Friday, July 30, 2010

Health Care Reform: What's in It for Small Business? - New report debunks top 4 myths about reform and small business

There has been so much negativity towards the Health care reform Bill that was passed recently that is time to look at what does the bill actually do, especially when it relates to small businesses. I want to thank Jon Bailey, Rural Research and Analysis Director at the Center for Rural Affairs for sending this INFO thru my email.

Bailey says small businesses are the dominant driver of economies in most rural places. Rural areas also have higher rates of uninsurance and underinsurance and lower rates of employer-provided health insurance. Increasingly, rural small businesses are finding it difficult to continue providing health insurance for employees. Taken together, these issues act as barriers to creating a strong rural economy built on entrepreneurial development.


The Patient and Affordable Care Act will begin to lower these barriers for many rural small businesses. While exempt from mandates requiring insurance coverage for employees, these small businesses will benefit from the tax credits provided by the law, helping make health insurance more affordable and providing an incentive for insuring small business employees.

"Too often small business has been used as a foil for opponents of health care reform. While we agree that considering the impact of reform and of skyrocketing health insurance costs on small business should be an important consideration in this debate, we also believe that it is crucial that those who want to reference small business get the facts straight, according to Bailey.

Four myths that opponents of reform most often referenced about small business and the health care bill are:

(1) Small businesses will be forced to provide health insurance for their employees or face penalties. Section 1513 of the health care reform legislation, however, exempts all businesses with 50 or fewer employees from the general employer mandate in the law, freeing them from any penalty for not doing so.

(2) Small businesses cannot afford the health insurance they are required to provide

The health insurance reform law is all gain and no pain for small businesses, particularly initially. As discussed above, Section 1513 of the law exempts all businesses with 50 or fewer employees from providing health insurance for their employees and frees them from any penalty for not doing so. Section 1421 of the law establishes a Small Business Tax Credit for those businesses who do provide health insurance for their employees in order to make health insurance more affordable and to provide an incentive for employer-provided insurance in small businesses. The initial credit exists for tax years 2010 through 2013. It is a sliding scale credit for businesses with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees and average wages of less than $50,000 who provide health insurance for their employees. A second credit exists for any two years beginning in 2014 when the health insurance
Exchanges begin. The chart on the following page outlines the basics of both tax credits:

(3) Small businesses should be able to pool together to purchase insurance, and the new law does not allow that.

Not true. In fact, the Health Insurance Exchange concept is based on the pooling idea. The health reform law mandates the creation of exchanges in every state by 2014and allows businesses of up to 100 employees to participate. a (Sections 1304 and 1311) The result is the creation of a health insurance pool of small businesses, their employees and the self-employed. When fully implemented the exchange will allow for more attractive insurance as a result of lower administrative costs (costs will be spread across the larger pool) and the spreading of risk across the larger pool. A larger pool will also allow annual premium volatility to moderate and enhance competition (more potential customers in the larger pool).


The law also allows states to create the Small Business Health Options Program, (SHOP), a special exchange for small businesses, either within the larger state exchange or as a separate exchange. The SHOP Exchange is designed to assist small business employers in enrolling their employees in small group health plans.
The law also enables other insurance alternatives within the exchanges that could result in small business pools or groups. The law enables establishment of state-based nonprofit health insurance cooperatives and funds such efforts with loans. Small businesses or small business organizations could presumably establish a health insurance co-op that would allow small businesses across a state to band together to purchase health insurance.

The law also allows exchanges to serve more than one state. (Section 1311) Regional, interstate or multistate exchanges may exist if the states involved permit and they are approved by the federal government. These exchanges also would be a reasonable response to criticism made by some that the law does not allow for purchase of health insurance across state lines. While the authority still granted to states may make interstate sales of insurance of dubious benefit and potentially bad policy, regional and interstate exchanges could be developed in ways that provide another insurance option to benefit small businesses.

(4) The health reform law will cause my taxes to go up.

It is true the health reform law imposes some new taxes and increases others. But the real question is who is responsible for those taxes. While each individual and business has unique circumstances that will determine tax liability, it is clear that most rural small businesses will not be affected by the tax changes contained in the Patient and Affordable Care Act. Some of those changes are:

· A new 10 percent excise tax on indoor tanning services (for services provided after June 30, 2010). This excise tax will obviously be paid only by those businesses providing indoor tanning services.

· A 0.9 percent Medicare surcharge on the wages of single taxpayers earning more than $200,000 per year and couples earning more than $250,000 per year (starting in 2013). In addition, these taxpayers would incur a special Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on unearned income (interest, dividends, capital gains, annuities, royalties and rents; tax-exempt interest and income from retirement accounts would not be considered “unearned income”). While some rural small business taxpayers may earn enough income to activate these taxes, that case will be extremely rare. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center finds that less than two percent of taxpayers with small business income are in the federal income tax brackets that include the $200,000/
$250,000 income levels.

· An excise tax beginning in 2018 on insurance companies providing “high-cost” employer-sponsored health plans, defined as those with values exceeding $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. The tax is equal to 40 percent of the value of the plan exceeding the threshold amount. This tax will likely not apply to many health plans offered by rural small businesses as the 2008 average value of health plans offered nationally by businesses with 10 or fewer employees ranged from $4,536 (individual) to $11,952 (family) and for businesses with 11 to 25 employees ranged from $3,984 (individual) to $10,51 (family).

· Fees assessed on businesses that do not provide health insurance to employees will only be charged to businesses with 50 or more employees. As explained above, that's a small fraction of businesses nationwideand even fewer in rural areas.


Conclusion

The rural economy is unique in its composition, with small businesses the dominant economic driver of economies in most rural places. Rural areas not only have higher rates of uninsurance and underinsurance, but significantly lower rates of employer-provided health insurance. And these trends are growing, as rural areas have lost jobs with higher rates of employer-sponsored health insurance while gaining jobs with much lower rates of employer-sponsored coverage since the 1990s.

With increasing insurance costs many rural small employers are finding it difficult tocontinue providing health insurance coverage for employees, exacerbating the issues of uninsurance, underinsurance, and health care costs for many rural people. Taken together, these issues act as barriers to creating a strong rural economy based on entrepreneurial development. The Patient and Affordable Care Act will begin to lower these barriers for many rural small businesses. While exempt from mandates requiring insurance coverage for employees, the tax credits provided by the law will make health insurance more affordable for businesses and provide an incentive to help insure employees.

Over time as the primary features of the law areimplemented and take effect, particularly the Health Insurance Exchanges, rural small employers will reap the benefits of pooling and larger group coverage that provides comprehensive, affordable, and continuous health care coverage for their business and their employees.

And let's be real here: This Bill will not be repealed in its entirety, despite all of the talk from Republicans of repealing this legislation. The most likely scenario will be certain parts of the legislation will be repealed or fixed. As you know there will be complaints about certain aspects of this bill from people that are deemed "unreasonable" or just flat out wrong. So in my opinion the whole bill won't be repealed, but certain provisions of the bill will.

Pardue out of State Senate 23 Race

After collecting some 6,752 signatures to run as an independent candidate for Georgia senate District 23, Chuck Pardue announced today he was withdrawing from the race.



Independent Candidate Chuck Pardue said he won't seek a state Senate seat
Pardue cited family reasons for his need to leave the race, which leaves Republican qualifier Jesse Stone with no opposition on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Pardue spokesman Gunner Hall said the condition of Pardue’s son John, who was recently injured in Afghanistan, had worsened Monday and required the support of his entire family.

Working as a combat medic in Afghanistan, John Pardue aggravated a leg injury he’d suffered during air assault school and was forced to return to the United States for surgery earlier this month.

After treating his mortally wounded former roommate and others near Kandahar, Afghanistan, the younger Pardue also was diagnosed with moderately severe to severe post-traumatic stress disorder, according to previous reports.

Raised in Martinez, John Pardue married his girlfriend in March but said the couple intended to have a church wedding next year in Nashville.

A Vietnam veteran, Chuck Pardue worked as a judge advocate general before retiring into the private practice of law.

I'll keep the Pardue family in my prayers & I ask for you to do the same. Family comes first in this regard.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Photos from Sanford Bishop's Meet & Greet in Sumter County on July 24 hosted by the Sumter Co. Democratic Party




State Senator Tim Golden (D-Valdosta) named to Special Committee on Revenue Structure

State Sen. Tim Golden (D-Valdosta) has been appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to the new Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. The committee was established, along with the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians, through enactment of House Bill 1405, which was passed during the 2010 legislative session.

The 12-member joint committee will be responsible for considering legislation during the 2011 session of the General Assembly that would implement recommendations by the special council, which is charged with conducting a thorough study of the state's current revenue structure during 2010. Legislation approved by the special committee will go directly to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote and, if approved by the House, then to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

The special council consists of 11 members, including four leading economists, Gov. Sonny Perdue, the chairs of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Georgia chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and other citizens appointed by the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.

Golden is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, which handles tax-related legislation. In addition, he is secretary of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for the state budget. He also serves on the Higher Education, Insurance & Labor and Government Oversight committees. Golden is chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus and is co-chair of the Senate Study Committee on Manufacturing in Georgia.

