Finances force some Georgia school systems to still furlough teachers

Gov. Nathan Deal and lawmakers were unhappy last year when only 40 percent of Georgia school districts gave teachers the salary hikes the General Assembly promised. This year most gave at least the 2 percent increase approved by lawmakers, according to a state Department of Education survey obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But the survey found something else: Eight years after the...
Gov. Nathan Deal and lawmakers were unhappy last year when only 40 percent of Georgia school districts gave teachers the salary hikes the General Assembly promised. This year most gave at least the...

First test starts Monday for new paper-ballot machines in Georgia

A crucial test for the future of Georgia elections begins Monday when early voting opens across the state ahead of the Nov. 7 local and special elections. Voters in Conyers will begin casting paper ballots along with new voting and tabulating machines as they decide on a new mayor and two City Council seats. The pilot program comes as advocates have sued to force the state to dump its aging all-electronic...
A crucial test for the future of Georgia elections begins Monday when early voting opens across the state ahead of the Nov. 7 local and special elections. Voters in Conyers will begin casting paper...


Legislative committee takes look at Georgia’s rules for stream buffers

Legislative committee takes look at Georgia’s rules for stream buffers

Citing confusing regulation of development near streams, Georgia Senate Natural Resources Chairman Frank Ginn said the state needs to look at potential changes to how it approves buffers near the bodies of water. The Danielsville Republican said he hopes a 17-member panel of lawmakers, officials with the state Environmental Protection Division and other water quality experts is able to sort out...
Deal jokes about Florida’s ‘hard time’ in water battle against Georgia

Deal jokes about Florida’s ‘hard time’ in water battle against Georgia

A day after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear oral arguments in the ongoing water battle between Georgia and Florida, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal seemed to like his state’s chances.  During an annual environmental address at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Deal rattled off statistics about Georgia and metro Atlanta’s reduction in per capita water use in recent...
Lawsuit claims Georgia DOT improperly awarded $28 million in contracts

Lawsuit claims Georgia DOT improperly awarded $28 million in contracts

A pavement striping company has accused the Georgia Department of Transportation of improperly awarding contracts worth a combined $28 million. In a lawsuit filed last month in Fulton County Superior Court, Peek Pavement Marking says two rival bidders that won pavement striping contracts did not meet minimum requirements to receive the work. It says GDOT awarded them the contracts anyway, violating...
Georgia lawmakers: Don’t politicize Vegas, but new gun laws possible

Georgia lawmakers: Don’t politicize Vegas, but new gun laws possible

Georgia is a haven for gun owners, hunters and collectors, and state officials have long issued protections for those individuals: Almost every year, a bill is pushed in the Legislature to make it easier to buy or carry weapons. State lawmakers don’t expect that to change, even as they have decried efforts to politicize the Law Vegas shootings. “What happened in Las Vegas is a horrific...
Georgia Lawmaker: Funding for mass transit is “the next big lift”

Georgia Lawmaker: Funding for mass transit is “the next big lift”

State Rep. Kevin Tanner believes funding for mass transit is Georgia’s “next big lift.” The chairman of the state House Transportation Committee believes Georgia is ready for significant action – and perhaps state funding – of public transportation. At a panel discussion on mass transit in Georgia Monday, Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, said he’s &ldquo...
What a top Republican told MARTA CEO Keith Parker when he announced he’s leaving

What a top Republican told MARTA CEO Keith Parker when he announced he’s leaving

The MARTA Board of Directors bids farewell to CEO Keith Parker Thursday. Many have praised MARTA CEO Keith Parker since he announced he is leaving the agency. In his five years at MARTA, Parker is credited with shoring up the finances of an agency on the verge of insolvency, improving relations with an often-hostile General Assembly and paving the way for MARTA expansions...
Lawsuit claims Georgia House districts drawn to remove minority voters

Lawsuit claims Georgia House districts drawn to remove minority voters

Voters opposed to a 2015 redistricting plan have filed a second federal lawsuit claiming Georgia illegally “gerrymandered” two state House districts by moving minority voters out of areas represented by vulnerable white Republican lawmakers. The suit, filed Tuesday by 11 residents who live in and around those districts in metro Atlanta, said that the boundary lines of the seats held by...
An Athens mayor is exiled in a fraught test of bipartisanship

An Athens mayor is exiled in a fraught test of bipartisanship

Athens Mayor Nancy Denson has been a member of the local Democratic Party for more than three decades. She identifies as a Democrat, and she’s held a string of fundraisers for prominent party figures at her home over the years. But at a testy meeting this week at an Athens library, Denson was ousted from the local party’s committee for an affront many fellow Democrats considered unforgivable...
AJC Watchdog: Florida nursing home deaths could have happened here

