[UPDATED] KSU Student Should Stay, by a KSU Graduate

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard of Jessica Colotl, the 21 year old student at Kennesaw State University who was recently found to be an illegal immigrant during a routine traffic stop in Cobb County.

James Touchton, a staffer (maybe volunteer?) for Tom Graves’ 9th District US House of Representatives campaign, is a guy I vaguely knew when we were both students at Kennesaw State in the first half of this decade. He worked with Student Government, I was an officer of various levels with a service based honors society known as the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. We now find ourselves on opposite sides of this particular debate, given his comment in the link.
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RE: McElhannon Letter about Speaker Richardson

An open letter from Joel McElhannon regarding Speaker Richardson’s announcement was put up on PeachPundit, and there is a piece of it I wanted to discuss here:

The vast majority of arm chair activists, pundits, editorialists, and bloggers should do themselves a favor and just shut up.

You have never had the courage or ability to hold public office, so you have no concept of the pressures those with that courage and ability must endure. After dealing with legitimate constituent problems, crazy calls at all hours about dogs barking and obnoxious neighbors, election challenges, political forces pushing them in every direction, and the pressure all of this puts on their family, to have to endure your ridiculous rants and stunningly uninformed cheap shots is a special kind of hell. Spare us your hyperventilating.

Maybe I’m one of the exceptions when he says the “vast majority”. I certainly hope so. Because unlike a great deal of my counterparts both in blogging and within the Libertarian Party, I’ve done something over the last few months that I think qualifies me for an intelligent discussion on this. I actually ran for political office. Yes, I lost. I’ll even admit that I lost pretty handily. But my name WAS on a ballot, and that DOES separate me from the “vast majority of arm chair activists, pundits, editorialists, and bloggers”.
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Powerful Confessions

Our thoughts and prayers here at SWGAPolitics.com go out to Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives Glenn Richardson and his family and friends.

For those who have not yet heard, one of the most politically powerful men in the State – if not THE most powerful – publicly confessed about an hour ago that he recently tried to take his own life. Speaker Richardson is scheduled to be at a fundraiser here in Albany on Monday night for State Represenative Ed Rynders, though we are unsure at this time how this announcement will impact his ability to attend the event.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a decently rich and certainly powerful man – one that many look up to as the very definition of success.

And yet depression struck even him.

We are entering into a time of year where more people become depressed and more suicide attempts are made. If this is you, PLEASE know that you are not alone. We recommend seeking professional help if at all possible, but if you just need someone to talk to feel free to use that contact form at the top of this page. Sometimes even writing things out helps, and I will at least do what I can to give you someone to talk to.

Before you start thinking that I won’t know what I’m talking about, know this: I’ve been there too. I won’t go into any specifics, but it was a while back and I came through that period stronger than when I had gone into it. Indeed, that period was the birth of the man you read now. I’m not going to lie to you and say depression is easy to get over. You and I both know it isn’t, and platitudes don’t help matters. But I can absolutely tell you that you WILL eventually get through it.

If you need help, call 1-800-715-4225. Those are some trained professionals. But if you just need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll listen, and we’ll try to get you what help we can.

2 Schools, 2 Situations, 1 Violation

This week, news has come out of two different schools in two widely separated areas of the State that have both had instances of religion in the schools. Both were protested, and while there was only one violation, both schools ultimately made the right decision.

The first incident is the now-infamous case of the Lakeview-Fort Ogelthorpe Cheerleaders. In the latest news on that front, the Catoosa County School Board made exactly the correct Constitutional call and upheld banning the banners from the football field. Note that never once were the banners fully banned – they were simply told they could display them in an area anyone else could display any banner they had made, but that they could not display the banners in an area where no one else could. Note that the issue of being in a uniform bearing the school’s name and logo was not even in question in the current situation, meaning that so far as I am aware, the cheerleaders would still be allowed to be in uniform holding their banner in the new location. In other words, the ONLY issue addressed so far is that of a true “public forum” vs an area where by its very nature, only school sponsored personnel and materials are allowed to be present.
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Lighthouses On a Stormy Sea

Governor Perdue said Tuesday that “The best of people comes out in times like this.”, and some stories are already coming out of people helping themselves and their neighbors deal with the Atlanta floods.

Take, for example, the story in one AJC picture of two men clearing out a house in the middle of the flood. Neither had met before that moment, but one man owned the house and the other had once considered buying it. In another picture, you see a kid chipping golf balls into the water, making the best of a bad situation. In another, you have two brothers on top of a mobile home trying to get in and salvage what they can – in the middle of flood waters that appear to be at least 3 feet deep. (These stories and their pics can be found here, and many more pics of the floods from the AJC can be found here.)

Also coming out are actual news accounts of neighbors helping neighbors. The most prominent I’ve seen so far is the story of Mercedes Bell, who by Weds had already stripped out most of her carpet and drywall with the help of a neighbor and her friends.

Individuals helping individuals. Families helping families. Friends helping friends. Neighbors helping neighbors.

THAT is the American Way. THAT is what makes this nation the best nation on earth.

The strength of this nation is NOT our government, but our people, and in times of catastrophe, that strength shines like a lighthouse on a stormy sea.

Equal Ballot Access: Three Proposals

Over the summer, I took two issues to heart and have begun working on talking to various members of the General Assembly and the public about them. Those two issues were Georgia’s ballot access laws and daytime meetings by local governing bodies.

I have my own ideas on each of these subjects, but this post is specifically directed at the ballot access laws.

