Archive for January, 2012

Poll Position: Who’s right about Romney’s time at Bain?

(Note: Apologies for the late Poll Position today, but I wanted the ethics reform post to be online all day.)

This week has seen one of the more amazing attack lines in any GOP presidential primary. It seems some Republican candidates think Mitt Romney was too much of a capitalist.

Well, that’s not exactly how they’d put it. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (yes, he’s still running, despite barely beating the combination of Buddy Roemer and “total write-ins” in New Hampshire) refers to Romney’s career at Bain Capital as “vulture capitalism,” not venture capitalism. A so-called Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich produced a 28-minute video titled “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” about a company in South Carolina — the site of the next primary — bought by Bain.

Who’s right about Romney’s time at Bain Capital?

  • Gingrich and Perry (178 Votes)
  • Romney and his defenders (95 Votes)
  • Who knows? (38 Votes)

Total Voters: 311

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Their attacks have been lauded by some on the right, …

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2012 Legislature: To restore public trust, pass ethics reform

(Note: My colleague Jay Bookman has his own post on the ethics reform and a brief explanation of our joint project during this legislative session.)

Skepticism is a virtue, as a magazine’s motto once had it, but the thought is incomplete without this corollary: Cynicism is corrosive.

That is particularly true in that realm which makes cynicism oh-so tempting: politics. Adopting a “they’re all crooks” mentality has the perverse effect of giving license to those pols who are crooked, by failing to distinguish them from the others. The best defense against that mentality is a good-government offense, and that’s where a renewed push for wide-ranging reform of state ethics laws comes in.

After a failed attempt in 2010 to cap the value of gifts such as meals from lobbyists to legislators, the issue is coming back up this year. This is the year to see it through.

“At a certain point, things get to the point that when the public sees what’s going on, they question the …

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Dear Georgia Senate: Drop the power struggle, get to work

It’s put up or shut up time in the Georgia Senate. As nothing new has been put up by the malcontents, you can see where I’m heading.

I refer to the 14-month-old dispute between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the GOP senators who stripped him of most of his powers. Ordinarily, such an intramural power play would interest only the true political junkies. But the Senate’s cold war is getting hot enough to matter to ordinary Georgians.

Some background: Days after Cagle was re-elected in 2010, Senate Republicans resolved to change the chamber’s rules to put two of their own, Tommie Williams of Lyons and Chip Rogers of Woodstock, in charge. Cagle argued, not without merit, that a majority of Georgia’s voters thought they’d just elected him to lead the Senate. But he lost that debate.

The 2011 session moved along fairly smoothly almost until the end, when an alliance of Democrats and pro-Cagle Republicans made a move to restore the old order. It failed, as has a series of GOP …

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Big government goes wrong — again, and again

Herewith, two more entries for the voluminous annals of big government gone wrong. First, from a New York Times piece related to our recent discussion of Range Fuels:

When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law.

But there was none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist.

Fear not, gentle reader: Washington has an answer for requiring fuel companies to use a biofuel that doesn’t exist. And that answer is — wait for it — to require them to use even more of the still-non-existent biofuel in 2012. (Range Fuels, fwiw, makes a cameo appearance in the penultimate paragraph of the Times’ piece.)

Our second example comes from the locale of the logical conclusion of social-welfarism, Greece. As the Associated Press reports:

Greek …

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In New Hampshire, a very solid win for Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney didn’t quite hit the number I suggested for him in New Hampshire (40 percent), but I’m changing my mind about how significant his win was. The exit polls portray his performance as solid-to-dominant in many of the categories that will matter going forward in this GOP primary.

Romney out-polled Ron Paul among tea partyers and those who consider themselves “very conservative” when it comes to taxes and spending. He beat Rick Santorum among evangelicals, Catholics and those who consider themselves “very conservative” regarding gay marriage and abortion. He beat his nearest competitor (Paul) by a 2-to-1 margin among those who said the economy was their most important factor in deciding who got their vote and by 1 percentage point among those who named the federal budget deficit — by far the two most-named issues. (Santorum got a healthy plurality among those who named abortion, but they made up just 6 percent of the electorate.)

He didn’t fare well among voters who …

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2012 Tuesday: Will New Hampshire even matter?

New Hampshire fought, like usual, to maintain its “first primary in the nation” status this year. But we won’t know until tonight whether it will maintain its status as a primary that matters.

Mitt Romney will win. The questions are: By how much? And who’s closest to him?

Just as Romney’s eight-vote win in Iowa was a win, but a weak one, it will be harder for him to beat the drum of inevitability if he captures less than 40 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, where he’s led for months if not years. That’s the first number to watch in the returns tonight.

The next thing to watch is whose name is second. Ron Paul has been sitting in that position, but recent polls show him slipping a bit relative to Jon Huntsman, who has staked his campaign on the Granite State. If either of them can finish in second above 20 percent, especially above 25 percent, he may have a springboard to the next few states. If second place — and Huntsman’s position in any case — is in the teens, New …

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Deal offers limited preview of 2012 legislative agenda

Part One of Gov. Nathan Deal’s legislative priorities are out, and I’m giving him a generous “incomplete.”

Deal, speaking at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and Issues event, revealed elements of the recommendations from his Competitiveness Initiative. More is to come tonight in his State of the State speech. So far, this is what we have in detail:

1. Bonds totaling $46.7 million for the expansion of the Savannah port.
2. Another $45.7 million for reservoirs, the second leg of a four-year, $300 million pledge from last year.
3. A commitment to support the T-SPLOST referendums across the state.
4. A proposal, as expected, to eliminate the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.
5. A proposal to allow local authorities to waive the sales tax for “construction materials used in projects of regional significance.” More details to come. (Deal seemed to acknowledge this wouldn’t be the biggest deal in the world, but said, “This is one field goal Georgia cannot …

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How and why the Georgia Senate got off to a fast start

Everyone who said in Friday’s Poll Position that the Legislature should work on education during the 2012 session got their wish on Day One. Before lunchtime, the Senate passed a measure held over from last year to prohibit school boards from using seniority as the primary consideration when deciding which teachers to lay off.

SB 184 now heads to the governor’s desk, as the senators agreed to changes in the bill made last year by the House. Democrats argued that the bill takes away local control from school boards; Republicans argued that it prevents situations in which good teachers are fired simply because they have been in their jobs for less time than others. Sen. Chip Rogers added that, because less-tenured teachers are paid less, local boards may end up firing more teachers to meet budget-cut targets if they go with a “last in, first out” approach.

The Senate also passed a relatively minor bill allowing State Schools Superintendent John Barge to hire some of his own …

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When tycoons and politicians do business, taxpayers lose

If your blood hasn’t boiled in awhile, you must have missed the AJC story earlier this week about Range Fuels — a multimillion-dollar lesson in why taxpayers usually lose when billionaires with hare-brained schemes sidle up to politicians.

It’s been about a year since Range Fuels shut down its facility in Soperton, the South Georgia town where it had promised to turn our state into a world leader in turning wood into ethanol. There was just one problem: Range didn’t actually know how to turn wood into ethanol. The resulting failure cost taxpayers $64 million in federal loan guarantees and another $6 million in state funds.

This past week, the AJC’s Dan Chapman reported the sale of Range for a mere $5.1 million. The lucky bargain shopper? A New Zealand firm bankrolled by Vinod Khosla — the former tech executive who just happens to have been one of the main backers of Range.

Too bad Georgia didn’t invest in one of Khosla’s other ethanol endeavors: In its 2011 ranking …

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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 …

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