Political Notes: June 2012
Stepping Down: UGA President Dr. Michael Adams will step down as head of the university system’s flagship institution June 30, 2013. He has been in office since 1997 and is the highest paid president among Georgia’s public universities.
“There comes a time when it is appropriate to step aside to let others continue the work, and that time has come for me,” Adams said in announcing his plans. “My love will always be deep for the University of Georgia, where I have spent the most productive years of my career.”
On Adams’s watch, the University of Georgia has consistently been recognized among the country’s top 20 public research institutions; enrollment has grown from less than 30,000 to 35,000.
Weltner Award Winner: Fifth District Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) is the recipient of the 2012 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Infor-mation Award given by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. The award honors those who are strong defenders of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The award was named for the late Charles L. Weltner, former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who once served as Georgia’s Fifth District representative. Weltner gave up his seat in 1966 rather than sign a Democratic Party loyalty oath to oppose the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and to support the candidacy of Gov. Lester Maddox.
Welter’s daughter, Susan Weltner Yow, presented the award to Lewis, saying it links “two of my heroes – my father and John Lewis.”
Last year’s Weltner Award went to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan.
Fair Tax Friends: Both of Georgia’s U.S. Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, have reiterated their support for Fair Tax legislation, which would change the federal government’s method of collecting revenues from an income tax to a personal consumption tax. The bill was introduced by Chambliss last year and cosponsored by Isakson.
The two Republican senators participated in a tax-day rally in April; they were joined by Georgia Republican House members Phil Gingrey, Rob Woodall and Tom Price.
Georgia’s Tax Reform: The inclusively named Georgia Jobs and Family Tax Reform Plan, passed by the legislature earlier this year, was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, who says it “makes Georgia a better place to run and grow a business, and makes it an even better place to raise a family.”
The new law eliminates the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing; cuts income taxes for married couples; eliminates the “birthday tax” on motor vehicles; reinstates sales tax holidays; establishes taxes for online retailers; and eliminates a sales tax exemption for film productions.
To GreenLaw: Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, a Democrat from Atlanta who served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 12 years, is the new executive director of GreenLaw, an organization that works to prevent air and water pollution by providing legal and technical help to environmental and community groups. Benfield, an attorney, received the Outstanding Lawyer in Public Service Award from the Atlanta Bar Association in 2011.
New Leadership: Dr. William J. McKinney will become president of Valdosta State University July 1. He leaves a post as vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne. The University System of Georgia says the Indiana school had a 33 percent increase in sponsored research grants and contracts during his tenure. McKinney succeeds Dr. Louis Levy, who served as interim president at Valdosta State after Dr. Patrick Schloss stepped down.
Heavy Metal: Among the bills passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal is HB 872, aimed at curtailing thefts of copper and other recyclable metals. The law stipulates that metal sellers must show a valid ID and a work order to prove the materials are not stolen. Cash payments are no longer allowed; transactions require check, voucher or electronic funds transfer.