Archive for the ‘Georgia Legislature’ Category

Clearing the way for Georgia’s businesses to flourish

Joblessness in Georgia last month fell to its lowest level since May 2009, but don’t expect a drop-off in job-creation proposals under the Gold Dome. There’s little to celebrate about an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.

Tax reform and attracting venture capital to the state are among the efforts to boost employment that have gotten the most ink. If Speaker David Ralston gets his way, another item is about to join them atop the agenda.

“One of the things I’ve heard a lot over the past year,” Ralston told me in an interview Thursday, “is small-business owners who tell me they’re struggling under some of the rules and regulations state government puts on them, and that that is a hindrance to attracting jobs and keeping jobs. …

“I know some of them [regulations] are reasonable and are in the public interest, but some of them are pretty far afield.”

As an example of a reason to keep some regulations, he cited the fish kill last May in the Ogeechee River. A textile mill in Screven …

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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 motives,” said

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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 truces since …

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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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Legislators, Deal should make sure CAPCOs go nowhere

A little over a week ago, I wrote about how good ideas go bad. The following idea is just plain bad, and needs to be stopped. From the AJC:

A potentially costly and controversial investment law that was killed seven years ago appears to have wandered off the set of “The Walking Dead” and back into the state Legislature.

In 2004 lawmakers buried the program to funnel $75 million in tax credits through investment companies to small businesses before it could grow. Now a new Legislature has decided to bring it back, and this time it would cost taxpayers as much as $125 million. In addition, some of the legislators who lined up to repeal the law in 2004 are the ones reviving it. …

Proponents of the bill argue it would provide the money needed to help companies expand and create jobs. Opponents say that — as with the previous law — the new measure will simply hand piles of taxpayer money over to a few investment firms, which will reap most of the benefit.

Here’s how the current …

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Ralston eyes tax reform to boost Georgia jobs — just not yet

This summer’s meeting of the Legislature is extremely limited in scope. That’s by design: Redistricting is such a deeply political process that it’s best to wait until a regular session to deal with other matters.

That’s the case even when those “other matters” include measures to help Georgia’s economy get out of neutral and put Georgians back to work.

“I don’t know of anybody who really would doubt the fact that [that’s] one of the things we ought to be about, more than any other here,” Speaker David Ralston told me in an interview in his Capitol office Tuesday.

“Not government creating jobs, but government getting out of the way and allowing a climate to grow where small businesses across the state feel safe in maintaining the number of employees they have or growing a few employees, [and where] new companies want to come here and do business here because of the economic climate that we have.”

By the numbers, Georgia’s employment situation is a mixed bag. The statewide

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New Georgia congressional maps look more cohesive to me

A few thoughts on the proposed congressional maps for Georgia released Monday:

Ga congressional map

Obviously, the two big moves are U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat, being drawn out of Chatham County and into a more Republican-leaning district; and the new 14th district being in Northwest Georgia, leaving an empty seat in Gov. Nathan Deal’s native Hall County. The empty seat also covers the homes of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston. Neither of them is expected to run for it, but their presence should make next year’s campaign — especially the endorsements and fund raising — very interesting.

Barrow may draw a challenge from Senate Pro Tem Tommie Williams. If so, that would leave two of the three men who have been wrestling for control of the state Senate (Cagle and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers). If that ends some of that chamber’s dysfunction, that’s all for the better. Two members of the state House, Ben Harbin and Lee Anderson, told my AJC colleagues that they’re …

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Redistricting spurs re-examination of Georgia’s many counties

The General Assembly’s redistricting session has reignited the issue of Milton County. The proposed maps for the state House and Senate would shift the majority in each chamber’s Fulton delegation to Republicans, many of whom want to re-carve that erstwhile county out of North Fulton.

It will be an intense debate during the next two or three years — the minimum time it would take for new districts to first be used in an election, then play a role in putting Milton County back on the map.

But as I sat through a Tuesday legislative hearing, I was also struck by Georgia’s smallest counties.

Georgia, as you may know, has 159 counties, second only to Texas. We have 180 state House seats. Yet dozens of our counties are too small to qualify for their own House district.

The average district, after the 2010 census put Georgia’s population at just less than 9.7 million, will have 53,820 people.

Only 39 of our counties are so populous. The other 120 counties together contain just …

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Tea partyers ask for consistency on timing of sales-tax votes (Updated)

The Legislature’s special redistricting session kicked off today. But with little business to conduct on the first day — first drafts of new statehouse maps have been released, but no bills yet — the show was stolen by some tea partyers complaining about another item on the session’s agenda.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s call to legislators included moving the date of a 2012 referendum on regional transportation sales taxes from the primaries next July to the November general election. This is a cynical move by Georgia Republicans, who are effectively enlisting Obama Democrats — expected to turn out in much higher numbers in November than in July — to pass a tax their own base doesn’t want.

The tea partyers’ response? Turnout turnabout is fair play.

“Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the Democrats in Washington during the Obamacare debate kept constantly changing the rules in the middle of the game to achieve the outcome they wanted,” Debbie Dooley, a national coordinator with Tea Party …

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