Political Notes: December 2011
Ups, Downs and In-Betweens
New Face At The Capitol: Political newcomer John Carson beat former state senator Robert LaMutt in a special runoff election for the House District 43 seat. The two Cobb County Republicans were vying for the office that became vacant when Rep. Bobby Franklin died last July.
Governing Honors: Governing magazine has named Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed as one of its nine 2011 Public Officials of the Year. The magazine says he “engineered a major overhaul of the city’s pension plan, solving a $1.5 billion problem and putting the city on its soundest fiscal footing in a generation.” It also notes that he put 100 new police officers on the streets and instituted a modest pay raise for police and firefighters.
TSPLOST Advocate: Doug Calla-way is the new executive director of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, created by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to work on long-term transportation strategy and promote the 2012 TSPLOST around the state.
Callaway was formerly president of Floridians for Better Transportation and has worked with Carter & Burgess, a national engineering consulting firm.
“The state has a great network of existing transportation assets to build upon, and the business community can play a significant role in informing and executing the right strategy for the future,” says Callaway. “Passing the TSPLOST in as many regions as possible next year will be an important first step.”
Top Cops: The Georgia State Patrol has been named the best state police/highway patrol agency in the country in the category of 501 to 1,000 officers.
The award was conferred as part of the National Law Enforcement Challenge, sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Georgia’s commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Col. Mark McDonough, accepted the award at a ceremony in Chicago.
“To be included in the awards recognition is an honor and speaks highly to the dedication of the men and women of the Georgia State Patrol,” McDonough says.
Also earning first place awards were the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Police Department. The Tift County Sheriff’s Office, a first-place winner in 2009, won the championship class in the competition.
Help For Homeowners: Georgia’s Republican Senator Johnny Isakson and California’s Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer were quick to praise reforms announced by the Federal Housing Finance Agency aimed at helping borrowers with non-delinquent mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
The senators note that the plan includes elements of the bipartisan Helping Responsible Homeowners Act they cosponsored and will help homeowners seeking to refinance their homes to take advantage of lower interest rates.
“This is a positive step in the right direction for the preservation of homeownership for those Americans who have been making their payments and met their obligations,” says Isakson. “They deserve the benefit of today’s lower interest rates.”
Isakson and fellow Republican Tom Graves, Georgia’s Ninth District Congressman, introduced the HOME Act, which would allow Americans to make penalty-free withdrawals from their retirement accounts to use in making mortgage payments.
Suing The Feds: Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has filed a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), challenging the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).
The rule, finalized last summer, requires reductions on certain emissions that Olens says will cause major changes to the way electricity is produced in the state starting in January and will give Georgia just five months to overhaul the way electricity is generated.
“The EPA has overstepped their authority with a heavy-handed federal takeover of enforcement of environmental regulations.” He says the new rule will disproportionately harm Georgia.
Higher Ed Commission: Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a 26-member study commission to look at funding formulas for the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System and determine how they should be changed.
“The current funding formula is based on student enrollment but not student completion,” Deal says.
The commission is co-chaired by Rep. Len Walker (R-Loganville) and Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler).
The two legislators are chairs of the General Assembly’s Higher Education Committees.