Archive for May, 2011

Your morning jolt: Hall County commission chairman proposes a tax increase

When you’re home to a governor and a lieutenant governor, something like this becomes a little more important. From the Gainesville Times:

Facing an $11.5 million gap in next year’s budget, Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver recommended a tax increase Thursday night.

County residents must choose between that or a “massive reduction in services,” he said, making his announcement before adjourning the meeting.

“Of my seven years on the commission, our next meeting will be one of the toughest decisions I’ll ever make as a chairman,” he said.
Oliver proposed a 1.41 mill increase in total, with a 0.6 mill roll up to account for the loss in property values and an additional 0.81 mill increase. The current millage rate is 7.77 mill…..

“I have a $180,000 house, and this increase would cost me 28 cents a day or $101.50,” he said. “Let me tell you what the other side is if we don’t participate: shutting down parks, libraries, two ambulances and taking away …

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Sam Olens asks state Supreme Court to rethink charter ruling

Attorney General Sam Olens has asked the Georgia Supreme Court to reconsider its recent decision declaring the state creation of charter schools to be unconstitutional.

Sixteen schools serving potentially 15,000 students that had been approved by the state board — the Georgia Charter Schools Commission — are now in limbo.

Said Olens:

“Charter schools offer students the opportunity to receive the excellent education they deserve regardless of socio-economic circumstances. I hope the court will accept the arguments presented in our brief and reconsider their decision.”

Click here to read Olens’ motion, which includes this passage aimed at undermining the sanctity of local control cited by the court:

It is unpleasant but important to note that our state has spent over 100 years since the Civil War concluded trying to eliminate discrimination by local school districts. A significant part of that process was overcoming opposition by some local school systems to state and …

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Don’t look for Nathan Deal to approve video gambling

There is a movement afoot to move the Georgia Lottery from scratch-offs to the video screen, as a way of boosting revenue and restoring this year’s cuts to HOPE scholarships. From my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

Dave Garrett, an Atlanta real estate developer and coalition member who was the lottery’sfirst board chairman, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that video gambling revenue would make up for the $300 million shortfall for lottery-funded HOPE scholarships and pre-k. The HOPE 20/20 Coalition also includes Cadillac Jack, a Duluth-based video gambling machine company. Garrett said the coalition will expand to include other businesses and individuals interested in protecting lottery programs.

But such a move, for all intents and purposes, would need a green light from Gov. Nathan Deal.

And that’s not likely to happen. Let us direct your attention to Deal’s recent veto of SB 19, a bill designed to a) make it clear that Internet gambling cafes now springing …

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Read the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding E-Verify

The U.S. Supreme Court has apparently upheld the right of the state of Arizona to require businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to ascertain that new hires are legal U.S. residents.

Read the opinion here – courtesy of SCOTUSblog.

The challenge was brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and obviously has tremendous implications for Georgia – which adopted a similar requirement this spring.

From the opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts:

Arizona’s use of E-Verify does not conflict with the federal scheme. The Arizona law requires that “every employer, after hiring an employee, shall verify the employment eligibility of the employee” through E-Verify….That requirement is entirely consistent with the federal law…..

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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House candidate once punched a guy in search for daughter’s abuser

Good timing or bad timing? The political candidate named below will be facing voters in and around Athens next month — two days after Father’s Day.

From Blake Aued and the Athens Banner-Herald:

A candidate for state House of Representatives pleaded guilty in 2007 to assaulting a University of Georgia student three years earlier.

Alan Alexander, an Oconee County lawyer running for an open Athens-area House seat in a June 21 special election, threatened and punched the man while trying to locate his daughter’s abusive then-boyfriend, according to police and court records.

“My actions were those of a father attempting to protect his daughter from a rogue with a history of both physically and mentally abusing her,” Alexander wrote in an email Wednesday. “My conduct was that of a father who believed his child was in immediate peril.

