Get our e-newsletter

Attend the 60th Anniversary of League of Women Voters Marietta-Cobb

vote

The League of Women Voters of Marietta-Cobb will celebrate their 60th anniversary on Saturday, May 17 at their annual meeting. Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the National League of Women Voters, will be the featured speaker.

MacNamara will share information about the League’s national efforts on various issues, including voting rights. The program will also include Cathy Kaemmerlen’s dramatization of the trial of Susan B. Anthony (Susan B. Anthony: Failure is Impossible), accused of illegally voting in the 1872 presidential election.

The cost of the brunch and event is $16 per person and is open to the public. Send your reservation by May 12 to Janet Cohen at lwvmcpublicity@gmail.com for the mailing address and menu choices. The event will be held from 9:30am – noon in the private room of Cosmopolitan Restaurant at 2475 Delk Road Marietta 30067. Call Elizabeth Melville for further information at 770-592-0625.

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Learn ‘How to do Business with Cobb County’ this May

how to do business with cobb

The first ‘How to do Business with Cobb’ seminar of 2014 will be held on Tuesday, May 13, from 5-7pm at the Cobb Chamber, 240 Interstate North Parkway, Atlanta, 30339. Learn how to become a vendor for the county and network with other businesses and county personnel that make the purchasing decisions.

Free to attend but space is limited. To RSVP, please send an email to Inger.Eberhart@cobbcounty.org or call 770-528-3317

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Political Forum on Educational Financing coming to Hightower Trail Middle School

american_flag-971804

There will be a political forum panel discussion on education financing on Thursday April 17, 2014, in the Hightower Trail Middle School auditorium, 3905 Post Oak Tritt Road.  State and local political leaders will be in attendance and speaking at the forum.

The focus of the discussion will be the practical realities of the budget shortfall for students, teachers, parents and schools, as well as potential short-term and long-term solutions for education funding and ensuring the high quality of education for students now and in the future. In addition, organizers will focus on the voting process and the upcoming May 20th primary.

For more information, contact Amy Surasky president@trittpta.org or (770) 642-5630 or Jennifer Limeri president@huskyptsa.info or (770) 578-7225. The PTA follows 501(c) 3 practices and invites all candidates from the state representative race for districts; 44, 45 and 46, and the state senate race for district 32, as well as the Gubernatorial race for the State of Georgia.  Hosting of this candidate forum should not and cannot imply endorsement of any candidate.

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Paul Broun, Bob Barr and Tricia Pridemore will speak to Cobb GOP

GOP Republican

The April First Saturday Breakfast for the Cobb County Republican Party on Saturday, April 5, will feature US Senate candidate Paul Broun and 11th Congressional District candidates Bob Barr and Tricia PridemoreEach speaker will have 20 minutes to address breakfast attendees and answer questions.

The breakfast will be held at the Cobb County Republican Party headquarters, 799 Roswell St, MariettaThe breakfast buffet opens at 8:15, and the program begins at 8:45. 

Admission is $10 per person.  There is no extra charge for breakfast or coffee.
 
For more information, please contact Joe Dendy at 770-820-6545.

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

State Legislative Update by Representative Don Parsons

Don Parsons

This information was reprinted from the newsletter of Representative Don Parsons Newsletter, March 26, 2014
The 2014 session of the General Assembly adjourned Sine Die at midnight on Thursday, March 20. We were in session for the full 40 legislative days. Those days were very busy and productive, but we were still able to conclude the session at the earliest calendar date in many years.
It was a productive and successful session for me. I am happy to report that two very important pieces of legislation that I sponsored were approved by by both chambers and are now on the Governor’s desk. HB 176 and HB 348 are explained below.
The economy of the state is improving, and state revenues are beginning to increase. During the recent years of declining revenues that were brought about by the “Great Recession”, many tough cuts in funding had to be made by the General Assembly and the Governor. Total cuts of approximately 20% were made in state spending. Cuts were made for all state agencies. Among those cuts were education, and QBE, in particular. There has been a lot of questions and some misunderstanding about this. It is important to keep in mind that education, including K-12, the university system and technical education makes up well over half of all state funding. Also, although state spending was cut approximately 20% during those years, funding for education was cut approximately 8%. I have more information on my website at: http://www.donparsons.org
The following are some highlights of 2014 legislation
HB 176 streamlines the permitting process for the siting of cell towers. The snow and ice storms this winter illustrated the need for cellular bandwidth. The demands on cellular continue to rise with more smartphones and ever increasing amount of data downloaded and uploaded. Cellular bandwidth is critical for public safety, economic development and the use of wireless data for daily commerce and everyday life. This legislation was approved.

