Federal Base Closing Pannell Suggests Elimination of Four Georgia Bases?

However--Net Gain of Jobs for the State

Four military bases in Georgia are on the list recommended for closure by the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission.  The list was announced on Friday, May 13th.  Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem in Atlanta, as well as the Naval Air Station in Cobb County and the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens, made the closure list.  

Although the state may loose four military instillations and their 9,700 jobs, the BRAC recommendations suggested a net gain of jobs for the state.  Fort Benning in Columbus would be the biggest winner adding 10,000 new positions, while Robins Air Force Base in Macon will gain nearly 750.  Moody Air Force Base and Kings Bay submarine base  would also gain personnel under the proposal.  

Officially the BRAC process is non-political.  However, in years past Georgia had escaped two earlier rounds of base closures.  Most attributed Georgia?s good fortune to the political muscle of its congressional delegation.  It remains to be seen if Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both in their freshmen terms, can influence the debate and keep any of the Georgia bases scheduled for closure off the final list that will be sent to the President in September.

Governor Perdue made visits to the four affected communities immediately after the announcement.  Perdue suggested that there would be a two-pronged response to the announcement.  First, a group will assemble the community?s challenge to the recommendations, and a second group will explore possible private redevelopment.

Georgia?s thirteen military installations make up a key part of the state?s overall economy.  The BRAC committee, aware that a base closing can devastate local communities, targeted installations in regions that could more easily adapt.  Noticeably absent from the BRACs closure recommendations was Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta which is also the home of Lockheed Martin?s C-130 and F-22 production facilities.  The Dobbins community is not completely out of the woods, as speculation continues that the Pentagon may cancel production of the C-130 and scale down production of the F-22.            
Cathy Cox?s Governor?s Bid Gets A Boost

Atlanta Journal Constitution Releases Poll

On April 19th Secretary of State Cathy Cox made it official, she will contest Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor to become the Democratic challenger to Sonny Perdue in 2006.  Speaking in front of a hometown crowd in her native Bainbridge, Cox gave a relatively upbeat announcement speech, but did not miss the opportunity to take jabs at the sitting Governor.

Days after Cox?s announcement her campaign received good poll news.  Cox led Taylor by seventeen percentage points among voters who identified themselves as Democrats in a statewide poll conducted for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Head to head against Perdue, Cox came in dead even with the popular Governor.  Meanwhile, Taylor trailed Perdue by 13 percentage points in their hypothetical match up.  Despite the positive poll results, Cox will need to quickly gain momentum if she hopes to overcome Taylor?s in early fundraising advantage.

While the Democrats prepare to slug it out over the next 12 months, Perdue will stay above the fray, continuing to build on his nice-guy image.   The same AJC poll showed that 68 percent of Georgians had a favorable impression of their Governor.  Although Georgians may like Sonny, the poll showed that only 48 percent of Georgians think that Perdue is doing a good or an excellent job.  Most political experts agree that an incumbent needs this number to be at least 50 percent, indicating that at least in this early poll, Sonny looks vulnerable.  

Republican House Leadership Crisscross State

In a three-day ?fly-around,? Republican House leaders including Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Dallas) and Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island), visited over a dozen Georgia communities to solidify support for freshmen legislators.  The tour took the group from the northwest corner of the state where they held a rally to support Representative Jay Neal (R- Lafayette) to Cairo in extreme South Georgia where they met to support Representative Gene Maddox.

Wherever the leadership tour touched down, large crowds of supporters met them.  In communities across the state, Republicans have received a boost from their successful leadership during the 2005 General Assembly.
House Democrats Re-Group?Take Local Approach

In an effort to turn back the Republican tidal wave, Democratic members of the House of Representatives recently met in Macon for a strategy retreat.  Most of caucus turned out to listen and learn from the keynote speaker, Rutt Bridges, a politically active Colorado millionaire businessman, who is expected to run for Governor in that state in 2007.  

