Archive for March, 2011

Newt Gingrich: ‘If Gadhafi does not leave, it will be a U.S. defeat’

GOP presidential presumptive Newt Gingrich unleashed on President Barack Obama’s Libya policy this morning in an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today.

Money quote: “If Gadhafi does not leave power, it will be a defeat for the United States, it will lengthen our engagement, it will increase our costs – notice, by the way, at least according this morning’s papers, the White House refuses to even tell Congress whether they’re going to ask for a supplemental to pay for the war.”

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Here’s the Associated Press version of Gingrich’s comments:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is questioning President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya, calling it a “badly run” operation without a clear goal.

The Georgia Republican tells NBC’s “Today” show he believes Obama painted the United States into a corner with his decision to authorize air strikes to establish a no-fly zone and dismantle Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses. Gingrich says that Obama is relying on a …

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Your morning jolt: The return of video poker — or something like it

Georgia prosecutors are giving a suspicious eye to a bill that’s already half-way to becoming law, on the grounds that it might ease the way for the return of video poker to the state – or something like it.

But the author of the House bill, state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, said his intentions are just the opposite – he wants to “eviscerate” a new form of gambling that has snuck into the state under the cover of “Internet cafes.”

He said he’s ready to discuss any problems with the measure, which is now in the Senate.

HB 164 passed on Crossover Day with a lopsided vote of 166 to 2. But the legislation moved through the House Ways and Means Committee rather than one of the two judiciary committees that prosecutors watch closely — one possible reason for the surprise it has prompted.

The bill allows the state revenue commissioner to levy a $75 licensing fee on coin-operated machines. But it also allows winners of amusement machine games to receive gift …

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‘If Clayton County doesn’t want Delta, we’ll take it,’ says state lawmaker

Last week, after a heated debate and a 113-61 vote, the House passed a two-year sales tax break for Delta Air Lines on its jet fuel purchases.

Among the loudest opponents were Democratic lawmakers from Clayton County, home to Delta headquarters, which stands to lose $26 million a year from the tax break:

Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, was quoted as saying that the company did not approach anyone in the Clayton delegation about the exemption, and that the school system is trying to fill a $43 million deficit. (Of these two reasons, the snub is often the more important one in a status-conscious Capitol. No doubt House Republican leaders also failed to consult with Clayton Democrats.)

On Monday night, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, in an interview with Nwandi Lawson, offered to resolve Clayton’s problem:

Said O’Neal:

”If Clayton County is the least bit unhappy with contributing their SPLOST penny to keeping Delta Airlines headquartered here, my county …

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Your morning jolt: Kasim Reed’s talk of intervention in Atlanta schools is too early. Or too late.

Mayor Kasim Reed says he may seek the power to add more members to the Atlanta school board. Brent Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Mayor Kasim Reed says he may seek the power to add more members to the Atlanta school board. Brent Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

You know that Mayor Kasim Reed has raised the possibility that he might seek the power to appoint members to the Atlanta school board, in order to create a cooperative, working majority – and avoid the loss of accreditation for the city’s high schools.

Reed admitted to my AJC colleague Ernie Suggs that he hasn’t yet sold Atlanta lawmakers on the necessity of the move:

“It would be a misrepresentation to say they are on board,” Reed said, “but they do agree that the problem is great and requires decisive action.”

The immediate word from the state Capitol, from which this new authority would flow, is that Reed’s talk of intervention is too early. Or too late. One or the other.

Shortly after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed APS on probation, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams of Atlanta as …

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Herman Cain: ‘I resent’ Muslims who try to convert us

Many have noted the pushback coming from social conservatives in Iowa, against suggestions that – given the economy – their issues should be set aside for the moment.

Republican Herman Cain at this month's Faith and Freedom Coalition forum in Iowa. Associated Press

Republican Herman Cain at this month’s Faith and Freedom Coalition forum in Iowa. Associated Press

“If you turn your backs on the pro family pro life constituency… you will be consigned to permanent minority status,” Ralph Reed told presumptive presidential candidates earlier this month at his Faith and Freedom Coalition forum.

Among those at the event was Herman Cain, who must have been listening. The former candidate for U.S. Senate from Georgia has been getting some ink – bytes?—as a result of this passage from the tail-end of an interview with Christianity Today:

CT: When speaking about your battle with cancer at the Milner church, at one point, you indicate that you were a little uncomfortable when you found out that your surgeon’s name was Abdallah, until you found out he was a Lebanese …

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Phoebe Putney case makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court

From the Associated Press:

The Supreme Court will decide whether government officials who testify falsely while acting as a complaining witness have absolute immunity from civil lawsuits.

