Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mental Health Cuts Announced

The AJC is reporting that the state must cut mental health programing and furlough workers to remain fiscally solvent in the remainder of the fiscal year ending June 2010.
[Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities]" spokesman Thomas Wilson said the agency has determined it must cut about $15 million so as not to run out of money by the end of the state fiscal year in June."

"We ... have to find ways to cut expenses to match declining income," said agency Commissioner Dr. Frank Shelp. "What makes that especially difficult is that the obvious fat has been cut from the budget long ago. Now, wherever we scale back, people are going to be affected. "


"The agency will also continue what has been a 5 percent cut to the community service boards, which provide many community-based mental health services to people."

"Another program set for termination is a crisis stabilization program at a state mental hospital in Savannah. The participants move to a community-based operation for services. That move will allow the services to receive Medicaid money."

"Wilson said that despite the cuts, the state still expects to meet the benchmark of being in substantial compliance with the federal requirements for the hospitals by Jan. 15."

Not Keeping You Waiting Until the New Year

I feel tears wellin' up cold and deep inside.
Karen Handel has resigned her post as Secretary of State.
Below is the letter she sent out to County Election Officials yesterday.

Dear County Elections Colleagues:

After much thought, discussion, and prayer, I have decided to resign as Secretary of State by the end of the year, so that I can focus 100% of my effort and attention on my campaign for Governor. This was an extraordinarily difficult decision for me - both personally and professionally. However, I make this decision with great clarity and no regrets, knowing that it is the right decision for all concerned.

Serving as Secretary of State has been a truly extraordinary opportunity matched only by the opportunity to serve with you to ensure that Georgia's elections are conducted with the highest degree of efficiency, integrity and accuracy. Over the past three years, the administration of elections has improved significantly -- thanks to your commitment and willingness to embrace change, technology, and a higher level of accountability.

You accomplished what no one (even some of you yourselves!) thought was possible ... administering the 2008 Presidential Elections without significant issues. Yet you did it! Your confidence in yourselves and the competency with which you do your jobs have reached a new level.

I am so very proud of you and all that you have accomplished.

You are no doubt wondering what happens next. The Governor will appoint an interim Secretary of State. The next Secretary of State will take over knowing that there is a strong team of county elections officials ready for a continued partnership.

Finally, I want to personally thank each of you for your commitment to the people of Georgia -- and for your efforts on my behalf over these past three years. I know that the successes of this Agency have little to do with me and everything to do with you. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of your team!



I know this thought is completely anathema to political ambition, so I'll only say it once. I've never understood how we support people who abdicate their responsibilities to chase after the next best thing. How much will be wasted (momentum, time, taxpayer dollars), changing horses midstream?
Thanks to our tipsters for forwarding this e-mail.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unemployment Crisis across the U.S.

Last week we reported in the print edition that Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond had requested interest-free advances from the federal government ( read the press release here, it's titled "Concerning Georgia's Unemployment Crisis.") to enable the state to continue making payment on the 268,995 valid unemployment claims in the state.
Today the Washington Post is reporting the Georgia is not alone.
"Currently, 25 states have run out of unemployment money and have borrowed $24 billion from the federal government to cover the gaps. By 2011, according to Department of Labor estimates, 40 state funds will have been emptied by the jobless tsunami.
"There's immense pressure, and it's got to be faced," said Indiana state Rep. David Niezgodski (D), a sponsor of a bill that addressed the gaps in Indiana's unemployment program. "Our system was absolutely broke."
In the short term, the only way to fix it will be to cut benefits or raise taxes. In this community, that would be one more shoot, with no conceivable ladder.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"After Today, Let's Go Enjoy Christmas"

