Just days after winning re-election for his state senate seat, Senator Jesse Stone announced via his Facebook page that he has withdrawn his name for Burke County State Court Judge. He wrote,

The letter below was hand delivered to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal shortly after my re-election to the State Senate. I felt that I should share this with my constituents, friends, and supporters. As promised, I formally withdrew my name from consideration to fill the vacancy of the State Court of Burke County. I was very honored to have been nominated by numerous people in the community.

You might recall his ‘He loves his Senate seat, he loves his Senate seat not‘ debacle back in March when no one could figure out what he actually wanted to do. But for now, he will stay where he is…because November 4th.

Below is a screenshot of his letter from his Facebook page.

Stone_Judge

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Happy Birthday Stefan

November 18, 2014 8:45 am

by Charlie · 7 comments

Today is our Democratic Politics Editor Stefan Turkheimer’s birthday.  It’s hard to say the customary “happy birthday” knowing that he lost his faithful dog Buzz yesterday.  I’ll admit I was unaware he had a pet named after our Republican Politics Editor, but I will assume the name was chosen years ago when we used to joke around here about building our own Buzz Brockway in our basement.

Anyway, birthdays around here are when we often recognize the work of those that volunteer their time to help bring you the “fresh political pickins from the Blueberry Peach state”.  Stefan has had a rather unique role with us, as someone from the leaners of the left.  The scrutiny that all of our contributors face due to associating with us is often more than some expect upon joining.  For our original Democratic contributors it has always been a bit higher, as our Democrats get it not only from the Republicans, but also from within their own circles for helping out us right wing zealots that congregate here.

Stefan has managed to navigate through all of that, and helped us create a balance where we can have a full debate from all angles of Georgia’s political circles.  I’m sure there were days when Buzz was likely the only one that didn’t judge him for it.  Myself, the other Buzz, and the rest of Peach Pundit remain glad he’s one of us, and hope he still has a great day today, and many more great years ahead.

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Bills! We Have Bills!

November 18, 2014 8:00 am

by Jon Richards · 10 comments

Rep. Allen Peake of Macon is interviewed about House Bill 1 as Sen. Josh McKoon explains Senate Bill 6 to the press on Monday.  Photo: Jon Richards

Rep. Allen Peake of Macon is interviewed about House Bill 1 as Sen. Josh McKoon explains Senate Bill 6 to the press on Monday. Photo: Jon Richards

Even though the start of the legislative session is two months away, the Georgia House and Senate clerks opened their doors on Monday and began accepting bills to be considered by the legislature in 2016. You can see the list of House prefiles here, and Senate prefiles here.

House Bill 1 is the 2015 version of the Haleigh’s Hope Act, the bill sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake that would allow the use of medical marijuana. While at present, the bill is incomplete, Rep. Peake told us that it will be more encompassing than the version that failed to pass in the final days of the 2014 session. Not only has the scope of the bill been broadened to include illnesses other than childhood seizures, but it incorporates some lessons learned in other states over the last year. Over at the Macon Telegraph, Maggie Lee has a good history of the bill, and what it might cover.

On the Senate side of the capitol, Sen. Josh McKoon has introduced the Georgia Road Safety and Drivers License Integrity Act, which appears to be the 2015 effort to control the effects of illegal immigration. Jeremy Redmon of the AJC has the story on what could be a controversial piece of legislation.

Republican state Sen. Joshua McKoon of Columbus on Monday filed Senate Bill 6, which would block state licenses for people who have received work permits and deportation deferrals through the federal deferred action program.

McKoon described his legislation as a pre-emptive strike now that President Barack Obama is reportedly preparing to expand the deferred action program. Obama has pledged to act unilaterally by the end of this year now that immigration overhaul legislation remains stalled in Congress.

McKoon cites the possibility of people who could receive a driver’s license because of loosened restrictions on illegal aliens improperly voting as one of the reasons for his bill. Immigration attorney Charles Kuck is not amused, however. He’s quoted in the AJC article saying, “At the end of the day, if Georgia wants to be known as an anti-immigration state, Josh McKoon should keep talking.”

While McKoon’s bill was the only one prefiled from the Senate, there were several additional House bills put into the hopper. House Bill 2 and accompanying House Resolution 1, sponsored by Harry Geisinger, would provide for a constitutional amendment legalizing pari-mutuel betting on horse racing. House Bill 3 could be called the Todd Gurley Bill. It’s Barry Fleming’s legislation that would impose sanctions on people encouraging student athletes to break the law. Geisinger also filed two other pieces of legislation, one having to do with drones, and the other with inter-basin transfers of water.