AJC Watchdog: Florida nursing home deaths could have happened here

Eleven deaths in a Hollywood, Fla., nursing home are blamed on excessively high temperatures during the power outages caused by Hurricane Irma. Following the tragedy, Gov. Rick Scott directed state officials to enact emergency regulations requiring the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators and 96-hours of fuel on hand to run the air conditioner during power...
Bipartisan duo proposes compromise on Civil War symbols after ‘go missing’ warning sparks controversy

Bipartisan duo proposes compromise on Civil War symbols after ‘go missing’ warning sparks controversy

State Rep. Jason Spencer and former state Rep. LaDawn Jones discuss their proposal for Civil War monuments. AJC/Ryon Horne The bipartisan duo behind a racially-charged Facebook exchange about the debate over removing some of Georgia’s most prominent Civil War monuments have reached a compromise over how to handle the divisive symbols. And now they hope lawmakers can ...
Decatur Commission backs removal of Rebel monument on city’s square

Decatur Commission backs removal of Rebel monument on city’s square

Decatur, if allowed by state law, could be among the first Georgia communities to move a Confederate monument. The City Commission recently voted unanimously to approve a resolution to remove a roughly 30-foot-tall obelisk from its city square. The catch, however, is that the monument, located behind the former DeKalb County Courthouse, is owned by the county. There’s also the matter of a state...
Rural Georgia hospitals see few benefits, so far, from tax credits

Rural Georgia hospitals see few benefits, so far, from tax credits

State lawmakers thought they’d found a way to help struggling rural hospitals by offering $180 million in tax credits to Georgians willing to donate to them, but the program has gotten off to a slow start. The state allocated a third of the tax credits for this year and legislators passed a bill increasing incentives to donors, but by mid-September, only a little more than $3 million had been...
Lawmakers begin talks about how to replace Georgia’s aging vote system

Lawmakers begin talks about how to replace Georgia’s aging vote system

A handful of lawmakers began the discussion Friday about what it might take to move Georgia to a new election system, an important but incremental step toward replacing the state’s aging voting machines. The meeting of the state House Science and Technology Committee represents a start. Any decision will likely take a few years and, depending on the type of system officials pick, could...
Longtime farms chief Tommy Irvin dies

Longtime farms chief Tommy Irvin dies

Tommy Irvin, a former agriculture commissioner who was the longest-serving statewide official in Georgia history, died on Thursday. He was 88.  Irvin served in public office for more than a half-century, including 42 years as Georgia’s top agriculture official. Details about his death have not been released, but Irvin had suffered from Parkinson’s disease and other ailments. ...
A look at who’s qualifying for Georgia’s open legislative races in 2017

A look at who’s qualifying for Georgia’s open legislative races in 2017

Paper flies in the air after as the Legislature ends another session. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM Qualifying began Wednesday for about a half-dozen open state legislative seats, and a range of candidates have jumped into the races. The elections are set for Nov. 7 — the same day as the Atlanta mayoral race and other local votes around the state. A full list of all the...
South Dakota ruling may boost Georgia online tax push

South Dakota ruling may boost Georgia online tax push

A state Supreme Court ruling Thursday in South Dakota may prove a boost to Georgia’s efforts to get all retailers to collect sales taxes when they sell products online. South Dakota officials were hoping for a quick ruling in their state Supreme Court on legislation requiring internet companies to remit sales taxes. The bill was passed as a legal challenge to a 25-year-old U.S. Supreme Court...
Georgia governor pledges not to ‘over-ask’ the feds for Irma aid

Georgia governor pledges not to ‘over-ask’ the feds for Irma aid

Boats along with sections of dock are scattered in the marsh, some sitting on the bottom, after Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at St. Marys on the Georgia coast. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com Gov. Nathan Deal pledged that the state won’t “over-ask” the federal government for aid to help pay for recovery efforts from the remnants of Hurricane Irma...
First insurance “claims village” set for Georgia coast post-Irma

First insurance “claims village” set for Georgia coast post-Irma

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced Wednesday that his office will open its first “claims village” in Brunswick next week to help homeowners and business owners get their insurance claims expedited. Hudgens was touring coastal areas Wednesday assessing damages from Irma, meeting with storm victims and local officials. The commissioner set up similar mobile &ldquo...
After Irma, Georgia candidate qualifying to begin Wednesday

After Irma, Georgia candidate qualifying to begin Wednesday

With Georgia drying out from Tropical Storm Irma, business is set to get back to normal Wednesday morning in Atlanta when candidate qualifying opens for several open seats in the state Legislature. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in advance of the storm had announced a two-day delay. Qualifying was originally supposed to start Monday. The new schedule means qualifying for interested...
As Irma approaches, Georgia’s new emergency team prepares