From our seat, One Capital Removed, that sounds like a good idea.
In what I'm reading on the three blogs listed below, David Ralston of Blue Ridge has won the Republican House Caucus' nomination for Speaker of the House.
The entire state House will have a vote on the matter when the General Assembly reconvenes January 11.
Ralston overcame the field of Bill Hembree and Larry O'Neal to win a majority on the second ballot. Hembree was knocked out on the first vote.
Other highlights from the caucus meeting included a teary-eyed speech from disgraced former Speaker Glenn Richardson who still has roughly $4,128.64 more Georgia taxpayer dollars in his future--and who knows how he'll land in the new year.
From AJC's Aaron Gould Shenin:
Richardson finished speaking, received a subdued, but full, standing ovation, and left the chamber. It was a moving speech, and Richardson several times stopped to gather his composure.
It was unclear from his remarks, however, whether he acknowledged responsibility for the position the caucus is now in.
Whatever “failures we may have made,” he said, “I take full responsibility for those failures. All of them. When you leave here today, you leave them behind, you leave them on my shoulders.”
And we'll conclude with Shenin's transcription of Ralston's brief acceptance speech:
“We’ve still got a long day here,” Ralston said from behind the speaker’s desk. “You made a country boy real happy and you honored me and I thank you very, very much for that. Secondly, I need your prayers. I wasn’t teasing when I said earlier we’ve got a big job ahead of us. I need Larry O’neal, I need Bill Hembree.

“After today, let’s go enjoy Christmas.”

For what it's worth

I just got off the phone with state Senator Johnny Grant and he said although he is familiar with all the candidates for Speaker, Larry O'Neal would be the best Speaker for Baldwin County as he is familiar with Milledgeville and, of course, is a Middle Georgia native.

GOP Caucus meeting Underway

All the usual suspects have live updates from the Capitol.
Lucid Idiocy
Peach Pundit
Gold Dome Live
If you have a PC, you can watch live from here.


Sorry to readers I left hanging last week, a humbling illness helped second my decision to come down off the heady stream of information emanating from the Capitol over the last two weeks.
For those who didn't move over to the bevy of blogs and other media outlets covering the Speaker race, I'll tell you that today is the day the GOP House Caucus votes on their Speaker candidate.
Larry O'Neal, R-Bonaire Warner Robins is, by all accounts, still the front runner.
He let fly with some info about a questionable piece of tax legislation he authored that benefited Governor Sonny Perdue retroactively. In case you're not going to follow the link, O'Neal said the feds came down with the full force of an clandestine audit that cleared them both of any wrong doing.
Bill Hembree, R- Winston, and David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who ran for this job at the beginning of the 2009 session, are the other Republicans vying for the Speaker's gavel.
Georgia Legislative Watch has the list of candidates vying for the other leadership positions up for grabs this morning. See how much lobbyists have spent on these candidates here, also from Ga Legislative Watch.
The caucus is reported to meet at 11, and Peach Pundit is alleged to be keeping on top of things with texted updates from legislators, staffers and media, throughout.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rusty Kidd-The Human Element

WMAZ posted this profile about Baldwin's next state Representative.
"What I'm doing now might be why I'm still here, because I might be able to help the people of Baldwin County, and at Central State Hospital, help people who are disabled, help people who can't help themselves that might be why I'm still here and why I've undertaken this new venture in life at this age, to go to the Georgia Legislature. And, I'll give it my best."

Poet and Milledgeville Native Sean Hill on the Interblogs

I found this link about Milledgeville-born poet Sean Hill.
The link includes a poem and interview about the poem and how he wrote it.
His book Blood Ties & Brown Liquor includes poems culled from a century of the City of Milledgeville.
From his Web site:
Each poem in Hill's debut collection, Blood Ties & Brown Liquor, builds on the poetic landscape created from his hometown, Milledgeville, Georgia, offering a portrait of the town's black community. A multitude of voices rises from the pages to celebrate familial love, memory, and yearning, and to confront racism.

The poems create a call and response across six generations of the family of the fictional character Silas Wright, a black man born in 1907. From a slave woman's scratchy hay-stuffed mattress to a black insurance agent's ominous patter, from sweet honey to the searing heat of brickyard kilns, these poems spread before us a sensuous world of quotidian lives punctuated by love and violence.

Ax the Inventory Tax?

The Savannah Morning News has this editorial about killing the tax on unsold items that remain on the showroom floor in Georgia retail businesses.
The brusquely-worded editorial makes me take pause in wondering how objective the writer is on the subject:
"Nearly all states have eliminated this obnoxious levy, which poisons business growth, destroys jobs and unfairly soaks the private sector. Georgia, unfortunately, has not.
Some Georgia lawmakers have tried to drive a stake through the tax's ugly heart, only to be beaten back by local governments and public school systems that, unfortunately, rely on this source of revenue to help pay the bills."