Rutt, a Georgia native, was invited to discuss how he and a handful of other concerned and wealthy individuals transformed the Democratic party in Colorado, steering it away from the national party to focus on local issues.  Georgia Democrats were most interested in the fact that Colorado Democrats have taken back both the state House and Senate using Rutt?s approach.  Look for the Democrats to utilize the Colorado method in 2006, distancing themselves from the national party and targeting Republican seats that have high numbers of Democratic voters.
Overcoming his Reservations Governor Perdue Signs Smoking Ban

In a masterful political move, Governor Perdue both distanced himself, and signed the controversial ban on smoking in public places.  Waiting until the next to last day to sign or veto bills, the Governor announced that he was going to sign the legislation, but asserted that he continued to have severe reservations.  He stated that government, ?should not be the end-all and be-all nanny for all people.?  Ultimately Perdue said he was persuaded because, ?The public health argument carried the day.?

However, political insiders agree that it was the ban?s overwhelming public support that eventually persuaded the Governor.  Polls showed that 64 percent of Georgians supported the measure.  Perdue likely recognized that, with an election year approaching, he didn?t want to be on the wrong side of an issue that many non-smokers (voters) feel passionately about.  Meanwhile, by loudly vocalizing his concerns, Perdue played to many of his core-Republican supporters who support individual rights and oppose heavy government regulation.  In this tricky balancing act, the Governor appears to have gotten it just right.  
Legislative Session 2005?Final Scorecard

Governor Sonny Perdue put the finishing touches on this year?s legislative session on Tuesday, May 10th, signing the last of 443 bills and resolutions while vetoing 15.  Among those bills vetoed were HB 264, which significantly expanded the authority of the Georgia Commission on Interstate Cooperation, and HB 367, which regulated ignition interlock device providers, the re-plating of license plates, changes for hazardous material transport and the requirements for driver training schools.

Most capitol watchers agree that this year?s legislative session was one of the most active and productive in memory.  The raw numbers suggest that Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, along with a Republican Governor, combined for a flurry of legislation.  In the two-year period, 2003 to 2004, with a Democratically controlled House of Representatives, Perdue signed 375 bills into law and vetoed 19.
The Never-ending Fundraising Cycle--Dollars, Dollars and More Dollars

As the 2006 election year approaches, Republicans and Democrats alike are under intense pressure to raise money to support local and statewide campaigns.  Republicans are working across the state to keep their majority in the General Assembly along with control of the governor?s mansion.  To achieve their goals, Republicans have created a well-organized fundraising effort that puts specific expectations on individuals.  

Meanwhile Democrats are also raising funds to challenge the recent Republican dominance in the state.  While many Democrats believe they can retake control of the General Assembly, many veteran political observers agree that the legislative branch will firmly remain in Republican control for many years to come.  Under this reality, Democrats as a whole have seen a significant portion of their campaign funds dry-up.  However, individual Democrats, especially those who have a history of bi-partisanship and broad appeal, are in demand.  Look for some Democrats to highlight their conservative credentials?even if the official state party stays well to their left.    
Senator Tommy Williams Elected Majority Leader

Tommy Williams, a highly respected, soft-spoken entrepreneur was elected by his Republican senate peers to become their next majority leader.  Senator Williams hails from Lyons in south central Georgia and represents Appling, Jefferson Davis, Long, Montgomery, Toombs, Wayne and Wheeler counties and portions of Liberty and Tattnall counties.

The election came at the annual meeting of the Georgia Republican Party, May 7th and 8th in Savannah.  Williams replaces Senator Bill Stephens (R-Canton) who stepped down as majority leader to run for Secretary of State.  As part of the leadership realignment, Williams turned over his chairmanship of the Transportation Committee to Stephens, and  Senator Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) was elected to take over Williams spot as vice-chair of the Republican Caucus.      

