Political Notes

Interim Chancellor: Steve Wrigley will become interim chancellor of the University System of Georgia Jan. 1, replacing retiring Chancellor Hank Huckaby.

Wrigley, who has been executive vice chancellor of administration for the university system since 2011, was formerly a senior vice president for external affairs and vice president for government relations for the University of Georgia. Prior to that, he was chief of staff to former Gov. Zell Miller and was involved in the creation of the HOPE Scholarship.

Board of Regents Chairman Kessel Stelling said in a release, “Steve has demonstrated proven, trusted leadership throughout his 18 years of service to the University System, clearly acting in the best interests of our institutions, students, faculty and staff.”

Four Amendments: Georgia voters will see four constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

One would authorize creation of a statewide Opportunity School District, proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal, that would allow the state to take over chronically failing schools from local districts. The new district would be headed by a superintendent appointed by the governor, with authority to utilize local funds and contract with private businesses.

Another amendment would abolish the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates charges of judicial misconduct, and reconstitute it as a new body to be designed by the General Assembly.

The other amendments would designate that an existing 5 percent sales tax on fireworks go toward the state’s trauma network, training for firefighters and to help fund local 911 centers; and create a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to assist child victims of sex trafficking without raising or creating any new taxes.

On The Ballot: Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein did not qualify to appear on Georgia’s presidential ballot next month as a third-party candidate, but Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson did. The secretary of state’s office ruled that Stein’s petition lacked the number of verified signatures required to put her on the ballot. However, Stein is likely to appear as a write-in candidate, as will Cherunda Fox, Robert Buchanan and Sandra Wilson.

They will join the better-known Republican (Donald Trump) and Democratic (Hillary Clinton) contenders vying for Georgia votes.

Chamber Endorsement: Georgia’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, who is running for re-election next month against Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley, has received a strong endorsement from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the state’s premier business organization.

“Sen. Isakson is one of the most respected and hard-working members of Congress,” said Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark, noting Isakson’s role as chair of two committees.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also endorsed Isakson.

Low Runoff Turnout: Only 11.48 percent of Georgia’s registered voters participated in the runoff primary elections in July, according to Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Tolleson Honored: Former State Sen. Russ Tolleson, who served from 2002 to 2015, is the recipient of the 2016 Georgia Farm Bureau Commodity Award, which honors individuals who support and promote Georgia agriculture.

“Sen. Tolleson’s work has helped ensure that stakeholders from across our state representing all areas of our economy – particularly agriculture – will have a seat at the table to discuss water policy issues,” said Gerald Long, farm bureau president. “We’re deeply appreciative of his efforts to sustain both the state’s water supply and its farmers.”

McDonald Dissents: Georgia Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald warned in a news release that Georgia Power ratepayers will be harmed as a result of the PSC’s four-to-one vote to approve the utility’s request to pass on costs of investigating potential new nuclear units.

McDonald cast the only vote against the measure, which allows Georgia Power to incur $99 million in costs for determining the suitability of a site in Stewart County and to recover the costs from ratepayers.

He said he is worried that this decision is being made before the final cost for the two new Plant Vogtle units is available. “If this is such a good investment, let their investors make the first investment,” he said.

He is also concerned about withdrawal of water from the Chattahoochee while litigation with Florida and Alabama is ongoing and is critical of the federal government’s failure to build a nuclear waste repository.

Categories: Up Front