Last Day for Early Voting

October 31, 2014

Today is the final day of early voting. The polling stations at Brookhaven City Hall, the Chamblee Civic Center, the Sandy Springs Public Library and the North Fulton Government Annex will be open today until 7:00 p.m.

Click here for sample ballots and voter guides.

Click here for a summary of this year’s ballot questions.

Governor Nathan Deal and the Republican candidates for statewide office will hold a rally tomorrow, Saturday, November 1, at 10:00 a.m. at Wright’s Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe, 5482 Chamblee Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody Village. The campaign bus will arrive at 10:30 a.m.

I wish you and your family a happy and safe Halloween!


Criminal Justice Reform Pays Dividends

October 30, 2014

Our state government spent $25 million housing state prisoners in county jails as recently as Fiscal Year 2012. In Fiscal Year 2014, that budget expenditure was reduced to $41,000, a whopping reduction of more than 99.8 percent.

In 2011, the backlog of inmates in county jails was 3,595. That number has been reduced to a scant 292 today, a reduction of almost 92 percent, and is trending toward zero.

When Governor Nathan Deal discussed criminal justice reform in his 2012 “State of the State” address, I recall thinking it was an unusual issue to become a cornerstone of his administration. Governor Deal raised the issue before practically anyone else was talking about it.

The case Governor Deal made was compelling. He pointed out, “If we lock up an 18-year-old who has no skills and is unemployable, where will that individual be after completing a 15-year stint behind bars? Without a new approach that brings hope back into the equation, we will have spent $270,000 and then have a 33-year-old with no skills who is more dangerous and even less employable than before.”

From 2012 through 2014, Governor Deal pushed three criminal justice reform bills through the General Assembly. Each bill was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. The aim of the bills was to stop the revolving door of recidivism for non-violent offenders.

The bills boost “accountability courts” such as drug, DUI, mental health and veterans’ courts. These courts emphasize treatment of addiction and other disorders, rather than continuing the antiquated practice of incarcerating treatable offenders. The legislation prioritizes community-based solutions over the confinement of low-risk offenders. It gives these offenders education and training that ultimately will enable them to become productive members of society.

When Governor Deal took office, Georgia had one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Rehabilitation was not a priority, and therefore recidivism rates were high. These trends have been reversed. Other states are calling Georgia to replicate what we have achieved.

Criminal justice reform is transforming lives and conserving taxpayer resources. At first blush, it was an atypical issue to become such a major component of Governor Deal’s agenda. Now that the state’s incarceration rates and expenses are heading downward, it is clear that criminal justice reform will be paying social and financial dividends to our state for many years to come.


Summary of 2014 Ballot Questions

October 25, 2014

Remember that early voting runs this Sunday through Friday at the Chamblee Civic Center, Monday through Friday at Brookhaven City Hall, and Saturday through Friday at both the Sandy Springs Public Library and North Fulton Government Annex.

Click here for sample ballots, voter guides and more information about early voting.

This post is to provide you with additional information about this year’s ballot questions. The constitutional amendments include an opportunity to permanently cap the state income tax rate. Courtesy of our State Senator Fran Millar, here is a synopsis of each question:

Amendment A prohibits an increase in the state maximum income tax rate in effect as of January 1, 2015 (6 percent). North Carolina just lowered its rate to 5.75 percent. Many of us would like to see Georgia reduce or eliminate its income tax. A “yes” vote ensures that the legislature can’t increase this maximum.

Amendment B adds reckless driving penalties and fees to the brain and spinal injury trust fund. DUI fees already go to this fund. If this passes and someone gets a DUI reduced to reckless driving, then this money will also go to the brain and spinal injury trust fund.

Statewide Referendum 1 exempts private businesses that operate student housing or a student parking deck for the state university system from property taxes. Currently, if any part of a public-private partnership is for-profit, the non-profit exemption from property taxes does not apply. The goal of the referendum is to take the debt burden of student housing and parking facilities off the university system. To give private enterprise an incentive to operate these facilities and service the debt, they will get the same exemption from property taxes that the university system would enjoy. The university system still owns the property through a contractual arrangement with the operator. This is intended to give the university system a better bond rating and allow them to focus on educating students rather than repaying debt.

For Brookhaven voters, there’s one more question. This synopsis is not from Senator Millar:

The Brookhaven Redevelopment Powers referendum was requested by unanimous resolution of the Brookhaven City Council. A good summary of the mechanics and pros and cons of the redevelopment powers is published in a Q&A on the Georgia Municipal Association’s website.

Click here to read the Q&A.

Also, here is an excerpt from the minutes of the February 25, 2014 meeting of the Brookhaven City Council in which they unanimously requested the referendum. It gives context to their request:

“[City Manager Marie] Garrett provided an explanation of transmittal of the Legislative Package Resolution to Representative Mike Jacobs. She reported that the Resolution contained a request to introduce legislation to enable the City to operate under the Redevelopment Powers Law. She explained that said legislation would allow the City to identify stagnant or [blighted] areas with potential for redevelopment, and to designate those areas as tax allocation districts which would implement tax increment financing for new development. She reported that areas such as Buford Highway could meet the criteria for a tax allocation district and explained that any proposal would have to be approved by the citizens through a referendum. She explained that if said referendum was passed the Council would have to approve a redevelopment plan for a specific geographic area within the City.”