Golden is running unopposed in the General Election, but has been endorsed by Medical Association of Georgia, Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia Hospital Association, 100% voting record with NFIB, National Federation of IndependentBusinesses (NFIB), National Rifle Association (NRA) & Former Governor and U.S. Senator Zell Miller.

More on GEO INC Complaints

There is more to the GEO INC (Formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections) story. The private correctional and detention management group that's going to operate & oversee the new 1500 Bed Prison in Milldegeville.

Back on June 17, 2010, a $595 million lawsuit was brought against the GEO Group (the total worth of company)by Daniel McCollough following the 2008 death of his father Randall McCullough, who allegedly committed suicide while in custody at the Bill Clayton Detention Center. McCullough senior, an Idaho native, was in solitary confinement for over a year for a fight that was never criminally prosecuted. About a month later, the state of Idaho dropped their contract with GEO and stopped sending their inmates to the facility.


In his complaint in Comal County Court, Daniel McCullough says his father "was found dead after supposedly being monitored by GEO and its personnel."

The complaint states: "McCullough's death was caused by specific breaches of duty by the Defendants... who engaged in grossly inhumane treatment, abuse, neglect, illegal conditions of confinement, and subsequent coverup of wrongdoings." McCullough claims that "GEO and its personnel were found to have fabricated evidence, including practicing 'pencil whipping,' a policy and practice of GEO to destroy and fabricate log books and other relevant evidence."

He claims that GEO and its officers "personally engage in efforts to illegally influence public officials in Austin, Texas and in the Texas counties where the GEO prisons are located, including Laredo, Webb County, Texas. Their goal is to conceal, deflect, hide or exculpate themselves and their company from all forms of personal civil or criminal liability, censure, detriment, or punishment in order to procure and continue their lucrative contracts at the expense of the inmates' and their families' suffering. They and their company, GEO, engage in a pattern and practice of abuse, neglect, public corruption, and cover up."

McCullough claims that GEO and its officers "have a history of illegally neglecting, manipulating, and abusing inmates, and then covering up their wrongful and illegal conduct."

The GEO Group has a long rap sheet of complaints of abuse and neglect, published on the web by the Private Corrections Institute, a watchdog group that monitors "for-profit" prison managment companies. Their record of mismanagement spreads across states as diverse as New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Alaska and stretching to its interests outside the US as well. It seems that Indiana has now joined that group.

GEO Group has been at the center of numerous scandals involving their facilities and their treatment of prisoners. The most recent occurred just last month, less than two weeks before receiving their contract in Haiti. Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. was beaten to death in a GEO Group facility in 2001. In early January of this year, The GEO Group reached a settlement in the wrongful death suit, agreeing to pay in excess of $40 million.

In 2007, the firm settled a lawsuit with the family of an inmate for $200,000. LeTisha Tapia, a 23-year-old woman incarcerated at the GEO-owned Val Verde Correction Facility in southern Texas, told her family in July 2004 that she had been raped and beaten after being locked in the same cell block with male inmates. Shortly after, she had hung herself in her cell. The nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project sued GEO on behalf of Tapia’s family.

According to the Institute on Money in State Politics, which analyzed political contributions and lobbying expenditures from private prison companies:

Companies favored states with some of the toughest sentencing laws, particularly those that had enacted legislation to lengthen the sentence given to any offender who was convicted of a felony for the third time. Private-prison interests gave almost $2.1 million in 22 states that had a so-called “three-strikes law,” compared with $1.2 million in 22 states that did not. Remember Georgia has the "Two Strikes" Law.

This Prison deal with GEO INC Stinks & doesn't pass the smell test.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

State Senator Johnny Grant, Sonny Perdue & GEO, Inc, Part 2

Yesterday I told you that GEO Inc was partnering with the state of Georgia on a new 1500 Bed Facility in Baldwin County. In addition I mentioned how Perdue transferred 71 acres from DHR to DOC by executive order during the later part of 2008, & goes on to say that DOC will put out an RFP (Request for Proposals) for a private prison, and the winner of the RFP will have a "40-year" ground lease with the state of Georgia. The property conveyance bill was introduced on 2-17-10, and signed by Gov. Perdue on 6-4-10.

There's more, State Senator Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) who faces a challenge from former State Senator & Mayor Floyd L. Griffin (D-Milledgeville) for SD 25 got $2000 from GEO INC, (formerly Wackenhut Corrections) in Oct. 2008, (he had no opposition), and another $2400 from them on 6-30-10.

GEO, INC the company who is providing private correctional and detention management as well as mental health services for the new prison was a Rap Sheet that the local media up in Milledgeville are not informng the people of Baldwin County.

The CEO OF GEO, INC, George Zoley was one of George Bush's "pioneers"(raised over $100,000 for Bush) at one time. GEO, which operates approximately 60 detention facilities in the U.S, is a “major political spender” that’s spent an estimated $1.8 million on political candidates and causes since 2002, according to the nonprofit Center for Political Accountability.

GEO INC, (which was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections) has had a history of problems at its institutions that it have operated.

At the company’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, federal prosecutors charged a GEO prison administrator in September 2008 with “knowingly and willfully making materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements to senior special agents” with ICE, according to court filings. A February 2008 audit found that over a period of more than two years ending in November 2005, GEO hired nearly 100 guards without performing the required criminal background checks. The GEO employee responsible, Sylvia Wong, pleaded guilty. In the plea agreement the federal government stated that Wong falsified documents “because of the pressure she felt” while working at the GEO lockup to get security personnel hired at the detention center “as quickly as possible.”

Here's more:

South Bay Correctional Facility, South Bay, Florida

February 11, 2010 Palm Beach Post

Federal and state officials announced this afternoon the arrest of corrections officers and others on drug and bribery charges. A total of 22 were charged, including 18 corrections officers. Sixteen face federal charges including conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. Six face state charges, including bribery of a public official and introduction of contraband into a correctional facility. The arrests culminate a two-year investigation between local and federal authorities between April 2007 and February 2009. A SWAT team from the FBI made arrests at Glades Correctional Institution and at South Bay Correctional Facility today. Today's announcement was only the latest black eye for the nation's third-largest prison system. Most recently, a former corrections officer at South Bay Correctional Facility, run by the GEO Group, was sentenced to a year in jail following her conviction for introducing contraband and conspiring to introduce contraband into the facility.

Frio County Detention Center, Frio County, Texas

July 15, 2010 News Express

The GEO Group, a Florida firm that contracts with local governments to run jails, has agreed to pay $2.9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging indiscriminate strip searches of inmates at six facilities, including three in Texas. The Frio County Detention Center in Pearsall, the Dickens County Detention Center in Dickens and the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton and jails in New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Illinois were named in the suit, which was litigated in federal court in Pennsylvania. The suit alleged GEO employed a uniform practice or policy of strip-searching all pre-trial detainees who entered certain GEO-operated jails, regardless of the crime or violation for which they were detained, and without making the legally required determination of whether reasonable suspicion existed to justify a strip search.


To put this all in perspecetive, prisons that are run by GEO, INC has had problems of Inmate Abuse, Substandard Conditions for inmates & correctional workers, Unexplained Deaths of Inmates, Strkies by Correctional Officers, & Inmates. Officers that have spoken out against Private Prisons, for example, have they had hurt their future job prospects. Back in 2009 David Garrett of Auckland Central Remand Prison (which was run by GEO INC from 2000-2005) made remarks that came hot on the heals of accusations that the Government attempted to intimidate and silence people. Those claims were sparked by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett releasing benefit details of two women who criticised a government decision to cut a training allowance. A group of prison officers, representing 30 officers who had previously worked for a privately run prison, made a submission to Parliament's law and order select committee which is considering legislation to enable private operators to run prisons.

The people of Milldegeville & Baldwin are being kept in the dark in regards to GEO INC problems at other facilities that are operated by them. They have no idea what they are getting in GEO. The Union Recorder hasn't made any attempt to shine a light on this story.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

State Senator Johnny Grant, Sonny Perdue & GEO, Inc.

PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU ARE LIVING IN BALDWIN COUNTY

Last Week, The Georgia Department of Corrections announced a new private prison is slated to open in Baldwin County, Georgia in 2012 that will provide 300 new jobs.

The 1,500-bed prison will house medium security inmates and will be built in partnership with The GEO Group, Inc., which manages and/or owns 63 correctional and residential treatment facilities worldwide. The facility will cost $80 million.

State Senator Johnny Grant says it's a project that's been two years in the making.

"We knew that some of the prison facilities we had in Baldwin County were classified as non-enduring and that they would be closing up," he says.


But.......



There are questions that need to be answered & no one's not getting them.

I got this from a very reliabe source who's name I will not reveal:

During the session a bill by State Sen. Johnny Grant (the usual property conveyance bill that the legislators do every year) says that Sonny Perdue transferred 71 acres from DHR to DOC by executive order, something I never heard a governor in this state do. It goes on to say that DOC will put out an RFP for a private prison, and the winner of the RFP will have a "40-year" ground lease with the state of Georgia.

Unbelievable!

Never heard anything like this! The Bill was introduced on 2-17-10, and signed by Gov. Perdue on 6-4-10 & then pooof.....The Geo Group, Inc. based in Florida made a huge public announcement that they were "Partnering with the State of Georgia" and planned to build a 1500 bed prison on the property with the 40-year ground lease.