As Irma approaches, Georgia’s new emergency team prepares

Gov. Nathan Deal’s overhauled storm response strategy — and his new head of the state’s emergency management agency — face what could be their most significant weather-related challenge yet as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the Atlantic coast. The Category 5 storm, with lashing winds topping 185 miles an hour, is one of the most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded, and it&rsquo...
Kempner: Georgia elected officials face a nuclear ultimatum

Kempner: Georgia elected officials face a nuclear ultimatum

Georgia “We’ve-Got-All-The” Power has just offered elected state regulators an all-or-nothing deal. As in, Georgia Power gets it all or its customers get nothing. The state’s largest utility, which is a government-regulated monopoly, recently launched its latest campaign to continue its long-troubled, billions-of-dollars-over-budget nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle, this...
New report: Georgia corporate income tax bite softer than most

New report: Georgia corporate income tax bite softer than most

President Trump has called for a big cut in the federal corporate income tax rate, and plenty of Georgia lawmakers would like to do the same to the state corporate levy. But a report out this week by the Washington D.C.-based Tax Foundation said Georgia collects less from its citizens in corporate income taxes than most other states. The Tax Foundation ranked Georgia 39th, collecting the equivalent...
Senate to meet on barriers to health care in Georgia

Senate to meet on barriers to health care in Georgia

On Monday the Georgia Senate plans to hold its first study committee meeting on barriers to health care access in the state. A star addition to the panel is Dr. Karen Kinsell, who runs a clinic in Clay County. Her clinic serves as the only real health care many residents there ever see. She has often been interviewed by media over the years, but nothing hit home like a first-person narrative...
Cagle’s rivals slam his ‘flip-flop’ on booze legislation

Cagle’s rivals slam his ‘flip-flop’ on booze legislation

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s Republican rivals didn’t take too kindly to his celebration of new alcohol rules that took effect last week. We noted earlier that Friday was a watershed moment in the evolution of GOP politics and alcohol. It was also a chance for former state Sen. Hunter Hill and state Sen. Michael Williams...
‘Clean 13’ lauded by environmental and conservation groups in Georgia

‘Clean 13’ lauded by environmental and conservation groups in Georgia

The Georgia Water Coalition released a new report Wednesday applauding the “Clean 13,’” people, businesses, local governments and others from across the state that it says are working to make local waterways cleaner. Honorees include the powerful state House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, who is pushing legislation to update the state’s oil and gas drilling...
Stacey Evans steps down from House to concentrate on gov bid

Stacey Evans steps down from House to concentrate on gov bid

State Rep. Stacey Evans, D – Smyrna. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com Democrat Stacey Evans resigned her state House seat on Tuesday to focus on her bid for governor, the latest in a string of candidates for higher office to step down from a statehouse post. In a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal and legislative leaders, the Smyrna attorney said she has “stood up for the voiceless, spoken...
Georgia video games spawn charges of payoffs, bribery and betrayal

Georgia video games spawn charges of payoffs, bribery and betrayal

An envelope stuffed with cash. Under-the-table payoffs. Backstabbing treachery over contracts worth millions. Welcome to the underbelly of Georgia’s $675 million-a-year video gaming industry, which produces enough accusations of fraud and corruption to fill a season of “The Sopranos.” The new enforcement responsibility has exposed the Lottery to a messy underworld in which companies...
You can now buy beer, spirits directly from its makers in Georgia

You can now buy beer, spirits directly from its makers in Georgia

Let Georgia’s new happy hour begin: For the first time since Prohibition, local craft breweries and distilleries, beginning Friday, will be legally allowed to sell limited amounts of their beer and spirits directly to customers. The new law ends a decades-old standoff that had been especially tense between the state’s growing number of craft brewers and beer wholesalers, who fought...
A new judicial complex will soon soar above downtown Atlanta

A new judicial complex will soon soar above downtown Atlanta

Georgia officials broke ground Thursday on a judicial complex that could wind up being the costliest building in state history. The new state courts building will house the newly expanded Georgia Supreme Court and Georgia Court of Appeals with a commanding view of the Gold Dome across the street. The complex, which is set to cost at least $105 million, was built on the spot where the Georgia Archives...
Georgia gears up for fraught legislative debate on Rebel monuments

Georgia gears up for fraught legislative debate on Rebel monuments

With legs crossed and hands clutching the arms of its chair, a white marble effigy of Georgian Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, sits only 10 or so feet away from a bronze statue of civil rights hero Rosa Parks in the U.S. Capitol. More than 600 miles away, on the grounds of Georgia’s state Capitol, a sparkling new monument of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. rises...
More safeguards could be considered for coal ash ponds in Georgia

More safeguards could be considered for coal ash ponds in Georgia

Lawmakers concerned about how coal ash is disposed of hinted Tuesday that they may consider more safeguards over how state environmental officials monitor its presence in landfills and ash ponds across Georgia. Coal ash is a waste product of burning coal that can contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic. While Georgia Power, the state’s leading energy supplier, is in the process...
Torpy at Large: Democracy divided should not stand

