Political RoundUp: April 2008

Value Government: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has named four state senators to a task force on “Value Government” that will develop recommendations for delivering better government services to Georgians at a lower cost. Cagle appointed Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) to chair the committee; other members are Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) and Sen. Ed Tarver (D-Augusta).

Border wars: What would be the real costs of moving Georgia’s boundary line with Tennessee a mile north to the 35th parallel, as lawmakers have suggested? Some officials in the Volunteer State did a few calculations and determined that such a move would result in the shift of 14,989 acres from Tennessee’s Hamilton County into Georgia – property worth an estimated $2.24 billion.

Welcome back: George T. Smith, the only person ever to win elections to positions in all three branches of state government, returned to capitol this winter to visit the legislative chamber where he once presided as speaker of the House. “It’s good to be back to where you used to be,” said Smith, who still looked fit and alert at the age of 92. He was at the capitol partly to promote budget funding for his alma mater, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, which is now celebrating its 100th anniversary. Smith represented Cairo and Grady County in the House for eight years, three of which he served as speaker. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1966 and served one term. He was later elected to seats on the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court.

Extending the olive branch: Former Gwinnett County lawmaker Mary Squires says Georgia’s agriculture industry could profit by adding olives to the state’s list of commercial agricultural products. With the onset of global warming, Georgia is becoming hotter and more desert-like in some areas, Squires surmised, so what better time to start growing a crop that thrives in such conditions? “I’m an opportunity person,” Squires said. “Climate change has presented Georgia with the opportunity to enter this multibillion dollar international food and biofuel market.” She is working with University of Georgia Associate Professor Kathryn Taylor, whose research has determined that olives could be a viable alternative crop for south Georgia.

They’re fired up: If you need further proof that Georgia’s voters are enthusiastic about this year’s elections, check out the turnout figures for February’s presidential primaries. There was a record 45 percent voter turnout for the Democratic and Republican primaries as a total of 2,024,214 voters cast ballots – 1,060,767 in the Democratic primary (52.4 percent) and 963,447 in the GOP primary (47.6 percent).

The long and short of it: With all the media coverage of the quickie divorce that House Speaker Glenn Richardson obtained in Paulding County, it’s easy to forget that just a few years ago Republican legislators wanted to make the divorce process more difficult and time-consuming. In 2005, Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) introduced a bill that would have extended from 30 days to six months the waiting period to obtain an uncontested divorce if minor children were involved and would have required spouses to attend educational classes. The bill passed in the Senate but could not get out of committee in the House, where Richardson presided as speaker.

New regent: Cobb County business leader Kessel D. Stelling, president of the Bank of North Georgia, has been appointed to the Board of Regents by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Stelling is currently chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Perdue also appointed John Watson, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to the governor, to the board of the Georgia Lottery Corporation and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Going with class: Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger) was one of four House members stripped of their committee assignments by Speaker Glenn Richardson for not voting the correct way in a Transportation Board election. In a brief but dignified speech to his House colleagues, Graves said of the speaker’s retribution: “This is a low point in the House and this is a dark day.”

Categories: Political Notes