as a disparaging reference to the president of the United States. It is clearly against the House rules against that.”

I’m guessing this topic could tempt some of you to use intemperate language. Please resist.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Jack Kingston: Grown kids shouldn’t rely on parents for health care

The Republican congressman from Savannah will be an awkward topic of conversation around many a dinner table tonight. From NBC’s “First Read:”

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah. AJC file

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah. AJC file

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) came out strongly against a provision of health-care overhaul that is actually quite popular across the country.

Talking on the House floor today about the provision that allows children to stay on their parent’s health-care plan until they’re 26 years old, Kingston said (paraphrasing here, but pretty close):

“I have four kids under the age of 26. I have raised them to be responsible. The average age of soldiers in Vietnam was 19. World War II probably the same. I have raised my kids to be responsible, to get health care at 21. Kids don’t need to be running home to mommy and daddy until they’re 26 for healthcare.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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David Ralston: Current state prison bill ‘exorbitant’

This week, GPB’s “Prime Time Lawmakers” aired a Nwandi Lawson interview with House Speaker David Ralston. The chief topic was the new push – backed by Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, to conduct a year-long review of who is placed within the razor wire of Georgia’s prisons.

Ralston directly addressed the two-strikes-and-you’re-out legislation back by Gov. Zell Miller:

”I think we now know that some of the reforms that we did, particularly back in the ‘90s, probably swept with too large a broom, maybe. They came with a great price tag.

“The ‘90s were a completely different time, financially, in state government. We now know that the cost of those programs and the cost of those sentencing changes is exorbitant. And I think that it was probably a higher number than we estimated at the time.”

Ralston, who has been criticized for a $17,000 trip he and his family took to Europe in November – to examine rail systems, also explained his …

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Marietta rules Roy Barnes can keep his cows

Four months after Republicans complained, and three months after his bid to return to the Governor’s Mansion was crushed, Roy Barnes has been cleared of the stigma of keeping his cows too close to the Marietta Square.

From this morning’s Marietta Daily Journal:

The cows Roy Barnes keeps in a pasture by his Victorian-style home off Whitlock Avenue can stay, Mayor Steve Tumlin said Wednesday.

During Barnes’ campaign for governor, a number of calls came into City Hall inquiring about the legality of the cows, city attorney Doug Haynie said.

Livestock may be kept in the city if the property owner has at least five acres and the property is zoned R-1. Haynie said Barnes had enough property, but it was zoned R-4. Barnes’ cows are grandfathered in, however, because he kept livestock on the property without a six-month lapse since purchasing the property in 2008, before which former owner the late Dr. Charles Henderson kept horses there.

“I’m glad the weighty matters of state at …

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Your morning jolt: An inside-the-Perimeter revolt over transportation?

An internal revolt may be brewing in Atlanta against the 2012 vote for a transportation sales tax.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

On Thursday, at the end of the day’s session of the state Senate, Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, went to the well for a point of personal privilege – a five-minute period allotted any senator to speak his mind.

The thing that had ticked Fort off was a decision – apparently by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle – not to re-appoint him to the House-Senate committee in charge of the oversight of MARTA.

“I’ve been on the MARTA oversight committee for most of the last 10 to 12 years. I was not reappointed. ….I sent an e-mail to both the Committee on Assignments as well as the lieutenant governor, asking to remain on the committees that I was on. And I don’t know why I was not reappointed,” Fort explained afterwards.

But what was interesting about Fort’s speech was the way he connected the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s involvement in Atlanta …

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