Torpy at Large: Democracy divided should not stand

The electoral insanity that was the 6th Congressional District race this year was a wild aberration in Georgia, a man-bites-dog story, if you will. No, it wasn’t that the candidates spent more than some countries spend on defense budgets. It was that a congressional race in Georgia ended up this close. Republican warhorse Karen Handel beat Democratic boy wonder Jon Ossoff by 4 points. Any closer...
State officials project another big shortfall for Georgia health plan

State officials project another big shortfall for Georgia health plan

State officials are projecting a massive shortfall in a few years for the health insurance program that covers 640,000 teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents. Lisa Walker, the chief financial officer for the state Department of Community Health, told the agency’s board that the program will have a surplus this fiscal year and next, which begins July 1. But for the budget year...
Georgia governor to consider adding diversity on Stone Mountain’s board

Georgia governor to consider adding diversity on Stone Mountain’s board

The board that governs state-owned Stone Mountain Park and preserves the nation’s largest monument to Confederate war dead has only white members, something Gov. Nathan Deal said he may consider changing. Deal said he hadn’t realized that each of the 10 members of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association board was white and he said “we’d certainly be open” to tapping an...
Low-cost water quality sensors will soon be deployed across Georgia

Low-cost water quality sensors will soon be deployed across Georgia

A new network of low-cost water quality sensors will soon be deployed across Georgia, after federal environmental officials agreed to fund a program to help track the health of local waterways. Worth the equivalent of a $27,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the program aims to build upon sampling already done in the state by using cheaper sensors that continuously...
A Georgia regulator on why finishing Vogtle is a matter of national security

A Georgia regulator on why finishing Vogtle is a matter of national security

Photo from Plant Vogtle construction site on Thursday, May 11, 2016. Johnny Edwards / AJC The troubled construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle is now the only commercial nuclear project underway in the nation, and Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols has been one of the most forceful advocates of keeping it alive despite mounting financial questions. In an ...
A front-runner again, Cagle hits the campaign trail

A front-runner again, Cagle hits the campaign trail

The breakfast crowd is rolling into The Wagon Wheel, where Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is busy tuning up his campaign for governor. He’s backslapping supporters, greeting old friends — “the best-looking man in all of Lumpkin County,” he razzes a retiree — and generally trying to present the image of an affable front-runner in a crowded field. “When you are the lead person...
Watchdog: Is Georgia whistling ‘Dixie’ on sovereign immunity?

Watchdog: Is Georgia whistling ‘Dixie’ on sovereign immunity?

Earlier this summer, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a sweeping, unanimous opinion that the state is immune from lawsuits, a precedent that brought cries of tyranny from the left and right. The Georgia justices pinned their analysis to a centuries-old tradition in English law called “sovereign immunity” — a legal theory that the king (or, in our case, Gov. Nathan Deal and the...
Cagle, other GOP hopefuls pledge to sign ‘religious liberty’ measure

Cagle, other GOP hopefuls pledge to sign ‘religious liberty’ measure

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and his three Republican rivals signed a pledge that they would enact a “religious liberty” measure if they’re elected governor, taking a united stance on one of the most contentious debates in Georgia. Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams had already signaled their support for the pledge. But Cagle’s decision to...
Did Confederate constitution of 1861 spur sovereign immunity ruling?

Did Confederate constitution of 1861 spur sovereign immunity ruling?

An opinion by the Georgia Supreme Court this summer that the state cannot be sued by citizens has its share of critics, but an Athens attorney has a novel complaint. Stephen Humphreys, who has sued state officials a number of times on behalf of his clients, said the court erred by basing the decision, in part, on an interpretation of the Georgia Constitution written during the Civil War by the...
Meet the rural attorney who is now the Georgia House’s top Democrat

Meet the rural attorney who is now the Georgia House’s top Democrat

To say that state Rep. Bob Trammell cuts a low profile in the General Assembly is an understatement. He has never carried major legislation, is rarely heard on the airwaves or seen in print and had only taken to the House’s well-worn podium a handful of times, largely to rail against campus gun legislation. But now the Luthersville attorney is the leading Democrat in the House after a surprising...
Georgia GOP nixes ‘religious liberty’ litmus test for candidates

Georgia GOP nixes ‘religious liberty’ litmus test for candidates

The Georgia GOP decided against imposing a litmus test on “religious liberty” legislation for the Republican candidates for governor, adopting a resolution Saturday that supported the controversial measure without including a pledge for gubernatorial contenders to back it. The compromise came after bitter debate at the Georgia GOP’s state committee over a proposal that initially...
Georgia income, sales tax collections soar in July

