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Political Notes: October 2015

Exiting: Gov. Nathan Deal’s top education adviser, Erin Hames, who was the administration’s advocate for legislation to create a statewide Opportunity School District for failing public schools, has a new gig designed to keep Atlanta Public Schools out of such a district. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she has a $96,000 contract with the Atlanta system, which has some 27 schools that could be eligible for state takeover. Before the Opportunity School District becomes a reality, it must be approved by Georgia voters in 2016.


In Memoriam: Civil Rights leader and former state Rep. Julian Bond died in August. He was 75. Bond joined the Civil Rights Movement while a student at Morehouse and was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

He was elected to the General Assembly in 1965, but fellow legislators, angered at his opposition to the Vietnam War, barred him from serving. The fight went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in Bond’s favor. He took his seat in 1967.

Bond later served as chair of the board of the NAACP and taught at American University in Washington, D.C., and the University of Virginia.

He was eulogized by a long list of colleagues and dignitaries, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, Congressman John Lewis and President Barack Obama.


Cool Reception: The Georgia Chamber has joined the ranks of those opposed to the Clean Power Plan promulgated by President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A chamber statement says the plan “seeks to permanently change the structure of the nation’s energy generation and distribution sectors” and calls it “a massive regulatory takeover and overreach into areas that are outside the scope of the Clean Air Act.”

Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark says his organization will continue to work with the congressional delegation, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, small businesses and industry partners “to ensure that if this plan is implemented it is done so with minimum long-term damage to the state’s economy.”


Film Academy Head: Jeff Stepakoff, a film and television industry veteran and professor of film and television writing at Kennesaw State University, is the first executive director of the new Georgia Film Academy.

His appointment was announced by University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Gretchen Corbin. The academy is a key piece of state-level emphasis on workforce development.

Stepakoff will work to coordinate programs for students interested in the entertainment industry.

“I am very excited to help Georgians get the education and professional training they need to go to work in the flourishing film, television and digital entertainment industry here in our state,” Stepakoff said. “I look forward to helping us build a sustainable and permanent industry – one that includes the full range of the business, from development to production to post-production.”


United Front: Republican U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue and the entire Georgia U.S. House of Representatives delegation, Republicans and Democrats alike, are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to make the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project a top priority for its FY 2017 budget ask.

All members of the delegation signed a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy asking the corps to align its budget request with commitments made by members of the Obama Administration.

Isakson, Perdue and 1st District Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler), in whose district the Savannah port lies, met with Darcy to make the case for the expansion project and its value to entire Southeastern region.


Federal Nomination: DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez has been nominated by President Obama for a vacant federal judgeship in Atlanta. Lopez was appointed to the DeKalb bench by former Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican. Lopez, the first Hispanic nominated for the federal bench in Georgia, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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