Stephen Greenway addresses the Georgia College Republicans Convention just prior to being elected Chairman,  Photo: Jon Richards

Stephen Greenway addresses the Georgia College Republicans Convention just prior to being elected Chairman.
Photo: Jon Richards

Stephen Greenway was elected the new Chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans at today’s convention. Greenway is a rising junior at the University of Georgia. He succeeds two-term chairman Will Kremer.

Also elected at the convention were Ashely Burnette from Georgia State University as Vice-Chairman, Cody Hall of the University of Georgia as Secretary, and Nick Kovakenko from Emory University as Treasurer. Each of the new officers were elected by unanimous vote.

Prior to his election, Greenway addressed the convention delegates gathered in the State Senate chamber. Here are his remarks, as prepared for delivery:

I have greatly enjoyed this time together. It has been wonderful meeting everyone and talking about issues, candidates, and especially the role that we will play in shaping the future of the GOP and the size of our Big Tent in this new century.

I humbly accept the chairmanship of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, with high hopes for this organization and great faith in the team that will lead it. It is an honor to have your confidence and support. The strength of our association is our members, our door-knockers and phone-callers, along with every single College Republican across this state who believes that history can still be made by those that love their country. I am grateful for the chance to lead you into what is going to be a very promising election year for our party in 2016.

The Georgia Association of College Republicans is one of the strongest branches of the College Republican National Committee. We are a national leader and standard-bearer for conservatism amongst university students in Georgia. This body is representative of the very best our party has to offer, and the future of Republican leadership is in this chamber this morning. We are on the edge of taking on the torch of the conservative movement. What will we accomplish? What will history say of us? And what kind of party will the Republican Party be when we are its leaders? [click to continue…]

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Georgia’s state reptile, better known as the gopher tortoise, may bring the car manufacturing plant recruitment process for Georgia to a screeching halt.

In Elabell, GA this week, an application for a wetlands permit relating to 142 acres was filed for one of the locations believed to be up for consideration for a Volvo manufacturing plant. Unfortunately for Volvo, the gopher tortoise happens to be a prominent resident of that industrial property in Elabell.

Because of the state reptilian status, the manufacturing site could become ‘Point A’ for a massive tortoise relocation program if gopher tortoiseVolvo does in fact decide to build their mega plant there. Relocating the tortoises is legal, however, the government requires a permit and immense oversight on both the state and national level. It is also costly. Extracting the small reptiles from their burrows would surely give rise to environmentalist concerns with regard to the humanity of the relocation project, too, especially since tortoises must be kept in cages for 9 months following a transfer before being re-homed.

What makes the situation especially tricky is the fact that gopher tortoises are considered an endangered species by the federal government in many states with strict oversight measures already in place. Georgia is not currently included in that list, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is only holding out because of funding issues – not because the tortoise isn’t actually endangered in Georgia. If 142 acres become ‘threatened’ in the state, there is no telling what the Department of Natural Resources would do.

The competing South Carolina site near Ridgeville that has also piqued the interest of Volvo does not have any federally endangered species on the site.

Volvo is expected to make their final decision regarding location by the end of May.

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Lee MayLee May, DeKalb’s interim CEO, is still covered in the county’s crap.

WSB and the AJC interviewed a county contractor who claims that a county official pulled $4,000 out of an unusual reimbursement for a broken sewer line that damaged May’s home a few years ago. The contractor, Doug Cotter, said plainly that former commission chief of staff Morris Williams — who resigned (err … retired) with no notice last month — was looking to help out a cash-strapped commissioner. The FBI are now investigating May.

“Morris [Williams] contacted me and said, ‘Doug, Lee’s having some financial trouble, is there any way you can help him out?'” Cotter told Jodie Fleisher at WSB.

In 2010, a sewage line backed up into Lee May’s house. Filth poured from his toilet into the then-county commissioner’s home in Lithonia. May was in serious financial trouble at the time, with creditors after him to make good on loans for a failed movie theater business. The sewer break was insult upon injury. His home was collateral, and it lay fouled.

A repair firm came and cleaned it up, going unpaid for months for the trouble. May filed bankruptcy in April of 2011. The firm, Alpharetta-based Water Removal Services, invoiced the county that June. And the county paid the $6,495.72 bill almost immediately. Most people have to file a claim themselves and wait a month, and many aren’t reimbursed for the whole amount. But May appears to have received special treatment, without his knowledge, he said.

Were this the entirety of the scandal, I would argue that the real problem is how broken and inefficient government can be for most people, and less about how it works properly when the people with firing authority are watching.

Alas.   [click to continue…]

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As we reported last week, students at universities across the state will face another big tuition hike for the 2015-2016 school year, with schools including UGA and Georgia Tech facing a 9% increase. HOPE award amounts, though, will only increase by 3%.

