Political Notes: Ups, Downs and In-betweens
New Chief Justice: Presiding Justice Harold D. Melton will become the next chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, replacing P. Harris Hines, who is set to retire at the end of August. Justice David Nahmias will be the next presiding justice.
Melton, a University of Georgia Law School graduate, was appointed to the court by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2005. He served as Perdue’s executive counsel and spent 11 years with the Georgia Department of Law, serving under two attorneys general.
The chief justice, who serves a four-year term, presides over the court and chairs the Georgia Judicial Council, which is the policy-making body for the judicial branch of state government.
Nahmias, appointed to the court by Perdue in 2009, previously served as U.S. attorney in Atlanta. He is a native Atlantan and a graduate of Harvard Law School. As presiding judge, he serves the court in the chief justice’s absence.
Both Melton and Nahmias will be sworn into their new positions Sept. 4.
No Tuition Hike This Fall: The state Board of Regents has voted not to increase tuition at Georgia’s 26 public colleges and universities for the 2018-2019 school year. Increases in the state budget are the reason tuition is not going up, according to the University System of Georgia.
“We recognize the critical need to keep our institutions affordable for students while providing a quality education,” Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a statement. “The board’s decision maintains our commitment to keeping tuition increases to a minimum.”
Nine schools in the system will be permitted fee increases ranging from $3 to $31 per semester.
Ports Authority Appointment: Paul Bowers, president and CEO of Georgia Power, has been appointed to the Georgia Ports Authority Board by Gov. Nathan Deal. Bowers is a member of the boards of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Committee for Progress, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Research Alliance.
New Regent: Gov. Nathan Deal named Chris Cummiskey, executive vice president of external affairs and nuclear development for Georgia Power, to the 19-member state Board of Regents as one of five at-large members.
Cummiskey is a former Georgia Department of Economic Development commissioner, state director for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and director of state relations for the University of Georgia. He sits on the board of directors for the UGA Athletic Association.
Ag Post For Williams: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Gov. Sonny Perdue named former Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams as minister-counselor for agriculture in the U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome.
Williams, a farmer and businessman from Lyons, was first elected to the state Senate in 1998 and retired from public service in 2016.
Conservative Scores: Eight members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, all Republicans, received scores in the 90s, out of a possible 100, from the American Conservative Union (ACU) for votes during 2017. The ACU ranks legislators based on their votes on issues it considers key.
Georgia’s top-scoring conservative representatives are Rick Allen (District 12), 93; Buddy Carter (District 1), 93; Doug Collins (District 9), 93; Drew Ferguson (District 3), 93; Tom Graves (District 14), 96; Jody Hice (District 10), 96; Barry Loudermilk (District 11), 96; and Rob Woodall (District 7), 96.
Reps. Karen Handel (District 6) and Austin Scott (District 8), both Republicans, scored 83 and 81, respectively.
All four of Georgia’s Democratic representatives – John Lewis (District 5), Sanford Bishop (District 2), Hank Johnson (District 4) and David Scott (District 13) – scored below 10.
In the U.S. Senate, Republicans Johnny Isakson and David Perdue scored 77 and 88, respectively.
Water War Ruling: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the long-standing water battle between Florida and Georgia by June 30. Florida claims Georgia is using too much water from the Chattahoochee River basin and is harming fishing in the Apalachicola Bay.
An analysis by David Pendered in the SaportaReport indicates three possible scenarios: a ruling in Florida’s favor, considered unlikely because of comments by some justices to the effect that Florida did not make its case; a ruling in Georgia’s favor; or an order for a special master to hold additional proceedings to gather more information.
At least two justices have raised questions about whether a consumption cap on Georgia would solve Florida’s problem.