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Georgians Celebrate First Victory against Permanent Tolls, SRTA Credit to Private Parties (SB183)

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PRESS RELEASE
Contact: Garland Favorito
Phone: 404-664-4044
March 17, 2017

Georgians Celebrate First Victory against Permanent Tolls Extension of Credit to Private Parties also struck down

ATLANTA GA – Citizens activists are cautiously celebrating their first victory today in a battle to prevent Georgia from becoming a permanent toll road state. On Thursday, the House Transportation Committee voted to strip the permanent toll road language from the highly controversial SB183. The committee also voted to further revise the bill language so that the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) could not extend credit directly to private organizations and individuals, another controversial point. The new, amended bill also appears to close a loophole that may have allowed tolls on existing road capacity.

Citizens had spoken out against another clause that removed the competitive bid requirement however, that clause was included in the committee substitute bill that was passed Thursday. Proponents argued that the original language was consistent with current Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) procedures that allow “value engineering” in lieu of competitive bidding.

The original SB183 sailed through the Senate by a 50-1 vote before hitting a brick wall of vocal activists who discovered the bill content as it reached the House Transportation Committee. A rubber stamp of approval was expected for Sen. Brandon Beach’s bill in the committee since it was co-sponsored by three of Gov. Nathan Deal’s floor leaders.

However, committee members significantly altered the bill before passing it Thursday, much to the pleasure of attendees who had unanimously spoken against the bill in the first hearing on March 9. Those attendees were particularly complimentary towards Committee Chairman Kevin Tanner who they felt made a concerted effort to understand the bill, listen to their concerns and find common ground to make the legislation as palatable as possible for all viewpoints.

The revised bill now moves to the Rules Committee where it will likely receive passage to the House floor for a vote. Georgians cannot relax if the House votes to pass the measure. Once SB183 passes the House, the House and Senate versions will be sent to a Joint Committee that will decide which version should be adopted. That committee could discard the House version and send the Senate version to the House for a floor vote.

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Watchdog Group Leaders Call for Ralston’s Resignation

PRESS RELEASE
Tuesday April 29, 2014 Contact: Garland Favorito
(404) 664-4044

Watchdog Group Leaders Call for Ralston’s Resignation

ATLANTA, GA –A dozen leaders of various organizations plus many other concerned citizens gathered at the Capitol today and made a personal call for House Speaker, David Ralston, to resign his seat. A complaint with evidence of three separate ethics related concerns was delivered to Governor Nathan Deal.

The leaders contended that the Speaker’s House procedures are dictatorial and subvert the principles of a representative democracy. They asserted that all decisions as to what bills are heard and which bills can be voted to move to the floor are made in secrecy and not by votes from their elected representatives. They further lamented that bills can be gutted, supplemented, modified or limited for debate without a floor vote or permission from the authors.

Secondly, the leaders contended that the Speaker and some Representatives flood certain House races with money to elect candidates who will accept the established dictatorship. Records of a 2012 primary show the Speaker’s $5000 and $27,000 from legislators, helped create a 5:1 spending advantage for a candidate who raised 93% of his funds from legislators, corporations and PACs. His challenger, a minister, raised 96% of his money from individuals. The leaders cited such funding as conflicts of interest that undermine the will of the people in the districts.
Finally, the leaders insisted that the Speaker and some Representatives conducted a politically motivated, false attack on a bill introduced by Rep. Sam Moore with intent to destroy his reelection chances. Records proved that the Speaker and some of the same Representatives are funding Moore’s previous primary opponent, who is running for that seat again. Legislators contributed over $17,000 of the $30,000 total for his opponent, who raised only about $800 from in district individuals. Moore has refused to take cash from corporations, PACs, lobbyists or legislators.
To disprove the Speaker’s claim that one of Moore’s previous bills to remove loitering laws would have jeopardized children, three separate child protection statutes and current loitering laws were explained. The leaders contend the Speaker had to know that the legal premise of his claim was false since he was a criminal defense attorney who represented several child molesters in high profile cases.

Georgia ranks as America’s most politically corrupt state. Its ethics commission was recently found liable for a $700,000 judgment in the first of several wrongful termination suits by employees who were involved in investigating Gov. Deal.

Press Conference 4 29 14 from Wonderland on Vimeo.

