Political RoundUp: August 2008

Hail and farewell: Two of the most important figures in the state’s higher education community both retired, coincidentally enough, on June 30: Georgia Tech President G. Wayne Clough and Georgia State University President Carl Patton (they both ascended to their positions at roughly the same time in 1990s). Clough and Patton not only expanded the capacity of their institutions so that they could educate thousands of additional students, they literally remade the face of downtown and midtown Atlanta through the completion of major development projects on their campuses. They will be missed.

No Hans: Congress finally took steps in June to end a long-simmering controversy at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that involved Hans von Spakovsky, the former head of the Fulton County Republican Party. Von Spakovsky was placed on the FEC through a recess appointment by President Bush and was scheduled for reappointment to a full term last year, but Senate Democrats balked at confirming him because they thought he had tried to discriminate against African Americans during his tenure as a Justice Department official. Senate Republicans refused to allow votes on any other FEC appointments until Democrats agreed to allow a vote on von Spakovsky. The Senate finally resolved the dispute in late June when members voted to confirm five new members of the FEC – but not von Spakovsky.

Gwinnett milestone: It may not have been the biggest class ever seen – degrees were handed out to only 17 people – but the leadership of Georgia Gwinnett College was nevertheless proud of the very first class to graduate from the Lawrenceville institution, the state’s newest four-year college, on June 28. Future graduating classes are expected to be a little larger: The college’s initial enrollment of 119 students will grow to a projected 3,000 this fall.

Poultry man: Abit Massey has been lobbying legislators at the state capitol for nearly half a century and he’s not quite ready to give up that job. While Massey announced re-cently he will step down as president of the Georgia Poultry Federation at the end of this year (he’ll be replaced by Mike Giles), he will continue to serve as president emeritus and will work with Giles on lobbying duties for the federation next winter. “He’s going to ride the tiger and I’ll be right there alongside of him,” Massey said.

Productive court: The Georgia Supreme Court ranked as the most productive appellate court in the nation in a recent study conducted by the University of Chicago law school. The study found that the Georgia court issues 58 opinions per justice a year, which is more than the highest court for any other state. The median is 23 opinions per judge (which is the case in Kansas) and the low is 12 written opinions per judge (Oregon). In terms of influence, as measured by the number of times a state Supreme Court’s majority opinion is cited in decisions issued by courts in other states, Georgia ranked at number 28 in the Chicago study. In the area of judicial independence – whether judges are influenced by partisan considerations – Georgia was ranked at number 23.

Legislative honorees: The Geor-gia Chamber of Commerce has given its “Legislator of the Year” award to Sens. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Ross Tolleson (R-Perry), along with Reps. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), Larry O’Neal (R-Warner Robins) and Jay Shaw (D-Valdosta). The chamber also bestowed its first “Lifetime Achievement Awards” for career support of business issues to Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), Rep. Richard Royal (R-Camilla), and Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem). “These lawmakers have helped Georgia become one of the most business-friendly states in the nation,” Chamber President George Israel said.

DCA realignment: Commission-er Mike Beatty of the Department of Community Affairs has made several changes at the administrative level of his agency. Assistant Commissioner Jim Finch will be promoted to deputy commissioner – external affairs, where he will continue to lead the local government assistance division and head up efforts to transition Regional Development Centers to Regional Commissions. Deputy Commissioner Phil Foil will become deputy commissioner – internal affairs, responsible for organizational development, customer service, strategic planning and internal operations. He will continue to serve as the department’s congressional affairs liaison. Senior Advisor Bill Swaim will fill the new position of chief of staff.

Categories: Political Notes