Poll Position: What’s your top priority for the Legislature?

Hold onto your wallets — the Legislature is back in session beginning Monday.

Given that this is an election year, and the first election year using newly drawn districts with new constituents for the incumbents to meet, it’s likely that the 236-member General Assembly will try to get ‘er done and get out of town as soon as possible. (Of course, you’d have thought that would be the attitude in 2010, too, and the session nearly dragged on until May.)

What is your top priority for the 2012 General Assembly?

  • Charter schools (45 Votes)
  • Transportation (42 Votes)
  • Ethics reform (25 Votes)
  • Job creation (25 Votes)
  • Tax reform (20 Votes)
  • Something else (specify in comments) (13 Votes)
  • Criminal justice reform (11 Votes)

Total Voters: 181

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In any event, there are a number of topics to be dealt with. To name a few:

  • the budget, which in all likelihood means dealing with a shortfall of at least a couple of hundred million dollars;
  • the tax reform fight held over from last year;
  • Gov. Nathan Deal’s “competitiveness initiative” to boost the state’s economy;
  • a revamping of certain elements of the criminal justice system;
  • issues related to the T-SPLOST vote, possibly including a change of the referendum date and/or a reworking of the governance of mass transit in metro Atlanta;
  • a tightening of ethics laws;
  • a law, possibly a constitutional amendment, dealing with the creation of charter schools.

Other subjects, from horse racing to Milton County, could also crop up. But what do you consider the top priority for legislators this year? Not what you think they are most eager to tackle; what do you most want to see them tackle?

That’s this week’s Poll Position question. Answer in the nearby poll and in the comments thread below.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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111 comments Add your comment

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

January 6th, 2012
6:07 am

Gypsies, tramps and thieves – the Republican majority will do nothing but find ways to fleece the taxpayers and grease each others palms, in between table dances.

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

January 6th, 2012
6:10 am

Education would be a good place to start. It’s a long Race To The Top from 49th.

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

January 6th, 2012
6:14 am

Circus Jerkus is coming to town! Typical GA rep – I used to not no how to spel lejeslaytor now I are wun!

DeborahinAthens

January 6th, 2012
6:21 am

The number one priority should be improving education…not charter schools, not vouchers…improving education, giving every child access to early childhood education. The fact that you only put charter schools on your list makes the poll suspect. I am tired of the Right wing Christian conservatives pushing for a voucher system, which will cut the funding to public schools, give money to the kids that are already in private, church schools. It is a bad idea on so many levels.

Karl Marx

January 6th, 2012
6:25 am

My top priority is to lock up the farm animals, send my daughters out of state and bury the family valuables. No mans life, liberty and property are safe while Georgia’s legislature is in session. that goes double for the RINO’s we have in state government which counts for all of them.

BTW it is not a coincidence the circus is in town when the legislature is in session. The clowns just move from the gold dome to the big tent to be gainfully employed at night.

Ayn Rant

January 6th, 2012
6:47 am

Rejoice! Some 236 elected politicians, and swarms of parasitic lobbyists, will gather at the gold-domed capitol in Atlanta for another session of political tiddlywinks before dashing off to campaign for re-election. Rather than “address” new challenges, they should undo some of their mischief from previous sessions.

How about repealing the Arizona-style law to harass and drive away farm workers? How about boosting our agricultural and food processing sectors by welcoming people willing to toil for low wages under unfavorable conditions. Let’s make it easy for them to obtain driving licenses, to enroll their kids in school, to open bank accounts, and to obtain identity cards as non-citizen residents.

Kyle’s dream list consists of the things the Legislature is least likely to address. Well, maybe they’ll pontificate for awhile on charter schools, and pass some measure that doesn’t cost anything or improve education one wit.

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

January 6th, 2012
6:48 am

One thing you have to say about the Georgia legislators – they are very representative of their constituents.

Joel Edge

January 6th, 2012
6:57 am

JDW

January 6th, 2012
7:40 am

Well at this point I think staying away from shooting themselves in the foot would be a victory…see immigration or chip implants. I continue to have low expectations for this group and they continue to fall short of them.

