Friday, December 23, 2011

Justice approves Georgia’s redistricting plans

The U.S. Department of Justice has approved the congressional and legislative maps passed into law this summer by the state of Georgia, the state’s elected leaders learned today. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Georgia must receive approval from the federal government before any changes in election practices or procedures are implemented.

“The state of Georgia put forth a tremendous team effort. The maps offer rational district lines, equitable representation and meet the strict standards of the Voting Rights Act,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. “The Justice Department's decision demonstrates that our state’s districts serve our diverse population well. The Legislature conducted an open and fair process that allowed input from all parts of the state, and the final product reflects legislators’ hard work and diligence. Special thanks also goes to Attorney General Sam Olens, who shepherded the maps through the preclearance process.”

“I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice affirmed that Georgia’s new legislative and congressional plans meet the legal requirements of the Voting Rights Act,” said Attorney General Sam Olens. “The responsible approach taken by the General Assembly during the redistricting process resulted in carefully drawn maps, which ensure that Georgia’s growing population will be fairly represented. In fact, this redistricting cycle marks the first time since the Voting Rights Act became law that all of Georgia’s plans have been approved on the first review. I applaud the excellent work of Gov. Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey, Speaker Ralston and the General Assembly, and outside counsel Strickland Brockington Lewis throughout the process to ensure a positive outcome for the citizens of Georgia.”

“From the beginning of this process, all of us have been committed to ensuring that Georgia’s legislative and congressional maps are fair and meet all legal requirements, including compliance with the Voting Rights Act,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said. “Today’s decision by the Department of Justice is a validation of our commitment to those principles. I appreciate the diligent work of the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee as well as the entire Senate that resulted in this important approval.”

“Today’s announcement by the U.S. Justice Department is welcome news and validates what we have been saying all along -- that these maps are fair, sensible and fully comply with the Voting Rights Act. I appreciate House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chairman Roger Lane, the members of his committee and the staff for their efforts that allowed us to successfully reach this point.”

Today's approval by the Democratically controlled Justice Department marks the first time in Georgia's history that the federal government has approved all three statewide redistricting plans on the first review. The federal approval means that the new districts will be used in the 2012 elections.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Deal signs House, Senate maps

Governor, legislative leaders decide to remove T-SPLOST issue

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed the state House and state Senate legislative district maps, praising the Legislature for its open, transparent process that produced compact districts and kept communities of interest together. Both the House and Senate have also affirmed Deal’s freezing of the gas tax rate, which gave the state’s motorists a $40 million tax cut.

“Georgians can be proud of what their legislators produced in these new maps,” said Deal. “After all the shenanigans we saw 10 years ago with multimember districts and outrageous gerrymandering, we have upheld our vow to keep communities together. House and Senate leaders held hearings across the state and worked individually with members of both parties. Both bodies produced maps that obey federal laws and honor the one-person-one-vote principle. The maps also pass the ‘optics test,’ meaning that a casual viewer could look at the districts and tell they make sense. It’s a benefit to our state and a benefit to our taxpayers that we have accomplished this important part of the special session so quickly. I’m proud to sign my name to these maps which will shape our General Assembly for the next decade.”

The General Assembly is currently in Week 2 of its special session for redistricting. Legislators currently are working on the congressional district map, which adds a 14th District.

The governor today reached a joint decision with House and Senate leadership to suspend further consideration of legislation to move the date for T-SPLOST referendum.

“We’ve had a healthy debate on the T-SPLOST referendum date here at the Gold Dome,” Deal said. “I’m a supporter of the referendum, and I believe it’s important to job creation and economic development throughout Georgia. I further believe that it is a sound conservative principle to allow as many taxpayers as possible to participate in this important decision. Our time during this special session, however, is precious, and it’s now obvious that it will take too much time to reach a consensus on changing the date. It’s best for taxpayers that we not let this special session drag on. Redistricting was our priority, and we have delivered a great product.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chairman Roger Lane Releases Proposed Map

Rep. Roger Lane (R-Darien), Chairman of the House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee, today released a proposed redistricting plan for the Georgia House of Representatives. The proposed plan is available on the Joint Reapportionment Office Website,, Joint Offices, Reapportionment, by clicking this link, or by following this web address:

The plan was drafted by House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chairman Roger Lane through an open process that included meetings with local delegations of Republicans and Democrats to review each area of the state. The plan meets all the guidelines adopted by the House Committee in a bipartisan, unanimous vote on July 20. The plan:

· Complies with the US Constitution’s requirement of “one person, one vote”;

· Complies with the Voting Rights Act of 1965;

· Complies with the Georgia Constitution;

· Respects the boundaries of counties and precincts;

· Consists of compact districts;

· Respects communities of interest; and

· Avoids the unnecessary pairing of incumbents.

