Political RoundUp: August 2009

Road warrior: Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) was the House Republican leadership’s choice to replace Vance Smith as head of the powerful House Transportation Committee. Smith, who was elected DOT commissioner, resigned from his House seat. The Transportation Committee chairmanship, already an important House position, gained even more clout with the passage of a law this year shifting some control over highway projects away from the State Transportation Board and to the governor and the Legislature. Roberts is serving only his fourth term in the House, but has quickly moved up the leadership ladder, serving also as chairman of the House Republican Caucus. “Transpor-tation is not just a rural or urban problem, but an issue that affects the entire state,” Roberts said.



Walker departs: Perry attorney Larry Walker stepped down from his seat on the State Transportation Board, where he served for the last two and a half years after a 32-year stint in the House of Representatives. He sat on the Transportation Board during a difficult period in DOT history and strongly pushed for the implementation of passenger rail service. “I hope and trust the relief from serious financial restraint will be forthcoming in the near future, so that GDOT can continue what I perceive to have been in the past very good service to the people of Georgia,” Walker said. The State Transportation Board voted to retain Bill Kuhlke of Augusta for another year as board chairman. Gwinnett County homebuilder Rudy Bowen will serve as vice chairman.



Growing, but slowly: Metro Atlanta’s population will continue to grow, but perhaps not as fast, in the years ahead, according to new projections prepared by the Atlanta Regional Commission. ARC predicts the metro area will add 3 million more people (with 1.6 million more jobs) by the year 2040. That will come from adding almost 100,000 people each year from 2010-2020, roughly 92,000 each year between 2020-2030 and about 88,000 annually from 2030 to 2040. “The average family continues to shrink, including those of second and third-generation immigrants,” ARC said. “Combine fewer births with the decrease in the number of baby boomers over the next 30 years, and it’s clear that natural attrition will play a large part in moderating the Atlanta region’s growth.”



Animal wrongs?: You don’t often hear this reason for opposing a presidential appointment: Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss blocked the nomination of Cass Sunstein, President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, because the senator claimed Sunstein’s confirmation would result in lawsuits filed by animals. Chambliss contended that Sunstein, a nationally known law professor, “has said that animals ought to have the right to sue folks.”



New polls: City officials who belong to the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) are polled each year on various political issues and races. The latest GMA survey showed that 44 percent of them think Roy Barnes will be the Democratic nominee for governor next year (16 percent picked Attorney General Thurbert Baker). On the GOP side, 25 percent of GMA members said Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine will be the Republican nominee (18 percent picked Congressman Nathan Deal and 13 percent chose Secretary of State Karen Handel).



Future leader: State Rep. Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta) will participate in the 2009 Program for Emerging Political Leaders, which is sponsored by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and the University of Virginia. The program each year selects 50 state legislators who have been nominated by the presiding officer or minority leader from their state because they “have demonstrated qualities associated with leadership, including integrity, compassion, vision and common sense.”



Consumer-friendly: Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) was recognized as a “Friend of the Consumer” by Georgia Watch because he sponsored legislation that would require the Depart-ment of Natural Resources to notify landowners if their property is located in the flood plain or flood way, according to the revised maps, and to provide information on how to appeal the designation.



Pardon me: The State Board of Pardons and Paroles re-elected L. Gale Buckner as board chair. She was appointed to the parole board in 2005 and has an extensive law enforcement career that includes service as a special agent for the GBI. Board members also re-elected Robert Keller vice chairman. He was Clayton County’s district attorney for 28 years before joining the board in 2007.



New DCA leadership: The state Board of Community Affairs elected James “Billy” Croker as its new chairman, former legislator Nathan Dean as vice chairman and Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell as secretary. Croker replaces H. Clifford Sheppard as chairman of the DCA board.



Honoring the lawmakers: Several business groups have picked their “legislators of the year.” The Georgia Chamber of Commerce honored Ronnie Chance, Jack Hill, Ben Harbin, Glenn Richardson and Calvin Smyre; the Georgia Retail Association recognized Chip Rogers in the Senate and Tom Graves in the House.

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