Now the Group, GEO Group, Inc, (formerly know as Wackenhut Corrections) has a serious Rap Sheet that the people of Baldwin County better pay attention to, here are a few:


May 9, 2007 Greeley Tribune

Plans for a private prison in Ault came to a halt recently when Colorado Department of Corrections rescinded its offer to GEO Group. Ault Mayor Brad Bayne said board members haven't discussed the prison for months. "Until there was some sort of guarantee, we'd just rather not talk about it," he said. "There is probably some disappointment from me and a few board members who believe we still could have made it work for the town." Talk of the 1,500-bed medium-security prison proposed last spring has bought some uproar in the town of fewer than 1,500 residents. Some said a prison coming to town would boost the town's economy, but others said it would be too dangerous because of its proximity to the town. The plan was to build on 40 acres in the southeast part of town. Last spring, the GEO Group entered into a tentative agreement with the town, which approved the prison in concept only, so it could secure state approval to build there. Months later, the town board passed an ordinance requiring resident approval before any prison could be built. Town officials haven't heard from a GEO Group representative since September, when GEO hosted a public forum answering questions from residents, he said. But DOC Executive Director Ari Zavaras put a stop to all discussions with the private prison contractor. He sent a letter April 24 to representatives of GEO Group, stating they would no longer discuss the plans for the Ault prison or GEO's request for a guaranteed bed count. "We had continued to have a very open and productive conversations with GEO," said Allison Morgan, spokesperson for the DOC. "But we did not agree with a bed guarantee." GEO requested a guarantee on the number of beds that would be filled by prisoners at any given time, since the state pays private prison contractors a daily rate per inmate. Phillip Tidwell, a member of the Citizens Against Ault Prison, said the decision to rescind the DOC offer to GEO Group made him happy. "We're definitely feeling this is a responsible act from both parties," Tidwell said. "The contract should have never been fulfilled by the state because of GEO making the specifications with the state for a guaranteed bed count." In the letter to rescind, Zavaras stated that in June 2006, the DOC offered a contract with GEO Group with the exception to GEO's request for a bed guarantee. On July 7, the DOC asked for GEO group to sign and complete the proposed implementation agreement. After a few meetings, GEO Group still requested a bed guarantee, which the DOC could not grant. The two entities have gone back and forth on the bed guarantee issue since August. According to the letter, Zavaras gave GEO a new deadline of April 2 to sign the Implementation Agreement or provide a reason for not signing in writing to the DOC no later than that date. "It was apparent the Department and GEO could not come to an agreement," Morgan said.

Here's another:


Feb. 10, 2003, AP

Guards at the largest immigrant detention facility in Texas, (South Texas Detention Complex) readied to strike Tuesday in a dispute with the same private contractor running a West Texas prison disrupted by two inmate riots in as many months. Unionized workers at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall say that unless The GEO Group Inc. agrees to better wages and working conditions Tuesday, more than 300 employees could walk off the job as early as this week. Negotiations began in August, and union officials said the meeting with GEO in San Antonio was the last chance to hammer out a deal. About 1,400 detainees are being held at the facility because of their immigration status. "I'm hoping (GEO) will be serious this time," said Ricardo Luna, 50, a detention officer at the facility and the union president. "But I don't know. It could go either way." GEO spokesman Pablo Paez did not immediately return an e-mail Tuesday morning seeking comment. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which contracted GEO to run the facility, has previously said the agency is "prepared to respond appropriately" no matter the outcome but did not elaborate. A strike would be the latest problem in Texas for GEO, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based private contractor that is still sorting out two inmate riots since December at a federal prison the company manages in Reeves County. The latest riot began Jan. 31 and ended Thursday in the remote West Texas town of Pecos. The disturbance left buildings heavily damaged, sent smoke billowing from the facility, and SWAT teams driving inside and out. Inmates and relatives have told news media the riot was prompted by poor treatment, including medical services. Another riot in December left one housing unit damages and cost the county at least $320,000 in repairs. In San Antonio, union workers arrived to the bargaining table prepared with 100 red picketing posters that read, "ON STRIKE AGAINST GEO GROUP INC. — UNFAIR." Luna said the safety of detention officers has been compromised by poor equipment and new guards who he says have not received the proper training. Located about 60 miles south of San Antonio, the Pearsall detention center is the only unionized GEO facility in the nation, union officials say. Workers are seeking increased wages, more affordable health benefits and improved working conditions. The standard wage there is $14.37 an hour, according to union officials. Negotiations last broke off in January.


May 16, 2008 WOAI

Startling allegations of sexual assault are coming out about a facility that holds illegal immigrants. It’s said to be happening in Pearsall, just about an hour outside of San Antonio. News 4 Trouble Shooter Brian Collister is uncovering how some guards may be victimizing the women they are supposed to be protecting. Many of the immigrants held here are women. Some have fled abuse in their home country, only to be reportedly abused again behind these bars. A former detainee, who asked us not to identify her told us, “It was going on a lot. It was going on almost all the time, the sexual abuse.” She claims sexual abuse came from the guards. She said while she was there she rejected advances by one of the guards, but said other girls were too scared to put up a fight. “Some of the guards actually tried to force themselves on the girls and that they’ve told them that if they ever said anything about it, that they have the power with ICE to deport them,” explained this former detainee. The guards work for a private company called GEO, hired by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to run the prison. Sexual contact with detainees is not allowed. In fact, it’s a crime. The former detainee said, “Some of the girls ended up pregnant by some of the officers there.” She added one of those who got pregnant was a girl from Guatemala, named Marley. Marley’s case is mentioned in an incident report obtained by the News 4 Trouble Shooters. It details how last may a guard reported being told by another guard that he’d had sex with a Marley, who has already been deported back home. That guard accused of having sex with Marley was Joseph Canales. The Trouble Shooters tracked him down, but he told us he didn’t get anyone pregnant, then added: “Whatever happened, happened a long time ago.” After the incident report, Canales was fired, but ICE will not tell us if they referred the case for prosecution. The US Attorneys Office told us it has no case against Canales. Still, there are other sexual assaults we’ve uncovered. We obtained an email sent by an ICE officer to his supervisors notifying them that a detainee had told him about a GEO sergeant who was having sex with one of the female detainees. The ICE officer who wrote that e-mail sat down with us, but asked us not to identify him. He said some of the GEO guards prey on the female detainees by lying to them and promising they can help them stay in the United States. “If they had the opportunity,” he explained, “some of the guards were just touching, groping, but if they had the opportunity they had sex with them. The female detainees, a lot of them, were willing because they thought it was…somehow their chances of staying were going to increase. That’s not the case whatsoever. If ICE can keep it under wraps, they will keep it under wraps.” To keep it under wraps, he said he was fired for reporting what was going on. And he is not alone. We’ve also talked to a former GEO guard who said she, too, was fired after reporting sexual abuse. While ICE would not provide a spokesperson to speak with us on camera, the man in charge did recently speak to News 4 for another story on how they deport illegals and said this about how detainees are treated. Marc J. Moore, ICE Field Office Director said recently, “I think ICE has a clear commitment to not only safe detention but also humane detention.” A spokesman for GEO told us they didn’t know of any sexual assault cases, but when Trouble Shooter Collister asked about the incident in this report, we got no response. The people who run this prison may not want to talk about it, but we’re not done digging. We’ll follow up with more in the coming days and week.



Texas Legislature
April 27, 2009 Texas Watchdog

Two state lawmakers from South Texas have financial ties to a private prison firm that runs facilities for the Texas state prison system — at a time when lawmakers are debating sweeping new measures to clamp down on corrections companies. State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, have financial links to the GEO Group, a Florida-based firm that runs 19 correctional facilities in Texas, including nine under contract for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Zaffirini’s husband, Carlos, is a lawyer and advocate for the firm, formerly known as Wackenhut. In December 2007, the Zaffirinis’ hometown commissioners in rural Webb County considered whether to stop supplying water and sewer lines to a local GEO-owned prison after residents voiced concerns about the company’s track record. The Laredo Morning Times reported that Zaffirini put on a spirited defense of the firm, claiming the complaints against his client were “steeped in emotion and void of logic.” Oliveira, meanwhile, also has a cozy relationship with the prison company. His Brownsville law firm serves as its local defense counsel. The House member’s cousin David Oliveira, a partner at the firm, has represented the company on a lawsuit alleging misconduct that one judge described as “reprehensible.” The lawmakers’ ties to the company raise all sorts of messy questions: Can either one of them vote on any legislation that would place tough regulations on how the GEO Group does business?

Why haven’t they disclosed their interest in the firm on their personal financial statements? And should any lawmaker have a financial interest in a company that feeds out of the public trough? “The private prison industry is dependent on taxpayer dollars,” says Alex Friedmann, the associate editor of Prison Legal News, a newsletter dedicated to protecting inmates’ legal rights. “So, yes, I believe Zaffirini and Oliveira have a conflict of interest, or at least a perceived conflict of interest.” Oliveira did not return repeated phone calls for comment left beginning March 24. Zaffirini, meanwhile, says that she is largely unfamiliar with the company’s recent struggles, even though her husband works for the firm. “I quite frankly have not given private prisons a lot of thought,” she says. “I spend most of the time focusing on the issues of the poor, the elderly and people who can’t represent themselves.” Lawmakers could vote this spring to get tough with private prison companies, including the GEO Group, after the company’s missteps have brought Texas prisons national attention for poor, unstable conditions. Critics say Zaffirini and Oliveira, because of their personal ties to the company, should recuse themselves from prison-related votes. But Zaffirini says she would vote on the private-prison measures, and that her legislative aides have no knowledge of her husband’s work.

