Political Notes: April 2011

Ox In A Ditch: Former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who used his last day in office to grant himself some insurance licenses without taking the exams that mere mortals are required to pass in order to acquire such licenses, may – inadvertently – have immortalized himself in some legislation. Lawmakers were outraged; bills prohibiting such action were quickly filed in both the House and Senate. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, would make any such actions subject to fines up to $10,000 and violators – elected or appointed – could be removed from office.

Oxendine, a Republican, served four terms as Georgia’s insurance commissioner and unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination for governor in 2010.

They’re Number One: Listings prepared by the Washington-based National Journal rank two members of Georgia’s Congressional Delegation at the top. Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss shares the “Most Conserv-ative Senator” title with seven others, including Arizona’s John McCain; in 2009, Chambliss was ranked No. 20.

Fifth District Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat, shares the “Most Liberal Representative” with six of his House colleagues. Rankings are based primarily on voting records.

Gold Medalist: Congressman John Lewis, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, was awarded a Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House. It is the highest civilian honor conferred. A delegation of friends and supporters accompanied Lewis to Washington for the ceremony, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. When Lewis returned home, he was greeted by another group of well-wishers in a special ceremony at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

Sunday, Sunday: Some of the best legislative drama of the 2011 session involved a bill introduced by Sen. John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee, to allow Georgia voters to determine whether they want Sunday alcohol sales in their communities. As the session began, prospects for passage looked good.

Then Jerry Luquire, head of the Christian Coalition, flexed his political muscle. And before you could say, “Bottoms up,” the Senate leadership retreated to a closed-door session and decided that the bill would not make it to the floor for a vote.

Understandably, this did not sit well with a lot of Georgians, some of whom were pretty vocal about their displeasure. So the leadership changed its mind on Crossover Day, and the Senate passed the bill.

At press time, it was headed to the House, where passage seemed likely.

Top Honor: State Senator Cecil Stanton, R-Macon, received the Legislator of the Year Award from the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) at its convention earlier this year. Stanton has been a staunch advocate of funding for Georgia’s trauma care network.

“Sen. Stanton is a champion for improving our state’s ailing trauma system and for saving hundreds of lives a year in Georgia,” says GHA President Joseph Parker.

He says the association anticipates working with Stanton in efforts to provide “a sustainable funding mechanism for trauma care in Georgia.” A constitutional amendment that would have allocated a $10 increase for drivers’ licenses to fund trauma care was turned down by Georgia voters last fall.

New Director: Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, is the new director of the Division of Public Health in the Georgia Department of Community Health. She’s a graduate of Emory’s School of Medicine and served in the U.S. Air Force. She was the top healthcare advisor on Gov. Nathan Deal’s transition team and served as healthcare policy advisor to the late Sen. Paul Coverdell and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Water Allies: Both the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber are backing Sen. Russ Tolleson’s bill, the Georgia Public/ Private Water Supply Act of 2011, SB 122, which the organizations say, in a joint press release, “will provide a new, optional source of funding for water supply and treatment projects.”

John Brock, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc, chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and co-chair of the Governor’s Water Contingency Task Force, says the bill “will allow for private companies to assist local governments in financing much-needed water projects” and would “leverage public dollars with significant private sectors funds.”

Paper Trail: Former Gov. Sonny Perdue, Georgia’s first modern-day Republican governor, has donated his papers and memorabilia to the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at UGA. He is the 14th Georgia governor whose papers are part of the library’s collection.

In Memoriam: John Owen, a former president of North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, died in February at 88. He served as president from 1970 until his retirement in 1992.

Categories: Political Notes