What they need to address is job creation by way of competitiveness. That means schools, transportation, ethics and our ongoing water issues need attention. They also need to spend some time designing Georgia’s Healthcare Exchange or be prepared to accept the consequences of that inaction.

Since that’s what they should do I am sure that tax reform will top the list…after all we are only ranked number 8 in the country for business friendly taxes…

Road Scholar

January 6th, 2012
7:45 am

They have ignored transportation, education, water, and ethics for so long, how can one limit the top priority to just one subject? I agree with Deborah on education; transortation gas tax increase to fund a statewide bonding program (at least adjust it to inflation since 1982), reservoirs-where are they, and ethics…nuff said.

But Kyle, you know anti abortion, tax breaks for businesses, guns, and more corruption will propably be the main actions.

Road Scholar

January 6th, 2012
7:48 am

JDW: I agree on the health care exchanges, where people can possibly get group rates as an individual to have cheaper and better healthcare. Will it take a pandemic or two to wake these people up? Besides they have ignored the continued annual increase in health premiums…talk about inflation!

td

January 6th, 2012
8:00 am

Road Scholar

January 6th, 2012
7:48 am
JDW: I agree on the health care exchanges, where people can possibly get group rates as an individual to have cheaper and better healthcare. Will it take a pandemic or two to wake these people up? Besides they have ignored the continued annual increase in health premiums…talk about inflation!

Why spend all the time and effort on anything to do with Obamacare when the SCOTUS is going to rule the entire law unconstitutional? The state has done a good job of not wasting taxpayer money yet on this scheme.

Don't Tread

January 6th, 2012
8:01 am

The thics laws here need to be tightened a LOT. However, I don’t see that happening. (Who votes to limit their own earning potential, anyway?)

td

January 6th, 2012
8:10 am

I see the libs are out this morning talking about Education as the highest priority. They throw that term around like they are waving a flag. The only answer they will give is more money will solve the problems. I will continue to ask the question how is throwing more money at education going to solve the major problems in Education? How is money going to make a child read at home? How is more money going to have a parent engaged in the educational process? How is more money going to change a culture that says being smart is like being a traitor or we do not need an education to work on a farm?

Aquagirl

January 6th, 2012
8:18 am

I see the libs are out this morning talking about Education as the highest priority.

I can see how a Republican is mystified by that priority.

But one answer, td, is more money in pre-K. Even Nathan Deal is asking for funds there since budget cuts created a teacher exodus. Money does matter. I know it drives cons crazy, but you can’t summarily sterilize people, and their children will eventually grow up. If we spend a little money when they are 5 or 6 years we can perhaps bump them up a notch from their deprived environment.

Of course, this solution is probably not acceptable to you because it doesn’t depend on those 5 year olds pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

GB

January 6th, 2012
8:18 am

I have a question for The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar.

Can you name your state senator and representative? Have you ever met either one?

Road Scholar

January 6th, 2012
8:23 am

td: Whether we have Obamacare (your words) or not, wouldn’t an exchange where policies can be compared as to cost, coverage,rules etc be benefitial to all Georgians? Having consistent costs available as well as “standardized” definition of coverage would be a good way for people and businesses to make their decisions, wouldn’t it? “joiunt” policies could bring down individual costs!

” The only answer they will give is more money will solve the problems.”

Nowhere in Deborah’s or my reponse did we say more money…it stated that the present money needed to be more wisely. And you’re not in favor of that?

Really?

January 6th, 2012
8:24 am

Top university professors are leaving the state in droves because they are no where close to market value salaries and haven’t had a raise in 5 years now, with next to one the year they had one (2%) and then 3 years of no raises before that. That’s 9 years and 2% raise.Many of the stars have left. Who cares right? The stars push the R&D, employ thousands with their grants (technical staff, postdoctorals, graduate students and undergrads) and EACH bring in millions of dollars to the State economy.. At least the furloughs went away. Education is the backbone of the USA economy, not just GA and the R&D there, by contrast to that in industry, has been vastly more successful (patents, discoveries, start-up companies etc). We don’t get it. Most other states do… even … dare I say.. Alabama. Really

Road Scholar

January 6th, 2012
8:24 am

Well done Aquagirl! Off to the golf course to enjoy a beautiful day…again!