HB 348 provides an income tax credit for the purchase of certain commercial vehicles that use alternative sources of fuel. Alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas (cng) are produced in the US, are less expensive and produce no to low pollutants. The tax credit is capped at $5 million over two years. This legislation was approved.

HB 744, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget. The total state amount appropriated is $20.8 billion, an increase of $602.5 million more than the amended Fiscal Year 2014 budget. This reflects increasing state revenue due to rebounding state economy. 72% of this new money went to education. $314 million is appropriated to K-12 schools as “no string attached” new money. It can be used to reduce teacher furloughs, restore 180 days, give raises, or whatever the local Board of Education deems the smartest use of the funds. The budget was approved.

HB 60 This important legislation clarifies where licensed owners may carry firearms. Among the highlights: Allows K-12 schools who cannot afford resource (police) officers the option to train and arm a staff member, using similar firearms training to law enforcement. The bill  makes a lesser penalty for someone who inadvertently brings a weapon to security at the airport but immediately surrenders it. It will be more difficult for mentally ill people to get access to weapons. Firearms will remain prohibited from churches unless the church membership opts-in to allow them. This bill was approved

SB 167 This legislation, known as the “common core” bill passed the Senate but was not approved by the House Education Committee. Among other things, the legislation would have prohibited Prohibited testing based on national Common Core standards. It would have also prohibited state education agencies from entering into any commitments relating to the federal Race to the Top program, required hearings and public input prior to adoption of state-wide competencies and content standards, limited the compilation and sharing of personal student and teacher data and prohibited the expenditure of funds for a state-wide longitudinal data system.

SR 415 approved a referendum to be placed on the General Election ballot that will ask the voters of Georgia if they wish to amend the Georgia Constitution to cap the state’s income tax rate at the current 6%. The resolution was approved.

HB 885 Known as the “Medical Cannabis” bill, this legislation sought to provide a legal means for parents of children who suffer from seizures, many of whom suffer from hundreds of lengthy and heartbreaking seizures a day, to obtain a form of cannabis in pill or liquid form that has been shown to dramatically lessen the number of those seizures. This bill was approved by the House overwhelmingly but failed to be enacted due to action in the senate.

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Elections are May 20th – Don’t Forget to Register to Vote by April 21st!

vote

The primary is on May 20th this year. This is the day before the last day of school for Cobb County Schools.

The voter registration deadline is April 21st.  Dont forget to register to vote!  

EAST COBBER reminds you to exercise your constitutional right to vote; the elected officials who win the election will be making decisions about education policy and education funding.

An easy way to vote is by absentee ballot - anyone can do this with no reason stated.  Here is a link for an absentee voter registration form:  http://www.cobbelections.org/pdf/2014/2014AbsenteeAppMail.pd

Here is link to early voting information, which begins April 28th:  http://www.cobbelections.org/pdf/2014/2014May_VotingOptions.pdf

Exercise your right to vote East Cobbers!

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

March School Budget Update from David Banks

David Banks

The following information was originally published in the Grapevine newsletter by David E. Banks, Cobb County School Board Post 5

In a previous issue of the Grapevine, I was able to provide you with proposed State Budget funding amounts from the Governor. Since that time the House of Representatives has passed the proposed Budget and we are now waiting on the Senate.

At the March 12th Board Work Session, Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson presented a snapshot of the reasonable expectations the Cobb County School District would receive from the State Budget.

($79,134,824) – the FY2015 Projected General Fund Budget Shortfall as presented in October 2013.
Adjustments:
$25,000,000 – General Fund Lapse (Prior Year Actual Expenditures Compared to Budget). Budget money not spent during the current year (2013-2014).
$ 8,028,901 – FY2014 Midterm (QBE) Additional funding as a result of the State Supplemental Budget Adjustments.
$20,132,808 – Governor’s Proposed FY2015 Budget (reduced austerity).
$ 6,929,777 – FY2015 QBE Growth and T&E Factor. Increased funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Teachers’ Retirement System from 12.28% to 13.15%. Increase in T&E funding for teacher step increases and enrollment growth.
$ 5,000,000 – Classified Employee Health Insurance Premium. $150 per month per employee.
$ 38,305 – Funding for School Nurses.

