We received two emails today about various candidatures for top offices in state political parties.

Diane Evans said she is running against Nikema Williams for the first vice-chair of the DPG. In her announcement, Evans said:

Simply put, we can’t continue to do the same things each election cycle and expect different results.

As a former candidate for public office, I know that our Party can better support our brave Democratic candidates.

As the secretary of the GADCC and a county chair, I know that we must better develop our county parties.

As a former educator, I know that we can build better relationships with teachers throughout our state.

As a pastor, I know that we can make compelling, faith-based arguments that are inclusive for believers and non-believers alike.

Ron Johnson said he will not run for reelection as second vice-chair for the GAGOP. He did not say why but did say he hopes to be reappointed as the chair of the Veterans Committee with the GAGOP.

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Republican Congressman Elect Buddy Carter (GA-1) has been named to 3 committees for his freshman term: Homeland Security, Education and Workforce, and Oversight and Government Reform. The following is from a recent press release:

The assignments give Carter a key role in national debates including the fight over immigration enforcement and the devaststing impact of Obamacare as well as issues of special importance to the First District like port security.

“We are going to hit the ground running in each of these committees to bring commonsense back to the federal government,” said Carter.  “With every hearing and vote, I will look to make government more efficient and effective and to position our district and our country to meet the challenges of the future.”

As the only pharmacist in Congress, Carter will also be well positioned to fight for repeal of Obamacare and to make health care more affordable, accessible, and patient-centered.

Prior to being elected to the 114th Congress, Congressman Elect Carter served in the Georgia General Assembly as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Safety.

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Rep. Scot Turner has pre-filed legislation entitled the “American Heritage Celebration Act” to legalize the sale, use, and manufacture of all fireworks allowed by U.S. law. The crux of his bill states:

“It shall be lawful to use, possess, manufacture, sell, transport, and store consumer fireworks, as such term is defined in Section 555.11 of Chapter 2 of Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as such regulations existed on July 1, 2015.”

Sen. Jeff Mullis filed legislation last year calling for a constitutional amendment for legalizing fireworks with the revenues being allocated to firefighter training and trauma care. Rep. Turner’s bill would not be a constitutional amendment, as all tax proceeds would go into the general fund and not allocated to special funds.

Rep. Turner went on WGAU’s Georgia’s Morning News yesterday with Tim Bryant and Katie Andrew to discuss his views on the legislation:

During the radio interview, Rep. Turner was asked about the safety of fireworks being the chief concern for the bill. He took a stance on the use of personal responsibility in place of government regulation in allowing Georgia citizens to make the decision for themselves whether they wish to use fireworks or not.

He also stated in the interview that was impossible to gauge how much revenue is being lost to neighboring states, such as Alabama and South Carolina, as there was no tracking of the amount of illegal firework usage in Georgia.

After listening to the interview, I decided to do some research into fireworks, specifically the revenue and safety issues.  The following are just a few highlights from the American Pyrotechnics Association that show an increase in consumption and a decrease in fires and injuries:

  • The revenue from consumer fireworks increased from $284 million in 1998 to $662 million in 2013. There was an annual increase in revenues every year, with the exception from 2011 to 2012 when sales dropped by about $4 million.
  • While consumption has increased, the injury rate for fireworks has dropped by almost 57% from 2012 to 2000.
  • The injury rate for children between the ages of 5-18 was less than fishing, swing sets, baseball, softball, bicycles, and other children activities during the period of June 22-July 22, 2012.
  • The fire rate has also decreased dramatically since 2000, dropping from 25.4 fires per 100,000 pounds of fireworks to 7.6 in 2011.

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Outgoing Republican Congressman Jack Kingston, GA-1, appeared this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, covering a few topics outlined below. Over various appearances the last couple of weeks, I think people have garnered a better insight into the Jack that many of us in GA-1 and GA-12 have seen over the last two decades.