GB

January 6th, 2012
8:26 am

And oh, one more thing for The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

You say “Georgia ranks 49.” No knowledgeable person buys that number. The average scores on the SATs are far more closely related to the demographics of the test takers and the percent of students taking the test than to the quality of the schools. If you don’t believe me go to the College Board’s website. You will see that the organization that conducts the testing says that the averages should not be used as a measure of the quality of schools and school systems.

For years that AJC went into a frenzy every September over Georgia’s all-but-meaningless “rank.” The paper has now stopped that foolishness. You should too.

This is not to say that our schools are perfect or anything like perfect, but the “Georgia Ranks 49th!!!” mantra is nonsense.

Don't Tread

January 6th, 2012
8:29 am

How is money going to make a child read at home? IT WON’T
How is more money going to have a parent engaged in the educational process? IT WON’T
How is more money going to change a culture that says being smart is like being a traitor? IT WON’T
…or we do not need an education to work on a farm? IT WON’T

All the money in the world won’t teach a child who has no desire to learn and whose baby mamas/daddies don’t care anything more about that child than the EITC/welfare check it brings. That’s reality. (And we wonder why DFACS is so busy.)

td

January 6th, 2012
8:32 am

Aquagirl

January 6th, 2012
8:18 am

Yes, studies show that money to 4 and 5 year olds will put them on par with their classmates until the are 10 or 11. The same studies also say that by the time they are in HS they are in the same place as they would have been in with no money had been spent at all. My point is that money will not change a culture and by thinking so and not addressing the real issues is just a waste of time and money. I am not and feel most people are not against spending money when you get some value out of your expenditures. Most libs refuse to face the reality of culture change and just want to throw more money at the problem.

td

January 6th, 2012
8:39 am

Road Scholar

January 6th, 2012
8:23 am

I have an insurance broker that already performs these tasks now for my company in the private sector. That same broker performed the same tasks for me personally before I brought the entire company to them. What is the benefit for the government taking over as the broker? Will it really lower the cost of insurance? Now if you want to talk about taking away mandatory coverage laws in the state and allowing and encouraging competition then we could probably come to some agreement.

Don't Tread

January 6th, 2012
8:44 am

“Most libs refuse to face the reality of culture change”

…and I might add, of their own making. It certainly wasn’t this way when I grew up.

Eric

January 6th, 2012
8:46 am

I voted for “other.” I would mainly like to see our legislature refrain from imposing a consumption tax on the middle class, while ensuring a more progressive income tax rate. We also need to stop corporate give-aways to lure more business to GA. We need an ideology of less growth, not more growth. But would any of this actually be considered by our elected officials? Probably not.

carlosgvv

January 6th, 2012
8:47 am

What’s my top priority for the 2012 General Assembly? How about the impossible? A General Assembly that actually puts the interests of the people over those of the big special interests.

retired early

January 6th, 2012
8:48 am

Roads scholar

You mentioned 1982 being the last increase in motor fuel taxes, I wonder if you have noticed that the standard deduction for Ga income tax is also unchanged since then….$2300 for single, $3000 for joint filers. The Feds have increased theirs to the current $11500 for mfj. This is, in effect, a tax increase @ the rate of inflation for the poorest Ga citizens. Why does it get no attention…year….after year.

Eric

January 6th, 2012
8:49 am

As far as education is concerned, let’s stop participating in “Race to the Top.” This is a gimmick and creates anxiety and burden for no good reason. Georgia’s education system is very good, even if we rank in the latter half. What difference does it make? Kids are learning, and we have excellent teachers. Why can’t that be enough?

JDW

January 6th, 2012
8:51 am

@TD…first off Road Scholar correctly makes the point that with our without the Healthcare Act the Exchanges are the right thing to do. Second, you are blinded by partisanship. From a pure strategic planning perspective it is an issue that must be addressed.