The Augusta Chronicle has crunched the numbers and found that UGA’s tuition and mandatory fees have increased from $3,276 per year in 2000 by over 3.5 times – students next year will pay over $11,600. While tuition and fees have skyrocketed, the below graph shows that changes to the HOPE scholarship have caused receipients to pay an increasing part of cost of attendance out of their own pockets.

Tuition and Fees at UGA from 2008-2015

Claire Suggs with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute calculates that a UGA student’s HOPE award will now only cover 74.5% of tuition. This understates the challenge for HOPE recipients, though, as UGA charges $2,258 in mandatory (non-HOPE covered) fees per year. Taking fees into account, the HOPE scholarship now only covers 60.1% of the tuition and fees at UGA.

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Not the mascot of the Chicken Caucus, mut modeled after Senator Claghorn, a Southern gentlemen.

Not the mascot of the Chicken Caucus, but modeled after Senator Claghorn, a Southern gentleman.

The U.S. Senate Chicken Caucus scored an eggciting victory this week as its co-chairman successfully sponsored an amendment to l’egg-islation passed by the Senate Finance Committee that will put pressure on South Africa to loosen its limits on American poultry imports. The underlying bill is the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is a trade agreement between the United States and countries in Sub-Saharan African countries.

Members of the caucus cried fowl after South Africa began to impose anti-dumping duties on poultry products from the U.S., effectively banning American chicken imports. The amendment authorizes President Obama to put pressure on South Africa to remove the limits on poultry imports.

Senate Chicken Caucus co-chair Johnny Isakson clucked his approval of the legislation:

I am also glad this legislation contains provisions that would allow the U.S. Trade Representative to be responsive and flexible in its approach to addressing areas of concern by conducting out-of-cycle reviews and when necessary, having the authority to suspend, limit or withdraw benefits for any beneficiary country not in eligibility compliance. I believe passionately in AGOA’s value and support its long-term renewal, but I believe it unfair and inappropriate that the country that benefits from the law the most – South Africa – continues to maintain unreasonable tariffs on American poultry.

You didn’t know there was a Senate Chicken Caucus, much less that Senator Isakson was co-chair? Isakson and Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons founded the caucus in 2013. It has a mission to “educate other senators and staff about the history, contributions, challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. chicken industry.” There is also a Congressional Chicken Caucus, which was founded in 2012 by Georgia Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop and Republican Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas.

Poultry is an important industry in Georgia. According to a presentation from the University of Georgia, we produce more than $18 billion in poultry products annually, making poultry the largest segment of the Peach State’s agriculture industry. Some 100,000 people owe their employment to the poultry industry, and Georgia is the top producer of broilers in the United States.

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We’ll be on location today with Sully at Piece of Cake in Buckhead, located at 3215 Roswell Rd.  Mmmmmm.   Cake.

From noon to 1pm on Peach Pundit radio, we’re going to be talking about the rising cost of tuition at University System of Georgia Schools (The Tuition is too damn high!), Mayor Reed inviting immigrants into the city while the GOP messages against, Buzz’s plan to finance transit expansion without an increase in sales taxes, and we’ll likely venture into some Presidential politics.

If you’re not able to make it out to Buckhead, you can listen on your radio at 640AM, or listen live at this link.

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eagles

Here:
We are all Eagles now.
Former Milledgeville mayor in hot water.
– GA Lottery shenanigans.
Sally Yates nomination finally out of committee.
– It’s always about the money.

There:
– Oh LSU, say it ain’t so!
– I guess the Secret Service was too busy, you know, doing other things.
– Well, of course they did.
You don’t say.
- SCOTUS watch today.

Random Everywhere:
– How do you even unsee this?
The Awesome.
You are our Best Hope.
– It was only a matter of time before the Vaders had a yard sale.

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MARTAaudit092512 CC1In the waning days if the 2015 Legislative Session, I introduced a couple of bills meant to be discussed during the off season and taken up during the 2016 Session. I will be writing a few posts about them and would like feedback from the Peach Pundit community. The first one I’ll talk about is an idea I have to provide more funding to MARTA for the purpose of expanding their rail system.

HR830 is a Constitutional amendment that would allow for the creation, via Legislation, of a transit community improvement district (TCID). The funds generated by the TCID would be used to expand MARTA’s rail service. The TCID would be located along the path of existing rail lines and could be expanded to include new rail lines as they are constructed. The ballot question would read as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as provide for the creation of transit community improvement districts in which property, with the consent of the owners thereof, may be subject to taxes, fees, and assessments for the purpose of providing extensions of existing transit rail infrastructure, including rail lines, terminals, rail cars, and other associated capital expenditures?”

Over the next few months, I plan to meet with various stakeholders to get their feedback and input on this. That feedback will help craft the enabling legislation which I will introduce next session. One key component of the enabling legislation will be that MARTA’s rail could only be expanded as funds become available. In other words, MARTA won’t be accumulating tons of debt based on future revenue from the TCID.

