Archive for August, 2011

Redefining dumb: Fulton lawmaker offers banking suggestions to school board

Every now and then, the word “dumb” needs to be updated. Today, we must add a photograph of state Rep. Joe Heckstall, D-East Point, next to the dictionary entry.

Let us suppose that Republicans have put Fulton County on notice. Through House and Senate maps passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature last week, let’s just pretend that the GOP plans to take control of Fulton County’s local legislation. Maybe even state laws that determine what the school board is, and does.

What is the worst response to such a provocative play? Why, you write – on General Assembly stationery – a semi-threatening Aug. 24 letter to Catherine Maddox, a Fulton County school board member, after meeting Robert Avossa, the new school superintendent:

The issues and concerns I have voiced continuously, have yet to be properly addressed.

Superintendent Avossa mentioned two key words and phrases in his remarks. The phrases were the diversity of our school system and the economic impact that …

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The coming clash between tea partyers and ‘infrastructure’ Republicans

Before they abandoned Atlanta on Wednesday, members of the Legislature dropped a valuable gift into the lap of the Georgia Republican party.

Not the new set of political boundaries that lawmakers completed – designed to keep the GOP in power for the next 10 years. Although that will indeed be worth a hand-written thank-you note.

No, the Legislature’s true offering to Republicans was a gift of omission, a gift of tough love. Last week, lawmakers bobbled what was supposed to be an easy task – Gov. Nathan Deal’s request to move the date of next year’s transportation sales tax referendum to the November general election.

In essence, GOP lawmakers bowed to tea party criticism that moving the date amounted to shopping for Democrats rousted to the polls by the 2012 Barack Obama campaign. At least for now, the vote on a new regional tax for transportation remains attached to next July’s primary – which is likely to be chockfull of passionate tea partyers.

This is where …

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Paul Broun says he’ll stay in the 10th District

Daniel Malloy, the AJC’s new guy in Washington, sends word that U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, has decided not to upset the apple cart – and will run for re-election next year in the 10th District that the Legislature is about to give him.

A dramatically changed district – pinched by the Republican effort to oust Democratic incumbent John Barrow of Savannah, and a new Gainesville-based 9th District in Georgia’s northeast corner – had prompted speculation that Broun might decide to run in that new district. An ambiguous statement from the congressman’s office didn’t help.

At the Capitol, Republicans had been on pins and needles. Gov. Nathan Deal is already thought to be quietly backing state Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, as Georgia’s next new congressman. (A spokesman denies that the governor has a horse in this race — and maintains that Deal has vowed to stay out of the festivities.)

Here’s Broun’s statement:

“I knew that Georgia’s dramatic population …

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Why Herman Cain is no Georgia Bulldog

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain visits the state Senate on the final day of the Legislature's special session. Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain visits the state Senate on the final day of the Legislature's special session. Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

Stepping off a plane from Israel at 5:30 a.m., a jet-lagged Herman Cain swung through the state Capitol today, announcing himself to lawmakers in the House and Senate this way:

“My name is HermanCain.com, and I’m running for president.”

Introduced at a following press conference by freshman state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the GOP candidate promised to be a true friend of Israel, decried the “foggy foreign policy” of President Barack Obama, pitched his 9-9-9 tax reform plan as a precursor to the Fair Tax, and picked up endorsements from two more state legislators.

They were state Reps. Rusty Kidd, an independent from Milledgeville, and Billy Maddox, R-Zebulon.

Cain expressed resentment at attempts to place him in a second tier of candidates in a Republican field now dominated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Michele …

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Your morning jolt: Behind a Henry County redistricting feud

A feud between two lawmakers broke out into the open in the state Capitol on Tuesday, as Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, accused Rep. Steve Davis, R-McDonough, of a secretive effort to ram through Henry County redistricting maps in order to protect his 22-year-old son Ryan Davis – who sits on the local school board.

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, in debate earlier this session. Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, in debate earlier this session. Vino Wong, vwong@ajc.com

From the Senate well, Jones – chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus – declared that Davis “had a pecuniary interest in maintaining the status quo as well as protecting their own financial interest in what’s going on in Henry County.”

