Archive for May, 2014

Who pays for the sunshine?

Adrian Sainz/AP

Adrian Sainz/AP

Moderated by Rick Badie

Two bills proposed during the 2014 legislative session aim to flip the switch “on” for solar energy, virtually an untapped resource in Georgia. Today’s guest writers discuss the expansion of renewable energy statewide and the impact on consumer rates and pricing.

Non-solar customers will pay twice

By Joel Foster

Georgia residents could see their energy rates go up as a result of a bill that will likely be revived in some form in the next legislative session: House Bill 657, the Rural Georgia Economic Recovery and Solar Resource Act.

HB 657 would create an arrangement that forces utility customers without solar panels on their property to subsidize those with them — a system referred to as “net metering.” While proponents of the bill presents it as “free market,” the effect it would have are anything but.

Net metering policies give solar energy customers a credit at the full retail electric rate for excess electricity they …

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MARTA service

Keith Parker is general manager of MARTA.

Keith Parker is general manager of MARTA.

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Within the week, the wait for MARTA trains and many buses won’t be so long. The transit agency will introduce a much-anticipated service bump designed to increase frequencies and reduce customers’ wait times. I sat down recently with MARTA CEO Keith Parker to talk about the issue of frequencies (or “headways,” in industry parlance), the subject of today’s lead column. I then spoke with riders to get their opinions about how MARTA can improve customer service.

Transit agency looks to gain speed

By Tom Sabulis

I came across an interesting note the other day on the website for Washington Metro, the transit system in Washington D.C. It read: “Due to the high frequency of service, timetables for peak hours … are not available.”

I did a double take. You mean service there is so fast, they don’t even bother publishing a timetable? I checked to make sure.

“Your assumption is correct,” spokesman …

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Control carries a cost

Pedro Molina/NewsArt

Pedro Molina/NewsArt

By Andre Jackson

Two bills signed into law last month erect new roadblocks for Georgians or straying government officials who wish to participate in the national health care reform law.
The new restrictions are a predictable reaction to a sweeping federal program that remains unpopular with many Georgians, as shown by this newspaper’s latest poll . We get — and respect — that.
Yet, we also believe it’s worth saying that state government’s ongoing war with Obamacare is risky for Georgia and its citizens. That’s the case even given the shockingly flawed launch and systemic shortcomings of the ACA.
Put simply, Obamacare remains the law of the land. And Georgia’s leaders discount that  at potential peril to both our residents’ health and our future prosperity as a state.
Ongoing battles over the ACA unduly shift attention away from the sobering problem of how to offer basic health insurance coverage to an additional half a million poor …

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Georgia can’t afford feds’ bad Medicaid expansion

By Nathan Deal

Growing health care costs, whether through employer-provided health plans or the Medicaid and PeachCare programs, increasingly crowd out other state priorities in our budget.
Obamacare has exacerbated the problem. Like all private-sector businesses in Georgia, the state government is seeing its costs grow for employee health plans because Obamacare’s coverage mandates have driven up prices. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars.
As expensive as the mandates are, they are chump change compared to the costs of Medicaid expansion. After the Supreme Court ruling, states can choose to accept or reject the Medicaid expansion. I’ve stood strong against expansion because the state can’t afford it as it is currently configured, and there’s little reason to believe that our debt-soaked federal government will continue to pay 90 percent of the cost far into the future. Expansion will …

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Pro/Con: Georgia’s probation industry

Dean Rohrer/NewsArt

Dean Rohrer/NewsArt

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed legislation last week that would have allowed private probation companies to keep secret from the public details such as how many people they supervise and how much they collect in fines. Supporters of the bill said it would help private probation companies avoid frivolous litigation. Opponents warned it amounted to a gift to help shield the lucrative firms from more scrutiny. We hear from both sides today.

Commenting is open.

Benefits of private probation

By Mark Contestabile

A recent audit of the state’s private probation industry found much to criticize while ignoring the many benefits the industry provides. Despite best efforts to be thorough, the limited number of cases studied may not provide an accurate picture of the industry or the scope of its services.

Georgia’s private probation industry provides a valuable and cost-effective service that enhances public safety. Nearly three dozen service …

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Which political party for minorities?

