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Political Notes: December 2013

Across-The-Aisle Allies: If you thought you’d never see Georgia’s Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson co-sponsoring legislation with liberal Democratic senators Chuck Schumer from New York or Al Franken from Minnesota, you likely weren’t thinking of flood insurance rates – a topic that unites lawmakers across the political spectrum.

On the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Isakson and New Jersey’s Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez introduced the Menendez-Isakson Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, co-sponsored by Schumer, Franken, both Louisiana senators – Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican David Vitter – and others.

The bill aims to protect homeowners from huge flood insurance premium rate hikes and would, according to a press release from Isakson’s office, “require FEMA to complete an affordability study and propose real solutions to address affordability issues before any flood insurance premiums can be raised in the future.”

Isakson commented: “I’m proud to join my colleagues in a bipartisan effort today to protect Americans from sudden, steep increases in their annual flood insurance premiums as a result of the Biggert-Waters law. Without action, many homeowners in coastal and flood plain areas in Georgia and elsewhere will experience unaffordable premiums that will cause some owners to lose their homes.”

Another bipartisan coalition was expected to introduce similar legislation in the U.S. House.

Balfour Out: A three-member panel appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal has determined that indicted State Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) should be suspended from office, and the Republican leadership has removed him from the GOP caucus.

The panel members are state House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire), state Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) and retired State Supreme Court Chief Justice George Carley.

The panel was charged with determining whether the indictment related to Balfour’s elected office and if it adversely affected the administration of that office.

Another Shipp Honor: Longtime Georgia Trend columnist and veteran political reporter and writer Bill Shipp was inducted into the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame this fall. He was introduced by former Gov. Roy Barnes.

Lawyering Up: In response to a water-related lawsuit filed by Florida in the U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens have appointed special assistant attorneys general to defend Georgia.

Leading the litigation team will be Seth Waxman of WilmerHale and Chris Landau and Craig Primis of Kirkland & Ellis. Other team members are litigators Bruce Brown, Todd Silliman and John Allen.

“It is time for Florida to stop playing politics and start negotiating in good faith,” Deal said in a press release. “Scarcely one year has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court ended Florida’s last unsuccessful lawsuit, which lasted more than 20 years. That lawsuit cost all three states millions of dollars and obstructed meaningful natural resource planning for decades. I call on Florida to dismiss this lawsuit and return to the negotiating table.”

Reichert Victory: Macon Mayor Robert Reichert was elected the first mayor of the Macon-Bibb consolidated government in a runoff election in October, defeating former Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis. He won by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent. Reichert’s term runs for three years.

Port Progress: The Savannah Harbor deepening project cleared a significant hurdle with the passage in the U.S. House of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), which authorizes development and maintenance of the country’s waterways.

Included in the legislation is a provision authorizing necessary funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. This will end a 14-year delay of the project that will deepen the harbor by five feet to accommodate new supertankers.

All 14 of Georgia’s Congressional delegation voted for the bill; both Georgia senators voted for the senate’s version of the bill earlier this year.

District One Republican Rep. Jack Kingston, whose district includes the Savannah port, said in a statement: “Georgia’s deep water ports support 352,000 jobs in our state and service more than 21,000 companies throughout the country. Passage of this bill is a critical step toward ensuring this economic engine can continue its vital role in our regional and national economy.”

Carter In: State Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) announced that he is running for governor in the Democratic primary. Carter, elected in 2010, is the grandson of Former President and Former Governor Jimmy Carter.

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