The plan for the 180 House seats splits only 72 of Georgia’s 159 counties, fewer than the plan drafted by the federal court in 2004, which split 77. In contrast, the 2001 plan split 80 counties. The use of multi-member districts in 2001 reduced the total number of House districts from 180 to 147.

The 2001 plan paired 37 of the 74 Republican incumbents, 9 Democrats and 1 Independent. In contrast, the plan released today contains only ten pairings. Both Republicans and Democrats are paired but only when required by population shifts or compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The 10 incumbent pairings, six with two Democrats paired and four with two Republicans paired, are:

1. Ely Dobbs (D-Atlanta) and Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta)

2. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) and Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta)

3. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) and Ralph Long (D-Atlanta)

4. Stephanie Benfield (D-Atlanta) and Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta)

5. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) and Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta)

6. Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville) and Sistie Hudson (D-Sparta)

7. Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert) and Bob Hanner (R-Parrott)

8. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) and Gene Maddox (R-Cairo)

9. Chuck Sims (R-Ambrose) and Tommy Smith (R-Nicholls)

10. Mark Hatfield (R-Waycross) and Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine)

“Chairman Lane has drawn a map that is fair to all Georgians,” said House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). “By releasing this plan before the session, Republicans have fulfilled the commitment to draw maps in a fair, open, and transparent process that is completely different from the Democratic games in 2001.”

“It’s been tough putting this plan together, but we’ve created a plan that does a great job of representing all Georgians and complying with all legal requirements,” said Rep. Roger Lane, chairman of the House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee. “I’m proud of the plan that we’ve created together and look forward to a bipartisan vote in favor of this plan.”

In 2001, House leaders refused to share proposed plans with Republican legislators or the public until the special session was well underway. This time, nearly every Democratic legislator has reviewed the proposed changes to his or her district. Even more importantly, the plan has been released to the public in multiple formats, including a Google Earth layer, allowing the public to review the plan and offer input before or during the Special Session.

“Each of these pairings is necessitated by the Voting Rights Act and population shifts,” said Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta). “The areas represented by these members lost population in relation to the growth in the rest of the state. For instance, of the 10 smallest districts by population, eight are inside the perimeter in metro Atlanta. South Georgia has similarly lost population.”

The special session to consider redistricting begins on Monday, August 15, and the House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee will meet on Tuesday, August 16 to begin taking public comment on the proposed plan and any other plans proposed by other Representative.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Deal releases findings of Atlanta school probe

Gov. Nathan Deal today released an outline of findings from the state’s investigation into the 2009 administration of the Atlanta Public Schools CRCT exams.

“Nothing is more important to the future of our state than ensuring that today’s students receive a first-class education and integrity in testing is a necessary piece of the equation,” said Deal. “When test results are falsified and students who have not mastered the necessary material are promoted, our students are harmed, parents lose sight of their child’s true progress, and taxpayers are cheated. The report’s findings are troubling, but I am encouraged that this investigation will bring closure to the problems that existed in APS and restore the focus on students and the classroom. As we begin to turn the page on this dark chapter in Atlanta Public Schools, I am confident brighter days lie ahead.”

An outline of the findings of the investigation follows:

· Thousands of children were harmed by the 2009 CRCT cheating by being denied remedial education because of their inflated CRCT scores.

o We found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools we examined (78.6%). There were 38 principals of those 56 schools (67.9%) found to be responsible for, or directly involved in, cheating.

o We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools System cheated. Of the 178, 82 confessed to this misconduct. Six principals refused to answer our questions, and pled the Fifth Amendment, which, under civil law is an implied admission of wrongdoing. These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with, or should have known that, there was test cheating in their schools.

o We empathize with those educators who felt they were pressured to cheat and commend those who were willing to tell us the truth regarding their misconduct. However, this report is not meant to excuse their ethical failings, or exonerate them from their wrongdoings.

· The 2009 CRCT statistics are overwhelming and allow for no conclusion other than widespread cheating in APS. The BRC expert, Dr. John Fremer, wrote an op-ed article for the AJC in which he said there was widespread, organized cheating in APS.

· The drop in 2010 CRCT erasures confirm the conclusion above.

· Cheating occurred as early as 2001.

· There were warnings of cheating on CRCT as early as December 2005/January 2006. The warnings were significant and clear and were ignored.

· Cheating was caused by a number of factors but primarily by the pressure to meet targets in the data-driven environment.

· There was a major failure of leadership throughout APS with regard to the ethical administration of the 2009 CRCT.

· A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in APS, which created a conspiracy of silence and deniability with respect to standardized test misconduct.

· In addition to the 2009 CRCT cheating, we found other improper conduct: several open record act violations; instances of false statements; and instances of document destruction.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Deal touts Georgia ranking as No. 4 for business

State also received high marks from U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Gov. Nathan Deal this week announced that CNBC ranked Georgia as the fourth-best place for business in the cable business network’s annual listing of the top states for business released. The 2011 ranking is a six-place jump from the state’s previous 10th-place ranking.

