Political Notes: April 2016
UGA Honor For Jones: Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) has been named a 2016 Grady Fellow by UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “The Fellows represent iconic alumni and friends of Grady College – those who answer the call every time, time and time again, and share our pride in the place,” said Grady Dean Charles Davis.
Jones, who earned her ABJ in 1980 and had a career in marketing, will be inducted with seven others, including Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO Hala Moddelmog, in a ceremony in Athens May 6.
Tuition Freeze: Students at Georgia’s 29 public colleges will get a financial break for the 2016-2017 academic year. The University System Board of Regents announced there will be no tuition increase.
“We carefully assess the tuition rates for our institutions and are committed to keeping college as affordable as possible for students and their families,” Regents Chairman Kessel Stelling said in a press release.
Last year, tuition went up 9 percent for the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Middle Georgia State and Atlanta Metropolitan State. Other public institutions saw increases of 2.5 percent to 8.3 percent.
Kemp Being Sued: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is being sued in federal court by the Georgia NAACP and Common Cause. The suit claims the secretary’s office is in violation of the National Voter Registration Act because it removes voters from active status if they do not respond to confirmation of address notices that go out to those who have not voted in three years.
Kemp, who has been criticized for data breaches in his office that may have exposed Georgia voters’ personal information, has called the suit “frivolous” and “completely without merit.”
Thurmond’s In: Democrat Michael Thurmond, former Georgia labor commissioner and former DeKalb school superintendent, says he will make a run for the DeKalb CEO job in the May 24 primary.
Interim CEO Lee May is not running, and suspended CEO Burrell Ellis is on probation following a conviction of attempted extortion and perjury. Other announced CEO candidates are fellow Democrats Connie Stokes, a former DeKalb commissioner, and Calvin Sims, a retired MARTA employee.
The county is struggling to achieve respectability after several leaders – including Ellis, former commissioner Elaine Boyer and former school superintendent Crawford Lewis – were convicted on various criminal charges.
Isakson Honored: Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, was awarded The American Legion’s National Commander’s Distinguished Public Service Award. It is given annually to an elected official who supports veterans’ initiatives.
National Commander Dale Barnett cited Isakson’s efforts to expand care and benefits for veterans throughout his congressional career.
In Memoriam: Rep. Bob Bryant (D-Garden City) died in a Savannah hospital in late February. Bryant, 71, was elected to the Georgia House in 2004; he had previously announced he would not seek another term.
“Bob Bryant was a man of principle and integrity,” Speaker David Ralston said in a statement. “He never allowed anything to get in the way of doing the right thing. We will miss his kind and gentle spirit and the gift of his friendship.”
Retiring: Two Georgia state senators have announced they will retire at the end of their terms. Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), a leading figure in the state Republican party, represents District 19 in Southeast Georgia. He was elected to the General Assembly in 1998.
Sen. Bill Jackson (R-Appling) represents District 24 near Augusta; he was elected to the Senate in 2007 and previously served 16 years in the Georgia House.
Peace On The BeltLine: The city of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools have settled their differences over funding of the Atlanta BeltLine, the 22-mile network of trails and parks – and eventually transit – that encircles the city. The two sides were at odds over payments the city was unable to make to APS in exchange for making use of some school tax revenue to help develop the project.
A new agreement, cheered by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and school board chair Courtney English, lowers the amount the city will pay the school system by 2031 to $73.5 million, rather than the original $162 million that was due by 2030. It also clears the way for more outside funding for BeltLine development.