The director of the state agency tasked with watch dogging judicial misconduct resigned this week amid scrutiny over his compensation and retirement benefits.
Ronnie Joe Lane, who retired as superior court judge last year to lead the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, was receiving full-time compensation while reporting part-time pay to avoid having to defer his state retirement benefits, local legal news service The Daily Report revealed Monday.
According to state records, Lane was billing the agency, which probes complaints of judicial misconduct, for 20 hours of work a week — which amounted to the full-time compensation package the commission’s previous director earned.
Because he reported to state pension authorities he was working only part-time, he received an additional $7,000 per month in retirement benefits, according to the report.
Lane resigned his directorship only hours after the Daily Report ran Monday.
“Ronnie Joe does not want any could whatsoever … over the commission and over him,” JQC Chairman Lester Tate told the legal news wire. “He served honorable in the military and honorably on the bench, and I think he did on the commission as well.”
The conservative Club for Growth is putting six figures behind a new television advertising campaign to pressure Georgia Republican Rep. Buddy Carter to oppose the reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
The 30-second spot calls the obscure federal agency, which offers taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign buyers of American exports, a “petri dish of corruption and graft” and urges Carter’s constituents to phone the freshman GOPer to ask why he would support it when the nearly the entire field of would-be Republican presidential hopefuls oppose it.
“Republican leaders—Bush, Walker, Rubio, Cruz, Paul—all want to eliminate [the agency],” a narrator says. “Tell Congressman Carter to join conservatives and end the Export-Import Bank.”
If no action is taken by Congress, the agency’s operating charter is slated to expire June 30. But it’s not just conservative groups hoping Congress will allow the bank’s charter to sunset. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is among the bank’s most vocal corporate critics.
The same group opposed Carter in the last year’s open primary to succeed former Rep. Jack Kingston in the first congressional district.
The new Carter ad is one of four identical spots the Club is airing. Watch it after the jump.
Attorney General Sam Olens says he will advise compliance by state agencies if the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates state bans on same-sex marriage even as he continues defending Georgia’s ban in federal court.
Olens told reporters Wednesday that he intends to counsel acquiescence should the high court ultimately invalidate marriage bans nationwide when it considers the issue later this spring.
“We’re going to advise those agencies that have policy roles to immediately follow the law,” Olens said at an Atlanta Press Club breakfast.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in four consolidated cases challenging the bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. A ruling isn’t expected until the end of the court’s term, in late June.
Until then, Olens will continue defending Georgia’s decade-old ban in federal court. It was challenged in April last year—one year to the day of Olen’s comments Wednesday—by national gay rights group Lambda Legal on behalf of four local couples.
Olens, in an October court filing, said that “the right to marry” has always been a “fundamental right,” as the Supreme Court has ruled more than a dozen times. “But,” he said, “that right has never previously been understood as extending to same-sex couples.”
U.S. District Judge William Duffey, a Republican-appointed judge, in January declined to dismiss the suit, saying the state had failed to address how its interests are furthered in denying equal marriage to gays and lesbians.
Freshman Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter told a Capitol Hill gossip columnist that he begins most mornings with a workout that would leave former Rep. Aaron Schock short of breath.
Carter, a former GOP state lawmaker who was first elected to his coastal congressional district last year, told Roll Call that he begins his days with 500 pushups and 2,000 crunches.
“I do 500 pushups every morning. I should say, I do it at least 4 out of 7 [mornings]; I don’t do it every morning,” he told the paper for it’s “Take 5” feature in which members of Congress dish on their personal lives. “Obviously can’t do something every day, like that. I do get at least four or five days every week.
“And I do, a kind of stomach exercises, about 2,000 or so, again about four to five days out of the week.”
What a coincidence: that’s Tipsheet’s morning routine, too. We swear.
The chairman of the Georgia House Transportation Committee plans to resign his seat in the state legislature, according to two well-placed Republicans.
State Rep. Jay Roberts, who surprised some capitol watchers last week when he forwent a bid for majority leader, will leave the seat he’s held for the last thirteen years in the coming weeks, sources say. The expectation is that he will remain in the legislature at least until the May 11 caucus meeting, in which GOP lawmakers will elect a new majority leader.
The Republican did not respond to multiple inquiries Monday by Tipsheet, but two separate sources in the legislature confirmed his plans. “It’s the worst-kept secret in the capitol,” quipped one GOPer with knowledge of Roberts’ plans.