Jim Meehan/NewsArt

Jim Meehan/NewsArt

Moderated by Rick Badie

Today, a Cherokee County Republican encourages black conservatives to become more active in local and state political issues, saying there’s a home for them in the GOP. A state lawmaker offers the opposing view and writes that the Georgia Democratic Party naturally appeals to diverse demographic groups.

Black conservatives must act politically

By Eric Johnson

Recently, the Cherokee County Black Republican Council and Cherokee County Republican Party held a roundtable discussion, “Race in American Politics: Will It Ever End?” The consensus of the panelists was that race will always be a part of our political environment and discussion.

I am not ashamed to admit that, even though I did not vote or support him, something wonderful did happen in 2008: The people of the United States of America elected its first black president. He was able to aspire and obtain the most powerful political position in our country and world.

My glee …

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Free trade agreements benefit Ga. firms

Steve Ansul/NewsArt

Steve Ansul/NewsArt

Moderated by Rick Badie

A transatlantic trade agreement between the U.S. and European Union may bode well for Georgia businesses that seek global expansion. Today, two guest writers outline potential economic benefits for both sides of the Atlantic if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations are successful. Elsewhere, a policy analyst writes about the importance of free trade agreements. Finally, a regional economic official writes about the “LINK” delegation’s trip to Philadelphia.

Trade agreement unlocks doors

By Danny Lopez and David Abney

The United States and the European Union are the two biggest economies in the world. Together, they account for about around a third of global economic output and 40 percent of trade. That means the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and U.S. will be unprecedented in scale, scope and ambition. It represents an opportunity for the largest bilateral trade agreement …

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Behaving on the Beltline

Lecrae Moore (right) rides his skateboard as his son David rides his bike down the path along the Atlanta Beltline Trail on Saturday, April 12, 2014. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

Lecrae Moore (right) rides his skateboard as his son David rides his bike down the path along the Atlanta Beltline Trail on Saturday, April 12, 2014. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

As the Atlanta Beltline grows in length and popularity, it’s building a public-space culture with a definite learning curve. Runners, walkers, bikers, dog owners and skaters need to acquaint themselves with the rules, and challeges, of the trail. Today, a Beltline leader offers a look at how best to use the trails in a spirit of cooperation and selflessness, while a transportation executive reflects on her Atlanta childhood and the potential the project has for personal as well as urban renewal.

Commenting is open.

Beltline’s emerging etiquette

By Ethan Davidson

Something is happening in Atlanta. On the surface it doesn’t seem extraordinary, but upon further reflection, it is. When you visit the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail, two miles of what will be a 22-mile …

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Think, then vote!

Read. Think. Vote. In that order.

That could be a worthwhile mantra for Georgia’s citizens as the May 20 primary draws nigh.

For it is eligible voters’ obligation — duty even — to journey to the polls in two weeks to make their choices known. This essential task of citizenship is profoundly important because a democracy is only as strong as its participants make it.

And, based on voter turnout, this part of civic participation has much room for improvement. Consider that, in 2012’s July primary election, roughly 1.65 million Georgia voters went to the polls. Then factor in the total pool of 5.22 million registered voters. That means just fewer than 1 in 3 eligible voters cast a ballot. During years without high-profile presidential elections, turnout can be even lower. National data from American University shows that 17.8 percent of voters performed that deed during the 2010 primary elections. That’s less than half the percentage seen during the 1930s.

Those who …

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Praise Lord, pass ammo?

Tim Brinton/NewsArt

Tim Brinton/NewsArt

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Gov. Nathan Deal recently signed into law legislation that expands the list of places where Georgians can legally carry firearms, including schools, bars and government buildings. Today, we present arguments for and against guns in church sanctuaries. The pro-guns essay comes from the pastor of a small 90-member church. The anti-guns column comes from the pastor of Atlanta’s Central Presbyterian and one of more than 200 religious leaders in Georgia, including Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple synagogue in Atlanta, who oppose the law.

Commenting is open.

Guns in church really OK

By Thomas E. Rush

The Georgia Legislature has taken a huge step in the right direction when it comes to concealed carry. The passing of House Bill 60 has not been without controversy, much of that related to allowing churches the option to defend themselves through lawful concealed carry. It was a disappointment that in …

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