Political Notes – Republicans approve renaming of LOB

The House voted 121-47 Wednesday to adopt HR 47, a resolution that would rename the Legislative Office Building across from the capitol after the late Paul D. Coverdell, who was a Republican state senator and U.S. senator from Georgia.

The vote broke down largely along racial lines, with African-American Democrats supporting an amendment to name the LOB instead after three pioneering black legislators from the 1960s and 1970s, Richard "Papa" Dent of Augusta, Grace Towns Hamilton of Atlanta, and J. C. Daugherty of Atlanta.

HR 47 is expected to be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate as well, which means that the LOB will be named for a Republican lawmaker who strongly opposed the move by the Democratic leadership in the 1980s to spend $12 million refurbishing the building for legislative office space.

"That’s right, he did (oppose the building)," acknowledged House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simon’s Island), the sponsor of HR 47. "That’s not unusual; people vote against things all the time."

Keen said that Roy Barnes, when he was a legislator, voted against a Martin Luther King holiday and former House speaker Terry Coleman voted against the state lottery, although Keen later apologized when Coleman sent word to him that he had not voted against the lottery.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) said Coverdell "was a great public servant" but added that it was not appropriate to name the LOB for him because of Coverdell’s opposition to the project.

"When you honor someone, it has to have some relevance with what he did," Porter said. "I don’t think it’s a sign of respect to name something he opposed . . . A lot of times you think you can rewrite history, but you can’t."

Porter proposed but later withdrew an amendment to add the name of Zell Miller to the building. The LOB formerly housed the state education department, and "nobody did more for education in Georgia than Zell Miller," Porter said.

Rep. David Lucas (D-Macon), an African-American who has served in the House since 1975, said he liked Coverdell and Johnny Isakson, another former GOP legislator, "but they fought the LOB. They said there was a better use of the taxpayers’ money . . . I cannot go along with naming something after someone who actually fought it and tried to get it killed."

The House voted down Lucas’ amendment to name the building in honor of Dent, Daugherty, and Hamilton by a 120-46 vote. House members also defeated, 109-60, an attempt by Rep. Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta) to send the resolution back to committee to work out a compromise.

Giving them another chance

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Dalton) has introduced a bill (HB 252) that would make it possible for students to graduate from high school if they fail one or more parts of the high school graduation test.

Williams said he introduced the bill at the request of several high school teachers in the Dalton area, where the city school system’s student population is an estimated 65 to 70 percent Latino.

"With the influx of the Hispanic population up there, teachers felt something needed to be done to help them," Williams said. "I want to make it more fair for these students who have not mastered the English language."

High school students take the graduation tests for the first time in their junior year. They are required to pass tests in writing, English, math, science and social studies before they can get a diploma. Students have a total of five times that they can take and pass each test.

HB 252 would allow students who fail a part of the graduation test to graduate anyway if they stay in school and take the test again, maintain a school attendance rate of 95 percent, maintain at least a "C" average in required courses, and complete remedial work in that subject area.

The student would also be required to obtain a written recommendation from a teacher in the subject area where the student failed the graduation test. This recommendation would have to show that the student had scored high enough on other tests or had done sufficient classroom work to meet the academic standards in that subject area.

"It gives them a chance to come back and take that part of the test (that they failed)," Williams said.

Blue Ribbon schools

State School Supt. Kathy Cox announced that eight Georgia schools have been nominated "Blue Ribbon Schools" for their success or improvements in meeting the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The schools nominated by category:

Schools in the top 10 percent of the state with at least 40 percent disadvantaged students – Rigdon Road Elementary (Muscogee County), Browns Mill Elementary (DeKalb County).

Schools with at least 40 percent disadvantaged students that have dramatically improved student achievement to high levels – Patterson Elementary (Pierce County Schools), Matt Wilson Elementary (Tift County), Coosa Middle School (Floyd County), and Bert Rumble Middle School (Houston County).

Schools in the top 10 percent of the state with fewer than 40 percent disadvantaged students Walker Traditional Elementary (Richmond County), Sequoyah High School (Cherokee County).

Clash of the Titans

Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) has introduced a bill (SB 108) similar to legislation introduced in the House that is intended to put the clamps on constitutional officers like Secretary of State Cathy Cox when they use private funds to pay for public service announcements, as Cox did last year with a series of TV and radio spots warning citizens to be wary of fraudulent investment schemes.

SB 108 would require state officials who "accept or utilize" private grants or funds for any purpose associated with the performance of their office to have the money included within their agency budget that is adopted by the General Assembly. The officials would also have to receive written authorization from the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to accept and use the private funds.

Shafer’s bill did not refer to Cox by name but triggered a sternly worded letter from her to the senator.

"While I suspect that you have been aiming this bill at the tremendously successful effort by the Secretary of State’s office to educate Georgians about the enormous problem of investment fraud in this state (we are currently investigating losses exceeding $70 million over the past year alone) – without the use of any tax dollars whatsoever (an effort one would think most fiscally conservative policy makers would applaud), you should consider the detrimental effects of your bill" on other agencies that similarly use private funds, Cox wrote.

She listed several private fundraising efforts for state agencies that could be affected by the Shafer bill, including the "Weekend for Wildlife" at the Department of Natural Resources, private donations to state parks, contributions by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to preserve the state’s collection of historic battle flags, private funding for the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, and private dollars contributed to the University System and the Department of Technical and Adult Education.

"The net effect of SB 108 would be to thwart incredibly helpful and successful efforts to serve the state at no expense to the taxpayers," Cox wrote. "I cannot believe any policy maker in this state would object to private monies – rather than taxpayer dollars – being used to carry out legitimate state functions. It is indeed a new Georgia."

Shafer quickly wrote a letter in response, telling Cox, "I take exception to your letter dated February 1, 2005, which wildly mischaracterizes the intent and effect of Senate Bill 108."

"Senate Bill 108 does not prohibit state officials from using private funds to carry out their official duties," Shafer wrote. "Nor does it jeopardize funding for any worthy cause cited in your letter. The bill simply requires that any such funds be included within and accounted for in the State Budget. I cannot believe that any responsible public official would object to such a requirement."

"Your letter is correct in one respect. Your use of Investor Protection Trust funds for self-promotional television advertisements did indeed draw my attention to the potential for abuse of private funds by state officials. On that subject, please furnish me with copies of the settlement agreement creating the Trust and any correspondence between your office and the Trust."

Reed’s plans

The most popular joke making the rounds of lawmakers and lobbyists at the capitol on Wednesday:  "Ralph Reed’s withdrawing from the race for lieutenant governor – he’s running for Pope."

 © 2005 by Capitolimpact.com

Tags: politics