David Ralston complaint delivered to Governor Deal
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April 29, 2014

Dear Governor Deal,

We are writing to personally request your immediate attention to several matters that we believe have compromised the rights of Georgians. First, for the last five years the Georgia House of Representatives has not operated on principles of a representative democracy as Georgians would expect. As you know, the officials who we elect have no voice in determining what bills are heard in their committees and little power to select any Rules committee bill to be moved to the floor for voting. Furthermore, bills can be gutted, supplemented, modified or restructured to limit debate without a floor vote or permission from the author. Bill decisions are now made in secrecy under control of one person, House Speaker David Ralston. These House procedures are not representative of a democratic republic but more closely resemble characteristics of a dictatorship that is contrary to the interests of the people of Georgia.

Secondly, the Speaker of the House and some of its members have compromised Georgia elections by flooding selected House races with out of district money for their chosen candidates. This is a conflict of interest that subverts the will of the people in those districts. These chosen candidates outspend their opponents by astronomical margins to win their races. They are then beholden to the leadership when they join the House, thus further expanding this dictatorial empire. For example, in 2012 Speaker Ralston and certain House members contributed more than $27,000 in out of district donations to prevent a minister from being elected to the Georgia House. Their candidate raised 93% of his total funds from legislators, corporations and PACs including an early $5,000 from Speaker Ralston. This allowed him to outspend by a 5:1 margin, the minister who raised 96% of his funds from individuals.

Third, the election manipulation tactics reached a new low on February 21, with a public attack on a Rep. Sam Moore and a bill he introduced. It included advance notice of an event to the media, pre-arranged ridicule by the leadership in the morning session and a subsequent media tirade where Speaker Ralston and a few others attempted to destroy the reelection chances of the Representative. The Representative had previously defeated a candidate that the Speaker and other House members had flooded with over $17,000 of out of district money. Their candidate raised only a few hundred dollars from in district individuals out of $30,000 in total funds. Rep. Moore has refused to take cash donations from corporations, PACs, lobbyists or legislators and accepts them only from individual voters.
The politically motivated attempt to ruin a sitting House member could be unprecedented in Georgia House history and was obviously orchestrated with the approval of the speaker. While we may not agree with all of the content of the bill in question, the attack was based on a provably false, legal premise. As a former criminal defense attorney, the Speaker had to know that the claim he and some others made to the media about that bill was false. That demonstrates a serious lack of ethics.

In conclusion, the conditions and tactics we have outlined above are unacceptable. The Center for Public Integrity has already ranked Georgia as the most politically corrupt state in the country. Our state received grades of “F” in Legislative Accountability, Political Financing and Ethics Enforcement Agencies, which scored a “0”. We have no recourse with the Ethics Commission given that its ethics were recently found lacking after a $700,000 judgment in the first of several wrongful termination lawsuits filed by former key employees. As Chief Executive Officer of the state and head of the majority party that controls the legislature, you have the top position of authority and power to protect Georgians from further corruption. Therefore, we personally call upon you to:

1. Demand that the Speaker of the House resign his seat as a result of the ethics lapses cited above
2. Establish procedures to ensure that all legislators can vote to determine the bills that will be heard in their committees
3. Establish procedures to ensure that all legislators in Rules Committees can vote to select any bill in the Committee to be moved to the floor
4. Require recorded votes for all bills and amendments in committees and on the floor
5. Ensure that a bill cannot be modified while it is in a Rules committee
6. Ensure that a bill can only be limited for floor debate by the author or a floor vote
7. Allow legislators 24 hours to review any legislation prior to voting on that legislation
8. Stop the practice of pressuring key legislators to make donations to other campaigns
9. Evaluate further legal or procedural changes to avoid conflict of interest funding situations that compromise elections and the voice of the people such as those described above

We thank you for your consideration and await your efforts to restore the integrity of our Georgia state government.

Sincerely,

• Chris Owen, President, Eagle Forum
• Jack Staver, Chairman, N.W. GA. 912 Project
• Margaret Williamson, founder, Gilmer County Tea Party
• Angela Bean, Republican State Committee Member
• Field Searcy, Director, Repeal Regionalism
• Julia & Karl Heidbrink, co-leaders, Middle Georgia Tea Party
• Garland Favorito, Founder, VoterGA
• Sue Stanton, Conservative Leadership Coalition
• Barbara Hartman, President, Chattahoochee Republican Women
• Conrad Quagliaroli, Chairman, Cherokee County Tea Party
• Dr. Bill Hudson, co-founder, Transportation Leadership Coalition
• John Fortuin, co-founder, Defenders of Democracy

CONCERNED CITIZENS