Political Notes – Lopez is pick for federal court bench

[private]DeKalb County gets a lot of negative publicity these days because of political corruption and convicted public officials, but the suburban locale has become the go-to county for the Obama administration when it comes to picking federal judges.

The White House has nominated DeKalb State Court Judge Dax E. Lopez to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court bench in Atlanta, it was announced Thursday.

The nomination marks the second time in less than a year that the president has selected a DeKalb State Court judge for a federal slot.

Eleanor Ross was nominated last year and subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a District Court judgeship (her husband, Brian Ross, was just appointed a DeKalb Traffic Division judge by Gov. Nathan Deal).

Lopez was appointed to his State Court judgeship by then-governor Sonny Perdue in 2010 as the replacement for Ed Carriere. Lopez was reelected to the bench in 2012.

At the time of his appointment, Lopez was Georgia’s second Latino judge (following another DeKalb State Court judge, Antonio “Tony” Del Campo).

Before going on the bench, Lopez was a member of the Foltz Martin LLC litigation group and earlier worked for Ashe, Rafuse, & Hill LLP. He also worked for the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico as a law clerk to Hector M. Laffitte.

He holds a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Vanderbilt University.

Whether Lopez will actually be confirmed as a judge is yet to be determined. With the Senate under Republican majority control, there are not expected to be many more federal judges confirmed during the balance of Barack Obama’s term as president.

Should the tax holiday stay or go?

As this article is being posted, Georgia consumers are taking advantage of the annual sales tax holiday for purchasing school supplies, clothing, and computer gear for back-to-school students.

The tax holiday has been a staple of most summer seasons since it was first enacted in 2002, but questions have been raised over the years about just how effective the exemption is in boosting retail business.

Wesley Tharpe, an analyst for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, says it might be better to retire the tax exemption:

It’s no surprise that sales tax holidays offer politically popular appeal, since the idea of getting a temporary reprieve from sales taxes sounds like a good thing for families at first glance. But if you look at the whole ledger, it’s clear the policy’s costs outweigh its benefits. The bottom line is sales tax holidays cost the state a sizable chunk of change in lost revenue and don’t do enough good to justify that expense.

The holidays cost the state treasury around $40 million each year and city and county governments lose around an additional $30 million. That adds up to real money at a time when Georgia’s state and local lawmakers are struggling to fully fund schools, meet transportation demand and keep rural hospitals from shuttering. Redirecting the funds Georgia loses through its sales tax holidays to these and other public investments could provide real benefit to Georgia families and a real boost to the state’s economy.

In contrast to the cost in lost revenue and potential cuts in services, sales tax holidays provide little direct benefit to consumers. Most families don’t take advantage of the holidays, and the savings for those that do is minimal unless they spend a great deal of money. In some cases families may not be getting as good a deal as advertised, since evidence suggests retailers tend to bump up prices during the event.

About that new inland port

It was announced with great fanfare earlier this week that an inland port connecting to the Georgia Ports Authority facilities in Garden City would be developed in Chatsworth.

An intermodal facility will be built in the Murray County municipality where trucks can offload cargo onto freight trains that will carry the loads on to the coastal port.

A glance at the map raises some questions as to why Chatsworth would have been picked as the site for the inland port rather than nearby Dalton.

Dalton sits astride I-75, the busiest interstate corridor in the U.S. Trucks traveling on I-75 will have to get off at Dalton and drive another 20 miles or so to get to the intermodal facility at Chatsworth.

In addition, much of the cargo that will be transported to the coastal port – carpeting – is manufactured in Dalton.

On the other hand, the former mayor of Dalton, David Pennington, opposed Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary last year when Deal was running for a second term in office. Could the location of the port facility in Chatsworth be payback for that?

We put in a call to Pennington, who’s busy running the family insurance business in Dalton, and asked for his take on the inland port.

Pennington recalled that when a similar inland port facility was built in Cordele a few years ago, he was contacted by the Georgia Ports Authority about putting another port in Dalton.

“They approached me when I was mayor about doing something similar up here,” Pennington said.

The problem for Dalton was that they couldn’t find a big enough piece of open property for the terminal site, he said.

“We don’t have enough land,” Pennington said. “We didn’t have a flat tract of land large enough for it. Whitfield County doesn’t have the land for it.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Barack Obama , David Pennington , Dax Lopez , federal judgeship , GBPI , inland port , sales tax holiday