Archive for August, 2012

How to care for the uninsured

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Gov. Nathan Deal’s announcement this week that he would not expand Georgia’s Medicaid program because of its expense – even though the federal government says it will pick up at least 90 percent of the tab – brought an array of feedback. Democrats say the Affordable Care Act is a bargain and other states will gladly take the money due us. Republicans counter that the feds can’t be trusted to pay and that the state is seeking more creative ways to meet the needs of our uninsured.

By Pat Gardner

If you think we are scrambling now to come up with a workable Plan B to deal with transportation gridlock after the defeat of the T-SPLOST last month, think about this:

There are no options on the table – in Atlanta or Washington – to get as many as 1.3 million Georgians health insurance as fast or as effectively as implementing the Affordable Care Act would.

Georgia is getting a grand bargain under the new health care law. In less than two years the federal …

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Show me your papers – or else

Moderated by Rick Badie

A federal ruling recently upheld the centerpiece of Georgia’s get-tough immigration law, the “show-me-your-papers” provision. It allows police officers to check the immigration status of those they stop. A guest writer says the statute invites racial profiling. I interview a proponent of strict immigration law who calls the practice a common-sense tool.

By Rick Badie

A federal appeals court’s ruling that allows Georgia to enforce its “show-me-your-papers” provision has critics of illegal immigration declaring victory and proponents vowing to continue fighting the law. Catherine Davis, legislative director for the Network of Political Active Christians, fields questions about Georgia’s immigration law.

Q: Do you think the “show-me-your-papers” provision of the law opens the gate for racial profiling?

A: Absolutely not. This law is more restrictive on law enforcement than is found in most racial profiling cases. The Georgia law says that local …

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Parking in Atlanta

Moderated by Rick Badie

Parking in downtown has long been a nightmare. Now it can be quite costly, too, if you stay past your allotted time or park illegally. City Hall was flooded with complaints after it contracted with ParkAtlanta, a unit of Duncan Solutions, to manage enforcement. An Atlanta city councilman writes that it’s time to terminate the contract and start anew, while I give a synopsis of how the city reached this juncture.

By Kwanza Hall

Once again, the city of Atlanta’s decision to privatize parking enforcement is in the news. This time, everything from the reliability of parking meters and the accuracy of signage to the ethics of ticket writing has been questioned. In July 2009, the Atlanta City Council authorized the department of public works to enter into a contract with Milwaukee-based Duncan Solutions to enforce the city’s parking code. Between July and September that year, an agreement was worked out without council input. The agreement gave sweeping …

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Transportation challenges

Sea change at Georgia DOT

With a shrinking budget and work force, the Georgia Department of Transportation battles an image problem over past projects, political appointments and minority contracting. But it’s fighting to adapt. Engineers are putting out the message that GDOT is trying to be more nimble when addressing traffic problems. We provide excerpts from a recent editorial board meeting with department leaders. Also, a conservative transportation expert details metro problems with the T-SPLOST defeat.

Commenting is open below Glen Bottoms’ column.

By Tom Sabulis

Like many businesses in recent years, the Georgia Department of Transportation has had to reduce its work force. “We’re down from some 5,700 to 5,800 employees a couple years ago to about 4,400 today,” Commissioner Keith Golden says. The 22 percent cut leaves the GDOT having to reinvent itself just to deliver basic services, from highway and transportation planning to mowing the grass. Golden, chief …

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School funding: Fix budget basics first

By the AJC Editorial Board

The state education chief is right to forcefully note that chronic underfunding of public schools should be fixed before Georgia recreates commission to let state approve, fund charter schools.

Every school system in Georgia is feeling the effects of eight years of budget cuts.

Across metro Atlanta, class sizes have soared, and parents are confronting fourth grades with 34 students. In Cobb, the school board increased class sizes by an average of two students and cut back on library services. DeKalb cut performing arts teachers.

The districts have obeyed edicts from the Gold Dome that schools do more with less. But less has turned into less and less as lawmakers have refused to stanch the cuts.