So why allow for the creation of a TCID? Funding for transit, especially expansion of rail, has been a vexing question for a number of years. In the wake of the failure of the TSPLOST measure in 2010, it became clear to me that the discussion of funding transit needed to be separated from the discussion about funding roads and bridges. The debate over this year’s transportation funding bill further cemented my thinking. The interests of pro-transit people and pro-roads and bridges people are at odds. You can argue they shouldn’t be but the reality is they are. I can also assure you that the desire to take up the subject of funding transportation will not be very high on next year’s Legislative priority list. So, pro-transit folks disappointed with HB170 will have to stay disappointed unless a different funding mechanism can be found (like HR830).

CID’s have become popular, especially in the Metro area, as a way to make improvements in a specific area. Here in Gwinnett they are making tangible improvements to areas around Jimmy Carter Blvd for example. The Jimmy Carter Blvd bridge over I-85 was converted to a diverging diamond interchange and traffic has improved. Why not use that concept to help fund expansion of MARTA’s rail lines in areas where there is a need and desire for this service? It would avoid an annual transit vs. roads fight in the State budget and provide a steady, and increasing as MARTA grows, source of revenue.

What do y’all think of my idea?

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Despite one of the worst campaign rollouts in American political history, and the breathless optimism from conservative pundits about young, groundbreaking candidacies, one likely fact remains:

Next year’s presidential nominations are Hillary Clinton’s and Jeb Bush’s to lose.

Sure, there will be some excitement along the way. A dark horse like a Rand Paul will pull an upset somewhere no one saw coming, and there’ll be plenty of speculation on Fox News about 40-something Republican candidates who will draw Millennials to the polls.

But populist idealism aside, big-money candidates always win in the end. Politicians are packaged and sold just like any other consumer item, and the candidates who can bring in the bucks are the ones who make it to the finish line.

While Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have been making recent headlines, the Bush campaign has been awfully quiet. But a year from now, those campaigns will likely be running on fumes, while Bush continues building and fortifying a massive campaign war chest and an unmatched network of heavyweights built from his family’s political lineage.

There’s only one problem: All of the negative press being aimed at Mrs. Clinton right now is headed Bush’s way, and the former Florida governor had best be taking notes on how to handle — and how not to handle — the coming storm.

Peter Schweizer, author of “Clinton Cash,” is reportedly set to go after Bush next. Reports are that Schweizer’s book is set to publish this summer, and while the author has been going around saying that he’s found “some interesting things” in Bush’s financial history, no specifics have been mentioned.

To be sure, Mrs. Clinton is in a lot of trouble right now. Her campaign rollout has been ridiculed by a suddenly skeptical media as phony and contrived, not to mention not tipping the staff at Chipolte. Now comes a gusher of bad press about Schweizer’s book that practically accuses the former Secretary of State of treason by showing favoritism to foreign governments in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

And that’s just today’s headlines. We’re sure to hear more about Benghazi and emails.

The only good news for Clinton’s campaign right now is that most voters are more interested in Bruce Jenner’s sex change than who’s running for president in an election more than a year away.

And that’s what the Clinton campaign is counting on. Better to get all of the bad stuff out of the way, early in a campaign, when no one is watching.

But depending on the timing of Schweizer’s next book, that may not be the case for Jeb Bush.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that today Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed encouraged rural immigrants to move within the city limits of Atlanta:

“The truth of the matter is a lot of our foreign-born population lives in rural areas in the region and so I am telling those folks, ‘I think you are better off being inside the city limits.’ And if other folks don’t want to stand up and welcome you, why are you there? I think that folks that don’t embrace these communities are on the wrong side of history, No. 1, and they are also on the wrong side of the economy.”

Reed also took a jab at Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican. Texas is a part of a multi-state lawsuit, which includes Georgia, that is attempting to stop President Obama’s efforts to prevent the deportation of illegal immigrants. Reed stated:

“So as much as… the governor of Texas criticizes immigrants and beats up on the immigrant population in Texas, if the foreign-born population in Texas were to actually leave and go back to the countries of their origin, Texas’ economy would crater.”

As a side note for stat geeks, Texas holds the top 3 spots and half of the Top 10 for fastest growing cities in 2015, according to a report by Forbes. Houston is #1, Austin is #2, Dallas is #3, Fort Worth is #8, and San Antonio is #10 on the Top 20 list. Atlanta is no longer on the list after holding the #12 spot in 2014.

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Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry addressed a meeting of the Gwinnett Chamber on Wednesday, and shed some light on the recently passed House Bill 170, the Transportation Funding Act.