Georgia income, sales tax collections soar in July

State sales and income tax collections improved again in July, giving officials hope of a continued solid economy during the new fiscal year. The state ended fiscal year 2017 on June 30 with a $930 million increase in tax revenue over the previous year. The 4.5 percent increase was more than enough to fund the state’s $24 billion budget, so there should be a surplus for the year when the books...
The Week: Taxes, health care draw spotlight in Georgia governor’s race

The Week: Taxes, health care draw spotlight in Georgia governor’s race

The inevitable issues of taxes and, well, avoiding death — aka health care — were leading topics this past week in the 2018 race for Georgia governor. Three of the four leading GOP candidates for governor differed sharply over tax policy at a recent joint event. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle noted that both Florida and Tennessee have no income tax and said he is “very supportive of a strategy...
Court ousts Roswell mayor, rules he violated term limits

Court ousts Roswell mayor, rules he violated term limits

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood, a fixture in north Fulton politics for two decades, was abruptly removed from his post Thursday after a judge ruled he had violated the term limits that he championed. Wood said in a statement that he plans to fight the decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall, but that he will not seek another term in office. His fifth term expires at the end...
Methadone clinics in northwest Georgia draw addicts across state lines

Methadone clinics in northwest Georgia draw addicts across state lines

The sign outside a northwest Georgia clinic caught Josh Harrison’s attention. Pay only $1 a day to kick your drug habit, it advertised. It was a steal compared with what Harrison had been paying at another clinic — 10 times more, cash — for the methadone he hoped would finally help him escape the Xanax addiction that had taken over his life. Instead, he simply became hooked on the...
UPDATE: Roswell Mayor Jere Wood plans to appeal term limit ruling

UPDATE: Roswell Mayor Jere Wood plans to appeal term limit ruling

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said in a statement that he plans to appeal a judge’s decision removing him from office for violating  term limits he put in place. A Thursday order from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall said Wood, who was first elected in 1997, was ineligible to run in 2013, when he was last elected. He ordered Wood be removed from office immediately...
Georgia might ditch those tiny license plate tags

Georgia might ditch those tiny license plate tags

Love ‘em or hate em’, those tiny decals Georgia requires you to stick on your license plate every year may be on their way out. The state Department of Revenue is studying whether to eliminate or reduce the stickers’ use, which is required annually (for a $20 fee) to show that a vehicle is properly registered. There’s no definitive plan in place; the agency’s report...
Georgia lawmakers question data request from Trump voter fraud panel

Georgia lawmakers question data request from Trump voter fraud panel

A group of Georgia lawmakers on Thursday questioned why President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity needed to collect data on voters, saying they had heard from constituents who are afraid the information could be used against them. Leaders from the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said they planned to introduce a joint resolution for consideration during the General...
Georgia panel starts examining impact of tax breaks approved each year

Georgia panel starts examining impact of tax breaks approved each year

A Georgia Senate committee on Tuesday began what could be a years-long study to determine whether the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks the state gives industries and individuals each year do what they were designed to do. State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who heads the special panel, told colleagues there is no way they will be able to finish going through the dozens of income tax credits...
Your Tuesday political briefing

Your Tuesday political briefing

Here is what is trending in politics around Georgia and across the nation on Tuesday. 1. GOP health care bill collapses; Republicans say they will repeal now, replace laterRepublican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ground to a halt late Monday after two GOP senators announced they would not vote for the revised health care plan. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky)...
Financial reports present an early test in Georgia governor race

Financial reports present an early test in Georgia governor race

The top contenders for Georgia’s wide-open race for governor faced a crucial test Monday as they reported how much money they’ve collected for their campaigns, an early gauge of their popularity in the crowded contest to succeed a term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal. The money race isn’t everything, and plenty of candidates with eye-popping financial figures have faltered (See: Jon Ossoff...
Georgia Senate leader gives $1 million to help GOP candidates like him

Georgia Senate leader gives $1 million to help GOP candidates like him

Georgia Senate President Pro-Tem David Shafer headed into 2017 as the top fundraiser in the General Assembly, despite the fact that he didn’t plan to run for re-election. It was no secret at the statehouse that the Gwinnett Republican, second in charge of the Senate, planned to run for lieutenant governor in 2018. On Monday, a Republican political action committee reported it had gotten $1.025...
To combat shortage, new state budget gives big boost to foster parents

To combat shortage, new state budget gives big boost to foster parents

Georgia starting this month is funding the biggest increase in “per diems” for foster parents in more than a decade. Why? The state has seen a surge of children needing foster care while at the same time facing a shortage in foster care homes. The daily allowances, which help pay for kids’ basic needs, are going up by as much as $10 a day, with additional money being put toward hiring...
Justice officials also seek Georgia voter info as critics raise alarm

Justice officials also seek Georgia voter info as critics raise alarm

The U.S. Justice Department has asked Georgia to explain how it updates and tracks voter registration records as well as removes voters from its rolls who should no longer be eligible to vote. The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office confirmed it received a three-page letter from the head of the department’s voting section seeking the information as part of a national request under the...
Georgia’s “religious liberty” senator joins Secretary of State race