Jones himself admitted the seriousness of an accusation made from the Senate floor.

Davis, in a telephone interview, called the charge “over the top and ridiculous” – the result of a longstanding hostilities between the pair, and Jones’ refusal to respond to entreaties to take up Henry County redistricting during the special …

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Tommie Williams says no to a run against John Barrow

After the Senate Reapportionment Committee sent the Republican congressional map on its way to the chamber floor, a couple of us caught President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, as he exited.

So is he interested in a run against Democratic incumbent John Barrow, who is soon to be a former resident of Savannah?

Williams’ Toombs County is in the new 12th District, drawn with a 20-point advantage for whichever Republican wins the chance to face Barrow down.

“It appeals to me, but the Georgia Senate appeals to me as well,” Williams said – adding that he has a young family.
So is he considering it? “Not at this point. At this point in time, I would say no.”

Moments after leaving, Williams came back to make it clear: For now, he’ll be running for re-election to his current Senate seat.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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Johnny Isakson says he’s resolved GOP objections to trade treaties

A rare reason to look forward to Congress’ return to Washington next week, from Walter Jones of Morris News Service:

Sen. Johnny Isakson says he’s untangled objections that had blocked passage of a trio of trade agreements that could boost Georgia exports by more than $1.5 billion.

In an interview …Friday, Isakson said he’s convinced enough of his fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate to agree to conditions President Barack Obama set before submitting the agreements to Congress for ratification. He predicted Senate votes sometime in October.

The free-trade agreements, which would lower tariffs and other trade barriers, have been negotiated and signed with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and await submission to Congress. The Korean agreement, for example, was signed in 2007 before Obama was elected.

Now, if there were only a deep-water port on the Georgia coast to handle this stuff….

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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Your morning jolt: The dueling legal arguments behind redistricting

The state Legislature embarks this morning on what might – or what might not be – the penultimate day of the redistricting session.

We’re hearing something about a surprise at this morning’s 9 a.m. meeting of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, which is scheduled to take up the state’s new congressional districts.

In the meantime, you’ll hear plenty of speeches today, from Democrats and Republicans, about the Voting Rights Act. Don’t think of them as mere bombast – though in some cases, you’d be exactly right. Think of them as precursors to what will be said in federal court.

The issue: Are white Democrats a protected class under the Voting Rights Act – if they are the choice of a substantial number of African-American voters?

Throughout this August session, the arguments have been crafted in large part by two House lawyers – Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, and Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta.

Their arguments are worth some study.

Over …

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Feds okay a floating presidential primary in Georgia

The U.S. Justice Department has given its stamp of approval to state legislation passed this spring to give Secretary of State Brian Kemp the power to set the date for next year’s presidential primary, Kemp’s office announced this afternoon.

Three other election measures signed by Gov. Nathan Deal also survived the DOJ scrutiny required by the Voting Rights Act. In sum:

HB 454, sponsored by Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, allows Kemp to set the date of next year’s presidential primary by Dec. 1. The election can be no sooner than late January, and no later than mid-June.

– HB 92, also sponsored by Hamilton, reduces in-person early voting to three weeks prior to Election Day, down from 45 days. Counties complained of the extra costs, but some Republicans were also eager to curtail the emphasis that, in 2008, Barack Obama was able to getting voters to the polls six weeks before Election Day.

– HB 158, sponsored by James Mills, R-Gainesville, switches the date of judicial and …

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Jon Huntsman (!) picks up S.C. endorsement

Let the avalanche begin. GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who nearly ran away with Saturday’s straw poll vote in Perry with .3 percent of the vote, has picked up a first major endorsement.

From the St. Andrews, S.C., Patch:

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson endorsed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday, making Wilson the first major elected official [in S.C.] to publicly offer his support to a candidate.

Wilson said he supported Huntsman because of his strong economic record, his understanding of America’s relationship with China and his ability to sell the conservative message to the general populace.

“We need a fiscal conservative,” Wilson said. “Someone with strong conservative values who can take that message to the folks in the general election.

Alan Wilson is the son of U.S. Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson, R-Charleston.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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