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This day in history: I was born. But that’s not important right now. My best friend of ten years, my dog Buzz, passed away yesterday. He was a beautiful soul who was my constant companion for the last decade. I’ll miss him always.

Georgia:

  • A tribute to Governor Sanders (myajc)
  • Why bars should have million dollar policies (cbs46)
  • You know where you shouldn’t park your F-250? Gwinnett. That’s where. (ajc)
  • Get excited people within boundaries designed by an algorithm (myajc)
  • A good write-up of the Heyward trade (ChopCounty)

National:

  • 28 Important Philosophers List the Books That Influenced Them Most During Their College Days (Demisiado)
  • In Oil’s Slide, Echoes of a Fall: Adapted From ‘The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters’ (WSJ)
  • Against Productivity: This Essay Took Four Years to Write (Medium)
  • The Unbelievable Skepticism of the Amazing Randi (NY Times)
  • How Jocks and Mathletes Are Alike: Seven Sports That Come Down to How Well Your Neurons Play (Nautilus)
  • The War of the Words: How Did Amazon End Up as Literary Enemy No. 1? (Vanity Fair)
  • Valerie Jarrett is The Obama Whisperer: Our Key To Understanding the Real Barack Obama (New Republic)
  • What Do You Do When You Think You Have a Murderer in the Family? (Vice)
  • Finding Marlowe: Did this man inspire two of noir’s iconic fictional detectives? (LA Times)

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Senator Johnny Isakson announces his intention to seek a third term at the State Capitol in Atlanta as Governor Nathan Deal and other look on,  Photo:  Jon Richards

At the State Capitol in Atlanta, Senator Johnny Isakson announces his intention to seek a third term
as Governor Nathan Deal and others look on. Photo: Jon Richards

Senator Johnny Isakson made official today what has been known by most politically connected Georgians for months: he is running for a third term in the U.S. Senate. Isakson made the announcement in front of several hundred people at a ceremony today at the Gold Dome.

“I made the decision sometime back, along with my wife Dianne and my family, that the good Lord willing and Georgians supporting that I would run again for the United States Senate,” said Isakson during today’s announcement.

“There are two principle reasons that I made that decision: I did not want to become a ‘lame duck’ senator in the United States Senate for two years,” Isakson continued. “I want to work every day, shoulder-to-shoulder, with this governor and this legislature to move Georgia forward.”

“Reason number two, I learned everything I know about legislating on the third floor of both sides of this building. I was in the state Senate and in the state House. I learned the legislative process under a Constitution that requires a balanced budget, that doesn’t allow you to deficit-spend, under a Constitution that works like the federal government ought to work, but doesn’t.”

“And I want to try and continue to do what I’ve done for 16 years in Washington, and that’s bring Georgia values and Georgia conservatism to the capital of the United States of America in Washington. They need that really bad!”

In addition to Governor Deal, who introduced Isakson to the crowd, dignitaries present included Congressmen Jack Kingston, Doug Collins, Phil Gingrey and Tom Graves. Also present were Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and Agriculture Secretary Gary Black. Speaker of the House David Ralston and Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, and quite a few state senators and representatives were also in attendance.

The very visible presence of Congressman Graves was notable, given that there had been rumors he was being recruited by Tea Party groups to mount a primary challenge against Isakson.

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The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, a/k/a “The Fix”, talks in an article today about a potential “expand the map strategy” for Hillary Clinton.  He advises Democrats against focusing on Georgia, citing 2014’s results as exhibit A:

Stewart’s second bucket makes more sense — although he may be getting a little ahead of himself demographically speaking. In that bucket sit Arizona and Georgia, two states where the growth of the Hispanic vote — and Democrats’ continued dominance among that group — is in the process of making both states much more competitive.  In Georgia, George W. Bush won 58 percent of the vote in his 2004 reelection race but four years later John McCain won less than 53 percent in the state. In 2012, Mitt Romney won a similar 53 percent of the vote. Arizona’s trajectory is similar. A decade ago, Bush won it with 55 percent.  In 2008, McCain, the homestate senator, got only 54 percent; Romney got that same 54 percent in 2012.

