Political RoundUp: February 2008

Help for vets: Georgia’s military veterans got a well-deserved boost from Congress with the passage of legislation that will bring $20.5 million in federal funding for improvements to the VA Medical Center in Decatur. The money will be used to upgrade inpatient wards, improve accessibility, better meet the needs of women veterans and respond to patient privacy issues, says Sen. Johnny Isakson.

One seat or two?: Population projections released at the end of 2007 by the Census Bureau kept Georgia firmly among the ranks of the fastest-growing states, water shortage or not. We added a shade over 202,000 people for the year ending July 1, bringing the state’s estimated total population to about 9.5 million. Extra residents ensure that Georgia will pick up another House seat – and maybe two – in congressional reapportionment based on the 2010 census. That would increase the current House delegation from 13 seats to 14 or 15, depending upon how much the population grows over the next two years.

Leaving money on the table: Georgia remains one of the few states that doesn’t allow package sales of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, a stubborn stance that keeps millions of dollars in potential tax revenues away from the state treasury. How much are we losing from the antiquated Blue Law prohibitions? The most recent industry estimate from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is that Sunday package sales in Georgia would generate between $3.4 million and $4.8 million annually in additional sales tax revenue.

Trade seat: President George W. Bush nominated Gov. Sonny Perdue for a seat on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), a panel that advises the president and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab on issues related to national trade policy. “We have made great strides in advancing Georgia’s trade position and economy since I took office and I look forward to sharing what I have learned while working with the other members of the committee,” Perdue said.

The budget guy: House Speaker Glenn Richardson promoted John Brown to House budget director, replacing Charlie Walker, who retired last year. Brown has worked in state government for more than 20 years, primarily in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget under the administrations of Joe Frank Harris, Zell Miller, Roy Barnes and Perdue. Brown joined the House Budget Office in 2005 as an assistant director to Walker.

Every little bit helps: Its financial problems may not be solved, but Grady Memorial Hospital will still benefit from a donation made by Amerigroup, one of the managed care firms that administers the Medicaid program for the Department of Community Health. The Amerigroup Foundation contributed $100,000 to the Henry W. Grady Health System Foundation to support Grady’s provision of medical services to low-income and uninsured patients. “Grady Memorial Hospital and Amerigroup share a common goal: bringing healthcare to those Georgians whose needs are great and whose needs far too often go unmet,” said Melvin Lindsey, interim CEO of Amerigroup Com-munity Care in Georgia.

Fry ’em up: Republican Party Chair Sue Everhart named Ben Fry, who had been working as political director for the state GOP, as replacement for executive director Marty Klein, who left the party organization to set up a political consulting firm. Fry was a special assistant to Gov. Sonny Perdue for two and a half years and started his political career with an internship at the Georgia Republican Party.

Unhooking the Hammock: Jim Hammock, a familiar face at the state capitol during his years as president of the Omni Resource Group, decided to retire from active lobbying but said he will continue to work as a consultant. The Dublin resident had been involved in state politics for almost 40 years and was elected to two terms on the Public Service Commission. He was appointed to state boards by three different governors – George Busbee (Human Resources), Zell Miller (Industry, Trade and Tourism) and Sonny Perdue (Economic Development).

Up for it: Eric Tanenblatt of McKenna Long & Aldridge, a longtime Republican fund raiser, has been nominated by President George W. Bush to the Corporation for National and Community Ser-vice, a federal agency that works to upgrade communities and encourage civic engagement through service and volunteering.

Categories: Political Notes