“I regret that the incident occurred at all, but I will not apologize for doing what I thought was right to protect my daughter from imminent danger. …

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Your morning jolt: Gingrich-Tiffany’s tale may be growing legs

The tale of Gingrich patronage of Tiffany’s may be growing something like a set of legs. From the blog SpyTalk:

At the same time Tiffany & Co. was extending Callista (Bisek) Gingrich a virtual interest-free loan of tens of thousands of dollars, the diamond and silverware firm was spending big bucks to influence mining policy in Congress and in agencies over which the House Agriculture Committee–where she worked–had jurisdiction, official records show.

Republican presidential hopeful, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of Georgia speaks to guests during a private house party in Manchester, N.H. AP/Jim Cole

Republican presidential hopeful, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of Georgia speaks to guests during a private house party in Manchester, N.H. AP/Jim Cole

Filings by Tiffany’s lobbyist, Cassidy & Co., and other government records show that the firm’s spending on “mining law and mine permitting-related issues” in Congress, as well as the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and Interior’s Bureau of Land Management shot up sharply between during the period when Callista Gingrich was chief clerk at the …

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Paul Broun: TSA agents patted down grandma and child, but skipped guy in Arab robes

On C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” this morning, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, said he was undecided when it comes to reauthorization of the Patriot Act. One reason, he said, was the focus on screening average Americans in airports.

Broun said that during a recent trip – he didn’t say where — he saw TSA agents pat down an elderly woman and child, but skip a man that the congressman said was “in Arabian dress, who just walked right through.” See it here:

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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Gary Black and a Department of Agriculture locked in amber

For 42 years, Democrat Tommy Irvin ran the state Department of Agriculture.

His lean, lanky figure became — and remains — something of an icon for Georgia farmers. And so his replacement, Republican Gary Black, is very careful when he speaks of his now 81-year-old predecessor.

State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black/AJC file

State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black/AJC file

But in speeches across the state, Black has dropped hints about what greeted him when he walked into the state agriculture building as its first new boss since Lester Maddox was governor.

In an interview this week, the new agriculture commissioner said he found nothing that could be termed malfeasance. But he described a $40 million-a-year, 600-employee department that in some ways had been frozen in amber.

One of the first things Black did was to order the removal of murals depicting black slaves harvesting sugar cane and picking cotton. But that was mere window-dressing. Literally.

The department’s phone system was a better indicator of the state …

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Why Rob Woodall has federal health care: ‘Because it’s free’

In the summer of 2010, Republicans sent videographers to town hall meetings to catch Democratic members of Congress being pilloried for their health care vote.

Karma has a special affection for politics.

The Georgia Democratic party this afternoon released some raw video from a Dacula town hall meeting held last Saturday by U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.

Woodall is questioned by Ilene Johnson, a Democratic activist who lives in Gwinnett County, about changes the congressman would like to make to Medicare and the nation’s health care system – and his own use of government-funded health insurance provided for federal employees:

The transcript:

Johnson: All right, I have a question about taking care of you. You take government-subsidized health care, but you are not obligated to take that if you don’t want to. Why aren’t you going out on the free market in the state where you are a resident and buy your own health care?

Woodall: Your —

Johnson: Be an …

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Your morning jolt: Sam Olens on the hidden hand behind left-leaning GSU students

Parents of Georgia State University students beware. Attorney General Sam Olens thinks a hidden hand may be manipulating your children – at least the left-leaning ones.

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

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

Last night, Channel 2 Action News reported on the origins of HB 261, legislation passed this spring to place some law enforcement training records off-limits to the public.

The legislation was motivated by a GSU student’s request for information regarding the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, a GSU program that sends local officers abroad to learn from international officers, including Israelis, about fighting terrorism.

The open records request submitted by Tim Dalton and other members of GSU’s Progressive Student Alliance sought the names of officers, the locales of their training, and information about the techniques of their training.

“I’m not a terrorist. I’m a student. I’m a student that is concerned about programs in my …

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