Georgia’s “religious liberty” senator joins Secretary of State race

Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon, best-known for being one of the General Assembly’s leading proponents of “religious liberty” legislation and a champion of strengthening ethics laws, made it official Thursday that he’s running for Secretary of State in 2018. McKoon is one of several Republicans, including Reps. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, and Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek...
Utility lobbyists spend big to feed Georgia utility regulators

Utility lobbyists spend big to feed Georgia utility regulators

Georgia’s Public Service Commissioners regulate utilities, and last month, utility lobbyists made sure the elected officials were well fed at a conference at the Lake Oconee Ritz-Carlton. According to recently filed reports, eight lobbyists spent almost $7,700 on members and staff for a single dinner on June 12 at the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference. That...
As of Saturday, guns are legal on college campuses across Georgia

As of Saturday, guns are legal on college campuses across Georgia

Georgia as of Saturday will allow guns on any campus in the state’s public college and university system, the most high-profile of a slew of laws that become effective July 1. The stakes are high on both sides. Supporters say the new law will make campuses safer for students, faculty and staff. Opponents fear the opposite and say allowing guns on campus creates an unsafe environment. In the...
Georgia governor on health plan: ‘We want to be treated fairly’

Georgia governor on health plan: ‘We want to be treated fairly’

Gov. Nathan Deal took a cautious stance on the embattled Senate health bill Thursday, urging lawmakers not to “punish” Georgia and other states that didn’t expand their Medicaid program while stopping short of opposing the measure. Deal said in an interview that he was concerned about changes to the Medicaid program that could leave the states to pick up the tab. But he said he wanted...
Georgia saves up to $56 million booting ineligibles from health plan

Georgia saves up to $56 million booting ineligibles from health plan

The state is hoping to save up to $56 million a year by removing ineligible family members of those enrolled in the State Health Benefit Plan from the program. The state Department of Community Health, which administers Medicaid as well as the State Health Benefit Plan for teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents, announced last year that it would do an audit to determine whether there...
Torpy at Large: A Tale of Two Troublesome Tommys 

Torpy at Large: A Tale of Two Troublesome Tommys 

It has been a bad run of late for The Tommys, a couple of foot-in-the mouth Georgia pols who are being abandoned and spanked by their Republican compatriots. The Tommys — Hunter and Benton — are a public example that words do matter, even in this environment of toxic public discourse where every numbskull has an opinion and is damned sure to let you hear it. Tommy Hunter, of course, is...
Georgia ethics panel trying again to collect millions in late fees

Georgia ethics panel trying again to collect millions in late fees

The state ethics commission is trying to address what it sees as a long-running problem: getting local elections officials to pay the fees they owe when they don’t file reports — such as campaign disclosures — on time. Or at all. It’s not a small amount of money the agency is after. Officials said in 2015 that the state is owed between $2.5 million and $3 million in late fees...
Georgia ethics panel finally ending years-long backlog of cases

Georgia ethics panel finally ending years-long backlog of cases

Three years ago the state agency in charge of policing the ethics of Georgia politicians and lobbyists was a mess, with few staffers and a backlog of more than 150 cases, some dating to before the Great Recession. This past week the agency’s executive secretary, Stefan Ritter, told the ethics commission that the backlog had mostly been eliminated. There are still a few back cases the state...
Watchdog: What does the Civil War have to do with us?

Watchdog: What does the Civil War have to do with us?

When House Speaker David Ralston punished fellow Republican Rep. Tommy Benton last week, stripping him of his committee chairmanship and removing him from a study committee on civics education, it came after nearly two years of provocative political acts. But it was the distribution to his House colleagues of an article from the magazine “Confederate Veteran” that triggered Ralston&rsquo...
Historian: Civil War debate is about ‘who controls history’

Historian: Civil War debate is about ‘who controls history’

The demotion of Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, following his decision to distribute to colleagues an article challenging that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War raises an interesting question. Why did he do it? After all, the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago. Why is a Georgia state legislator so bent out of shape about its causes? “All of this is...
After GOP health plan fails, Georgia explores Medicaid changes

After GOP health plan fails, Georgia explores Medicaid changes

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's office had no immediate comment on the Senate health bill, but he had deep concerns about the House version. This story was published on March 28, 2017. Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration is exploring changes to Georgia’s Medicaid program after a sweeping Republican overhaul of the Affordable Care Act was scuttled last week in a stunning rebuke to Donald...
Voter turnout made Georgia’s 6th District runoff look like a midterm election