Two years ago, the Texas Youth Commission slammed the GEO Group’s Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, discovering illegal contraband and filthy cells that “smelled of feces and urine.” Other findings included racially segregated cells and a limited education program that consisted of one daily worksheet slipped into the juvenile’s cell. The agency later pulled 197 of its inmates out of the facility and canceled its contract with the firm. Then, earlier this month, the Court of Appeals in the 13th district in Corpus Christi upheld a massive judgment against the GEO Group, then known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., after an inmate was beaten to death at one of its facilities. The court concluded that the company tried to cover up the attack and that its conduct “constituted a disgusting display of disrespect.” “The GEO Group is an appalling company to represent,” says Bob Libal, the Texas campaigns coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, a social justice organization that opposes private prisons. “It’s staggering to think about how many problems the GEO group has had in Texas.” The GEO Group last year earned $59 million in fees from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for managing nine state facilities. More notably the GEO Group has endured a rash of problems in Texas that have garnered the attention of their colleagues in Austin, as well as media outlets across the country.

In 2007 State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and chairman of the criminal justice committee, called for a special hearing on GEO’s state contracts after the Texas Youth Commission issued the devastating report on the company’s youth facility. He then lashed out at the firm when he felt like its lobbyists were attempting to downplay its troubles. The corrections outfit also generated headlines when two prison riots broke out at the GEO-operated Reeves County Detention Center, which houses inmates detained on federal immigration violations. The first rash of violence came last December after inmates complained about a lack of health care, followed by more rioting two months later in which the West Texas facility was engulfed in flames. Both riots cost Reeves County, which owns the detention center, more than $1 million to repair the damages. Zaffirini’s husband, Oliveira’s firm defended GEO Group in 2001 prison beating case -- But despite the GEO Group’s recent bout of bad publicity, it was a brutal prison beating nearly a decade ago that may raise the most questions about Zaffirini and Oliveira’s financial interest in the company. On April 26, 2001, two inmates at a GEO Group-operated facility in Willacy County stuffed prison-issued padlocks into socks and beat Gregorio de la Rosa on his head, neck, ribs and back, striking him dead just four days before his intended release. The family of de la Rosa, an honorably discharged National Guardsman who was incarcerated on a drug charge, would later file a wrongful death lawsuit against the GEO Group. They claimed that the beating was no isolated incident.

Rather, de la Rosa’s attorney, Ronald Rodriguez, alleged that facility’s guards allowed inmates to enforce their own brand of order that included rape and extortion. The Laredo attorney put on quite a case. He introduced evidence of assaults in which inmates were also attacked with padlocks wrapped inside socks — just like de la Rosa had been. Rodriguez showed that the guards didn’t follow policy when they failed to pat down inmates who entered the area where the deadly beating took place. Finally, in order to point to a wider culture of dysfunction, Rodriguez introduced into evidence a prison training videotape in which a guard tells an inmate that if he didn’t want to be raped, he shouldn’t have come to prison. $47.5 million judgment -- A jury would later award the de la Rosa family $47.5 million, one of the top 10 jury verdicts in 2006. The judge and jury also found that the company destroyed the videotape of the beating. The GEO Group appealed the case, but earlier month the court of appeals in the 13th district of Texas upheld the ruling. The court noted testimony that the prison’s warden and officers “smirked and laughed” as the inmates attacked de la Rosa. Judge Gina Benavides, who wrote the opinion, also concluded that Warden David Forrest intentionally disposed of incriminating evidence and that “these cover-up attempts show intentional malice, trickery, and deceit.” “We hold that nearly all the indicators of reprehensible conduct exists in this record,” the judge said. In October 2007, Zulema de la Rosa Salazar, the older sister of the late inmate, wrote a letter to Whitmire, who had recently called for a hearing on the GEO Group’s track record in Texas.

In her letter, Salazar says that she tried to warn officials in Webb County when the company proposed building a prison there. But no one would ever meet with her. “They will not listen,” she writes, her anger nearly crystallizing on the page. “Why? I’ll tell you why. One of the GEO Group’s attorneys, Mr. Zaffirini, is married to Senator Judith Zaffirini. Is this not a conflict of interest?” Of course, it wasn’t just Zaffirini’s ties to the company that came under scrutiny. Oliveira’s 15-member law firm, Roerig Oliveira & Fisher, has represented the GEO Group in the post-verdict hearings of the De La Rosa’s wrongful death suit after the firm’s original attorney, Bruce Garcia, went to work for the Texas attorney general’s office. In the 2007 legislative session, Oliveira sat on the House Corrections Committee, which considers legislation that regulates private corrections companies like the GEO Group. The committee, like its Senate counterpart, can also probe into the conduct of corrections companies. “Oliveira should have been conducting investigations into these very disturbing facts surrounding de la Rosa’s death at the hands of the GEO Group in his capacity as a member of the Texas House Corrections Committee,” says Rodriguez, the attorney. “Incredibly, instead Oliveira’s law firm was and is representing GEO Group in the de la Rosa litigation.” Rodriguez is just as critical of the Laredo Democrat. “Senator Zaffirini is supposed to be looking out after the state’s interest and the interest of her constituents like the de la Rosas, and not after her own self-interest by getting her community property estate paid by representing one of Texas’ major private prison providers,” he says. “The de la Rosas reside in Zaffirini’s district but cannot go to her for help in her official capacity as their state senator because such pleas will only fall on deaf ears.” Zaffirini: Wife would not be compromised; Webb County official: Recusal from prison debate necessary -- Carlos Zaffirini scoffs at the claim that his lawyering for the GEO Group has compromised his wife’s responsibilities as a state senator.

“From the sound of it, he would like to have my wife influence the judicial process in favor of his clients,” he says, referring to the continuing litigation in the De la Rosa case. “She’s not going to do that for him or anyone.” Rodriguez says that he has no need for Zaffirini to influence what happens in court; afterall, his record judgment was just upheld. He’s just questioning whether her husband’s legal work has cast a pall over her stature as an elected official. In any case, he is not the only one concerned about her loyalties. Webb County Commissioner Sergio “Keko” Martinez, a Democrat, also doubts whether Zaffirini can vote objectively on anti-private prison legislation. “Ethically, I would expect my wife to disqualify herself on any deliberations that would have to do with a company I have represented in the past or would be representing,” he says, speaking hypothetically. “Whatever money I would make, she would have an interest in half of it.” A loophole for lawyers in the state’s disclosure requirements -- Neither Oliveira nor Zaffirini listed their ties to the GEO Group on their 2008 personal financial statements (Zaffirini statement here/Oliveira statement here), which are supposed to alert voters to instances when lawmakers’ fiscal interests might shape votes. The law does not require it, and the exemption extends to lawmakers whose spouses are lawyers. But there’s nothing preventing state elected officials from disclosing more than what the law allows, a practice that could allay questions about their votes and positions. In fact, Oliveira apparently did just that. In an addendum to his 29-page financial statement, the House member writes that his firm represents many banks, insurance companies and government associations.

Oliveira explains that some of them may employ lobbyists who have contacted him, but it would not be related to his legal work. Overall, he lists nearly a dozen of his firm’s clients, including Geico, State Farm Insurance Companies and the Texas Municipal League, but not the GEO Group, which arguably has just as much at stake in the 2009 legislative session as any company doing business in the state. Lawmakers have proposed stiffer regulations for private prisons following the Youth Commission’s closure of the GEO Group’s Coke County facility. House and Senate Democrats crafted every single measure. Here is a listing of the main bills that were proposed–the first two of which never made it out of committee. HB 1714: The most severe of the anti-private prison bills, this bill, authored by Rep. Harold Dutton, would prohibit counties from contracting with private prisons. HB 3247: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez’s bill would not allow counties to contract with private prison corporations if the corporation’s employees do not have collective bargaining rights. HB 3903: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr. requires more accountability for private prisons including a mandatory public hearing in each commissioner’s precinct before a county enters into a contract with a private prison firm. SB 1680: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa’s bill requires that voters approve any county contracts with private prison operators. SB 1690: This bill, also sponsored by Hinojosa, allows for stronger state oversight of county-owned (and usually privately-operated) jails with federal and out-of-state prisoners. Sen. Zaffirini: Husband ‘doesn’t influence me’ -- In a lengthy interview with Texas Watchdog, Zaffirini said she would vote on

Typically, she said, her aides carefully research new bills and recommend how she should vote, and “99 percent of the time,” she follows their recommendation. In regard to her husband’s work for the GEO Group, Zaffirini said her staff doesn’t really know about his ties to the company. “I have a system for deciding how to vote, and my staff is totally unaware of my husband’s clients,” says the state senator. “They are in Austin, and he is in in Laredo.” Throughout the interview, Zaffirini was amiable and composed. She never sounded a defensive note. Still, the Laredo Democrat’s defense of her unusual situation assumes that spouses can draw an indelible line between their professional and personal lives. “My husband and I never, ever discuss his clients because they have standards of confidentiality,” she says. “He doesn’t influence me on legislation that impacts them; nor does he even talk about it.” Carlos Zaffirini echoed his wife’s remark while adding that as an attorney he works for many clients who come under the jurisdiction of the state. “She doesn’t know half of what I do or 10 percent of what I do,” he said. “I represent a lot of clients. I represent GEO and oil-and-gas producers. I represent land owners and developers and people in international trade.” Rene Oliveira’s firm is representing the GEO Group in an effort to overturn the record judgment in the de la Rosa case. Meanwhile, the Brownsville lawmaker may be asked to vote on bills that would severely restrict how his client does business. Rodriguez, the de la Rosa attorney who has become an impassioned critic of the private prison company, questions how Oliveira will approach any bills that come up for a vote. “How can he be objective when his law firm is on the GEO Group’s payroll?”