Capitol sources say Roberts has been lobbying Governor Nathan Deal to be appointed as planning director at the state Department of Transportation. The position has remained vacant since January, when the former director was named commissioner. A spokesman for Deal did not respond when asked if the governor had made any final determinations for the position.
Both measures ultimately passed the legislature in the final days of session, but it was Roberts’ roads framework, in which the legislature agreed to set aside $900 million annually for transportation improvement projects, that caused the most sparks.
To finance the new roads tab, House and Senate negotiators agreed to create a new statewide hotel lodging tax and to raise the motor fuels sales tax. That plan didn’t sit well with the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform, which actively opposed the proposal and argued the bill would raise gasoline prices in Georgia to the ninth-highest in the nation.
Roberts, with some assistance from Gov. Deal, ultimately muscled the plan through both chambers on the second-to-last day of the legislative calendar.
“To put this together, a lot of people worked really hard,” Roberts, sounding like a proud father, said earlier this month after the bill’s passage. “I think now we have a sense of accomplishment as a whole that we can move the state forward with transportation and have a reliable, sustainable source of funding.”
His departure would make the second senior Republican in as many weeks to signal intent to leave the General Assembly. Last week Majority Leader Larry O’Neal said he would resign his middle Georgia seat in exchange for a permanent judgeship on Georgia’s Tax Tribunal.
Freshman Republican Sen. David Perdue was tapped Thursday to sit on a special House-Senate panel to reconcile the differences between the budget blueprints the two chambers passed last month.
The Georgian was one of twenty senators—11 Republicans, 9 Democrats—appointed. He joins Rep. Tom Price, who birthed the House budget, on the joint conference committee, which is slated to hold its first public meeting on Monday.
Both budgets would zero out the federal deficit over the next decade and gut the Affordable Care Act, but conferees must hash out lingering disagreements over an increase for the Pentagon’s war fund.
Senate Republicans may employ a budgetary procedural tool known as reconciliation that would require the support of only a simple majority instead of the standard 60-vote threshold only if the conferees can come to an agreement. Of course, the measure will almost certainly be vetoed by the president.
Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop was among only seven House Democrats to vote Thursday to repeal the estate tax, a longtime GOP legislative priority that is unlikely to clear the upper chamber and unlikelier still to pass the president’s desk.
Republicans set up the repeal vote, which passed largely along partisan lines, to coincide with the week’s tax filing deadline. (Three Republicans—none from Georgia, of course—broke rank and voted the proposal down.) It was the first time in a decade that the full House has moved to the trash the nearly hundred-year-old tax.
Bishop was the lone Democratic cosponsor of the legislation, through he was joined a half-dozen other Georgians: GOP Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, Doug Collins, Buddy Carter, Rick Allen, Jody Hice, and Austin Scott.
Democratic leadership criticized the proposal as a multi-billion dollar tax break for the country’s wealthiest families, while Republicans countered that the tax was more likely to impact family farms and small businesses rather than the ultra-rich.
Only those individuals with estates greater than $5.43 million, or couples whose combined estate tops $10.86 million, must pay the tax when passing assets after a death. According to a joint House-Senate taxation committee, it will hit about 5,400 estates—or 0.2 percent of the projected 2.6 million deaths—this year. That same panel projected that the tax’s repeal would drop government revenue by about $269 billion over a decade.
A Bishop aide did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon, but as recent as last month the Georgia Democrat was publicly boostering a repeal.
You’ll be forgiven for thinking he sounds like a Republican here: “I have heard from farmers, funeral home owners, newspaper publishers, radio station owners, and garment manufacturers about the need for estate tax relief,” he said in a March press release. “I believe the estate tax is politically misguided, morally unjustified and downright un-American.”
The number-three Republican in the Georgia House of Representatives confirmed Wednesday to his hometown newspaper that he would resign his seat at the end of the month.
House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal will be dumping his leadership post in exchange for an appointment as the first permanent judge in Georgia’s Tax Tribunal, which settles disputes between taxpayers and the Department of Revenue, according to the Macon Telegraph.
O’Neal, a tax attorney by trade, told the paper he considered the appointment a “bucket list opportunity.”
Tipsheet reported Monday that O’Neal would be resign in exchange for a state appointment by Gov. Nathan Deal, though the majority leader did not respond to requests for comment. An aide to Speaker David Ralston refused comment when asked earlier this week if O’Neal had consulted House leadership on his plans.
Gold Dome Republicans tell Tipsheet that O’Neal has been eying his possible retirement since last summer, when he had hoped to run the state Department of Revenue. That job instead went to former state Rep. Lynne Riley.