That’s the right trajectory for Democrats. But, Georgia in 2014 provides a reminder of why the demographics just aren’t there yet for Democrats to win. Democrats recruited their best possible candidate — Michelle Nunn — for the seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).  Many Democrats (and neutral observers) expected Nunn to, at a minimum, keep Republican David Perdue under 50 percent and force a Jan. 6 runoff. Perdue won 53 percent, an eight point victory margin. While Nunn swamped Perdue among black voters (92 percent to eight percent) and won easily among Hispanics (57 percent to 42 percent), he absolutely destroyed her among white voters (74 percent to 23 percent).  That’s instructive.  For someone like Clinton (or any Democrat) to win statewide in Georgia, she/he would need to equal Nunn’s margin among black voters while over-performing Nunn significantly among Hispanics and whites. Possible. But not likely — at least in 2016. By 2020 (or 2024) — maybe.

That sound you hear in the background is the collective wincing from sales managers at every TV and radio station in the state.  Being a battle ground can be quite lucrative if you have some air time to sell.

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Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr is suing Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and the rest of the Columbus city government over claims that Mayor Tomlinson and the City Council illegally substituted his proposed fiscal year 2015 budget. According to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, the lawsuit claims that the Mayor or “someone acting on her behalf” substituted his office’s proposed budget of $26,853,715 with a reduced budget of $24,827,343. Sheriff Darr claims that the actions of the Mayor and the City Council violate the charter of the City of Columbus as the City charter prohibits Mayor Tomlinson from proposing an alternative budget for the Sheriff’s office.

In her defense, Mayor Tomlinson claims that the cited budget numbers in the lawsuit are incorrect. She further claims that the entire office budget for Sheriff Darr for fiscal year 2015 is $27.67 million, slightly more than the $26.27 million allocated for fiscal year 2014. Speaking to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Tomlinson said, “They have tried to find a way to make his budget look like it was smaller than it was the year before. His budget is $400,000 more this year than last year, and that is an indisputable fact.” Tomlinson also argues that Sheriff Darr is wrong in his interpretation of the City’s charter.

WLTZ reports that Sheriff Darr is seeking to have his legal fees reimbursed by the city as he had to get external legal counsel to file the lawsuit. He is also requesting the court to issue an injunction that would permit the Sheriff’s office to operate on the previous fiscal year’s budget on a monthly basis until the City Council can “legally pass” a budget for his office.

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Congratulations to Senator David Shafer who has just been re-elected as President Pro Tem by the Senate GOP caucus, at the meeting still underway.  Shafer faced a challenge from Butch Miller, after Renee Unterman removed her name from consideration.  The race was first cast as a tie, but a re-vote moved things along to Shafer.

Senator Shafer released the following statement regarding the caucus elections:

“I am grateful to my fellow Republicans in the Senate for their vote of renewed confidence today. I look forward to working with Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert and our new Caucus leadership team in making Georgia the best place to work, worship and raise children.”

The Senate elections, while contested, remark a bit of a change from recent Senate elections.  Rather than fight these battles through surrogates (and leaks to fine folks like us), the campaigns have largely been conducted Senator to Senator, with the hopes that differences can quickly be put aside so that the caucus can work with more cohesion than it has during…some other years.  There will be a lot of work to do during the next two years, and many in the Senate have suggested they wish to put these elections behind them quickly so they may be able to focus on what is expected to be a relatively long and intense session beginning in less than 2 months.

Bill Cowsert has been elected Majority Leader to replace the retiring Ronnie Chance.

Steve Gooch has been elected Majority Whip to replace the retiring Cecil Staton.

William Ligon is the new Caucus Chairman.

Hunter Hill is the new Caucus Vice-Chairman.

John Wilkinson is the new Caucus Secretary.

Congratulations to all the new Senate/GOP caucus leaders.  Now get on to the people’s business.

 

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meagan-hanson2Georgia Young Republican Chairwoman Meagan Hanson announced over the weekend her bid to become Chairwoman of the Young Republican National Federation. Last year, she was unanimously elected Chairman of State Chair’s Association for the Young Republican National Federation. Meagan, a graduate of the University of Alabama, served as the Vice Chairwoman of the Alabama Federation of College Republicans. After her graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked as Senator Jeff Sessions’ defense legislative correspondent. Meagan then moved back to Alabama to attend the University of Alabama School of Law.

