June 2007: Political Roundup

Not all bad news: Although legislators fretted during the recent General Assembly session over the fate of the PeachCare health insurance program for children, Georgia’s congressmen kept telling them not to worry. Optimists included U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon, who told fellow lawmakers he expected Congress to make even more funds available for the program later this year. “In 2008, it is likely that even more federal dollars will be available for PeachCare,” Marshall said in a brief speech to the state Senate. “You all can count on that one.”

Legal alternatives: The Georgia Supreme Court has established a study committee to review and make recommendations on new developments in the study of law, including alternative forms of education such as internet-based law schools. The study group was created in response to the introduction of bills in recent legislative sessions to allow persons who don’t have a degree from an accredited law school to sit for the state bar exam. Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) made the latest attempts to loosen up the bar exam restrictions, but pulled back their proposals.

For the schools: Gov. Sonny Perdue has appointed his education advisor, Jennifer Rippner, as new executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (OSA), replacing Martha Reichrath. Rippner had been Perdue’s education advisor since June 2005. She earlier directed the Charter School and Alternative Education Programs for the Georgia Department of Education.

Carpetbaggers?: There were 10 people who officially qualified to run for the special election in the 10th Congressional District to replace the late Charlie Norwood; at least half the candidates listed residential addresses outside the district. There’s nothing illegal about that, of course, because there is no residency requirement to run for Congress. The “out of district” candidates included Nate Pulliam and Jim Sendelbach of Conyers, Erik Underwood of Atlanta, Bill Greene of Braselton and Mark Myers of Loganville. James Marlow was raised in Lincolnton and now lists a Lincolnton address, but has worked primarily in Atlanta in recent years.

Bye-bye, Bethea: Environ-mentalists suffered a real setback in the legislative session when the Republican-controlled Senate voted against confirming Gov. Sonny Perdue’s reappointment of Sally Bethea, executive director of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, to a seat on the state board of natural resources. The removal of Bethea and other environmental sympathizers from the natural resources board has led to cynical remarks that the initials DNR could now stand for “Destruction of Natural Resources.”

Georgians for John: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has some heavy hitters on his side as he works toward next year’s Feb. 5 Georgia presidential primary. Those who have publicly endorsed Edwards include former governor Roy Barnes, retired congressman Ed Jenkins, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown, Sen. Vincent Fort, Rep. Rob Teilhet, Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Rep. Michele Henson, Rep. Gerald Greene, Rep. Jeannette Jamieson, Rep. Charles Jenkins, Rep. Hugh Floyd, and Perry attorney Chuck Byrd.

This Butler didn’t do it: Col-umbus trial lawyer Jim Butler, often mentioned as a possible Democratic opponent for Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss next year, says he will not enter the race and instead will focus on supporting a presidential candidate.

Graham aide: State Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham has named Vicki Lambert as director of the tax agency’s local government services division. She replaces Sha Hester, who recently retired from state government.

Help for farmers: William Bagwell, Jr. of Gainesville has been appointed by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to the Georgia Farm Service Agency State Committee. Bagwell was recommended for the position by Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. The farm service committee hears appeals from local farmers and serves as a resource for area producers on USDA and FSA policy.

The big chill: Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin says a spell of below-freezing temperatures in April caused heavy damage. “The apple and peach crops in North Georgia are wiped out,” Irvin says. “And middle to South Georgia may have 50 percent or less of the peach crop left.”

Categories: Political Notes