As you can see, the Cobb County School District is continuing to receive good news concerning its Budget funding.

There are three additional sources of funding that are pending that will help determine additional funding; Tax Assessor Audits, Cobb EMC Settlement, and how much of the Fund Balance will be used to balance the Budget.

The good news is it is looking like the 2014-2015 Budget will be balanced without any Staff reduction and no furlough days. In other words, there will a 180 day school year for students and 190 day school year for teachers. Also included is a full step increase rather than a half-step as in previous years.

In summary, the Budget shortfall is looking much better, but we are not “out of the woods yet”. The continuing concern is determining what is recurring revenue and expenditures and what is one time revenue and expenditures for FY2016 school year, which the CFO is already anticipating in his budget process.

The Board Chair Ms. Angelucci, Vice-Chair Mr. Scamihorn, and I have been working closely with CFO Mr. Johnson to bring our budget into balance in a way that will have a positive impact on the school system and not have a negative impact on the classroom. I want to recognize the many hours of work that the Budget Staff has devoted to this effort and the results look very encouraging. Although there is much more to do, the Budget Staff has been able to provide viable options in the budget balancing process.

As I mention in a previous Grapevine, in order to return to the pre-2009 level, there must be another source of funding. The proposed Local Education Sales Tax Amendment would provide this needed funding and provide property tax reduction each year. There are many who have subscribed to this proposed funding so I will continue to advocate for this funding option so that Cobb County schools can return to the pre-2009 level.

(Source: David Banks) 

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Lee touts fractional SPLOST

Tim Lee

Fearing the fractional SPLOST legislation he’s wanted for the last few years was at risk of not passing again this session, county Chairman Tim Lee paid a visit to the Capitol on Tuesday to make some noise.

At issue is a bill by state Rep. John Carson (R-northeast Cobb) that would allow counties and cities to collect a sales tax of less than 1 cent per dollar spent.

The House passed HB 153 after a revote earlier in the session and the Senate approved it last week with an amendment by the Senate Finance Committee chaired by state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb). That amendment would allow for multiple special purpose local option sales taxes to be levied at the same time, provided they add up to no more than 1 percent.

But when the Senate’s amended version returned to the House, Carson objected.

Lee said since resistance to the fractional SPLOST option was strongest in the House, Carson didn’t want to risk another vote in that chamber.

“I think Carson, the first time he brought it forward it lost in the House and he had to get it reconsidered and voted on again,” Lee said. “He just didn’t want to take the chance of going back for another vote. I don’t think he really cared about the amendment, the process was just going to be challenging for him.”

Since Thursday is the last day of the session, Lee drove down to the Capitol to urge Hill to see Carson’s original bill safely through the Senate.

“I told him it was my belief if it went back to the House for a vote, it would not get either considered or through and we’d lose another year, and is there another alternative of passing what’s currently been approved by the House, and would you please consider that, so that’s where we left it,” Lee said.

The bill has been the target of the Georgia Municipal Association, which represents cities. City advocates oppose the bill because they want the full 1 cent per dollar a SPLOST collects and nothing less, critics say.

Hill said Tuesday night he agreed to pass Carson’s bill without the amendment on Thursday.

“The clock is running out, and to make additional changes requires the House and Senate to go back and forth to agree to certain changes, and that becomes challenging in the last few hours of the legislative session,” Hill said.

Hill’s abortion bill passes

Hill scored a victory Tuesday when both the House and Senate voted in favor of his bill prohibiting teachers and other state workers from having an abortion paid for under the state health benefit plan.

SB 98 now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal to be signed into law or vetoed.

“I think it’s good for the people of this state that their taxpayer money is protected from paying for abortions,” Hill said. “We have not changed any provision in the abortion law, we just joined with about 24 other states to declare that their taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions in this state.”

State employees have the right to pay for an abortion if they choose, they just have to pay for it out of their own pocket, Hill said.

“Except for protecting the life of the mother we’re prohibiting the use of taxpayer money to perform abortions in the state,” he said.

Deal used his executive power to remove abortion coverage from the state health benefit plan, but Hill is trying to put it into state law so that if a Democrat is elected governor, the Democrat couldn’t put the option back in the plan.

Between 2010 and Jan. 1, when Deal’s change took effect, about 2,000 abortions were paid for by the state plan, Hill said.