On his recent appearance on the Colbert Report:
Kingston gave a behind the scenes glimpse into his recent Colbert appearance. He stated that they put a rubber bust of Colbert on an enclave.  On the bottom of the bust, they left a phone number and a note that to whoever stole the bust to please make a donation to the Wounded Warriors and to call the number to let them know it was done. It was taken within an hour, but they never heard from the person who took it.

Kingston was asked about how his colleagues took his Colbert appearance and he responded:  “It gave particularly last week some humor when some humor was desperately needed and some people were laughing about it.”

On the year-end spending deal:
“There are a lot of people who felt somehow we would be in a better position to negotiate on the president’s executive order about immigration now rather than in February. What the bill does is it short funds the Department of Homeland Security to February. Then you’ve got all these nine new Republican Senators, highest majority in the House for Republicans since I think…1929…so why not wait until the cavalry arrives which is was Boehner’s point.”

On the responsibility of the new Republican majorities to deliver:
“What I do think it does is sets a high bar for the coming year. I the coming year, we really will have to perform. Everybody who ran for Congress or Senate made the promise of no amnesty, repeal Obamacare, or cut spending. I can say this, that there will be absolutely no excuses in January for the Republican Party.”

On Going Forward:
Kingston states towards the end of the video that he is currently job hunting. He said that it has been a hectic few months trying to close out his office and archiving documents.

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Happy Hanukkah

December 16, 2014 12:57 pm

by Jon Richards · 0 comments

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown, and lasts through sundown on December 24th. The holiday celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greeks. At that time, there was only enough olive oil to light the menorah for a single day, although it was supposed to be lit throughout the night every evening. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight nights, long enough to prepare fresh oil for use in the menorah.

In addition to our best wishes for the holiday, we wanted to share greetings from Governor Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens.

Governor Deal Hanukkah Greetings

Wishing you Happy Hanukkah and a holiday season filled with joy, time with family and rich memories. Sam Olens Georgia Attorney General

Wishing you Happy Hanukkah and a holiday season filled with joy, time with family and rich memories.
Sam Olens
Georgia Attorney General

:: Update ::

From Democratic Party of Georgia Chair DuBose Porter:

This evening, families across the world will gather to mark the beginning the Festival of Lights. The Democratic Party and I extend our warmest wishes to those observing Chanukah.

The story of the Maccabees should remind us that faith will always triumph over fear and skepticism, and to always look for light in times of darkness. When a committed group of believers stand together, they can accomplish extraordinary things.

From Georgia Republican Party Chair John Padgett:

Today, we send our warmest greetings to those who are celebrating Hanukkah – The Festival of Lights. This most joyous time is filled with special songs, games, and food. But more importantly, this eight-day celebration commemorates freedom from oppression and perseverance through adversity and persecution.

On behalf of the Georgia Republican Party – Happy Hanukkah! May you be blessed with good health and abundance!

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Above, change in wages over time. Thanks be to Kia for giving us some dark blue on the map. Your undifferentiated Morning Reads lie after the jump… [click to continue…]

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We’ve received word of committees Georgia Senators have been assigned to in the new Congress:

David Perdue:

  • Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
  • Budget
  • Foreign Relations
  • Judiciary
  • Special Committee on Aging

Johnny Isakson

  • Finance
  • Foreign Relations
  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
  • Select Committee on Ethics
  • Veterans Affairs

A complete list of committees and their members is below the fold.
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The AJC’s Gridlock Guy brings us the news that during rush hour one morning last week, drivers paid $10.00 to drive in the HOT lane between Old Peachtree and Shallowford Roads on I-85. That’s the highest price charged to drive the stretch since the lanes opened up back in October, 2011.

When the prices made sharp increases in their debut week, Gov. Nathan Deal worked with the State Road and Toll Authority to limit that rise. Over the next couple of years prices steadily increased, finally reaching double digits in the past few days. SRTA raises the prices in the HOT lanes based on demand, with the idea of trying to maintain a speed that is faster than the other lanes on I-85.