But some Baldwin County Commission watchers may remember Commission Chair James "Bubba" Williams asking County Attorney David Waddell what can be done locally to banish this intrastate development deal breaker.
As the editorial says, local governments receive the majority of proceeds--voters will have an opportunity to ax the state's cut of the invo tax in 2010. But I don't know of any local governments who are either socking away reserve funds or signing tax rebate checks this year, so expect it to be a subject of hot debate during this session of the General Assembly.
Gold Dome Legislators will try to exploit any opportunity to leave the Capitol having cut taxes without disturbing state coffers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dick Pettys Picks the Frontrunners in the Contest for House Speaker

Insider Advantage Georgia his this take on the election within the House Republican Caucus to name a new speaker.
Pettys says the House Republican Caucus will meet December 21 to nominate a speaker, before bringing it to an official vote in the House at the beginning of the session.
Although the piece doesn't rule out other contenders, Pettys says Bonaire's Larry O'Neal and David Ralston of Blue Ridge are the ones to watch.
The piece also goes on to list the detractors of each of the representatives and gives a little insight to their parliamentary acumen.
Erick Erickson at Peach Pundit is pushing Tom Graves (the link has a link to his GA bio).
Political Insider is reporting the location of Friday's House Republican Caucus meeting. So I'm sure there'll be more to the story once that meeting adjourns.
There's so much going on with this saga, I'm not even sure why I bother.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Murdoch Gives a Pep Talk for the Media Moguls of Tomorrow--And We're Listening

Thanks to Jay Bookman for linking to this.
Rupert Murdoch has this editorial from his venerable Wall Street Journal about the possibilities of the future of journalism, with some thoughts on government subsidies to the industry's current heavyweights.
The gist is those who rest on their laurels will be able to sit around and blame technology for their diminished lot in life while the rest of the world gets comfy with the next model.
People will pay for compelling content, the same as they did before the Internet. It is our job as content creators to figure out what consumers want and sell it to them. The old model of selling eyeballs to advertisers no longer applies.
And finally, government bailouts of the media industry will start us down a road to tyranny. Contrary to its current meaning, the Free Press was free from the government's press secretary and the government's red pen. And that's what helped make this country great.
"The future of journalism is more promising than ever—limited only by editors and producers unwilling to fight for their readers and viewers, or government using its heavy hand either to overregulate or subsidize us.

"Some newspapers and news organizations will not adapt to the digital realities of our day—and they will fail. We should not blame technology for these failures. The future of journalism belongs to the bold, and the companies that prosper will be those that find new and better ways to meet the needs of their viewers, listeners, and readers."

28 Years of Service

Tonight will be Milledgeville's last opportunity to see Ken Vance hold court behind the aldermen's desk in City Hall.
Tonight is the Milledgeville City Council's last meeting of 2009, and the new Board of Alders, including Collinda Lee and Phillip Joiner, will be sworn in Monday December 21.
All that means Vance will be concluding about 28 years of service to Milledgeville with his final Tuesday-night meeting tonight.
Vance was initially elected to City Council in 1981 in a Milledgeville that is a far cry from what it is today.
Vance, who was a part-time English teacher at Baldwin High School and part-time Sheriff's Deputy working the night shift, was elected at-large to the Board of Alders at a time in his life when there was no water bill or City of Milledgeville property deed in his name.
In that time he has seen council elections be decided within districts, the installation of a Historic District in downtown Milledgeville, compulsory elected official training from the Georgia Municipal Association, the creation of the Oconee River Greenway and the implementation of a council-city manager form of municipal government.
If you have any time this evening, you'd do good to show up at City Hall and watch the End of an Era--one we wouldn't have missed for the world.
Thanks Mr. Vance!

The Race Is On

News broke yesterday evening that state House Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter, R-Johns Creek, sent an e-mail to the Republican House Caucus saying that he will decline the Speaker's gavel and call a vote to elect a new Speaker first thing in the next session, if not sooner.
Read this Political Insider post to get the details. Peach Pundit also is dedicating all resources to the broad scope of this story.
The Republican House Caucus is reportedly meeting either in Atlanta or at Mercer University some time later this week. I, myself, have no idea whether that could be an appropriate venue for a vote on who will be the next Speaker.
On further consideration, I imagine all these decisions are going to be made on the caucus level before they reach the floor of the House.
But any way you look at it, this story continues to twist and turn and it will be some time before some semblance of normalcy returns to the Gold Dome. And by normalcy I guess I mean unattractive people being treated like supermodels for forty days at the beginning of each year--oh yeah and at some point they'll have to pass a budget or two.
One insider I spoke with characterized the happenings at the Capital as the Republicans eating their young.
This all, of course, elicits questions about how Susan Richardson got before the Fox Five cameras for the television blurb that brought Speaker Glenn Richardson's downfall. But being One Capital Removed, we have nothing but wild speculation on that so there's no point in validating negative critiques of the mainstream media.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Elected Officials ReThinking Ethics