State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) has opposed the bill because it doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest victims. Evans has used the example of a baby that was brain dead or dead in the womb.

“If a woman on a state health benefit plan faces this difficult situation, but cannot afford to pay for an abortion without her insurance coverage, she will be forced to carry the baby to term even though the baby has already passed away,” she said.

But Hill said the bill includes a medical emergency exemption that would cover that scenario.

“Removing a dead baby is not considered an abortion under the law because the baby’s already died,” he said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, March 19, 2014.)

Senate Bill 353: Legislature seeks to relax existing controls

The recent legal brawl between the Cobb school district and the combined Development Authority of Cobb County and John Williams’ Riverwalk project ended when Williams representative Tad Leithead withdrew the application for DACC financing and related tax breaks. The legal brawl ended but not the underlying conflict.
Some of us expected the Legislature might act to tighten the control;s on the Development Authority as well as the various other Authorities that exist state-wide. They all have power to grant special financing as incentives to businesses for purposes of attracting investment and job creation. It’s a balancing act because the incentives are reductions in tax obligations that reduce revenue for local governments and school systems.
Instead of tightening controls on these Authorities, the Legislature sought, through SB 353, to RELAX some existing controls.
In a quick read, the bill looks fairly innocent, with a lot of technical jargon. Several parts will make little or no sense to a reader who has no prior knowledge of related issues with Development Authorities. I and others invested many hours this past weekend breaking down this bill and all related sections of Georgia Code. Everything you read about it in the MDJ is accurate. In fact, I personally think there is even more “friendly” law-making for special interests than has been reported.
It is possible the Senators who voted for SB 353 simply did not understand the bill and may have relied on assurances from others about the content. Senator Lindsey Tippens was the only Senator from Cobb to oppose this bill. In an uncharacteristic approach, Tippens took to the well of the Senate Friday afternoon to speak out against the bill and really triggered the groundswell of opposition.
If you run into Sen. Tippens, say “Thanks”.
(Written by East Cobb’s Larry Savage)
For more about the Legislature’s handling of SB 353, visit these articles from the Marietta Daily Journal: 

 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Cobb senator, BoE chair rip tax break bill

23

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins and Cobb Schools Chairwoman Kathy Angelucci are denouncinga bill they say would limit a school district’s ability to challenge special tax breaks offered by development authorities to developers of office and hotel space. Current law does not allow development authorities to abate county and school taxes on projects such as hotels and motels, nursing homes and office buildings. However, Senate Bill 353 removes that barrier and allows tax abatements on any type of project in the name of economic development, Tippins said.

The bill would broaden the power of development authorities to dole out tax incentives on specific types of projects.

“My greatest objection is that this bill has the potential to further defund education in Georgia by extending the exemptions from paying school taxes to selected parties,” said Tippins, a west Cobb Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Georgia law allows for the creation of development authorities throughout the state for the purpose of developing and promoting the public good and general welfare, trade, commerce, industry and employment opportunities. Board members are not elected but appointed by county commissioners.

Some critics believe developer John Williams is behind the bill after striking out in court with the Cobb Board of Education over a development he wanted to build in Cumberland.

The Development Authority of Cobb County, chaired by Vinings Bank Vice President Clark Hungerford, approved a financing deal that would have allowed Williams to escape paying millions in school taxes on the development. The school district challenged the proposal in court, and Williams and his consultant Tad Leithead withdrew the application.

Already passed the Senate

The bill has already sailed through the Senate and is now in the House waiting for approval.

SB 353 is sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), who is CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the North Fulton Community Improvement District, a board on which Leithead serves. In the House, it is sponsored by state Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead). Lindsey is running in the May 20 Republican primary for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta).

Of the six senators who represent Cobb, Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) and Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) voted for the bill, Tippins and Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) voted against the bill, and Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) and Bruce Thompson (R-White) did not vote and were marked “excused.”

Tippins explained his opposition by noting the types of properties considered under the new development authority law — hotels and motels, nursing homes, and office buildings — that could qualify for tax abatement.

“While they can be done under the bonding authority of a development authority they are not exempt from local ad valorem taxation according to the language of these bills, currently,” Tippins said.

Tippins said the bill would essentially allow local governments to pick winners and losers in the market place.

“I believe the reason that the law as it stands currently did not give them the exemption because all of these are properties that are operated by for-profit entities, and since they operate for profit, they’re in competition with other business entities that do not get these incentives. That’s why I oppose the bill,” Tippins said. “You’ve got to look at the fairness of the competition.”