Lawmakers have to recognize that low-tax states often have education results to match. Spending data from the state Department of Education shows that Georgia is unacceptably disinvesting in education:

● Since 2003, at least $5 billion earned through the …

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Two views on ethics reform

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The landslide in favor of ethics reform in Georgia on the July 31 primary ballot was even bigger than the overwhelming vote against the T-SPLOST. But a former secretary of state writes that a ban on gifts is just one step on the road to reform. And a watchdog group leader applauds the house speaker’s recently announced support of a gift ban.

Trust is the big issue with ethics reform

By Karen C. Handel

Trust. It’s essential for successful relationships with friends, spouses, business partners and even between citizens and their elected leaders. Unfortunately here in Georgia, citizens seem to have lost virtually all trust in our elected leaders. And who can blame them?

Ethics and integrity have taken a beating over the past few years. But on July 31, an overwhelming majority of voters sent a message that ethics do matter by voting “yes” on the ballot question in support of a $100 cap on gifts to state legislators.

It’s time to acknowledge that …

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Boy Scouts’ policy reaffirmed

Moderated by Rick Badie

Last month, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its policy that bans gay members, saying the rule reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the organization. The BSA doesn’t inquire about members’ orientation but doesn’t grant membership to open homosexuals. A guest writer applauds the decision; another says the policy is outdated and based on stereotypes.

Boy Scouts missed opportunity to lead

By Jeff Graham

The stated mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to build character and train young men in the responsibilities of citizenship. The goal is to build a more conscientious, responsible and productive society. Unfortunately, when the organization recently announced it would adhere to its policy of rejecting openly gay youths and adults from membership, it reiterated that the vision of responsible citizenship and a productive society does not extend to all.

In 2000, the Boy Scouts won its case before the U.S. Supreme Court to assure the right as …

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End jobless benefits for seasonal workers?

Moderated by Rick Badie

Should seasonal workers be able to collect unemployment checks in their downtime? The federal government recently ordered the Georgia Department of Labor to rescind a ruling and pay teachers and contract workers lost unemployment benefits. A New Jersey assemblyman writes about a bill to curb payments in his state. I write about similar efforts elsewhere. Feel free to comment below.

By Rick Badie

New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco has an offer for Georgia legislators: He and his Garden State colleagues would be happy to let the General Assembly copy a proposed bill to bar seasonal workers from collecting jobless benefits. In February, Bucco joined two other representatives to introduce legislation that would require their state labor agency to identify specific seasonal jobs and to deny workers who fill those jobs unemployment claims in the off-season.

“We have a situation where school crossing guards are hired by municipalities and some by school …

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Downtown terminal on track

By Tom Sabulis

Skeptics may roll their eyes, but plans for a billion-dollar multimodal passenger terminal downtown – connecting commuter rail, MARTA, light-rail, streetcars and buses — are proceeding. The state department of transportation has allotted $12.2 million for a master design being produced by three firms — Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, Cousins Properties Inc. and Integral Group, LLC of Atlanta. Officials hope it spurs enough development interest to finance it. Jim Richardson, project manager for FIC, said the terminal could cost roughly $1.2 billion.

I talked recently with two key figures on the project: John Schuyler is a principal with the New York firm FXFOWLE, which helped design new multimodal terminals being built in Denver and San Francisco. Janet Romanic, of the Atlanta firm Cooper Carry, is deputy project manager. FXFOWLE is designing the station in association with Cooper Carry, the lead architecture firm. Fluid plans estimate …

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Balancing the state’s books

Asking for more smart reductions may be the best the governor can do, given anti-tax sentiment and distrust of government. Comprehensive tax reform will speed us along the road to recovery.

By the AJC Editorial Board

For the sake of our future, Georgia should follow savvy advice contained in a letter explaining the latest call for $553 million in state budget cuts.

The one-pager sent in late July to state agency heads and fiscal officers contains this wise phrase: “To make the most efficient use of limited resources, budget requests should be targeted and strategic.” Governor’s Office of Planning Budget Director Debbie Dlugolenski Alford wrote on to urge officials to not take the easy way out and to “avoid broad, across-the-board reductions.”

That approach is a smart tactic. Yet, one tactic doesn’t usually make for a comprehensive strategy. It’s problematic, even dangerous, to think otherwise.

Yet that’s exactly the scenario before Gov. Nathan Deal as his staff …

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