Early Voting & Sample Ballots

October 24, 2014

Early voting has been conducted in DeKalb County for the past two weeks, but there hasn’t been a location in North DeKalb until this Sunday, October 26. In the upcoming week, beginning on Sunday, it’s our turn to get into the act.  Fulton County also has early voting locations open on Saturday, October 25.

The following are the dates, times and locations of the early voting locations in Brookhaven, Chamblee and Sandy Springs in the upcoming week, including a first-time-ever location at Brookhaven City Hall:

Chamblee Civic Center
3540 Broad Street, Chamblee 30341
Open Sunday, October 26, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m.
and Monday – Friday, October 27 – 31, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
DeKalb County Voters Only

Brookhaven City Hall
4362 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven 30319
Open Monday – Friday, October 27 – 31, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
DeKalb County Voters Only

Sandy Springs Branch Library
395 Mount Vernon Hwy, Sandy Springs 30328
Open Saturday, October 25, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 26, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m.
and Monday – Friday, October 27 – 31, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Fulton County Voters Only

North Fulton Annex
7741 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs 30350
Open Saturday, October 25, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 26, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m.
and Monday – Friday, October 27 – 31, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Fulton County Voters Only

Here are sample ballots and voter guides that you may find helpful in making your decisions:

DeKalb County Sample Ballot
Fulton County Sample Ballot 1 of 2
Fulton County Sample Ballot 2 of 2
Georgia Secretary of State “My Voter Page”
AJC Voter’s Guide
Brookhaven Post Voter’s Guide

Tomorrow I will post some information regarding the constitutional amendments and ballot questions that are found on this year’s ballot.

See you at the polls!


Ga. 400 Commuters Benefit from Promise Kept

October 20, 2014

Like many residents of Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, I use Ga. 400 several times a week. Thanks to Governor Deal’s leadership, this commute keeps improving.

Ga. 400 commuters now enjoy a cheaper trip. The toll plaza that stood between the Lenox and Glenridge exits is a thing of the past.

In 2010, when he first ran for Governor, Nathan Deal pledged to end the toll. Some observers dismissed this promise as unlikely to be fulfilled. After all, that same year the State of Georgia announced it would extend the collection of 50 cents per trip and renege on its original promise to end the toll when the original bonds to construct Ga. 400 were paid off.

One stated purpose for the 2010 toll extension was to add connections to the junction of I-85 and Ga. 400, enabling southbound 400 commuters to go north on I-85 and southbound I-85 commuters to head north on 400. That project was completed earlier this year.

Governor Deal kept his promise to end the toll. To do so, his administration carefully managed resources to achieve a 2013 payoff of the 2010 bonds that funded the 85/400 interchange project, four years earlier than 2017 maturity date of these bonds.

This does not mean that projects to relieve congestion along the Ga. 400 corridor will come to a screeching halt. To the contrary, less than one month ago Governor Deal announced that a major interchange revamp will occur at the junction of I-285 and Ga. 400. All funding for this project has been identified. It will become reality over the next few years.

The toll is gone. The interchange at I-85 and Ga. 400 has been upgraded. The interchange at I-285 and Ga. 400 is certain to be upgraded. Governor Deal is working hard to make our commute on Ga. 400 faster, cheaper and better. His careful management of transportation priorities has made all the difference for our north metro communities.


Governor’s Leadership Spurred DeKalb Surplus

October 9, 2014

The DeKalb County School District recently announced that it is running a $30.9 million surplus. This represents an impressive improvement of $52.3 million over the $21.4 million deficit that faced the school district in February 2013.

February 2013 was the same month that Governor Nathan Deal removed six members of the DeKalb County Board of Education after the board had brought our school system to the brink of accreditation loss. In replacing these six members, Governor Deal appointed six highly qualified and professional citizens who promptly rolled up their sleeves and righted the ship.

Governor Deal led when DeKalb needed him. He took necessary steps in a moment of real crisis. His swift action vastly improved the trajectory of our school system. Now our schools’ accreditation is heading in the right direction. Accreditation loss no longer is a threat.

The district’s red ink has been reversed and has become a substantial surplus. The school system has eliminated furlough days and implemented teacher and staff pay raises. This is a direct result of the improved governance Governor Deal installed on our school board. It also is a result of the $930 million increase in education funding delivered in Governor Deal’s four state budgets.

The press conference in which Governor Deal announced the removal of the school board is the most vivid memory of my ten years in the State House. I was among a bipartisan group of seven DeKalb legislators who stood with Governor Deal that day as he announced his decision.

This bipartisan group did not include Senator Jason Carter, who attended the press conference, stood far behind the cameras, and did not support the decision that was being announced.

On a related note, Senator Carter voted in favor of three of Governor Deal’s four budgets. The budget he voted against – this year’s budget – contained the largest increase in education funding in seven years: $547 million. DeKalb is benefiting from that funding as part of its surplus.

As the father of two children in DeKalb public schools, I appreciate everything Governor Deal has done to improve the governance and financial condition of our school system. We can trust him to put aside partisan politics and make decisions with the best interests of our kids at heart.


Voter Registration Deadline

October 2, 2014

The deadline to register to vote for the upcoming General Election is this Monday, October 6. It’s easy to do. Click here to register online at Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website.


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