These are just the tip of the Ice Berg. What in the Hell is going on with this. These people GEO INC are Bad News & Baldwin County better wake up & this is one reason why Johnny Grant needs to be kicked out of office in November

Andrew Young Endorses Darryl Hicks for Labor Commissioner

U.S. Senate Candidate Mike Thurmond at DeKalb Technical College on July 17

Jim Marshall along with a Bi-Partisan Group of Legislators & The Balanced Budget Amendment Caucus

Photo from Enigma Rally on Saturday, Barnes in Bacon County Tonight




Curtis Farrar, John Ellington, Sid Cottingham, Wyc Orr and Chuck Byrd were part of a large crowd in Enigma on Saturday. (Photo via Sid Cottingham of Cracker Squire)

Roy Barnes will be in Bacon County Tonight at the warehouse (turn at the bypass when coming into Alma from Douglas, and it is on your right).

Thurmond must be able to connect with Central and South Georgia's rural voters to beat Isakson


Ever Since he made his emotional announcment that he was going to take on Johnny Isakson, Michael Thurmond has been M.I.A. To run for something lliek the U.S. Senate, a person must have 100% committment & drive to run in a race like that & to unseat a fairly popular incumbent like Johnny Isakson. Read the rest here from my friend Patrick Davis of the examiner: Thurmond must be able to connect with Central and South Georgia's rural voters to beat Isakson

Does Mike Keown Really Have a Shot at Unseating Sanford Bishop?


There is alot of chatter going around that State Rep. Mike Keown (R-Coolidge) can knock off Incumbent Sanford Bishop (D-Albany) this november. The Cook Political Report has updated its race rating for the 2nd congressional district of Georgia, moving it from "Safe" Democratic to "Likely" Democratic.


Mike Keown reporteed raising $368,750 and has $237,551 left in the bank while Bishop says his campaign raised $662,668 and has $404,594 in the bank.

But why do some think Keown has a shot? They point to Bishop's support for the much maligned Heathcare Reform Legislation, his early support for Cap & Trade among other things. Keown say its time for new leadership in the 2nd congressional district because as he puts it Bishop is no longer listening or representing the citizens of the 2nd. He has voted more with Nancy Pelosi than the ultra liberal Barney Frank, the stimulus bills and the bank and auto buyouts, as well as co-sponsoring legislation that would allow labor unions an easy entry into SW Georgia.

But it will be a tough row to hoe for Keown is the district has given Bishop on average of 68% of the vote over the last 10 years & the district is also the historic home of Jimmy Carter and has a reputation for being progressive on racial issues. The District at last checked in around 49% White, 47% Black after the 2005 Gerrymandering by the Georgia GOP.

Arguably the most conservative African-American in Congress, Bishop is a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of moderate to conservative Democrats in Congress. He is known is the "Peanut" congressman due to his staunch support of the largest agricultural crop in Southwest Georgia & agriculture in General.

Now Bishop has worked to represent the values and morals of his district: "God, country, work, family, and guns" - through his support for several Constitutional amendments. Bishop has co-sponsored amendments to the U.S. Constitution protecting the U.S. flag against acts of desecration, preserving the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman, ensuring a balanced federal budget, and allowing voluntary, non-denominational prayer in schools and other public localities. He also is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, receiving the grade of “A+” from the National Rifle Association.

Keown has received considerable support from the district & mots likely will get support from the NRCC. How much support though is remain to be seen. Bishop is the favorite to win re-election barring some unforeseen circumstance that will totally swing this race in the favor of Mike Keown.

It's hard to see Bishop being beatened this year despite his votes for the healthcare bill & other measures that has riled his critics. I'm not about to write off Bishop just yet.

If I had to make a prediction on this race, I say Bishop 62% Keown 38%.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Georgia Democrats: Roy Can't Do it All by Himself, Part 2.

The man is out there at this very moment on tour of Rural Georgia while the Republican Candidates fight it out for the nomination. You see Roy isn't waiting around for the winner, he's out there right now shaking hands, talking to folks, drinking RC Colas, etc. It was great to see Darryl Hicks, candidate for Labor Commissioner as well as Keith Moffett candidate for PSC Commission District 2 seat on the backroads of Rural Georgia this weekend.

But where are the others? Mary Squires (Insurance Commisisoner), Joe Martin (School Superintendent), J.B. Powell (Agriculture Commissioner), Carol Porter (Lt. Governor), Mike Thurmond (U.S. Senate)? Ken Hodges is out there campaigning, he's not waiting for the GOP runoff for Attorney General to begin his road towards the Attorney General's office. Gail Buckner & Georganna Sinkfield are in a runoff for Secretary of State.

But back to the others, its time to hit the road running. No one has heard a word from these candidates since the Primary. There are 100 days remaining until the General Election & there's no time to just take it easy & just hope Roy's coattails will pull you to the finish line. That's the Jim Martin recipe for disaster in which Martin decided to ride the coattails of Obama, only to get slaughtered in the runoff.
Rural Georgia is the place to be 80 out of the last 100 days before the primary. All of you have relatively low Name I.D. & the more you are seen on the trail, the better the voters will know who you are. You can't run a statewide race from home or from Metro Atlanta. Its time to get a taste of some of this Red Clay.

ROY CAN'T DO THIS ALL BY HIMSELF! TO MAKE GEORGIA WORK, Y'ALL NEED TO BE ON THE TRAIL TO AREAS WHERE DEMOCRATS ONCE DOMINATED IN ORDER TO RETURN TO THE GLORY YEARS.

New Episode of Kudzu Vine

Listen to internet radio with Southern Politics on Blog Talk Radio

A Fair Deal For Farmers & Ranchers

I got this email from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

Farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry deserve a fair deal and a level playing field with meat and poultry processors. Some members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, however, would prefer to allow powerful meat and poultry packers and processers to continue to get away with unfair and deceptive trade practices.


The Subcommittee held a hearing last week that focused on a new set of USDA rules that would restore competition and contract fairness to livestock and poultry markets. The new rules, mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill, are strongly supported by NSAC and have been praised by major farm organizations including the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) and by more than 60 other organizations including NSAC who signed this letter last week in support of the new rules.

Several members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee, however, made crystal clear that they were firmly allied with large corporate packers and processors and had little concern farmers and ranchers. Chairman David Scott (D-GA), Ranking Member Randy Nuegebauer (R-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve King (R-IA), Walt Minnick (D-ID), David Roe (R-TN) and Michael Conaway (R-TX) spent the good part of two hours slamming the proposed regulations. They expressed alarm over the potential consequences for some of the most powerful and wealthy corporations in the nation, whose unfair and deceptive practices and sheer market power over those who produce our food could be curtailed by the regulations. They rebuffed the concerns of USDA Under-Secretary Edward Avalos who testified that part of the drastic decrease in our farming population is in response to packer and processor market concentration and the lack of fair prices and fair dealing in the marketplace.

All of us who care about our nation's farmers and ranchers must tell our Senators and Representatives that we support USDA's proposed rules protecting farmers and ranchers from the unfair and deceptive trade practieces of livestock and poultry packers and processors.

Call or email your Representative and Senators.

Urge them to support the USDA proposed rules that restore competition and contract fairness to livestock and poultry markets. Tell them we need a level playing field for family farmers and ranchers.
Urge them to Contact USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and express their support for the proposed rule.

Candidate Spotlight: Keith Moffett (D-Macon), PSC Commission District 2


In the race to replace Bobby Baker (R) who will not seek re-election, Keith Moffett (D-Macon) will seek to become the first democrat to serve on the PSC Board since David Burgess back in 2006.

Moffett, 38 a Centrist Democrat was the only democrat to declare his candidacy to the republican-controlled Board 7 is looking to become the second-African-American to serve on the PSC Commission

Moffett is the Director of Internal Affairs for Mayor Robert Reichert and Chief Administrative Officer with the Legislative agenda, in addition serves as the Mayor’s liaison with the Macon City Council, and is the point of contact for state and federal officials. In addition, to serving in the Mayor’s Cabinet, Mr. Moffett is an adjunct professor in the School of Business at Macon State College.