My friend, Jason Pye, has his own bill proposal that basically lowers the petition requirement from 5% of the registered voters in the district to one percent of the registered voters. It also has provisions so that even that lowered number can be further reduced or waived if certain conditions are met.

My ideas all center around a different tack to solving this problem: Whereas Jason strikes at petition requirements, I strike at the very distinctions between political ‘party’, ‘body’, and ‘organization’. I also offer a very mild, pragmatic bill that I like better than current law, but is still far from what I would actually like to see.
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[CORRECTED] Daytime Meetings Subvert the Principles of Democratic Republics

“There should be a law…” is something that I tend to avoid. Quite frankly, we have too many laws as it is, and most of the time when you hear that phrase, what comes next is something that will curtail civil or economic liberties to some degree.

Of course, with that opening paragraph, there is bound to be a ‘but’, and here it is:

From looking at the Official Code of Georgia as available on LexisNexis online, it appears that there is no law requiring local government meetings to be open to the public. This, to me, is despicable. While there may be SOME reason for closed door sessions in certain extremely limited situations, by and large local government meetings should be open to the public.

But there is an equally important issue here, one that I’ve never seen addressed – and the one that resulted in me doing that search of OCGA. You see, I’ve lived in several cities in Georgia spread across each of the State’s lateral zones (north, central, south). In each of those, I’ve noticed the same things happening in every town: local commission meetings are advertised as ‘open to the public’ but are held at times during the workday when John Q. Public is at work and therefore cannot attend. Local media coverage is often spotty, at best, and therefore John Q. Public may or may not be truly informed of the decisions his local leaders are making – decisions that affect his day to day life far more drastically and severely than any decision made at the State or Federal level.
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What Do You Cut?

Much ado has been made over the past couple of days about Governor Purdue announcing his intentions to furlough teachers for three days this calendar year in a cost-saving measure designed to avoid a special session of the General Assembly.

I’ll be the first to point to several different things that could have been cut other than that, but there are a few things I want to point out:

First, until now, education hasn’t received any direct cuts, even though it is roughly 55% of the budget for this state.

Second, in keeping with the GOP way of doing things in this regard, Perdue didn’t actually mandate that teachers be furloughed – legally, he can’t. What he did was to cut the funding for local schools by three days per teacher. If a local school system wants to actually furlough the teachers that day, that is their call. They could try to save the money in other ways – such as by furloughing only central office staff for a longer period, expanding the ‘no bussing’ zone around schools, lengthening the distance between school bus stops, reducing the amount of supplies – including paper, pens, and toilet paper – bought, etc. Again, that decision is completely up to them.

Now, we’ve already got two Governor candidates, David Poythress and John Oxendine, coming out with statements here. Believe it or not, I actually agree with Ox’s statement that “Teachers need our absolute support and encouragement. I believe the root of the problem is not the amount of money coming into the state treasury, but how we are choosing to spend the money. It obviously hurts our teachers, but in the end it hurts every school child in this state.” My problem with Ox’s statement is that it is typical generic politician hogwash. I want details – and Poythress has already provided some.

Poythress’ statement can be found here, but here is where he gets specific on what he would do instead:

While I am a big supporter of rural economic development, and plan to make it a top priority in my Administration, it’s hard to justify spending this money when we can’t even pay our teachers. In short, some things like the “Go Fish” program should have to wait a year until we get our fiscal house in order. That’s not tough love – it’s the right thing to do.

Apparently Governor Perdue and the Atlanta politicians disagree.

A better decision would have been to delay or sunset special interest tax breaks. A 2008 Georgia State University study estimates that sales tax exemptions total $10 billion a year. If we were to furlough some of the special interest protections by just 1%, we could generate $100 million, help balance our budget and not cut teacher pay by a single penny.

A close examination of the tax breaks enacted in 2008 reveals two premium tax breaks for insurance companies, and tax exemption on fuel used by pig farmers and up to $50 million in tax credits for donors (corporate or individual) to private school scholarship funds. Thirty five special interest tax breaks enacted between 2005 and 2008 amount to $333 million in lost revenue in the FY2010 budget. The 17 special interest tax break bills enacted in 2009 will cost Georgia another $99 million in lost revenues.

Believe it or not, in talking about eliminating exceptions to the tax code, Poythress is actually talking about something talked about on this very site a few weeks ago. I doubt the General and I would agree on much else, but there is that!

Finally, I want to point out that I wish our leaders would do their job and cut/defund actual positions/programs, rather than passing the buck down the line. I understand their reluctance to micro-manage, and most of the time I applaud that. However, there IS a time for actually making a decision when those under you refuse to for whatever reason, and that time is now in regards to cutting/defunding specific positions and programs in this state.

I’ll post a follow-on post next week with some of my suggestions about what to cut, but what about you? If YOU were Governor or running for Governor, what would YOU cut? For your reference, here’s the Governor’s Budget Recommendations.

My Plan to Solve Georgia’s Voter Verification Problem

Thursday, I wrote about Karen Handel’s problems with the US Department of Justice, specifically the face that DOJ ruled some of the procedures her office as Secretary of State put in place for voter verification purposes. In fact, the DOJ had found that sixty percent of those people the Secretary of State’s office had listed as ‘non-citizens’ were, in fact, citizens.

I’ve been asked by some, including Peach Pundit’s Icarus and others connected to Ms. Handel’s Governor campaign, about what specifically I would do differently.
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