Voter turnout made Georgia’s 6th District runoff look like a midterm election

Sixth District voters turned out in unprecedented numbers Tuesday for their runoff, but it takes a step back to appreciate by just how much. We already knew that while typical turnout during off-year special elections is notoriously low, Georgia’s 6th District special election on April 18 (which decided who was in Tuesday’s runoff) topped 37 percent — nearly 194,000 people voted...
Benton says he still doesn’t want his name on MLK monument at Capitol

Benton says he still doesn’t want his name on MLK monument at Capitol

Despite calls from a legacy civil rights organization to reverse course, embattled state Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) said he still won’t allow his name to be added to part of a monument to Martin Luther King Jr. The monument and a plaque naming the legislators who helped get the statue on Capitol grounds is scheduled to be unveiled in August. A clay model of the statue depicts King...
Most 6th District polls closing: This expert says one candidate might be hurt more if rain dampens turnout

Most 6th District polls closing: This expert says one candidate might be hurt more if rain dampens turnout

UPDATE: Polls are closing across the 6th District. Any voter in line by 7 p.m. is allowed to cast a ballot. Two polling locations in DeKalb County will remain open until 7:30 p.m., after officials received permission from a judge to extend voting time because of problems this morning with checking voters in. They are the only two locations in the 6th District that have extended time to vote....
Controversial Ga. lawmaker punished for Civil War mailer

Controversial Ga. lawmaker punished for Civil War mailer

A controversial member of the Georgia House of Representatives has lost his position in leadership and his place on a civics education study committee after sending colleagues an article challenging slavery as the root cause of the Civil War. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, announced Friday that Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, would no longer chair the House Human Relations and Aging Committee...
Why was controversial Georgia lawmaker named to civics committee?

Why was controversial Georgia lawmaker named to civics committee?

Over the past two years, State Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, called African-American slaves “property” and fostered legislation requiring the state to recognize Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Confederate Memorial Day and Confederate History Month. He also said the Ku Klux Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” he said. &ldquo...
Change in District 6 poll spots; Here’s where you can vote in Fulton

Change in District 6 poll spots; Here’s where you can vote in Fulton

Voters in north Fulton County must go to a different polling place to cast their votes in the upcoming runoff. Fulton County announced on Wednesday that is changing the locations of 12 polling places for the June 20 election when voters will decide if Jon Ossoff or Karen Handel will fill the congressional seat in Georgia’s 6th District. The county cited “unforeseen circumstances&rdquo...
Georgia ethics panel clears up years-long backlog of cases

Georgia ethics panel clears up years-long backlog of cases

Three years ago the state agency in charge of policing the ethics of Georgia politicians and lobbyists was a mess, with few staffers and a backlog of more than 150 cases, some dating to before the Great Recession. This past week the agency’s executive secretary, Stefan Ritter, told the ethics commission that the backlog had essentially been eliminated. There are still a few back cases the state...
Georgia a high-tax state for beer-, wine-drinkers, group says

Georgia a high-tax state for beer-, wine-drinkers, group says

Many parts of the South, including Georgia, are not exactly tax-friendly to wine drinkers, according to a new state-by-state listing by the Tax Foundation. The foundation, a Washington D.C. tax think tank, regularly releases U.S. maps detailing various types of state taxes. On Thursday, it released one on state wine excise taxes, which made much of the South look like a regular Taxachusetts. As of...
Watchdog: Benton appointment demeans Georgia House

Watchdog: Benton appointment demeans Georgia House

When House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, considered Rep. Tommy Benton for a seat on a civics education study committee, he apparently saw nothing other than a retired middle school history teacher. That, in itself, says something about the political culture of the Georgia House. For the better part of two years, Benton, R-Jefferson, has made a name for himself with his remarks about the Ku...
Gov. Deal appoints former campaign ethics lawyer to state job

Gov. Deal appoints former campaign ethics lawyer to state job

A lawyer and lobbyist who was part of the team that defended Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign against ethics charges during his first term in office was named Friday to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation by the governor. Benjamin Vinson, a partner in the mega-law firm Dentons, will take the $150,000 a year post July 1. Vinson served as majority caucus counsel in the Georgia House of Representatives...
Ga. lawmaker who made controversial Klan remarks named to civics panel

Ga. lawmaker who made controversial Klan remarks named to civics panel

A Georgia state representative who said the Ku Klux Klan “made a lot of people straighten up” and tried to force the state to formally recognize Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day as official holidays has been named to a study committee on civics education. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, made the announcement in a press release Friday appointing Rep...