Before taking a job with the Reichert Administration, Moffett worked for the Georgia Department of Economic Development as a Regional Project Manager for the Middle Georgia area in which he developed improved and promoted economic products as well as coordinated local, state, and federal resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Moffett is a Veteran of the U.S. Navy (9 yrs),aboard two Nuclear Missile Submarines & was recognized by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the top 40 influential leaders Under 40, Macon Magazine “Top 5 Under 40”, He obtained a degree in Nuclear Science Technology and Electronic Technology wile serving in the U.S. Navy.

Moffett website is www.votemoffett.com

This isn't a Surprise: GOP Targets Marshall's 8th District Seat.......AGAIN!

Well it looks like another $1 to 2 million dollars will go to waste in trying to unseat BlueDog Democrat James "Jim" Marshall of the 8th District.

This comes as no surprise to many as the NRCC are targeting Jim Marshall's 8th Congressional Seat once again. Austin Scott who was running at first for Governor will take on the task of unseating the well-liked, fairly popular incumbent democrat from the republican leaning district.

Marshall has beaten back challenges from Calder Clay, Mac Collins (despite having two trips by then president Bush, one by Dick Cheney) & Rick Goddard who was considered a "A" level recruit by the NRCC. This time many observers think Scott has a shot due to being fron the southernmost part of the district.

Already Scott using the worn out GOP playbook of tying Marshall to some liberal member of congress & this time its Charlie Rangel due to reports that Georgia Dems have received money from the veteran congressman who is under investigation by the Ethics Committee for possible violations. Remember back when Mac Collins tried to tie Marshall to......Ted Kennedy.......Nancy Pelosi.


Marshall is a political brawler & despite national figures coming to the 8th & campaigning for Republican candidates, Marshall has always managed to win re-election.
Why Scott picked this race where he could have ran for Lt. Governor & defeated Casey Cagle for the nomination for Lt. Governor or stayed in the Guv's race & possibly made it to the runoff, I don't know.

Marshall is like Isakson. Each man is liked by their constituents, neither comes off as extreme, neither man makes waves or make controversial comments that'll come back to haunt them & both reflect the values of Georgia in Washington D.C.

Like I said before the 8th District is becoming the Graveyard for republican candidates. One by one each candidate has written their own political obituary just by taking on the Vietnam Veteran who represents the blue-collar constituency that is the 8th District. I like Scott, but it will be a uphill climb for the 14 yr State Representative.

Barnes, along with Darryl Hicks & Keith Moffett campaigns in Enigma

Three Democratic candidates paid a visit down to Enigma on Saturday where a little over 300 people showed up to meet the democratic candidate for Governor Roy Barnes, PSC 2 District Commission candidate Keith Moffett & Labor Commissioner candidate Darryl Hicks. Earlier that morning all three men paid a visit to Taylor County & spoke at Taylor Orchards. Continue to read: Barnes campaigns in Enigma

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fueling Freedom Plan

Sounds Interesting: Fueling Freedom Plan » Growth Energy

Allowing the Bush Dividends Tax Cut to Expire for the Richest 2% Will Not Harm Seniors

Read it here: Allowing the Bush Dividends Tax Cut to Expire for the Richest 2% Will Not Harm Seniors

Gallup Poll: Bill Clinton More Popular Than Barack Obama

Former President Bill Clinton is currently more well-liked by Americans than both of his successors. Sixty-one percent view him favorably, compared with 52% for President Barack Obama and 45% for former President George W. Bush.

Bill Clinton 61% Overall, 30% Republicans 60% Independents 89% Democrats
Barack Obama 52% Overall 17% Republicans 50% Independents 86% Democrats
George Bush 45% Overall 85% Republicans 37% Independents 22% Democrats

Democrats view Clinton and Obama similarly, but independents and Republicans have more positive views of Clinton than of Obama. Partisan impressions of Bush and Obama are mirror images. Independents, however, view Bush less favorably than Obama (37% vs. 50%).

This is the first time in Gallup polling that Clinton's favorable rating exceeds Obama's. Clinton's rating has increased considerably since the 2008 presidential election campaign (and before Hillary Clinton assumed the role of secretary of state), rising to 61% from 52% in August 2008

So if you Mike Thurmond, Roy Barnes, Carol Porter, Doug Heckman, Russell Edwards, it'll be wise to enlist the help of the former president in your bids for office.

DGA Statement on Barnes, Georgia GOP

Gov. Jack Markell, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, and Nathan Daschle, the DGA's executive director, issued the following statements tonight regarding the Georgia gubernatorial race.

“While Georgia Republicans debate whether their state should secede from the United States, Roy Barnes is uniting people around his plan to get them back to work,” Governor Markell said. “Roy will end business as usual at the capitol and make Georgia work for Georgians again. He's got real plans to move the state forward while his opponents – like Karen Handel and Nathan Deal – seem happy with a stalled status quo.”

“If the primary is any indication, the Republicans are in for three more weeks of heated infighting,” Daschle said. “This race had all the hallmarks of a classic GOP Civil War for the right: a Sarah Palin endorsement, vicious warfare over social issues and tests for ideological purity. And this will take a big toll in the general election. Georgians are ready for real leadership, not career politicians who put partisan bickering first.”

Georgia Democrats: Roy Can't Do it All by Himself!

Roy can't do it all by himself. Other democrats on the statewide ballot has to help as well in order for Georgia Democrats to have a successful November Elections.

It is plain & simple: It will all come down to Rural Georgia! Rural Georgia!! Do I need to say it again: RURAL GEORGIA!!!

From Donalsonville, Cordele, Adel, Douglas, St. Marys, LaGrange, Greensboro, Sylvania, Toccoa, Quitman, Knoxville, Soperton, Perry, & other small to mid-sized ctities in the state.

Those are the places that democrats have to stake their claim or it'll be a long November night for the party. Roy Barnes is headed to Berrien County on Saturday for a old-fashioned multi-county rally in the town of Enigma near U.S. 82.

Democrats listen, Barnes knows the election will come to places in my neck of thet woods like Enigma. Ken Hodges already knows this. J.B. Powell as well. Carol Porter, as well as Darryl Hicks & Terry Coleman (whoever is the nominee for Labor Comm). But the others, well they better get with the program & I mean soon.

Its time to get this state back on track & most importantly its time to "MAKE GEORGIA WORK"! Its important to tell Independent voters, moderates from both parties that its time to make it happen with Roy Barnes. Job Losses, Tax Increases, Bottom of the Barrell Education policies, Reckless Tax Cuts, Rising Deficits, Bad Fiscal & Economic Policies have left this state on the verge of going towrds the level of Mississippi. It must come to a end Folks!

A look ahead to November General Election

Here are the matchups:

Gov: Roy Barnes (D-Mableton) vs Nathan Deal (R-Gainesville) or Karen Handel (R-Roswell)

Lt. Gov: Carol Porter (D-Dublin) vs Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville)

Sec. of State: Georganna Sinkfield (D-Atlanta), Gail Buckner (D-Morrow) vs Brian Kemp (R-Athens)

Attorney General: Ken Hodges (D-Albany) vs Sam Olens (R-Marietta), Preston Smith (R-Rome)

State School Superintendent: Joe Martin (D-Atlanta) vs John Barge (R-Marietta)

Insurance Commissioner: Mary Squires (D-Norcross) vs Ralph Hudgens (R-Hull), Maria Sheffield (R-Marietta)

Agriculture Commissioner: J.B. Powell (D-Blythe) vs Gary Black (R-Commerce)

Labor Commissioner: *Darryl Hicks (D-Reynolds) vs Mark Butler (R-Carrollton)

PSC Commission 2: Keith Moffett (D-Macon) vs John Douglas (R-Covington), Tim Echols (R-Athens)

U.S. Senate: Michael "Mike" Thurmond (D-Athens) vs Johnny Isakson (R-East Cobb)


Here are a couple of things to keep an eye on:

-The GOP attempt to tie Roy Barnes to President Obama & his policies in a attempt to distract voters from the core issues that are facing Georgia such as Water, Jobs, Transportation & education that has occurred under the watchful eye of the GOP during the last 8 years.

-Carol Porter attempt to unseat Casey Cagle at Lt Governor. There are still speculation surrounding Cagle that he's trying to cover up some serious baggage & that maybe the reason why he dropped out of the race for Governor. Eventually it will come out sometime during the General Election

-Will the losing democratic challengers campaign or endorse for Barnes during the General Election. If that happens, it will show a force of unity from the party. The party is not split like it was in 2006.

-How beatened & bloodied will the GOP nominee be once he/she faces Barnes? Both Handel & Deal have their flaws that Barnes will try to exploit to his advantage.

-Can Sam Olens or Preston Smith keep Ken Hodges from winning the Attorney General's Office? Hodges whipped Rob Teilhet in the primary garnering 65% of the vote in a route. Hodges successful record as D.A of Dougherty Co can't be matched by either Olens or Smith. Hodges has the support of both democrats & republicans in his attempt to replace Thurbert Baker.

-How big of a role will retiring Ag Commissioner Tommy Irvin play in helping J.B. Powell become the next Agriculture Commissioner? Gary Black, who was a former democrat until 2006 when decided to seek Irvin's seat has been campaigning for seat for a few yrs now. Will Georgia elect a lobbyist for Big Ag as it next Agriculture Commisisoner? If Irvin plays a big role in Powell's campaign, Black will be denied for a second time for the post of Ag Commissioner.