“This 2011 fourth-best ranking is a significant accomplishment for our state and will undoubtedly go a long way in helping us to tell Georgia’s business story in our country and in strategic markets around the world,” Deal said. “We want businesses to know that Georgia is well equipped to help them compete and succeed. Business is a top priority in Georgia, and we are committed to making every effort to ensure we remain a top environment for business.”

The 2011 ranking represents the first time Georgia broke into the top five in four years. CNBC attributed Georgia’s success to its second-place infrastructure and transportation ranking and its fourth-place workforce ranking. States are scored in 10 categories and then ranked based on their overall score. CNBC also cited Georgia’s transportation and logistics system, including the world’s busiest airport, bustling ports and high-quality roads, as score boosters. The network also took note of the Georgia’s promising workforce, describing the labor pool as large and growing.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also released its Enterprising States report this week, which ranked Georgia first in entrepreneurial activity among other top-10 category rankings. The Chamber’s report recognizes state-level efforts to create jobs and encourage economic growth. The state’s most notable gain was its six-spot move to ninth for exports. This gain also earned Georgia a sixth-place ranking for growth in share of national exports. Georgia was also ranked in the top 10 for categories such as high school advanced placement intensity, business birth rate, job placement efficiency and higher education efficiency.

“These national recognitions help to validate the work we are doing to aggressively market Georgia as one of the best places nationwide for business,” said Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Beyond being regarded as the business capital of the Southeast, we want businesses here and abroad to know that we offer the most comprehensive and competitive resources in areas that are most important to the business community. Whether it is a small business or a major corporation, business is welcomed and supported in Georgia.”

U.S. Census Bureau Announces Field Management Reforms to Reduce Costs and Enhance Data Quality

Atlanta office to remain open

The U.S. Census Bureau today announced a realignment of its national field office structure and management reforms designed to keep pace with modern survey collection methods worldwide and reduce costs by an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014. The reforms build on the work the Bureau’s leadership did in bringing in the 2010 Census on time and 25 percent under budget.

The changes are the first to the field office structure since 1961 and will result in the permanent closing of six of the agency’s 12 Regional Offices, affecting approximately 330 employees in a national field force of about 7,200. The six remaining Regional Offices will increase slightly in size, although a net loss of approximately 115-130 positions nationally is expected. Most staff reductions will happen through attrition, early retirements, or transfers to vacant jobs at Census headquarters or elsewhere across the federal government.

“Director Groves and his staff at Census are making good on the President’s charge to cut costs and change the way the government does business,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “This reorganization supports the administration’s ongoing effort to make government more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people.”

The realignment will close Regional Offices located in Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City and Seattle. The remaining six Regional Offices and their new boundaries will be located in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

“As we go through this transition over the next 18 months, our Regional Office employees affected by this realignment will be our first priority,” U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

Advances in technology have allowed survey organizations to provide field interviewers with better tools and move to a leaner management structure. Increasing virtualization of supervision using more timely management information can yield both cost and quality advantages.

“Our professional field interviewers across the country are critical to helping us generate vital statistics about our economy, our communities and our households,” Groves said. “We owe it to them and the American people to constantly improve our processes and become more efficient, using taxpayer money wisely while maintaining the highest quality statistics.”

The U.S. Census Bureau is committed to finding the best possible outcome for each affected employee in a closing office and is seeking approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to provide these employees with transition assistance, early retirement, retirement incentives, and job opportunities.

Monday, May 30, 2011

SBA’s Deadline for Physical Damage Disaster Loan Applications in Georgia Is June 28

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The U.S. Small Business Administration reminds homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profit organizations of the deadline to submit disaster loan applications for damages caused by the severe storms, tornadoes, high winds and flooding that occurred April 27-28. The deadline to file an SBA disaster loan application for physical damage is on June 28, 2011.

Anyone with insured losses should not wait for an insurance settlement before applying to the SBA. “If someone does not know how much of their loss will be covered by insurance or other sources, the SBA will consider making a loan for the total loss up to its loan limits, provided they agree to use insurance proceeds to reduce or repay their SBA loan,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA Field Operations Center East.

Low-interest disaster loans for physical damages are available in the following Georgia counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Cherokee, Coweta, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Greene, Habersham, Harris, Heard, Lamar, Lumpkin, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Spalding, Troup, Upson, Walker and White, which are eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA.

Interest rates are as low as 2.688 percent for homeowners and renters, 3 percent for non-profit organizations and 4 percent for businesses with terms up to 30 years. The SBA sets the loan amounts and terms based on each applicant’s financial condition.

For additional assistance, call the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for people with speech or hearing disabilities) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., ET or send an e-mail to Loan application forms can be downloaded from the SBA website at Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Those affected by the disaster may apply for disaster loans from SBA’s secure website at

The filing deadline to return applications for physical damage is June 28, 2011. The deadline to return economic injury applications is January 30, 2012.


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