Destabilizing school revenues

That’s not the only reason Tippins opposes the bill.

“I also oppose it because every time you extend an additional exemption, which that is what this bill does, you’re taking away any possibility of taxation by the education agencies as long as the title of the property is vested in the development authority,” Tippins said. “We’re already in a funding crisis in education and this further exacerbates the funding crisis that we have by exempting additional properties by statute.” Angelucci said she doesn’t know for certain that Williams is behind the legislation. “I would have to say it would make sense being what we just went through as a school district with regards to the Development Authority and the John Williams project, so that would make sense,” she said. “I don’t know it to be sure, but it’s worrisome and because the legislative session is so tight, things are going so fast that I just don’t think it’s been fully vetted.”

Another part of the bill that concerns Tippins is that under existing law, the district attorney is charged with attending the bond validation hearings to make sure that certain guidelines have been met. Beach’s law takes away that responsibility from the district attorney.

“In the absence of the DA being there, you know who makes the case that the conditions have been met? The Development Authority,” Tippins said.

Then there is the change that prohibits a party from appealing the ruling of a Superior Court judge. The bill says the judge is the final adjudication, he said.

Follow the money

Asked where this bill is coming from, Tippins said, “Well, follow the money.”

Had Beach’s bill been in place when the school board challenged John Williams’ project, the school board would have been on much less secure footing in its challenge, Tippins said.

“They could not challenge the office piece because they were challenging it on the grounds that it was specifically prohibited by law currently,” Tippins said. “If you take that current prohibition out of the law that you can’t do offices then they wouldn’t have a specific line-item challenge to it.” Angelucci agrees.

“I think we would not have had as strong a leg to stand on,” she said. “I don’t think that maybe the other side would have withdrawn because the objection was about school districts and their authority being usurped. But if the language of the bill puts certain allowances in like the office projects, if it allows for that then we could not have objected which is what John Williams wanted was the offices plus the apartments, so we would have had, we would not have been able to challenge it and be as secure as we were.” Cobb Development Authority Chairman Clark Hungerford believes Beach’s bill is good legislation that is needed to clarify various issues. “It’s really, as I understand it, kind of a clean-up bill; it’s primarily focused on some things happening in Fulton County, but I think has some benefits state wide and being a little bit more clear at what some of the qualified projects could be going forward,” he said. “I think it’s an OK bill. I think it’s one that should pass.” Hungerford said he was unaware of how Angelucci or Tippins felt about the bill.

“You know, I am for whatever can make our community better,” Hungerford said. “That includes the business, the school system and the community as a whole. I think there is some benefit from looking at ad valorem tax incentives and other incentives to induce growth in this county, not on a carte blanche basis, but I think there are projects that qualify that would be a boon to our community and end up helping the school board in the long run.”

Fearing the removal of accountability

Angelucci said she hopes Cobb’s state legislators vote against the bill. During a recent training session for school board leaders, Angelucci said she found many school board chairs were unaware of how development authorities can waive school district taxes for developers. “You can tell that a lot of school districts had no clue, I mean when I tell you no clue they didn’t even know what a development authority was, and when you consider how many are in the state of Georgia, I don’t know what the number is, but there are eight in Cobb County alone,” Angelucci said. “So because they didn’t know about it, what happens is especially with the rural districts, they’re not aware they can object. Angela Palm and Sis Henry (education lobbyists), they were standing in front of all those school board chairs and superintendents saying we really have to watch this.” Angelucci believes Beach’s legislation is being pushed through before school districts across the state wake up and realize how development authorities can give away future school revenues. “We’re going to have to talk about this on Wednesday,” Angelucci said of the board’s scheduled work session.

State Rep. Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) said he’s aware of the bill, but hasn’t yet read it.

“I have read the feedback from Tippins and Angelucci on it, and it does concern me,” Dollar said. “I placed a call to Sen. Beach to try to find out what he hopes to accomplish with this bill, and I haven’t heard back from him. I am troubled by the sentiment out there that this bill will take away accountability from the process when many feel that we need some more accountability.”

State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) said he’s studying the bill and is not ready to make a comment. Golick said the bill passed out of the House’s Economic Development Committee, but that Ed Lindsey had requested on Monday that it return to that committee, “so it could very well change.”

Click here to read the bill

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, March 11, 2014. Click HERE to read the MDJ)