The analysis that I have read put the odds of an overturn of the Individual Mandate at around 30% and the odds of the entire bill being overturned at something less than that, For example the American Prospect link below. Be sure to read all the way through because they give you two ways to look at the issue and they pick the second.

http://prospect.org/article/will-supreme-court-overturn-obamacare

That means that there is a 70% chance the law will stand as written and a greater chance that the portion dealing with exchanges will stand…ignoring the issue is ignoring realty.

Aquagirl

January 6th, 2012
8:53 am

Most libs refuse to face the reality of culture change and just want to throw more money at the problem.

Actually there are studies that indicate those pre-K kids do better as adults, they’re more likely to have jobs and stay out of the criminal justice system. I think that’s a good indication of culture change, though it depends on your definition of culture. There are no studies indicating those children grow up to eat foie gras or frequent art galleries, so you may be disappointed there, lol.

JDW

January 6th, 2012
8:53 am

Damn spell check! reality not realty though they certainly ignore that too!

jconservative

January 6th, 2012
9:12 am

Reducing the size of State government should be the top priority.

But, like last year, the size of State government will actually increase.

clyde

January 6th, 2012
9:18 am

I don’t have any priorities for any legislature,but a couple of hundred million dollar shortfall certainly has to be addressed.

Ayn,Do your harassed farm workers speak English? Just wondering.

Aquagirl.–My understanding of the studies of success of pre kintergarten students in later life does not seem to apply to children raised in large cities.Seems the environment tends to erase the advantage.

Aquagirl

January 6th, 2012
9:31 am

My understanding of the studies of success of pre kintergarten students in later life does not seem to apply to children raised in large cities.

Well, the most specific study I’m referring to was based in Ypsilanti in the ’60’s, so you could be right. However, it’s the longest-running study of preschool, most don’t look at outcomes beyond 12th grade. Finding and following up on a 30 year old is much harder than testing a child who you can track through the educational system.

The idea that keeping young children away from their crappy environment might make them better adults is not really far-fetched either. It’s pretty much common sense.

In any event, I think money spent on schools should be evaluated in terms of children. Too many folks think it’s “rewarding” parents or other people they don’t like. This is incredibly mean-spirited IMHO.

ragnar danneskjold

January 6th, 2012
9:41 am

Eliminating the income tax, and implementing a higher sales tax and government “user” fees would go a long way toward strengthening the economy here. But only if done so with the intention of staying revenue neutral. I almost voted “something else” and spending cuts – wholesale elimination of departments – could also have a beneficial economic effect. Less government makes stronger economies.

Unrelated, you surely noticed that the national economy is finally improving, only nine months after a “do-nothing” House of Representatives took over. Allowing it to heal. Amazing, the leftists are now insisting that the stimulus is finally starting to work after only three years.

Sam

January 6th, 2012
9:46 am

Ethics reform should be first. If they fixed that, it would be easier to then address the other problems. Right now, so many decisions are made based, not on what is best for Georgia, but on who will give them the free expensive dinner, tickets, golf outing, or trip to Europe.

Op Ed

January 6th, 2012
9:50 am

Health care and reducing the alarming rate of uninsured in this state. We rank only behind much larger states such as CA, FL, NY, and TX.

Cosby

January 6th, 2012
9:52 am

Time for the State leaders to tell Dc to stick it. time to take all these unfunded mandates by the fed’s and demand money to pay for them and not make the Georgia citizens pay. Time to enforce the 10th amendment of the constitution and send a bill to DC for all the stuff they demand….take head Johnny and Saxby!

ByteMe

January 6th, 2012
10:01 am

Eliminating the income tax, and implementing a higher sales tax and government “user” fees would go a long way toward strengthening the economy here

Quite the opposite. I’d travel to another state for any big-ticket purchases to avoid the higher tax. So there :)

ByteMe

January 6th, 2012
10:01 am

My biggest concern for this session is the hookers hanging around the capital when it’s in session.

Oh, wait, those are lobbyists??

carlosgvv

January 6th, 2012
10:16 am

BytMe – 10:01

They have the same mentality and the same moral level.