SRTA has found the need to increase prices in the HOT lanes to at least $10 at the worst times of morning drive on I-85/southbound, meaning that demand for those lanes is likely more than ever. That is yet another indicator that traffic these days is as bad or worse than it ever has been in Atlanta. So keeping those HOT lanes moving at a reasonable speed is harder and harder.

The justification for changing from the previous HOV lanes on I-85, which let cars with two or more passengers ride in the dedicated lane, to the HOT lanes, which are free for drivers with three or more passengers, was that traffic volume in the HOV lanes meant riders using them made no better time than riders in the general lanes. By switching to a three passenger minimum or a toll that rose as demand increased, SRTA hoped to keep traffic moving at at least 50 MPH at all times.

Notably, the goal was not to raise money that could be used to pay for road construction and maintenance. In fiscal 2013, the cost of operating the lanes exceeded toll revenue by $1.7 million, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Instead, it was to provide reliable trip times for Gwinnett Transit and GRTA buses traveling to downtown Atlanta and back, carpoolers, and anyone willing to pay the toll.

As Charlie explains in another post, it is imperative to find new sources of funds to pay for needed maintenance and construction of Georgia’s highway system. The $10 toll on the I-85 HOT lanes is not the first step in that process. Instead, it is an indicator of how current capacity along the interstate isn’t enough to meet demand during peak commuting hours.

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This week’s Courier Herald column:

The Carl Vinson Institute of The University of Georgia held it’s Biennial program last week in Athens. Officially, it’s where new legislators are trained. Unofficially, it’s the last official/semi-public gathering of legislators before they too try to take a short break to spend time with family and friends. As such, it’s the last preview of what we’re likely to see in the upcoming session before the new year.

Much of the buzz in Athens was on transportation. Specifically, questions remain how we are going to continue to fund transportation in the wake of cars increasing fuel economy while gas taxes decline. Most of the headlines coming from Athens last week focused on the likely proposal for tax increases of some sort.

As someone who has been working on this issue for the past year in my role as Executive Director of PolicyBEST, I’ll go ahead and say that’s very likely. But what the headlines also didn’t capture was why this discussion is quite necessary.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is funded at the state level primarily by gas taxes. These funds are segregated from the general budget by Georgia’s Constitution, and are intended as a “user fee”. They may only be used for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.

The problem is, despite high gas prices over the past few years, revenues haven’t kept up with demand. From 2007 to 2013, the average car on the road increased fuel efficiency by 25%. That’s great news for America’s quest to become energy independent. That’s horrible news for a department that receives a majority of its state funding from a taxes on gasoline. [click to continue…]

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Congressman Elect Barry Loudermilk (GA-11) has been named to two committees for his freshman term in the 114th Congress; namely Homeland Security and Science, Space & Technology. According to a recently sent out campaign press release, Congressman Elect Loudermilk had this to say about his committee assignments:

Homeland Security is one of the most critical elements facing our nation. Over the past several years, we have become more vulnerable in numerous areas. We must address critical issues such as border security, counterterrorism, cyber-security and emergency preparedness. In addition to these critical areas, the Homeland Security committee is also responsible for oversight and efficiency of many departments tasked with defending our homeland, as well as many other integral security related issues. I’m looking forward to working with Chairman McCaul and the members of the Committee to do the job assigned to us.

My experience serving on the Science & Technology Committee in both the State House and State Senate, as well as working in the technology sector, has prepared me to hit the ground running on Science, Space, and Technology. While this committee hasn’t gained much media attention, it oversees many areas critical to our national security, economy and technological advancement. Chairman Smith has expressed his desire take the initiative on key legislation and engage in active oversight of the programs and activities in its jurisdiction; including energy, the environment, research and technology, as well as space technology.

The press release also quoted the Chairmen of these two committees:

“I am pleased to welcome Barry to the Committee on Homeland Security. His service to our country in the Air Force, his business management experience, and his leadership in Georgia state house will be valuable assets as we conduct continuous oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. I look forward to working with him to ensure the safety and security of our nation, while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used effectively and efficiently.”

– Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Committee on Homeland Security

“With extensive experience having served as Chair of the Georgia State Senate Science and Technology Committee, Barry Loudermilk will be a valued member of this Committee. As we tackle issues in the next Congress that will help shape our nation’s future, we will benefit from Rep. Loudermilk‘sexpertise and enthusiasm for science and technology.”

– Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

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International

Hostage situation in Sydney may be politically motivated

National

10 things to know for Monday
CNN commentator suggests Democrats pursue protestors for more votes
Cheney: I’d do it again in a minute

Local

No quick solution for Georgia’s highways woes
DeKalb’s newest city celebrates birthday
Savannah has strong ties to Israel
New EPD chief heads water wars
Georgia agencies given millions in military surplus gear
Georgia physicians with spotty records hired to treat state’s inmates

Sports

The father of modern baseball cards dies
Steeler fans are less obnoxious than Brownies, Who Dats
Johnny Football’s last great game may have been in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, if this holds true

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Next month, Gwinnett Republican Rob Woodall will become the first Georgian in some time to join the 61-member House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

From Woodall:

We will have an incredible opportunity in the 114th Congress to make real progress on our nation’s big issues and I’m thrilled to partner with Chairman Shuster and the members of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to enact common-sense, conservative solutions for these needs.  Our successes here can be a model for the nation, and the nation can help to address our challenges locally that still remain.  The Seventh District represents one of the most economically vibrant and travelled  regions of what is the largest economy in the southeastern United States, and it’s a privilege to serve as a voice for those who work to grow jobs and the economy every day.

Received wisdom suggests that transportation will be the hottest issue in the state in 2015. At the federal level, Congress is expected to reauthorize surface transportation, aviation, and passenger rail programs before the end of the fiscal year. Veterans of the crusade to deepen the Savannah Port report that the lack of a Georgian on this crucial committee proved a huge disadvantage. Add to that Woodall’s interstate-dependent Gwinnett and Forsyth district, and this appears to be an excellent appointment for both the congressman and the state.

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In the wake of a string of controversies involving no-indictments of police officers from grand juries, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) has introduced H.R. 5830, the “Grand Jury Reform Act.”

The relatively simple bill, which Johnson pitched in a Huffington Post editorial, would prevent a secret grand jury process specifically for those cases involving “a law enforcement officer who uses deadly force against a person.”

Using federal funding as an enforcement mechanism, the bill would also require governors to appoint a special prosecutor in such cases to present evidence of probable cause on behalf of the state at a preliminary hearing.

These hearings and the evidence presented would now be open to the public, preventing the kind of secret proceedings that caused so much controversy in the the judicial proceedings of Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

“The protesters demand an end to what is perceived as unequal justice, and that those who are responsible for the use of excessive force be brought to justice,” said Johnson. “They do not trust a secret grand jury system that is so clearly broken. My bill will help restore that trust.  No longer will communities have to rely on the secret and biased grand jury process.”

Johnson plans to introduce the legislation formally early next year.

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The Senate still has to do it’s part, but it appears that most of the government will be up and running until September 30th, the end of fiscal 2015. The $1.1 trillion spending package only funds the Department of Homeland Security until February, when conservatives hope they can defund the President’s executive action on immigration.

Getting the bill passed brought together some strange bedfellows, with Barack Obama, John Boehner and Harry Reid pushing for passage, and Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi and Tea Party representatives in opposition. You could see the same pattern in the Georgia vote, where the vote was ten yeas and four nays, with dissenting votes coming from Republicans Paul Broun and Austin Scott, and Democrats Hank Johnson and John Lewis.

Find out what Georgia’s Representatives had to say after the vote was taken below the fold.

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Good morning, Georgia! Here’s to a great Friday!

Morning Riddle: What is as light as a feather, but even the world’s strongest man couldn’t hold it for more than a minute?

Georgia

Amurica

Important

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