State Senate leads on Georgia’s big issues

By Casey Cagle

During this year’s 40-day session, the State Senate delivered real results for the people of Georgia in a way that should make every Georgian proud. Together, we balanced the budget, dramatically increased our investment in education, defended Georgia values, and began the process of providing better care for our state’s most vulnerable children.
Unlike the politicians in Washington, we managed to balance our budget without raising taxes while focusing our resources on the state’s most critical needs, like education. Specifically, this year we added over $300 million to our education budget in order to eliminate teacher furloughs, provide a full 180-day school year for every system in Georgia, and raise teacher salaries. We also continued our efforts on behalf of charter school systems and college and career academies to give local communities the flexibility they need to innovate and design an educational environment that meets the needs of their communities …

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New debate over Dunwoody cityhood

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The creation of new cities in metro Atlanta remains in the news. Efforts to carve cities out of Lakeside and Tucker died in the recent legislative session. Today, a longtime resident of Dunwoody, which became a city five years ago, criticizes leaders for an urban agenda that isolates voters. The mayor says the city must look forward and take control of its growth.

Commenting is open.

Cityhood: Be careful what you wish for

By Jim Dickson

More than five years ago, Dunwoody became a new city with the objective of wresting control from DeKalb County and establishing a local government to better represent the interests of Dunwoody citizens. It has not worked out that way. We have been betrayed by politicians and associates who play inside political baseball.

The latest episode of this saga is recent legislation to change the Dunwoody city charter and eliminate the necessity for a citywide vote to fund the takeover of fire and ambulance services from DeKalb; …

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Obamacare deadline

Moderated by Rick Badie

You’d think Georgians would sign up in droves for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, given this is a high-needs state with an uninsured population of roughly 20 percent. Today, Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius and a local advocate urge residents to sign up before open enrollment ends on March 31. Meanwhile, a state lawmaker wants to “quarantine” the new law.

Sigh up today for an insurance plan

By Kathleen Sebelius

If you or someone you care about does not have health care, it’s not too late to sign up for affordable coverage. But you’ll want to act today. The deadline to get insurance is March 31. After that, you’ll have to wait until November.

Many of the people I’ve met told me they were surprised at how affordable marketplace insurance can be. An Atlanta family of four earning $50,000 a year can get covered for as little as $138 per month. A 27-year-old earning $25,000 can get covered for as little as $105 per …

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The rebirth of Fort McPherson

Moderated by Rick Badie

Some say redevelopment of the Fort McPherson Army complex, which closed in 2005, could be Atlanta’s Next Big Thing. An official with a state authority charged to oversee the rebirth of the 486-acre complex offers an update on what’s transpired so far. Meanwhile, a real estate executive questions the snail’s pace of progress in comparison to a tech-focused project in New York City.

Base to become a vibrant community

By Jack C. Sprott

Atlanta was 50 years young when Fort McPherson was established in 1885 on five tracts of land several miles south of town. The location was rural and disconnected from the economic activities of the railroad hub to the north.

Over the past 129 years, the city of Atlanta has expanded its boundaries. Expressways and heavy rail now serve the local transportation needs of our citizens. Fort McPherson is no longer isolated. This historic 486-acre property is completely within the city limits, on a MARTA line and just four miles …

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Streetcar boom

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Today, we hear from a major Atlanta Streetcar sponsor, who’s feeling good about the capital investment the project is bringing downtown — even before the vehicle does its test runs. An executive from Siemens, the company building the streetcars, writes how rail is reinventing U.S. city centers. We also reprise comments from critics who have weighed in on what they say is the streetcars’ ineffective mobility and outlandish expense. Note: There are three columns today.

Commenting is open.

Downtown growth sparked by streetcar

By A.J. Robinson

As the last of the Atlanta Streetcar rail is laid, the project has already attracted significant interest and investment to the corridor. Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District have been leveraging the streetcar by encouraging redevelopment along its route. As a co-funder, the Downtown District expects the project to do much more than just improve transportation mobility and access; …

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Time to stop gun rights madness

By Vincent Fort

The madness of promoting the use of guns and allowing firearms everywhere at any time has reached a fever pitch at the state Capitol.