Meagan is 2012 graduate of the Republican Leadership for Georgia and a 2013 graduate of the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute. She is currently a member of the Class of 2014 of the Regional Leadership Institute of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Meagan has been endorsed by a number of Georgia’s party activists and elected officials, including Senate President Pro-Tempore David Shafer, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Attorney General Sam Olens, and former 11th District Congressional candidate Tricia Pridemore. She boasts a number of endorsements from out-of-state politicians and activists, as well.

You can “like” her page on Facebook, follow on Twitter and visit her website.

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A November 15th deadline has come and gone without an agreement being reached over proposed boundaries for new cities in north-central DeKalb County. The Decaturish blog has the details:

The supporters of Briarcliff and Lakeside said they will make an announcement Monday about their proposal to create a city that combines both maps. They’ll also announce what the city’s name will be. Leading up to the deadline and throughout Saturday it became clear that supporters of Tucker and Lakeside-Briarcliff were not making progress.

Speaking late Sunday, Mary Kay Woodworth, with LakesideYES and Allen Venet with the City of Briarcliff Initiative said the three groups were unable to reach a compromise.

“We are disappointed that we were not able to reach agreement with Tucker, despite our best efforts,” Woodworth said. “We look forward to the next step of the process as we strive to create a new city in North/Central DeKalb County.”

The group trying for a city of Tucker issued this statement on their website:

Although it is unfortunate that all parties did not come to a mutually beneficial agreement by the November 15th legislative deadline, we appreciate the opportunity given to us by the State Legislature to determine city boundaries at the local level and want to thank former Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd for the time he invested in these discussions.

The Tucker community remains committed to cityhood for Tucker, and trusts that the process as determined by House Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Amy Carter will bring about a solution that is fair and respectful of our long-standing and recognized community while allowing our neighbors in other areas to achieve their own vision of local control.

The map of the proposed City of Tucker remains consistent, and is still available on our website and Facebook page.

The major bone of contention between the two competing groups appears to be what to do about the Northlake Mall area. The commercial properties in that area would be a good part of the tax base needed to fund city operations. In other words, nothing has really changed since we wrote about this last year, except that the Lakeside and Briarcliff groups have combined their efforts.

The next step, according to the AJC, will be to have a five member panel appointed by the Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee chair Amy Carter of Valdosta draw the borders of the proposed cities by the end of the year. The legislature could then use those maps during the 2015 session to decide which if any of the cities would be formed.

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This week’s Courier Herald column:

Republicans have had a couple of weeks to digest their sweeping victories from November 4th. They now have under their belt a workable majority in the US Senate with an additional pickup in Louisiana looking more and more likely. They have their largest majority in the US House since the Hoover administration. “Blue” states such as Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts have Republicans measuring drapes in their governor’s mansions. 68 of 98 partisan state legislative chambers reside in Republican hands.

There remains, however, one prize that continues to be elusive for Republicans. The White House remains occupied by a Democrat for at least two more years. Between the executive powers of the President and the Senate’s filibuster rules, the GOP will remain limited in what it can accomplish in Congress for at least the next two years.

Republicans therefore, at the state and local levels, will need to be strategic in what they choose to do with their victories this year if they wish to get the bigger prize two years from now. As the election cycles of 2008, 2010, 2012, and now 2014 have shown, the American voting public is fickle.

It seems we’re quite good at voting against governing majorities in both parties. David Perdue won Georgia largely on the claim that he was neither Harry Reid nor Barack Obama, and would not be voting to implement their agenda. In many ways, Republicans nationally were able to motivate voters to side with them against an unpopular President.

In 2016, the challenge will be to get voters to vote “for” Republicans, and a specific Republican at the top of the ticket. The GOP will again spend much of the next two years attempting to select a standard bearer that can hold the fractured coalition of those who consider themselves conservative while simultaneously hoping to attract enough centrist and independent voters to achieve an electoral majority. This will be no easy feat. [click to continue…]

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Three Members of Congress from Georgia have gone public with their opposition to the Department of Defense’s newly proposed budget cuts to the A-10 weapons system, specifically the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the US Air Force’s primary close air support aircraft. This aircraft system has also been actively used in various iconic military operations including Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The A-10 is manufactured by the defense contractor Lockheed-Martin, a company that has a plant located in Marietta, GA.

