Political Notes: February 2011
Have A Seat: Results of the 2010 Census (some 307 million Americans as of last April’s official count) will give Georgia a 14th seat in Congress. Geor-gia is one of eight states to gain congressional representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, where numbers are determined by population.
Gov. Nathan Deal will convene a special session in the summer to redraw Congressional districts. Now that the General Assembly is overwhelmingly Republican, it’s likely the new district configurations will be GOP-friendly.
Have A Chair: Gainesville’s Doug Carter, president of Don Carter Realty Co., is the new chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He’ll be working closely with the organization’s Chair-man and CEO Chris Clark, who took over from longtime head George Israel.
Jumpstarting New START: Geor-gia’s junior senator, Johnny Isakson, was one of a group of influential Republican senators who broke ranks with party leaders to support the strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia, which passed during the pre-holiday lame duck congressional session.
The New START, negotiated by Presi-dent Barack Obama, seemed doomed early in the session; but support by key Republican senators, including Isakson and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, brought it back to life.
The treaty had the backing of Georgia’s former Democratic senator Sam Nunn and a host of national defense experts including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and James Baker.
Deal’s Floor Leaders: Gov. Nathan Deal’s senate floor leaders are Republicans Sen. Jim Butterworth, Clarksville; Sen. Ronnie Chance, Tyrone; and Sen. Bill Jackson, Appling. House floor leaders, all Republicans, are Rep. Amy Carter, Valdosta; Doug Collins, Gainesville; and Hank Huckaby, Watkinsville. Carter just switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican after the November election.
One Out, One In: Not exactly shocking news that Gov. Nathan Deal replaced former Department of Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham, who had challenged Deal, then a congressman, over a state contract for his Gainesville salvage business. The challenge led to a congressional ethics probe of Deal, which was dropped when Deal resigned to run for governor. The new revenue commissioner is Doug McGinnitie, who ran unsuccessfully against Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the Republican primary.
One More Time: Voters in southeast Georgia’s House District 178 (Brantley and Pierce counties and a portion of Wayne) will get a chance to vote in a special election Feb. 15 to fill house seat vacated by Mark Williams of Jesup, who resigned to become commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Five candidates have qualified: Republicans Gerald DeWitt and Rev. George E. Moxley, both of Jesup; Chad Nimmer, Blackshear; and Van Herrin, Pleasant Valley. The lone Democrat in the race is Jeana Brown, Jesup.
If no candidate gets a majority of the votes, the runoff date is March 8.
Rate Hike: The Georgia Public Service Commission’s 4-1 vote to grant Georgia Power a rate increase – upping base rate revenues by some $562.3 million for 2011 – was the last one for retiring PSC Commissioner Bobby Baker, who cast the dissenting vote. Baker, the first Republican elected to the commission in 1992, was typically the “no” in 4-1 decisions.
Tim Echols was sworn in as a PSC member just as the year was ending.
Air Apparent: Georgia’s 12th district congressman John Barrow, a Democrat from Savannah, has been named Democratic co-chair of the 120-member House General Aviation Caucus. His Republican counterpart is Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri. Barrow, who successfully held off a Republican challenger in the November election, is serving his fourth term in Congress.
New Hires: Gov. Nathan Deal has named Erin Hames, a veteran of the Perdue Administration, as his deputy chief of staff for policy. She was executive sponsor of Georgia’s successful “Race to the Top” team and most recently general counsel of the Department of Education.
Atlanta attorney Todd Markle will serve as executive counsel, and Deal has tapped Clyde Reese, formerly head of the Department of Community Health, to be his commissioner of the Department of Human Services.
Staying On: The governor has asked several of Perdue’s administrators and department heads to remain in their jobs, including: Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Safety; Brian Owens, commissioner, Department of Corrections; Tommy Hills, director, Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services; Kevin Clark, executive director, Georgia Environmental Finance Authority; Joe Doyle, commissioner, State Personnel Administration; Dr. Frank Shelp, commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities; Margaret DeFrancisco, president and CEO, Georgia Lottery Corporation; and Robert Farris, director, Georgia Forestry Commission.