The AP has this about Secretary of State Karen Handel and state Rep. Rob Teilhet, a Smyrna Democrat who's running for the Attorney General seat come November, offering proposals to make the state Ethics Commission "responsible for overseeing complaints against legislators. Currently, lawmakers police themselves in Georgia."
Not really much to that link, but in talking with E. Culver "Rusty" Kidd this morning about his plans and concerns for the next session, he said he'd like to see legislators become responsible for reporting all the gifts, meals and in-kind expenditures such as plane rides, etc. that they receive from lobbyists.
I'm sure there'll be several ethics changes proposed throughout the session. Be watchful.

Regina Thomas announces her bid for the 12th District seat

I just received an e-mail from Regina Thomas' camp saying that the Savannah Democrat will challenge Congressman John Barrow for the Democratic nomination in the 12th District again in 2010.
Thomas, who is a former state Senator and state Representative, ran against Barrow in the 2008 Democratic primary.
She will be holding a fundraiser in Savannah on December 10.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Digital Going-ons this week in Milledgeville

Milledgeville's Municipal Wireless Broadband Network will be the topic of discussion at several community events this week.

The Milledgeville City Council will be meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the network's digital inclusion plan during a work session in the Executive Chambers of City Hall.
The Digital Inclusion Plan is the city's way of allowing discounted access to the city's wireless network to low-income community members. I want to remember that there are about 250 discounted Internet accounts available for Milledgeville residents who meet certain income requirements. Expect Digital Bridges to be in on finding ways of disseminating the accounts and the information that will help you apply.
Everyone is invited to attend City Council work sessions, but don't take my seat!

Correction: This may simply be a Chamber of Commerce initiative. Digital Bridges will be holding technology classes at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Mary Vinson Memorial Library.

Digital Bridges The Chamber of Commerce will also be holding one of their Technology workshops at noon Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce offices on South Jefferson Street in downtown. From the Chamber:
If you have not already signed up for our technology workshop please don't forget to rsvp. The workshop is December 10th from noon to 01:30pm at the chamber. Bring your lunch and join us each month to learn how technology can work for you and your business. Cost is $15 for Chamber members and $25 for future members. This is a great opportunity to expand your technical skills and knowledge. Space is limited please rsvp today.
Contact them at 478.453.9311.

And not strictly related to the Municipal Wireless Broadband Network, but interesting all the same: Milledgeville's Campus Club will be holding an info meeting to introduce community members to this innovative youth-oriented arts program at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Georgia College's Peabody Auditorium.
From Campus Club's release:
Campus Club Milledgeville is a youth arts and enrichment program. Our main objective is to provide training to develop and improve artistic and creative gifts such as songwriting, dancing, singing, instrumentation, and photography to our community youth. We would like to introduce skills needed to successfully enter the job market such as light/sound engineers, graphic artists, videographers, play writers, and web designers. As a registered 501(c)3, we will provide our services at no cost.
You can learn more about Campus Club here.

Speakergate Getting National Attention

I was wondering when this story was going to start pulling down headlines outside of the Peach state.

Update: Having had a little time to digest the link above, I think this may be one of the most spot-on quotes about this scandal:
"Everybody around the Capitol knew this was happening. It finally got confirmed by his wife."
-Rep. Dubose Porter, D-Dublin
Now let's see about this different place legislators are talking about.

Jim Thompson at the Athens Banner-Herald has some thoughts and come-back-to-haunt-you quotes on the matter in this editorial.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The End of an Era

One we'd probably like to forget.
The AJC is reporting that Speaker Glenn Richardson will resign or be completely obliterated in a conference call at 4 p.m. today.