The three Georgia Congressmen that have announced their opposition to these sequestration cuts include Senator Johnny Isakson, Senator Saxby Chambliss and Representative Austin Scott. From a joint press release:

“It’s imperative that Congress make decisions regarding the A-10 based on information we receive from our service members who have their boots on the ground,” said Chambliss. “What we have heard consistently from our men and women in uniform and experts like Master Sergeant Stamey is that the A-10 is a critical weapon system that has saved lives time and time again. While tough budgetary times have put all branches of the military in the position to make difficult decisions, Congress has a responsibility under the Constitution to ensure our troops are well-equipped and well-prepared, and the A-10 is the best weapon system we have to provide close air support.”

“The A-10 is an important mission at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., and plays a crucial role in support of our national defense, said Isakson. “It’s almost as important to Moody as it is to our troops on the ground. The close air support provided by the A-10 is unmatched and unequal to anywhere else in the world, and to divest of this aircraft without an alternative ready and in place would put U.S. troops at increased risk in future conflicts.”

“With our service members deployed on multiple fronts, our military has a constant need for close air support” said Austin Scott. “As was made clear by multiple Joint Terminal Attack Control (JTAC) operators at today’s press conference, we need the very best weapons systems to protect our troops and win the fight.  Quite simply, the A-10C Warthog is the most effective aircraft for close air support, and we need it for the mission we are in now. We cannot let irrational budget policies like sequestration force us to divest one of our most valuable weapon systems and issues stand in the way of protecting our men and women in uniform.”

If you’re interested in probing more into the issue, you should probably check out Representative Austin Scott’s speech at the press conference mentioned in the above text where he speaks about his opposition to these budget cuts.

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A study committee composed of Georgia State Representatives is looking into the possibility. Chaired by Rep. Trey Kelley of Cedartown, the Autonomous Vehicle Study Committee met several times this fall, and is due to publish a report its findings by year-end.

Driverless cars are an intriguing idea — they would certainly take much of the pain out of the boring drive from Macon to Savannah. Before they can become a reality, though, lawmakers must consider what changes might be made to state law. Kelley’s committee is looking at things like who would be liable in case of an accident, whether the driverless cars could be hacked, and what data might be collected from a driverless vehicle. Even things like the current no-texting law, which could no longer be a factor if a computer were in control.

Walter Jones with the Morris News Service summarized some of the issues with driverless cars, and concluded that it could be a while before we see them on the road.

No company is going to be selling robot cars any time soon because years of experimentation is ahead. Some experts predict it could be another 25 years, comparing them to the 15-year development of hybrid vehicles.

Their introduction will be part of a gradual process as well. Cars are already available that signal drivers when to snap to attention. Others can automatically parallel park a car.

In the meantime, Georgia could become a leader in driver-less car research by following the few states that have opened the legal door to them, like Florida which passed a law allowing testing on designated roads, and Michigan which is creating a 5-mile test road simulating city streets, according to Tino Mantella, president of the Technology Association of Georgia.

“By opening Georgia roads to autonomous vehicle testing, it will begin jobs,” he said.

Autonomous vehicles may sound like science fiction, but states, cities and counties are lining up to promote research into whether they are feasible. Fayette County passed a resolution in July that would allow the county to be a pilot site for testing the vehicles. Others have gotten in line as well, according to the AJC.

[C]ompetition to attract investment from technology and automobile companies is growing as states realize driverless vehicle technology has the potential to become a multibillion-dollar industry. Johnson County, Iowa, passed a resolution similar to Fayette County’s on the same day as Fayette. And driverless vehicle testing has already been conducted in several states, including California, Nevada and Florida.

“I thought it was great we jumped out early and we were a leader,” [Fayette County Commission Chair Steve] Brown said. “The only problem is we’re not the leader anymore.”

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Updated, with sad breaking news this morning:

International

Another ISIS beheading

National

Clinton reviews Obama’s performance
How to stop Obama’s executive immigration plan
Defiant Obama won’t bend to the GOP
North Carolina library donates Nazi pics to Holocaust museum
Dems, GOP eye competing strategies for 2016

Local

Early voting begins in DeKalb commission runoff
An exclusive interview with Mayor Reed
The life of Herman Russell Sr.
Everything you wanted to know about Sherman’s March
Not everyone’s excited about Savannah’s canal district
The future of Turner Field

Sports

Bad news for UGA football
Unreal … we’re in first place
For any remaining old-time hockey fans in Georgia …
Who’s the next head coach of the Gators?
FSU is No. 1 in new poll

Weird

Oh, those tree huggers

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