Archive for March, 2009

Notes on the 39th Day to come

The House Rules Committee has completed the first calendar for Wednesday, the penultimate day of the 2009 session of the Legislature.

We understand that S.B. 200, the governor’s transportation reorganization bill, will be among the first bills tackled by the House. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has insisted on a vote in that chamber before joining negotiations over a sales tax for transportation.

A vote on S.B. 200 could be close, given the split support in the House Rules Committee. S.B. 120, the bill to give MARTA more control over its own finances, has been held back to ensure the good behavior of House Democrats.

Movement on S.B. 200 could give the Legislature just over two days to cut a deal on transportation financing.

My AJC colleague James Salzer is reporting that the Senate version of the budget, which will be voted on tomorrow, includes the transfer of a 33-employee, $1.86 million consumer affairs division — out from under state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and …

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Middle East moments: If U.S. doesn’t stop Iran, Israel might; and Jimmy Carter’s Syrian connection

Two magazine articles on the Middle East are making news today.

First, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has this:

In an interview conducted shortly before he was sworn in today as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a challenge for Barack Obama. The American president, he said, must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and quickly—or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities itself.

“The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told me. He said the Iranian nuclear challenge represents a “hinge of history” and added that “Western civilization” will have failed if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh has taken a look at thawing relations between the U.S. and Syria, and the role that former President Jimmy Carter has played with a late 2008 trip to the Middle Eastern country:

A senior White …

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A midnight rally on the steps of the state Capitol

In the next few days, many journalists will write that the end of this winter session of the Legislature on Friday will mark the beginning of the next campaign season.

Usually, this is true — as a metaphor.

State Sen. Kasim Reed has decided to make it a fact. At midnight Friday, the moment that the General Assembly’s assignment expires, Reed’s campaign for mayor of Atlanta has arranged a rally on the steps of the state Capitol — only a block away from City Hall.

The 2009 mayoral field is far from settled. City Councilwoman Mary Norwood is in. City Council President Lisa Borders apparently is mulling a return to the contest. City Councilman Ceasar Mitchell is in the running, but could drop down to the council president’s race, we’re told, if Borders jumps into the mayor’s contest.

My AJC colleague Eric Stirgus reports that yet another mayoral candidate, Glenn Thomas, channeled his inner Barack Obama today during his campaign kick-off at City Hall.

“If change can …

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DuBose Porter says Roy Barnes would make an excellent ’senior statesman’

Roy Barnes is looking a run for governor. DuBose Porter, examining the same race, would prefer him as a wing man.

Not every bit of an interview can make it into a news story. And one exchange between two possible Democratic candidates was left out of a Sunday article by my AJC colleagues James Salzer and Jim Tharpe, who examined the possibility of a Barnes comeback.

Until late last year, when the former governor began sizing up a return to office, Porter — the House minority leader and a newspaper publisher from Dublin — was a much-discussed favorite.

“I’ve talked with Roy a couple of a times,” Porter said in an interview with Tharpe. “We need Roy as a senior statesman.

“I’m not sure how committed Roy is. Either way we are putting things in place so that after the session we can move forward in the race.

“Roy has a lot to contribute. When I saw Bill Clinton reinforcing the message for Obama, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be great to have in Georgia.”‘

Barnes howled at the idea …

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An Alaskan slap at Bobby Jindal over volcano monitoring

Redoubt Volcano as seen from Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday. Photo credit: Associated Press

Redoubt Volcano as seen from Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday. Photo credit: Associated Press

This from McClatchy News Service:

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Monday she’ll introduce legislation this week to establish regular funding for the Alaska Volcano Observatory, just one month after fellow Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized the stimulus bill pushed by President Barack Obama for containing spending for volcano monitoring.

‘The multiple eruptions of Alaksa’s Mount Redoubt, which on Monday force the cancellation for several hours of all air service in and out of Anchorage, underscores the need for a reliable and steady budget for volcano observation at the five volcanic observatories run by the U.S. Geological Survey, Murkowski said.

She is proposing a $15 million annual budget for the USGS to run a national early warning and monitoring system.