-How well will Mike Thurmond fare against Johnny Isakson? The race for the U.S. Senate is a different ballgame than Labor Commissioner. Thurmond has been traveling the state since announcing his bid for the U.S. Senate back in late April. Isakson is a well-entrenched incumbent who is fairly popular among Georgians. The question is will he feel the anti-incumbent heat from voters in November. With a shaky economy, out of control deficits, & weak job creation, Isakson may pay a political price at the polls, but it'll depend how Thurmond convinces voters that he's the right man for the job.

-The Obama Effect! Will the president come down & campaign for any democratic candidates? I seriously doubt it. The only candidate that can stand side by side with the president & not lose in november is Sanford Bishop.

-Who may we see come to Georgia for Roy Barnes, Mike Thurmond & Carol Porter? Expect Retiring Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Virginia Senators Mark Warner, Jim Webb & maybe Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor & Lousisiana Senator Mary Landrieu to come to Georgia & stump for Thurmond. Expect ex-president Bill Clinton (who has a 62% approval rating, higher that Obama), Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, (who maybe a candidate for the presidency in 2012, or 2016), North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, Outgoing Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell & maybe Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal who will leave office this year with one of the highest approval ratings in the country with 69% & Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, who is a moderate/conservative democrat.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Farmer's wife says fired USDA official helped save their land

The wife of the white farmer allegedly discriminated against by the USDA's rural development director for Georgia said Shirley Sherrod "kept us out of bankruptcy. Contunue to read: Farmer's wife says fired USDA official helped save their land  

Candidate Spotlight: Will Avery (D-Dallas), HD 19


West of Atlanta, Will Stout is trying to win the House Seat formerly held by Disgraced House Speaker Glen Richardson (R) who quit the legislature due to ethical & personal issues. Avery was born & raised in Emauel County (Swainsboro). He left Swainsboro to pursue a degree in anthropology at the University of Georgia. Avery worked for two years as an archaeologist for R.S. Webb and Associates, a small archaeology firm in the Metro Atlanta area. In '06 he took a job as a land surveyor for Dean Olson Land Surveying in downtown Dallas, Georgia.

Avery's core issues are: Education, Taxes, Businesses & Guns.

He is married his fiancé, Laurien, who majored in religion at UGA in 2005, & then at Kennesaw State where she got her master of arts in teaching. She teaches at North Paulding High School & they have one daughter, Norah May

Monday, July 19, 2010

Claudia Graham (D-East Dublin), candidate for HD 143 Stops by the show

New Episode of Kudzu Vine

Listen to internet radio with Southern Politics on Blog Talk Radio

RJ Hadley for U.S. Senate

Hodges Campaigns in Sumter County

Hodges made a Stop in Sumter County on Friday, talking to residents as he prepares for Tuesday's Primary Elections. The reason I am running for Attorney General is the same reason I ran for District Attorney in 1996; I want to make the community a better place — make Georgia a better place,” Hodges said Thursday during a campaign stop at the Russell Thomas Jr. Public Safety building in Americus.

Hodges says that his experience as a prosecutor gives him the advantage over his opponent in the July Primary on Tuesday, having argued in front of the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court.

I have many friends in this area,” Hodges said. “We need representation at all levels.”

Hodges, a Democrat, is heavily endorsed both in Atlanta and locally, even garnering bipartisan support form Sumter County Sheriff Pete Smith who is Republican. Other endorsements from active officials come from Fulton County Solicitor General Carmen Smith, former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, former Ambassador Andrew Young as well as District Attorneys and Sheriffs throughout the state. Other local endorsements include Americus Mayor Barry Blount and City Attorney and former State Representative and Majority leader Jimmy Skipper.

Predictions for Tuesday

I just throwing out my predictions on various races for tuesday. Some races are too hard to predict, so here goes:

Race for Governor

Republican: John Oxendine & Eric Johnson or Karen Handel

Democrat: Roy Barnes (Outright) or Runoff with Poythress or Porter


Race for Secretary of State

Democrat: Michael Mills & Georganna Sinkfield in Runoff

Republican: Brian Kemp


Race for State School Superintendent

Democrat: Brian Westlake, Joe Martin in runoff

Republican: John Barge


Race for State Insurance Commissioner

Republican: Gerry Purcell, Tom Knox in runoff

Democrat: Mary Squires


Race for Attorney General

Democrat: Ken Hodges

Republican: Sam Olens (Outright)


State Agriculture Commissioner:

Democrat: J.B. Powell

Republican: Gary Black


Lt. Governor:

Democrat Carol Porter

Republican: Casey Cagle


U.S. Senate:

Democrat: RJ Hadley

Republican: Johnny Isakson


Labor Commissioner:

Republican: Mark Butler

Democrat: Terry Coleman


13th Congressional District (Democratic)

Democrat: Michael Murphy, David Scott in runoff

Republican: Deborah Honeycutt, Chip Flanegan in runoff


4th Congressional District:

Democrat: Hank Johnson, Vernon Jones in runoff

Republican: Corey Ruth, Liz Carter in runoff


8th Congressional District:

Republican: Austin Scott (Outright)

Democrat: Jim Marshall


2nd Congressional District:

Republican: Mike Keown

Democrat: Sanford Bishop


12th Congressional District

Democrat: John Barrow

Republican: Ray McKinney, Jeanne Seaver in runoff

Darwin Carter: Stop the Lobbyist!

Presser sent out by the Carter Campaign on July 17

Dear Friends,

Today a friend shared with me some interesting reading. I just saw
copies of the latest campaign contributions given to my opponent, the
lobbyist, Gary Black. Frankly, it is frightening. He shows big steady
flows of cash coming in from exactly the same people he will be in
charge of regulating, if he is elected. Hundreds of thousands of
dollars from big corporate donors are flowing in to Lobbyist Black.
Big money wants him to run the Department for them.

Do we want his lobbyist crony's to run our Department of Agriculture?
Do we trust our food safety to lobbyists? To political hacks? To
Monsanto? That is where we are headed if we don't decide now to stop
Black. Stop the lobbyists, NOW!

We've got just 3 days and it will be over. We've got 3 days to
allow a life-long conservative farmer to do the people's work at our
Department of Agriculture. Or, if we aren't careful, in 3 days the
inmates will be running the asylum! Black's slick corporate buddies
will have what they have been working toward for years!

This is our last best chance to tell the Lobbyist Gary Black NO! The
Department of Agriculture is not for sale!

Stop The Lobbyist! Stop Black! Support Darwin Carter!Sorry Mr. Black, the Department of Agriculture belongs to
the people of Georgia, it is not for sale

Regards,

Darwin Carter


Darwin Carter was asked by President Ronald Reagan to open international trade routes for U.S. beef and for 8 years he did just that. Darwin was raised on a farm and has worked in agriculture most of his life. In the lat 70s, he was not afraid of confronting President Jimmy Carter (no relation!) for the farmers of Georgia and helped organize and lead a 20,000 rolling tractor motorcade to then-President Carter's home in Plains, Georgia. He was fearless in the defense of farmers then and he'll be a staunch defender of the citizens and farmers of this state. Let's give him our vote.

NRA Endorses Rob Teilhet for Attorney General

Today, State Representative and candidate for Attorney General, Rob Teilhet, became the only Democrat in the race for Attorney General to be endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA gave him the highest rating—an “A”—for his strong record defending the 2nd Amendment.

The NRA endorses candidates not on party lines, but on their demonstrated records on gun-related issues. Their website states, “Our endorsement is not given lightly; it is something that is reserved for those candidates who meet certain criteria and something that must be earned.”

“I’m proud to be endorsed by the NRA. I firmly believe that all law-abiding citizens have the right to bear arms as guaranteed to them by our nation’s constitution,” said Rep. Teilhet.

Today’s endorsement adds to a growing list of support. Other endorsers include: elected members of the Atlanta City Council Michael Julian Bond, Keisha Lance Bottoms and Alex Wan. Other endorsers include former prosecutor, Speaker of the House, Lt. Governor, appellate judge and Supreme Court Justice George T. Smith, the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, the IBEW Local 613, the Teamsters, Marshal Greg Countryman of Muscogee County, former legislator and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin, DeKalb Solicitor General Robert James, Civil Rights Leaders Representative Tyrone Brooks and Elder Bill Harris, the Chairmen of the Legislative Black Caucus, Senator Emanuel Jones, and well over 50 current and former Democratic members of the state legislature.

Rob Teilhet’s campaign for Attorney General focuses on protecting Georgia’s children, crime prevention, ethics in government, and consumer protection. Teilhet is widely known as a champion in the General Assembly for protecting Georgians from rip-offs and con artists. He has been a reliable supporter of law enforcement and crime victims as a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Teilhet has also consistently fought for stronger ethics laws.


This is a huge endorsement for Teilhet. The NRA has a good track record in endorsing candidates.

Friday, July 16, 2010

DuBose Porter on Water, Transportation, Etc.


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Intelligence isn't Geography Based when it comes to Education!