Disgruntled citizen

January 6th, 2012
10:17 am

You said it in yesterday’s column “corporate welfare is not a sustainable strategy.” We need tax reform which increases taxes on corporations and higher incomes, placing more emphasis on making Georgia a better place to live and much less emphasis on making it a haven for low business taxes. Low business taxes is a form of corporate welfare which penalizes the worker and the citizens of the state. We need good education (do away with all the vouchers), good roads, good transporation, good parks, good libraries — all the amenities which make life pleasant. We’ve got the climate; we now need enough good sense in government to augment it.

Mary Elizabeth

January 6th, 2012
10:25 am

“. . .a voucher system, which will cut the funding to public schools, give money to the kids that are already in private, church schools. It is a bad idea on so many levels.”
—————————————————

There will always be public schools because the poorest families will not be able to afford private schools, even with vouchers. But vouchers do have the potential to deplete further our resources to public schools.

Georgia’s Department of Education is now recognized nationally for building and implementing a state-of-the-art data analysis system of students’ records, including standardized test scores, via computer access, rather than access only through outdated permanent record folders, in main office vaults.

Now is no time to move away from improving public education for all of Georgia’s students. This computerized student record access capability will allow teachers immediate knowledge of each student’s developmental progress, over years, and will help teachers to better pinpoint instruction targeted to individual needs. Now is the time to put more, not less, financial resources into public schools through more tutors, mentors, and teacher’s aides who can further facilitate individualized instruction. Public school systems, also, need resources for teachers’ training courses, which will teach teachers how to use students’ computerized records effectively (as physicians are now using computerized patient records to analyze their patients’ needs). The results will show greater student growth, increased test scores, and greater teacher awareness of how to instruct students in a more targeted way toward their individual instructional needs.

Improve public schools. Do not give up on them or deplete their funds through vouchers to uncoordinated charter schools.

DannyX

January 6th, 2012
10:29 am

What if the state decides to bring back the state sales tax on food, would the tax also apply to the new one percent transportation sales tax voters are being asked to approve?

If the transportation tax is included in the proposed food tax the chances for approval go from 50-50 now to about 40-60, at best.

wallbanger

January 6th, 2012
10:35 am

I would like to see more severe punishment for absentee parents and more children taken from abusive parents and put into a home where they could get a decent education, live by some regimented rules, and learn how to earn their own living when they grow up. We have way too many kids being churned out in order to increase WIC payments and without regard to how they will be brought up.

Dusty

January 6th, 2012
10:43 am

I think we need a change of attitude in Georgia citizens. If we tell our legislators that we appreciate their service, believe they will do what is best for Georgia, can operate without lobbyists influence, and are a fine example of ethical behavior, we might get more gratifying results.

These people working in the Georgia capitol are human beings just like you and me. If they are constantly blamed, maligned, accused and degraded, you think they are inspired to do a good job?

They hear about the problems in Georgia every day. They are given reports on the needs of Georgia. They are faced with a shortage of money to support the state government. Yet we expect miracles from them.

How about a bit of positive thinking here? Some positive suggestions. Some energetic applause for our good state. Anybody can be negative. It takes a bit of courage to be above the mud but try it. You can do it!!

UGA 1999

January 6th, 2012
10:48 am

Job Creation…..

Still Iraq 'n' Roll To Me

January 6th, 2012
10:57 am

St Simons- island off the coast of New Somalia

January 6th, 2012
11:10 am

Well, I think they ought to handle that anti-”chips in our head” thing 1st
then abolish all Education – state doesnt have any bidness in education
then abolish drivers’ licenses – state cain’t tell us who can drive..
and get that birther bill from Mark Hatfield passed
and make Ga go on the gold standard & mint our own gold coins
and lots of abortion bills….lots

Halftrack

January 6th, 2012
11:20 am

One of the biggest issues should be to put GDOT back under one leader. Also to make it a real transportation agency and not a state highway dept. Other issues are smaller government and cutting a lot, a lot, of red tape that bureaucrats love. Education, are all citizens entitled to go to our colleges at the same tuition cost or does illegal aliens get a preference over citizens.