Political Notes – They still want a tobacco tax increase

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The odds appear to be stacked against them at this point, but representatives for major healthcare organizations are still urging the General Assembly to pass a $1-per-pack increase in the excise tax on cigarettes.

“There is really no benefit to the state of Georgia to keep our excise tax so low,” said Eric Bailey of the American Cancer Society at a media briefing with representatives of the American Heart Association and Georgians for a Healthy Future.

Georgia’s excise tax on tobacco, last increased in 2003, is the lowest in the region at 37 cents per pack.

For the past three years, Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) has tried unsuccessfully to get a bill passed that would raise the tax to $1.37 per pack as a means of raising state revenues (an estimated $340 million annually) and motivating people to give up smoking.

“It’s a public policy solution that can advance our health and bring in new revenue,” said Cindy Zeldin of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

“We are cautiously optimistic and feel it is not a matter of if, but when,” Bailey said of a tax increase.

Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, on the other hand, have both said they will oppose any tax increases during this legislative session.

“It’s probably not something we’ll see as a standalone bill,” Bailey said. “But hopefully it can be part of a larger tax reform package.”

DHS names new medical director

The Department of Human Services has named Dr. Alka Aneja, an adult and adolescent psychiatrist, as the department’s new medical director.

She will consult with the division of aging services on medical decisions for wards and cases involving medical neglect. She will also assist in the review of serious incident reports involving medical issues for community care service program participants in alternative living situations.

“It’s been my goal since becoming commissioner at DHS to hire a medical director that would provide expertise to staff within the divisions of aging and family and children services,” DHS Commissioner Clyde Reese said.

Aneja earned a bachelor’s of medicine & bachelor’s of surgery from the University of Delhi and her master’s in clinical psychology from Western Carolina University. She received her fellowship training in child and adolescent psychiatry at John Hopkins University.

Executive appointments

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed former legislator Dean Alford of Conyers to the Board of Regents, where he succeeds Wanda Rodwell.

Alford, who has also served on the state Board of Education and the board of the Technical College System, is president of Allied Energy Services. Alford’s wife, Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, is director of the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.

Deal has appointed Donald Leebern, one of the longest-serving members of the Board of Regents, to another seven-year term on the board effective Jan. 1.

Deal has replaced a former chairman of the Board of Natural Resources, Earl Barrs of Cochran, with J. Mark Mobley Jr. of Colquitt County. Barrs, a political supporter of former governor Sonny Perdue, is the husband of Wanda Barrs, longtime chair of the state Board of Education.

The governor named William C. Rice III, a retired marketing executive for Milliken and Co., to the board of World Congress Center Authority, where he succeeds John K. Watson.

Deal appointed GBI Director Vernon Keenan to the state’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Keenan replaces Catherine O’Neil, a prominent Atlanta attorney who is the wife of Georgia Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias.

Benjamin R. Tarbutton, who operates a Sandersville real estate agency, was appointed to the Georgia Lottery Corporation board as the successor to Marty Kogon. Tarbutton’s cousin, who’s also named Ben Tarbutton, is currently chairman of the Board of Regents.

Deal reappointed Jimmy Braswell of Bibb County, the current chairman of the Lottery Board, to another five-year term on the board.

Lonice Barrett, who was the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources in a state government career that spanned more than 35 years, was named by Deal to the board of trustees of the Employees Retirement System (ERS), succeeding Ned Winsor.

School board members suspended

Three members of the Brooks County school board who were indicted on charges of voter fraud in November have been suspended from office. Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order Tuesday confirming the suspensions of Nancy Dennard, Elizabeth Thomas, and Linda Troutman.

They, along with nine other defendants, are facing multiple felony counts of unlawful possession of ballots and interfering with an elector.

Lane’s on the list

Rep. Roger Lane (R-Darien) is on the list of attorneys nominated as a prospective replacement for Amanda Williams, who recently resigned as a Superior Court judge in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit after she was accused of 14 charges of ethics violations by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: American Cancer Society , Ben Tarbutton , Cindy Zeldin , Dean Alford , Don Leebern , Eric Bailey , Georgians for a Healthy Future , Nathan Deal , Roger Lane , Ron Stephens , tobacco excise tax