Georgia 6th: Special interests dump cash in race ahead of debate

As Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel prepare for their first debate tonight on WSB-TV, special interest groups opened the spigots again on Tuesday. Republican and Democratic groups reported spending at least $1.3 million on the race Tuesday. Gabriel Debenedetti, a national political reporter for Politico, first announced the cash dump on Twitter: The crazy amount of $ in this race (more than any...
Metro Atlanta’s air quality improves despite population growth

Metro Atlanta’s air quality improves despite population growth

Just in time for summer smog season, the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday reported that metro Atlanta’s air quality has met an important standard for pollution. The federal agency said the 15-county metro region has “reached a significant milestone … in the midst of significant population growth.” Officially, the region has met the 2008 8-hour ozone standard, although...
Officials need extra $400 million for Georgia teacher pension system

Officials need extra $400 million for Georgia teacher pension system

Taxpayers may have to chip in an extra $400 million next year to ensure the financial security of the state’s massive teacher and university employee pension system. That’s on top of the extra $223 million the state put into the system this year. The extra money will likely eat up a sizable chunk of new revenue the state expects to take in next year. Teachers say the money is worth it...
State of Georgia sees strong tax collections in May, surplus likely

State of Georgia sees strong tax collections in May, surplus likely

The state of Georgia saw a big bump up in tax collections in May, signalling that the government will likely end the fiscal year on June 30 with a sizable surplus. Overall tax collections were up 10.3 percent in May, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday. Through 11 months of the fiscal year, they are ahead of last year by 4.7 percent, or almost $900 million. The state saw a big increase in individual...
Big bump needed in Georgia’s contribution to secure teacher pensions

Big bump needed in Georgia’s contribution to secure teacher pensions

Georgia lawmakers raised the alarm earlier this year when they had to provide an extra $223 million to ensure the financial security of the state’s massive teacher pension system. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned that next year the government may have to put in almost twice that amount, eating up much of the new revenue the state expects to take in to pay for increased public health...
Mandate on contraception coverage could be weakened further

Mandate on contraception coverage could be weakened further

Georgians reacted with dismay and cheer Friday to news that the Trump administration is moving to roll back a mandate that health insurance policies cover contraception. The mandate already exempted houses of worship, and it was weakened following a court case filed by the company Hobby Lobby, which is owned by evangelical Christians who did not want to include contraception in the insurance...
Democratic legislative leader to launch bid for Georgia governorship

Democratic legislative leader to launch bid for Georgia governorship

Democrat Stacey Abrams entered the campaign for Georgia governor on Saturday with a pledge to expand pre-kindergarten programs and make technical college education free, promising she’d bring a “bold and ambitious approach” to state government that will invigorate the economy. Abrams, who heads her party’s caucus in the Georgia House, said that as governor she’ll embrace...
Florida asks Supreme Court to dump pro-Georgia water ruling

Florida asks Supreme Court to dump pro-Georgia water ruling

The state of Florida has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a special master’s refusal to cap what it said is Georgia’s insatiable thirst for water.  In its filing, first reported by Politico, Florida says the high court is its “last remaining, legal remedy to save the Apalachicola Region—one of the nation’s most unique, diverse, and irreplaceable...
Williams enters Georgia governor race as pro-Trump loyalist

Williams enters Georgia governor race as pro-Trump loyalist

Republican state Sen. Michael Williams entered the race for governor Thursday, pinning his campaign on his outspoken support for Donald Trump as he hopes the same anti-establishment wave that elected the president propels him to Georgia’s highest office. Williams has signaled for months that he would join the crowded field to replace a term-limited Nathan Deal. And he has already attacked...
Watchdog: 6th District runoff latest skirmish in voting rights war

Watchdog: 6th District runoff latest skirmish in voting rights war

These past two weeks have been great for shareholders in the clipboard industry as an army of volunteers canvassed Georgia’s 6th Congressional District registering voters ahead of the June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. The last-minute push for new voters came as a result of a federal lawsuit brought against the state by a coalition of civil rights groups...

Sonny Perdue endorses former aide in race for GOP chair

John Watson was Sonny Perdue’s campaign consultant when the Bonaire Republican upended Georgia politics by becoming, in 2003, the first Republican governor since Reconstruction and was later Perdue’s chief of staff. So it may not be a surprise that now-Agriculture Secretary Perdue has endorsed Watson, now a lobbyist, in his bid to become the next chairman of the Georgia Republican...
Georgia lawmaker uses power of the purse to influence colleges

Georgia lawmaker uses power of the purse to influence colleges

Some call him the 20th member of the Board of Regents. He regularly uses his political power to influence policies he doesn’t like at Georgia’s colleges and universities, whether they be public or private. Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech, Georgia Gwinnett and Emory have all felt his wrath. He is Earl Ehrhart, a veteran state House member whose committee helps decide how much is budgeted...

Cobb Democrat files ethics complaint against Barry Loudermilk

A prominent Cobb County Democrat has filed an ethics complaint against Barry Loudermilk, claiming the 11th District Republican congressman has used his old state campaign account to funnel money to his congressional fund. A Loudermilk campaign spokesman dismissed the complaint as merit-less and “partisan hooey.” Will Fowlkes of Kennesaw filed the complaint last week with the Department...
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