Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Your daily jolt: Nathan Deal aims big money at Georgia's technical schools


We have a more complete sweep of education issues on myajc.com this morning, but Georgia’s tech schools are an early winner in this year’s session of the state Legislature:

Gov. Nathan Deal wants to establish a scholarship that would provide full tuition for tech college students who earn a 3.5 grade point average, his spokesman Brian Robinson said Wednesday.

The Zell Miller Scholarship will be a new part of the HOPE grant program, which has come under intense criticism from Democrats in the wake of a belt-tightening measure pushed through the Legislature. Robinson said some 16,000 technical college students could immediately qualify for the program.

The governor will also propose in his state budget that $10 million be set aside for low-interest loans for needy technical college students. An additional $3.6 million would pay for books for high school students in joint-enrollment programs with technical colleges, Robinson said.

The move is a continued attempt to address one of the biggest missteps of the first four years of the Deal administration – the move to require a 3.0 grade point average for tech school students in order to keep HOPE scholarship money.

Thousands of students were forced out of classrooms, jeopardizing an important recruiting pool for businesses that rely on much-needed blue-collar and technical-oriented employees.

The Legislature last year returned the grade point requirement to 2.0, with Deal appropriating legislation initiated by state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna. Said Evans, in an email late Wednesday:

"I am glad the Governor is offering more help for technical college students. I don't think his proposals go as far as we should or could go, however. I see this as an incremental step to fully funding tuition for the HOPE Grant, which students, TCSG, and Georgia's economy need, and I hope that the Governor does too.

“In my mind, the Governor's proposal is not perfect. But I do not think it is good for Georgia to let perfect be the enemy of good."

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The Fulton County Daily Report says Georgia prosecutors are now willing to accept a bill regulating civil forfeitures – with a few tweaks demanded by the state’s sheriffs:

House Bill 1 rankled district attorneys last year because it would have raised the state's burden of proof to seize assets linked to crimes from a preponderance of the evidence to clear and convincing evidence. The bill also would have required judges to approve forfeitures worth more than $5,000, rather than the $25,000 ceiling under which authorities can seize assets now. Finally, the bill would have required prosecutors to prove that allegedly innocent owners—people whose seized property was used by another in a criminal action—unequivocally knew about underlying criminal activity in order for the court to grant forfeiture.

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U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, a candidate for promotion to the Senate, is one of 16 House Republicans who have “vehemently” rejected President Barack Obama’s call for the House to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Perhaps on a similar topic, our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree caught up with the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who declared the business community ready for battle in GOP primaries – though he didn’t want to declare the effort a war against the tea party. From Dupree's blog:

"The business community understands what's at stake," said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue in a speech in Washington, D.C..

"In primaries and in general elections, we will support candidates who want to work within the legislative process to solve the nation's problems," Donohue added.

In a session with reporters after his speech, Donohue waved off assertions that the Chamber is going after the Tea Party - "Don't line me up as attacking the Tea Party, because I'm not," he said - but he made clear that if business can rally behind a candidate to challenge someone in Congress who has been at odds with the Chamber, that's fine.

"Will we support folks that challenge people we just think vote wrong and have not been helpful?  Sounds like a good idea," Donohue said.

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We haven’t begun to deal with 2014 yet, but the biggest political story of the day is a potential shake-up in the 2016 Republican presidential field:

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From the New York Times:

The mystery of who closed two lanes onto the George Washington Bridge — turning the borough of Fort Lee, N.J., into a parking lot for four days in September — exploded into a full-bore political scandal for Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday. Emails and texts revealed that a top aide had ordered the closings to punish the town’s mayor after he did not endorse the governor for re-election.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, emailed David Wildstein, a high school friend of the governor who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge.

Later text messages mocked concerns that school buses filled with students were stuck in gridlock: “They are the children of Buono voters,” Mr. Wildstein wrote, referring to Mr. Christie’s opponent Barbara Buono.

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Again, we take a broader look at the 2014 governor's race over at myajc.com but here let's parse some of the more intriguing state fundraising numbers that trickled out last night:

-- U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, once again is setting the fundraising pace in the Republican race for Senate, with a $880,000 fourth quarter giving him $3.4 million in his campaign bank account at year’s end. The haul follows an $806,000 third quarter.

We still have not gotten word from other Republicans in the race on their fundraising. If trends hold, the top money tier will continue to be Kingston and businessman David Perdue – who’s funding much of the campaign himself – followed by a second tier of Paul Broun, Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey.

-- Gov. Nathan Deal took in $4 million from a range of donors and corporate interests. Among his political donors are state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Karen Handel fan, and former Democratic state Rep. Kevin Levitas. A range of business heavyweights gave to Deal, including developer Tom Cousins, Coca-Cola chief executive Muhtar Kent and Newell Rubbermaid CEO Michael Polk.

-- State Sen. Jason Carter's $1.3 million haul for his governor's run include his famous grandparents, former Gov. Roy Barnes, Senate candidate Michelle Nunn,  Carter Center types, and a few celebrities. Michael Stipe, William Berry and Michael Mills, all of Athens-based REM, together gave more than $26,000.

-- Superintendent John Barge didn't post his numbers until late Wednesday, and they weren't good. He managed only about $108,000 since entering the GOP race for governor and has $25,000 left. That includes a $15,000 loan to himself and another $12,000 from relatives. His biggest expense was a $10,000 political consultancy fee to James Lafferty, who is best known for heading the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force.

-- Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed raised a whopping $6 million since he set his sights on City Hall, and finished with roughly $640,000 still in the bank. His expenses included a $15,000 contribution to a nonprofit called Continue Atlanta's Progress and contributions to Alisha Thomas Morgan, the Democratic superintendent candidate and Atlanta Public Schools board member Jason Esteves.

-- Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's $900,000 take this cycle left him with nearly $1.4 million on hand. His benefactors were many of the usual sources for incumbents: Utilities, insurers, medical firms, financiers. He also collected $12,500 from Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a Democrat who likes to spread the love, and more than $56,000 from an assortment of liquor distributors.

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In an address to the Vinings Business Association on Wednesday, Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz said he broke the news about his team’s move to Cobb County to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on the day after his re-election. From the Jon Gillooly and the Marietta Daily Journal:

Schuerholz said while Reed seemed shocked, it was a respectful conversation.

“And I said to him, finally ran out of time, Mr. Mayor. We finally ran out of time, but it takes three years to build a Major League stadium, and we couldn’t keep waiting and then find out there was no place to go, no hope,’ and that’s what I finally told him, and then we realized we had no real hope that this was going to happen.”


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.