The high court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Charles Rehberg, who sent faxes criticizing the Phoebe Putney Health System, an influential Georgia hospital system.

Rehberg was arrested after investigator James Paulk of the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office testified to a grand jury that the accountant had harassed doctors.

Paulk, who started the investigation as a favor to hospital officials, later said he had no evidence and had not talked to any witnesses. The charges were dismissed.

Rehberg sued, but Paulk says he is protected by immunity because the claims took place while he was working as a government official.
Rehberg and Dr. John Bagnato, a prominent surgeon, also sued Ken Hodges, who was then the Dougherty County District Attorney and later unsuccessfully ran for …

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Where did Atlanta go?

One of the most startling Georgia numbers to come out the U.S. Census Bureau data dump last week was the 120,000 people who suddenly went missing in the city of Atlanta.

The bureau’s 2009 estimate for the city was 540,922 – reflecting what was thought to be an influx of new young residents attempting to escape a grinding suburban commute.

Instead, the official 2010 number for the city of Atlanta is 420,003. Not even close to the half-million mark. The ’09 estimate was off by 22 percent. Was it the home mortgage crisis? The collapse of the condo market?

That’s the question more than one politico will be asking this week.
Here’s how the census undercount broke down in metro Atlanta’s top five counties:

Clayton: 2009 estimate of 275,772; 2010 Census count of 259,424. Gap: -16,348 or 6 percent;

Cobb: 2009 estimate of 714,692; 2010 Census count of 688,078. Gap: -26,614 or 3.7 percent.

DeKalb: 2009 estimate of 747,274; 2010 Census count of 691,893. Gap: -55,381 or …

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Your morning jolt: Kasim Reed, lawmakers discuss temporary takeover of Atlanta schools

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says he’s talking with state lawmakers about legislation for a temporary takeover of the Atlanta Public School system.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Chris Dunn, cdunn@ajc.com

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Chris Dunn, cdunn@ajc.com

And the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights icon who has been trying to bring warring school board factions together, says such a move might be necessary.

The news come via Maria Saporta of the Saporta Report, in the aftermath of a March 14 meeting of Reed and the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a coalition of business civic and community leaders.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has placed the school system on probation because of its infighting. The school board has been required to show progress by September, or lose accreditation for all high schools. Many are worried this is not happening.

Writes Saporta:

In an interview after the meeting, Reed said he had hoped that the city could have worked with the existing school board to come up with a resolution. But …

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Candidates for state GOP chair endorse secret ballot

All three candidates for the chairmanship of the Georgia Republican party on Saturday endorsed an election that would be decided by secret ballot at the party’s May convention in Macon.

The candidates – incumbent Sue Everhart, Fulton GOP chair Shawn Hanley, and businesswoman Tricia Pridemore – also promised to make public the sources of cash funding their campaigns.

The occasion was a Gwinnett County debate, moderated by yours truly and organized by the North Georgia New Generation Republican Women.

The primary topic of discussion was the effect of Gov. Nathan Deal’s hand in the contest. He has endorsed Pridemore, a volunteer and contributor to his campaign for governor. Last week, via helicopter, Deal squired Pridemore to a series of county GOP conventions.

The governor has also been contacting ranking Republicans on Pridemore’s behalf. That’s where the secret ballot comes in. Here’s what the candidates said:

Everhart:”Normally I would ask for a stand-up …

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The Port of Savannah and a green group split over tactics

A $600 million dredging would allow the Port of Savannah to accept larger container ships. AJC file

A $600 million dredging would allow the Port of Savannah to accept larger container ships. AJC file

The Great Recession and its 10 percent-plus-change unemployment rate have put Georgia’s environmentalists at a disadvantage they’ve never experienced before.

One suspects that lawmakers in the state Capitol would hunt down every snail darter on the face of the globe — and fry it up in a pan with fresh garlic, too — if such a dish could create one more paycheck.

Even so, the ranks of conservationists across the state were stunned when Pierre Howard, the former lieutenant governor and current president of Georgia’s oldest statewide environmental group, recently submitted an opinion piece to the Savannah Morning News that included these sentences:

“The Georgia Conservancy’s mission is to promote policies that enable the environment and the people to thrive. For that reason, we do not intend to stand in the way of deepening the Savannah harbor.”

The $600 million …

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