Political Notes: December 2010
Two Thumbs Up, Three Down: Only two of the five Constitutional amendments on last month’s ballot passed. Amendment No. 1, authorizing court enforcement of non-compete agreements, and No. 4, allowing the state to execute multi-year contracts to improve its aging and energy-inefficient buildings, won voter ap-proval.
No. 4 had a particularly broad-based group of supporters. Among them: the Georgia Chamber of Com-merce, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Cobb Chamber, Georgia Sierra Club, South-face, U.S. Green Building Council, consumer advocate Clark Howard and the Taxpayers for Energy Efficiency.
Based on a bipartisan initiative, HR 1231, the measure allows the state to contract with private companies to upgrade buildings’ energy efficiency; the companies are paid over a series of years from the savings on the utility bills.
Supporters say the program will save Georgia taxpayers many millions of dollars.
Amendment No. 2, which would have imposed a $10 fee on auto tags to fund additional trauma centers, was soundly defeated, despite a TV ad campaign emphasizing the need to enhance Georgia’s trauma network.
Another Star: Gen. Maria Britt, the assistant adjutant general of Georgia and Commanding General of the Georgia Army National Guard, has been promoted from Brigadier General to Major General. She is the first woman in the Georgia Guard to attain that rank.
Stepping Down: University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis, Jr. will retire at the end of his contract year in June 2011. He has led the system since February 2006. During his tenure, Georgia’s public college enrollment jumped some 19.4 percent, from 256,945 to 310,361. The University System’s economic impact on the state has grown from $10.4 billion to $12.7 billion.
Regents and Immigrants: The state Board of Regents has voted to bar illegal immigrants from enrolling in any of the state’s top public colleges, beginning next fall. The schools – University of Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Medical College of Georgia and Georgia College & State University – must now figure out how to implement the measure expeditiously.
Lawmakers and Immigrants: Some legislators hope to take the student-immigrant issue even further in the upcoming 2011 session by banning illegal immigrants from any of Georgia’s 35 public colleges or the 26 technical colleges in the state system.
Sen. Don Balfour, (R-Snellville) told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The regents were heading in the right direction, but I just wish they had taken it one step further.”
New Judges: Gov. Sonny Perdue has appointed Keith Blackwell of Smyrna and Stephen Louis A. Dillard of Macon to the Georgia Court of Appeals.
The vacancies were created by Judge G. Alan Black-burn’s retirement and by the death of Judge Debra Bernes.
Blackwell, a partner in the litigation practice group at Parker Hudson Ranier & Dobbs and a former assistant district attorney in Cobb County, received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Georgia. Dillard, chair of the appellate practice group of James Bates Pope Spivey LLP, received his undergraduate degree from Samford University and his law degree from the Mississippi College of Law.
Both of the new judges have been active in the Federalist Society and were members of the Governor’s Judicial Nominating Com-mission.
Manufacturing Awards: Georgia’s two U.S. Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, and 11th District Congressman Phil Gingrey received National Association of Manufacturers Awards for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence.
The awards are given to members of Congress with voting records higher than 70 percent, indicating they supported manufacturers and their employees on key votes, the NAM says. Chambliss received a 92 percent rating, Isakson an 88 and Gingrey an 82.
Mental Health Plan: Georgia has managed to avoid a federal takeover of its services to citizens with developmental disabilities and mental illness, thanks to a settlement agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice.
After July 2011, the state will no longer admit individuals whose primary diagnosis is a developmental disability into state hospitals and will place them directly into community facilities.
The Department of Justice sued the state under the Americans With Disabilities Act earlier this year; that suit has been set aside.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, in a news release, said he is “confident that we finally have an agreement that moves us towards our common goals of recovery and independence for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.” He said the justice department played “a helpful role in spurring change in Georgia.”
Dr. Frank Shelp heads the Georgia Department of Be-havioral Health and Devel-opment Disabilities, created last year to focus on policies and programs to serve those with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse disorders.