As the legislative session comes to a close this week, there are three versions of the “guns everywhere” bill circulating at the state Capitol. All versions will make Georgians less safe, not more safe.

HB 875, as amended in the Senate Judiciary (Non-Civil) committee, would allow guns in churches, bars, and schools. Then there is SB 60, onto which the House of Representatives grafted the original version of HB 875.

Rep. Sam Moore introduced HB 1046, which would allow Georgians the right to shoot police officers serving no-knock warrants. Moore backed off that proposal, but even its introduction reflects that the time has come for legislators and citizens to demand commonsense gun safety legislation.

If HB 875 is a political measure, the Republican Party is being held hostage by its extreme, fringe elements who …

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Gun rights and responsibilities

At this point, the broad Second Amendment right of Americans to bear arms is a pretty settled matter.
The same can’t be said at the state level. The issue of gun rights and concurrent responsibilities arouses powerful passions on all sides. Which is understandable, since words in a law can result in lives being spared or lost on our streets.
The latest chapter in how all that works in Georgia will be written later this week in the final, harried days of this legislative session. Lawmakers are picking over various writings of concealed weapons laws. Their work will, among other things, determine how firearms laws affect the mentally ill, or carry of weapons into government buildings, schools, or houses of worship.
Although the House and Senate should have worked out their sizable differences on this issue long before now, lawmakers’ dithering reflects a sound, underlying instinct. The value of human life demands no less than painstaking, sober, commonsense and clear-eyed …

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HB 875: Safeguarding 2nd Amendment rights

By Rick Jasperse
With the Second Amendment, in a mere 27 words, our Founding Fathers empowered the citizens of this nation — for as long as it should stand — to retain the right to keep and bear arms and that this right shall not be infringed.
The rights enumerated by the Second Amendment speak to the importance of the preservation of a limited government and cannot be overstated. In my capacity as a state legislator, I am often reminded by my constituents that their right to keep and bear arms is both sacred and immutable. It is not simply that they fear the encroachment of government into their lives — it is that they recognize that, unfortunately, we live in a dangerous world.
While I cannot begin to explain the reasons for which someone might seek to take the life of another, I believe wholeheartedly that, should Georgians wish to take responsibility for the safety of themselves and their families, they should have that option.
Currently, our state allows Georgians 21 …

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Medical marijuana in what form?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

Georgia legislators are currently considering a rapidly changing bill that would improve access to a form of “medical marijuana.” Today, a local House representative emphasizes the need for research before creating any law that could open the floodgates of a “pot mill” epidemic. In our lead column, a local teenager suffering from Crohn’s Disease writes about the need to allow the  afflicted to use marijuana to help alleviate pain. Stay tuned. Things could change in a hurry.

Commenting is open.

Let’s think of the suffering

By Eli Hogan

I am 17 years old and I suffer from severe Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract. I have struggled with this disease for two years now, and spent my Christmas vacation at Scottish Rite in Atlanta full of IVs, being fed through a catheter run under my bicep into my chest cavity, in agonizing pain, losing blood, and on the verge of needing a total removal of my colon. I dropped from …

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States vs. Unions

Moderated by Rick Badie

Last month, workers at the Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant voted 712 to 626 to not join the United Auto Workers; the UAW has appealed the union election results. Today’s guest writers weigh the economic pros and cons of union representation in the South, particularly in right-to-work states like Georgia and Tennessee.

Workers reject union’s pitch

By Mark Mix

At Volkswagen’s Chattanooga auto plant, the United Auto Workers won’t take no for an answer. Despite losing a recent unionization election, union officials are challenging the results. More noteworthy still is their opposition to the efforts of several VW employees, represented by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, to intervene in the legal proceedings to defend their decision not to unionize.

The UAW’s legal challenge isn’t surprising. It’s just the latest example of Big Labor’s new approach to organizing. Union officials have increasingly turned to coercive and misleading …

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