Gwinnett Salutes Legislative Delegation

On Thursday, May 12, 2005, several prominent members of the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce met to pay tribute to the county?s Republican House delegation.  A traditionally Republican county, Gwinnett has benefited from the Republican takeover of the House in 2004.  Today, Gwinnett has three House committee chairs in leadership, including the chairs of Industrial Relations (Representative Mike Coan, R-Lawrenceville), Motor Vehicles (Representative Tom Rice, R-Peachtree Corners) and Education (Representative Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth).

Besides praising the delegation, the group assembled to contribute funds in support of the delegation?s reelection.  Special guest of honor, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island) thanked the guests for their commitment and support of the party.  
State Revenues

Georgia?s net revenue collections for the month of April decreased by $38,430,000 or 2.9% from the previous year.  However, the state is still significantly ahead of where it was last year with a year-to-date increase of 8.4% over Fiscal Year 2004.
Regents Struggle Continues

Relationship between University of Georgia and Foundation Severed

On April 20, 2005, the state Board of Regents instructed the University of Georgia to dissolve its ties with the University Foundation, a nonprofit organization which oversees the University?s $475 million endowment and is headed by Lynda Courts, the Foundation?s Chairwoman.  The decision is another step in a two-year battle that began when UGA President Michael Adams decided not to extend the contract of athletic director and former football coach Vince Dooley.  The rift grew in the summer of 2003 when the Foundation initiated a public campaign to decline President Adams with supplemental pay and called on UGA sports fans to cease donations to the University while Adams remained president.

The first time the Board of Regents directed UGA to sever ties with the foundation was last May, after trustees took away Adams? vote as a member of the executive committee.  However, the regents withdrew their order, when the Foundation agreed to sign a cooperative agreement that would restore his vote.  Nevertheless, due to the ongoing hostilities between the Foundation and the University of Georgia, the Board of Regents has emphasized that this time the decision will stick and there will be no opportunity for Foundation members to regain power over University decision-making.

The confrontation between the University and the Foundation had threatened to effect the reappointment of University System Chancellor Tom Meredith for another year.  Meredith has been criticized for not resolving the long lasting dispute, putting his future in doubt.  In a private session, the Board of Regents decided to reappoint Meredith as chancellor.  It appears as if the regents see Chancellor Meredith as one who can restore integrity to the entire system.
Georgia Politics Spotlight--House Science and Technology Chairman Amos Amerson

Representative Amos Amerson (R-Dahlonega) took over the chairmanship of the newly formed House Science and Technology Committee this January.  The Science and Technology committee is becoming one of the most important committees for companies because an increasing amount of commerce is being conducted over the Internet.  In fact, the committee considered several important pieces of legislation in the 2005 legislative session, including the use of spyware and spam.  Although the session is over, Amerson?s work has not finished.  He is serving as a member of a joint House/Senate Study Committee investigating emerging communications technologies over the summer.  

Chairman Amerson, a nuclear engineer by training, also has a PhD in economic statistics.  One of Georgia?s most knowledgeable legislators, Amerson also uses his science background as a member of the Public Utilities and Telecommunications Committee.  After serving his country in the U.S. Army, Amerson retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1978.  From 1982 to 1998 Amerson taught management science at North Georgia College.  

A year after turning down community leaders? first plea to run for a position on the Dahlonega City Council in 1998, Amos ran in a 1999 special election and won.  In 2000 community leaders again approached Amerson to run for the Georgia House of Representatives, where he has served since 2001.

Chairman Amerson stays active in local issues that are important to his Lumpkin County community.  He serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee as well as the Higher Education Committee.  Beyond his legislative commitments, Amerson serves his community as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Lumpkin County Literacy Coalition Board.

As a nuclear engineer, one of Amerson?s public policy passions is the promotion of nuclear power.  He recognizes nuclear power as an under-utilized source of alternative energy.  He, along with several other policy makers, are supporting an initiative by Georgia Power and eight other nuclear power suppliers around the country (called NuStart Energy) to simplify and streamline the building and financing process of nuclear power plants.

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