Update: Recheck the link if you weren't glued to it as I was. The final verdict is in and AJC has Richardson's public statement.
Come January 1, Paulding County will be looking for a new state Representative and the General Assembly's Lower Chamber will be electing a new Speaker.
The Interblogs are ablaze with speculation about how that process will go down. But the line of succession will start with Mark Burkhalter, the Speaker Pro Tempore.

Some corrections/clarifications to the update above.
Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter is now the Speaker, or will be come January 1 (though I can't imagine that Rusty Kidd is not rescheduling his appointment with Richardson to meet with Burkhalter now). According to Capital Impact's Tom Crawford (hear his interview with GPB here), Georgia Code provides that Speaker Burkhalter has 120 days to call a vote of confidence, which would set the stage for the election of a new Speaker. Crawford said that should allow Burkhalter to retain the gavel throughout the 2010 session, should he so desire. But during that 120-day period, Burkhalter will be pressured to call that vote of confidence by the members of the Republican House Caucus who desire that seat as well, Crawford added.
GPB's Edgar Treiguts and Crawford mentioned these names as some of the House Republicans who will probably be applying the pressure throughout the 2010 session: David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, threw his hat in the ring for the Speaker's gavel at the beginning of the 2009-2010 session; House Majority Leader Jerry Keen; but don't count out Mark Burkhalter.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Signs of the Times

I just just got off the phone with UGA's Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science Charles S. Bullock, and in the course of the conversation about trends in state politics he wondered aloud whether state House Speaker Glenn Richardson will continue to hold his gavel into the evening.
Looks like the pens at the AJC concur.
A Republican activist and consultant, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve their relationships with the speaker, was blunter: “I don’t know how he survives this one.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baldwin County Election Results

Send another Kidd to the State House.
E. Culver "Rusty" Kidd remained true to the margins he held in the general election, just the percentages have changed.
Kidd took the majority this time, garnering 64.4 percent of the electorate in the 141st District.
But the coincidences come in the actual numbers.
In the runoff, Kidd took 2,352, compared to the 2,433 he got in the general election. 1,298 electors turned out for his competitor Darrell Black today and last week, whereas he captured 1,286 in late October and November 3.
The same cannot be said of the Georgia Military College Board of Trustees race in which incumbent Randy New bested his November numbers by 36 votes, moving 113 voters to the polls and retaining his seat in the Old Capitol Building. Challenger Charles Jordan came in with one less than his general election tally with 76 votes.
Lightning did not strike twice.

Lucky 7?

When interviewing for the man on the street story about today's runoff election, Baldwin County Chief Deputy Registrar Elizabeth Rodgers told me that the turnout figures for the Georgia Military College Board of Trustees District 2 rematch between incumbent Randy New and challenger Charles Jordan sat at 77 votes for several hours toward the end of early voting last week. (The final total was 80, give or take a few.)
So what?
77 is the same number as the vote tallies both candidates carried after all votes had been counted during the November general election, putting those candidates into the runoff.
To make things even spookier, when I relayed the number of ballots cast thus far (by that time Tuesday afternoon) at the District 2 precinct, and she added them to the final figures for early voting in that race and the sum equaled 154--the total number of votes cast during the general election in that contest.
Can lightning strike twice?

Phyllis Jenkins Barrow, a Democratic Stalwart, Passed Away Monday

Barrow, the mother of 12th District Congressman John Barrow, passed Monday. She was 89.
Blake Aued of the Athens Banner Herald has this story about Phyllis Jenkins Barrow.
Our condolences go out to the Barrow Family.

The Future of Internet Access

NPR had this interesting piece this morning about how young African Americans and English-speaking Latinos are embracing mobile devices as the method for accessing the World Wide Web.

There's some good ancillary info on here.

More Bombshells in the Runup to the 2010 Session

Atlanta's Fox Five News has an interview with state House Speaker Glenn Richardson's ex-wife Susan Richardson.
Lucid Idiocy has the embed and a synopsis in case you're not interested in watching the 7 min+ piece.
"It is as damning, and as personal, an indictment as I can recall in my nearly 10 years covering politics in Georgia."
Update: AJC's Gold Dome Live has the long synopsis, with reactions from prominent state legislators, here.
Read all the way to the bottom, because it gives the OCGA section that may play into Richardson's removal, should that ball get rolling.
Taking a step back for a moment, does the State of Georgia really have time for this mess?