Political Notes: March 2011

Oops: Looks like the state gives, and the state takes away. Georgia’s new revenue commissioner Doug McGinnitie had an embarrassing little brush fire to extinguish during his first weeks in office. His department wired state tax refunds to some 30,000 citizens’ bank accounts on Jan. 20, then noticed a computer error and attempted to stop the transfers before the funds reached the banks.

Trouble is, the funds did reach taxpayers’ accounts; many people wrote checks that bounced when the funds were withdrawn by the state – and incurred overdraft charges.

The department and Gov. Nathan Deal have apologized.

Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharps-burg) has proposed legislation that would bar state agencies from making withdrawals from bank accounts without the account holders’ specific permission.

Water Works: Gov. Nathan Deal has directed the Georgia Environmen-tal Finance Authority (GEFA) to devise a new Georgia Water Supply Development Program, which will organize and mobilize state resources to aid local governments in developing new sources of water.

In making the announcement, Deal referenced the summer 2012 deadline set by the federal court for Georgia to reach a water-sharing agreement with Alabama and Florida.

“Nothing could more quickly handicap our economic growth than an unstable or unpredictable water supply,” Deal said in a press release. “I’ve previously announced my plans for building reservoirs, and this is the next step in our long-term planning.”

GEFA will convene a Water Supply Program Task Force, drawing on the state’s Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Department of Community Affairs, Financing and Investment Com-mission and Properties Commission.



Water Transfers: In a pro-reservoir move, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources board has adopted a new rule that governs interbasin water transfers and specifies that the Environmental Protection Division “should” consider a number of factors before giving a permit for such transfers. Environ-mentalists were pushing for “shall” consider, a one-word change that would permit challenges to the often-controversial transfers.

The new rule requires more notice before transfers can be made and provides for a public comment period.



Here We Go Again: Another session, another English-only driver’s license bill. Despite defeats in the 2009 and 2010 state legislative sessions, proponents of eliminating driver’s licenses exams in any language but English are trying again.

House Bill 72, filed by Rep. James Mills (R-Gainesville) and others, would not allow the written part of the exam to be given in a foreign language.

However, an amendment offered by Rep. B.J. Pak (R-Atlanta) and approved by his colleagues effectively killed the bill.

Helen Kim Ho, executive director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, notes that current regulations require applicants to prove a basic level of English proficiency and pass the road sign test in English and that only the written part of the test is offered in 13 languages, seven of which are Asian languages.

A previous attempt to impose an English-only restriction failed when some opponents, mindful of the huge investment of Korean automaker KIA Motors in west Georgia, took to calling the measure the “KIA Go Home Bill.”



Barrow And Healthcare: Congressman John Barrow (D-Savannah) joined Georgia’s other House Democrats (John Lewis, Hank Johnson, David Scott and Sanford Bishop), in voting to keep the 2010 national healthcare law rather than repeal it, even though he bucked his party’s leadership with his vote against the measure last year.

Savannah Morning News quoted Barrow as telling a meeting of constituents he does not believe in voting against the good part of the law and that “we need to amend it, not end it.”



In Memoriam: Two Georgians who were advocates for higher education died in January – Felton Jenkins Jr., vice-chairman of the Board of Regents, and Dr. Ward Pafford, a former president of the University of West Georgia (UWG).

Jenkins, a retired senior partner at King & Spalding law firm, lived in Madison.

Pafford served as president of UWG from 1971 to 1975 when it was West Georgia College.



Ag Committee Post: Savannah’s Republican Congressman Jack Kingston has been named Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations, which controls the purse strings for a variety of food- and farming-related agencies.



New Chamber Leader: Doug Carter of Gainesville, president of Don Carter Realty, is the new chair of the board of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the powerful business organization that mounts a perenially strong lobbying effort. Carter is a past chair of Leadership Georgia and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

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