Around the South for April 18th: FL, AL, & SC

Florida: Crist named to DCCC leadership team.  U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., a former Republican, has been named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s leadership team.  The DCCC is tasked with spearheading on-the-ground campaign duties for Democrats nationwide, with a major emphasis, obviously, on 2020.  Crist left the GOP in 2010 before losing elections for the senate and governor, then defeated Republican Rep. David Jolly in 2016.  Alabama: Roy Moore leads GOP polling.  Disgraced former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore leads a recent primary poll in Alabama, shocking the national GOP establishment.  Moore holds a strong lead over other announced and unannounced candidates, including Rep. Bradley Byrne, Rep. Mo Brooks and Rep. Gary Palmer.  Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) defeated Moore in 2017 following reports that Moore had allegedly sexually assaulted and otherwise acted inappropriately with several women, including several who were minors at the time.  South Carolina: Graham, Harris bring in out of state money.  U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and 2020 opponent, Democrat Jaime Harrison, are already well into fundraising ahead of their eventual clash.  In 2019 Graham has already raised $2 million, but just 17% of it has come from South Carolina donors.  Harrison meanwhile has raised some $230,000, with just 20% of that coming from...

Around the South for April 11th: TX, VA, & TN

Texas: Leaders support raising sales tax.  Three of the most powerful men in the Lone Star State: Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, are all behind a plan to raise the state’s sales tax by one cent in an effort to reduce property taxes.  The Republicans are putting their weight behind a bill currently working its way through the state legislature.  Virginia: Northam approval down, Dems steady.  A new approval rating poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University shows that Gov. Ralph Northam’s approval rating has dropped nearly 20 points since December, a credit to the scandal that broke when pictures were found of him wearing blackface in medical school in the 1980’s.  42% of those polled said he should step down, but when asked which party they’d like to see hold a majority in the state’s General Assembly, Democrats led 46% to 42%.  Tennessee: Medical marijuana dead until 2020.  State lawmakers have effectively killed off talks on any medical marijuana legislation during the 2019 session, leaving supporters to look toward 2020.  The bill being pushed would have made it legal for residents to purchase the drug from registered stores if they suffered from a “debilitating medical condition” — including cancer, PTSD, HIV/AIDS or severe arthritis....
City of Atlanta launches task force to increase transparency

City of Atlanta launches task force to increase transparency

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ first year started out smoothly. She stayed away from the investigations swirling around her predecessor (and endorser) Kasim Reed’s administration, she hand picked her own well-regarded GM for Hartsfield-Jackson International airport, instituted a procurement reform process, and even created a new position in her cabinet titled a “transparency officer” that has the power to investigate Bottoms herself. But starting late in 2018 the wheels began to come off. First it came to light that shortly after Bottoms’ inauguration former City Councilman Kwanza Hall was hired as a ‘senior policy advisor,’ a cushy position making over $100,000 per year.  That move violated the city charter, which bans elected officials from holding “any compensated appointive office or employment with the city” for one year after leaving office.  Bottoms claimed ignorance. Then last month an investigation revealed that six of Bottoms’ former campaign aides had been improperly placed on city payroll, including Marva Lewis, who received a job as “deputy airport general manager” with an annual salary of $273,873 despite never having worked at any airport in her life.  The Atlanta City Council was alarmed enough to pass a resolution requesting an independent investigation – a request which Bottoms promptly vetoed. Now forced to answer questions about the ethics of her transition at town hall meetings, Bottoms and her team have created the Task Force for the Promotion of Public Trust, a group made up of a roster of highly regarded ethics and law experts who will hopefully keep an eye on goings on at City Hall and restore in it some of the trust the public seems to...

Around the South for April 4th: FL, GA, & SC

Florida: Gaetz for Senate in… Alabama?  U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) hasn’t been shy about eyeing higher office, but with a Republican governor and senator elected last year and the other senate seat held by popular Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), his options appear limited.  But could there be another option?  Rumors are circulating that the fiery young congressman could be considering a run in neighboring Alabama.  With only a one-day residency requirement a switch isn’t hard, and he is a favorite of President Donald Trump, whose endorsement could outweigh the fact that Gaetz hasn’t actually lived in the state.  Georgia: Abortion debate heats up.  The Georgia legislature passed a bill during its legislative session banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.  The move infuriated Democrats and made national headlines, with protesters holding multiple events at the Capitol.  Gov. Brian Kemp has pledged to sign the bill, but it will surely be challenged in the courts as has similar legislation in other states.  South Carolina: Former DOJ attorney to challenge Wilson.  Democrat Adair Ford Boroughs has announced her intent to challenge 19-year incumbent Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC).  The former Department of Justice attorney faces long odds – Wilson won re-election in his dark-red district last year by nearly 14...
Timeshare Companies Overplay Their Hand in Florida

Timeshare Companies Overplay Their Hand in Florida

  Florida HB 435, a sweeping bill which would have made it virtually impossible for citizens to use timeshare exit companies to end their contracts blew up during a recent legislative workshop held on the bill. It wasn’t crafty lobbyists who brought the bill down but instead statements by legislators who were present. Several House members told their own stories of trying to deal with timeshares, including one state Representative who had to turn to bankruptcy to escape. “The irony is thick” says Gordon Newton who founded one of the first and most successful timeshare exit companies in the nation. “At the same time this legislation is being considered, states like Arizona have introduced additional laws to protect consumers from the tactics that plague the timeshare industry.” The legislation appears to be dying on the vine, but Newton and other industry leaders see the Florida bill as “just the first salvo” by large timeshare resort companies trying to hamstring exit companies. His Newton Group plans to use their company’s consumer protection guide to help craft future, more pro-consumer legislation in southern states. “We’ve been the leader in ethically getting folks out of these absurd timeshare agreements where fees run rampant and the children of those who pass away are forced to inherit those costs” Newton declares. “We plan on seeing to it that our own industry is run right and that the big timeshare companies aren’t allowed to put consumers, even legislators into financial ruin, with their deceptive practices.” As of now “crickets” from the advocates of HB...