While most of us focus on ACT or SAT scores, student-teacher ratio and rigorous curriculum to increase student success, it may be the commitment to excellence that determines student achievement in rural schools. This is an overlooked, yet critical, factor when considering probably 40-45% of Georgia school districts are in rural areas.


Surprisingly, the top factors that did impact student achievement in urban high schools, ACT scores and dropout rates, did not determine student success in rural schools. Community involvement and the school's commitment to student excellence were the determining factors in whether a rural school was high- or low-achieving.

"In small-town Georgia, the school and the community are dependent upon each other for success. In rural areas, schools tend to be the center of the community, acting as a gathering place and often social services. In larger towns, students have access to resources and support outside of their schools.


High-achieving schools had educators that most likely embraced the role of being a rural teacher, which typically means wearing many hats and being creative with necessary resources.


Other factors included parents and community members who support the teachers, or if necessary, the school enacted programs to increase support. Another key factor was high-achieving schools gave students many opportunities to connect their learning to the well-being of the community, reinforcing the school-community bond.

While affected by the same variables, low-achieving schools felt that being a rural school was a handicap for student achievement and the lack of resources was a burden to school administration and the community. This attitude reflected in the educational approach of the school and in the student's probability to go to college.

I always wondered why rural school systems like Schley County School System achieve & perform at a high level, while Talbot County School System Perform at a low level. In Schley Co., the parents & the community ar heavily involved in their schools & to make sure that their children is getting the best education it can, as well as performing at a high level & having courses that's challenging their children to prepare them for the rigors of college. In Talbot, well the times I've been up there on school days, you see students walking the streets, some have dropped out, even some of the parents have taken their child to nearby Harris County or even Taylor County High so their child can get a better education. Same goes here in Macon County.

For rural schools, preparation programs need to provide specialized training for those who will serve in this setting. Policymakers up in Atlanta need to acknowledge that rural schools have particular strengths and weaknesses. Finally, reform programs aimed at improving rural schools need to be tailored to meet their unique needs. Schools can save communities. The success of one can determine the success or failure of the other.

We can't assume that student success in all schools, large and small, is impacted by the same issues, so the question becomes how do we help schools in their environment become successful? Whoever becomes our next governor & State School Superintendent will have to answer that question

Today Piedmount Biofuels unveiled their New Renewable Fuel Production Plant

Piedmont Biofuels LLC, leaders in biofuels in North Carolina, will unveil their newest technology for renewable fuel production at a ribbon cutting event and lunch on Friday, July 16th from 11pm – 1pm. Speakers at the event will include the North Carolina Biofuels Center’s Steven Burke and the candidate for North Carolina’s Senate seat.

The Enzymatic Biodiesel pilot plant was developed in partnership with the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, Novozymes, and the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation. This is the first pilot plant of its kind in the United States and uses cutting edge technology developed by Piedmont Biofuels and Novozymes to create high quality biodiesel from low quality waste grease. Biodiesel is a diesel fuel alternative made from fats and oils which can be used in existing diesel engines without modification.

The current biodiesel production method forms soaps or salts in both the biodiesel and glycerin phases, producing low-grade co-products. “This new process of using enzymes to produce biodiesel will increase yields, decrease waste, and allows producer to use lower cost feedstocks,” says Greg Austic of Piedmont Biofuels. “This groundbreaking technology will create more valuable co-products, and will allow existing producers to double their biodiesel output.” Glycerin, a co-product resulting from the enzymatic process can be used to make a wide variety of products, including bioplastics and solvents.

Piedmont Biofuels operates North Carolina’s premier commercial biodiesel production plant since 2006 and continues to be a leader in alternative fuels through their cutting edge research and design departments.

Boy North Carolina is taking off & leaving Georgia in the dust!!!

Farm Service Agency, or (FSA) Gets Backing from USDA

USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative recently highlighted Farm Service Agency (FSA) resources that can be used to expand and diversify farm businesses, preserve natural resources critical to future farm income and create links with local and regional food systems.

The Farm Storage Facility Loan program was expanded by the 2008 Farm Bill to include authority for use by vegetable, fruit, and nut producers as well as other farmers to use these loans for the construction of on-farm storage and minimal processing facilities. Controlling the product from seed to sale allows farmers to target specialty markets and retain more of the final sale price, increasing economic activity in rural areas.

Farmers and Ranchers can use FSA’s Guaranteed and Direct Loan programs either for farm ownership or for farm or ranch operating expenses, including for value-added and direct sale activities. The 2008 Farm Bill included special provisions to increase FSA credit opportunities for beginning, youth and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. These direct loans and guarantees are designed specifically for producers not yet able to receive financing through commercial lending sources.

FSA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) helps producers take fragile land out of production and establish conservation practices on working lands. Implementing conservation practices not only preserves and beautifies farmland but changing to sustainable production practices can allow farmers to realize a better price for their products through adopting value-added production methods. The new wildlife habitat the conservation practices create also offer new income opportunities through agritourism and hunting activities.

NSAC submitted comments this week to FSA on the new CRP-TIP program to help beginning and minority farmers and ranchers secure land coming out of the CRP program to engage in sustainable grazing or sustainable cropping operations.

You can get more information about all of these programs at your local FSA office.

Senate Approves 2011 Fiscal Year Agriculture Spending Bill

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2011 Agricultural Appropriations bill by voice vote. The action on the agriculture bill came after a lengthy partisan debate over the overall discretionary spending levels for the entire government for FY 2011, which concluded with the adoption of Chairman Inouye’s proposed spending allocations.

The agriculture bill proposes to spend $22.838 billion for all discretionary spending (net of a variety of cuts to mandatory programs) for the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and several smaller government agencies. This is nearly $300 million less than the FY 2010 level and $27 million less than what President Obama requested.

After winning support from USDA, the White House and then the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee asked for a $30 million funding level for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. We regret to say that today the Senate Committee adopted a far lower,, $23 million, SARE funding level. Both bills include $15 million for research and education grants and $5 million for extension and outreach grants, but they differ on funding for the SARE state matching grant program, with the House at $10 million and the Senate at only $3 million. NSAC strongly supports the $30 million funding level and will continue to urge the Senate to come up to that level before finishing work on its bill this year.

Whereas the House Subcommittee-passed bill refrains from cutting any farm bill mandatory conservation programs other than the traditional $270 million cut from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and $165 million cut from the Small Watersheds program, the Senate bill includes some but not all of the additional conservation cuts proposed by President Obama. The Senate Committee-passed bill adopts a $75 million cut to the Wetlands Reserve Program, a $14 million cut to the Grasslands Reserve Program, a $15 million cut to the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, and a $5 million cut to the conservation portion of the Agricultural Management Assistance Program. The Administration had also requested cuts to the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, but those cuts were rejected by the Senate Committee. NSAC appreciates the sparing of those two programs, but continues to oppose the additional raids on farm bill conservation spending, and will continue to urge the Senate to find alternative offsets before bringing their bill to conclusion later this year.

A few other bill highlights follow:

Research — In addition to the SARE news above, the Senate Committee bill includes $5 million for Organic Transitions research, the same level as the House bill and $5 million more than the zero budget requested by the President. For the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the Senate bill provides $310 million, compared to $312 million in the House bill, $262 million in the current year, and the $429 million Obama requested level.

Rural Development — Like the House bill, the Senate bill would level funding for the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program at $20.4 million. The total Senate funding level for Rural Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans would provide $49.7 million in loan guarantees for local and regional food enterprises versus $47.1 million in the House bill (the same as the FY 2010 level). The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) fares much better in the Senate bill than the House bill. The House bill would allow the $4 million in mandatory farm bill money to move forward, but provides no additional discretionary funds above that level, whereas the Senate bill provides an additional $4.35 million, for a total of $8.35 million. The President had requested an additional $7.7 million. Rural Coop Development Grants would get a modest increase to $12.4 million in the Senate bill. The ATTRA National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service program would receive $2.8 million in both bills, same as the current funding level.

Credit — With additional emergency funding for farm loans still pending in the supplemental appropriations bill slowly making its way through Congress, the Senate regular appropriations bill passed out of Committee today includes higher farm loan amounts than the House bill. Whereas the House bill provides $475 million for Direct Farm Ownership Loans, the Senate bill provides $650 million. For Direct Farm Operating loans, the Senate provides $1.1 billion versus $900 million in the House bill. The Senate bill also includes more for guaranteed operating loans.

Beginning and Minority Farmers — The majority of direct farm ownership and farm operating loans go to beginning and to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, so the credit numbers above are relevant here as well. Sadly, neither bill has provided funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account (IDA) program. NSAC will continue to push both houses of Congress to find a way to provide $5 million for this important farm bill program. The two bills have a big difference of opinion over the new Office of Advocacy and Outreach, the central USDA coordinating and policy arm for minority farmer, beginning farmer, and small farm issues. The House bill would match the President’s request for $7 million, but the Senate proposes only level funding at $1.7 million. NSAC will continue to press for the full requested amount.

Organic – Both the House and Senate bills adopt the requested level of $10.1 million for the National Organic Program, and as noted above, both adopt $5 million for the Organic Transitions integrated research program. It also appears that the Senate bill has included $1 million for the Organic Data Initiative, though we are still waiting on confirmation.
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