The biggest difference in the way the Peach State funds its transportation needs lies in a change from a combination of sales and excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to a straight excise tax of 26 cents per gallon for gas, and 29 cents for diesel. The change in how fuel is taxed goes into effect on July 1st, and McMurry wondered how much consumers will notice the change, especially since the tax is paid at the distribution level, and as a result, not all of it may not get passed on to consumers for competitive reasons.

McMurry estimated an average driver who put 12,000 miles per year on a car that got 25 miles per gallon would pay an extra $32 per year or, as he put it, “one Starbucks per month.” Working the numbers backwards, the new taxing formula works out to be an increase of 6.67 cents per gallon. McMurry noted another benefit of moving to an excise tax, which is that revenues should be easier to estimate, since the amount of funds raised via the excise tax won’t vary based on the price of fuel.

Several other funding sources were added in HB 170, including a $5 per room night hotel occupancy tax similar to what is assessed in South Carolina, and a heavy vehicle tax, meant to have the vehicles that cause the most wear and tear on roads and bridges pay slightly more towards their maintenance. McMurry noted that these two funding sources, along with a fee on electric vehicles can be used for transportation purposes beyond roads and bridges, possibly including transit.

A hidden benefit of the new funding will be the ability to prioritize the use of state and federal dollars for different types of projects. At present, more than 50% of Georgia’s transportation funding comes from the federal government, which imposes a number of procedures and regulations that tend to make a major capital project more expensive, and take longer to complete. McMurry estimated that by using federal funds for maintenance and state funds for capital projects, a large project could be completed two to three years sooner than if it were paid for with federal funds. In addition, a state funded project could cost between 10 and 20% less, allowing the state to get more done with less money.

Assuming Governor Deal signs the bill, the Transportation Funding Act will go into effect on July 1st. Because of the way excise and sales tax revenues are accrued, the additional funds raised will be available in the FY 2017 budget, which goes into effect in July, 2016.

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Chet the Intern is getting older.  Old enough to graduate UGA in a few weeks.

Chet has been with us for the year and has turned out some good stuff. Here’s hoping he treats his birthday as responsibly as all of us old folks do with ours.

Advil:  Stock up now.

Y’all wish Chet a Happy Birthday below when you have a minute.

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Rep. Jody Hice (GA-10) has introduced a House Resolution to amend the Grazing Improvement Act. The Grazing Improvement Act was introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and enacted into law in December 2014. The Grazing Improvement Act allowed ranchers in 11 Western states to utilize an expedited permitting process in order to allow cattle to graze more freely on public lands.

HR 1897, sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice, extends the Grazing Improvement Act by including grasslands and eastern forests in the “Forest System Lands” definition so that ranchers and farmers nationwide can also benefit from the Grazing Improvement Act.

From a press release sent out by Rep. Jody Hice’s office:

I am proud to introduce this commonsense legislation that will help expand the Grazing Improvement Act, and increase accessibility for farmers’ through-out the country. After learning that there are nearly 2.1 million acres of federal land in Georgia that could be positively impacted by the Grazing Improvement Act, I introduced this measure to boost the farming and agriculture economy in Georgia.

The press release also quotes Rep. Raul Labrador. “I’m pleased to support Congressman Hice’s bill, which builds on the successful reforms passed last year.”

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We continue to keep the family members of the GSU students killed in a tragic accident yesterday on I-16 in our thoughts and prayers.

Peaches

Jimmy Carter

Sweet Tea

Liberty Drum

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A horrible accident on I-16 this morning took the lives of five Georgia Southern students and injured two others. A tragedy of this type seems to be magnified in a small community like Statesboro and the impact will be felt for a long time.

The names were released by the Dean of Students around 4:30 p.m. The young women that passed were Caitlyn Baggett (Millen), Morgan Bass (Leesburg), Emily Clark (Powder Springs), Abbie Deloach (Savannah), and Catherine (McKay) Pittman (Alpharetta). The two injured students are Brittney McDaniel (Reidsville) and Megan Richards (Loganville).

It is especially difficult as one of those that died, Caitlyn Baggett, is a young woman who I first met over a decade ago. She was a very sweet and caring young woman who leaves behind her loving parents and a younger sister.

Please keep the families of those that died and those impacted by the accident in your prayers and thoughts.

Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel:

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of a tragedy that took place this morning. Five Georgia Southern students died and two were injured in an early morning crash on I-16 eastbound near Savannah.

We are unable to release the names of these students at this time because we are awaiting notification to families.
Every one of our students contributes in no small measure, to the Eagle Nation. The loss of any student, especially in a tragic way, is particularly painful. Losing five students is almost incomprehensible.

Our hearts go out to the families, friends and classmates of these students.

The University flag will fly at half-staff Thursday in their memory. Memorial arrangements are pending.

Let me urge those particularly touched by this tragedy to avail themselves of counseling services, and I urge all members of the University community to support each other during this time.
Members of the University community may obtain support services from the Counseling Center at 912-478-5541.

#TrueBlue

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