It just never made sense for someone from Louisiana to criticize spending on a disaster warning …

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Your morning jolt: Suddenly, national service is a liberal bogeyman

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson took the unusual step of sending a message to certain Georgians via Sadie Fields, leader of the Georgia Christian Alliance.

Through a Christian Alliance e-mail blast, Isakson declared that he did not believe in the forced indoctrination of American youth for a new Stalinist state. Nor did he believe in the creation of a new ACORN army for Barack Obama.

All Isakson had done is make a speech, on the floor of the Senate, declaring himself in favor of national service — a speech that included mention of Kate Puzey, a 24-year-old Peace Corps volunteer from Cummings, Ga., who was killed in Africa last month.

But something strange is happening on the fringes of Internet conservatism. National service, which since the end of the draft in the 1970s has been a kind of Holy Grail of the right, has suddenly been transformed into a symbol of leftist authoritarianism.

Specifically, Isakson was speaking in favor of the $6 billion reauthorization of the …

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Again, on transportation: A more definite connection between ‘governance’ and a sales tax

Last week, at a press conference designed to show the enthusiasm of Casey Cagle and the state Senate for a measure that could lead to increased funding for transportation, the lieutenant governor declared the push for a sales tax to be absolutely, completely sequestered from the reorganization of the transportation bureaucracy championed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

“We are trying to keep those two issues completely separate. The issue of governance is separate from the issue of funding. Totally separate,” the lieutenant governor said.

Apparently, things change. This morning, as reported below, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) declared that, without a “governance” bill, there’s no way he could support a House-Senate compromise on a sales tax for transportation.

“I’m very fearful of moving forward with any funding plan, if there’s not a governance plan,” Rogers said at a press conference. “We have tried this over last six years, putting zillions of …

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The quotable John Murtha: ‘If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district’

This from a Sunday profile of U.S. Rep. John Murtha in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette:

Photo credit: Bloomberg News

Photo credit: Bloomberg News

No one has tallied the amount Mr. Murtha has steered into his district, which sprawls well beyond the Conemaugh Valley and reaches the West Virginia border. Conservative estimates are in the billions of dollars, most of it lobbied from federal agencies or won through open bidding or, more controversially, steered home directly during his 35-year career.
Mr. Murtha, a 76-year-old Marine veteran schooled in the blunt-knuckle deal-making that defined politics here, is contrition-free when it comes to his success.

“If I’m corrupt, it’s because I take care of my district,” Mr. Murtha said. “My job as a member of Congress is to make sure that we take care of what we see is necessary. Not the bureaucrats who are unelected over there in whatever White House, whether it’s Republican or Democrat. Those bureaucrats would like to control everything. Every president would like to …

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On transportation: The link between a sales tax and ‘governance’

Ron Hertz (left) and Bill Linginfelter of Get Georgia Moving on Monday. Photo credit: Kimberly Smith/AJC

Ron Hertz (left) and Bill Linginfelter of Get Georgia Moving on Monday. Photo credit: Kimberly Smith/AJC

So here we are in what’s billed as the final week of the 2009 session of the Legislature, and again the issue of transportation has the state Capitol tied in a knot.

The first conference committee on the topic is about to start, on the topic of a sales tax. The vehicle is H.B. 277. The House has appointed Vance Smith, Donna Shelton and Calvin Smyre as conferees. The Senate should match that any minute.

But an impasse could be building on the topic of governance. S.B. 200, a revised bill backed by Sonny Perdue, would put transportation planning and policy under control of the governor.

In return, all transportation funding would pass through the General Assembly, and lawmakers would be able to earmark up to 20 percent of all transportation funding — $400 million of current spending — for their chosen projects. That’s a sweetened spending pot. The original Perdue bill …

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Your morning jolt: Committee chairman says embryonic stem cell bill won’t move out of House

A bill to put restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in Georgia won’t see the light of day this session, the chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee said this morning.

“I’m not going to do anything with that this session in the House,” said state Rep. Amos Amerson (R-Dahlonega). “We’ve gotten 500 e-mails and faxes on it, roughly 50-50. We had to shut off the fax machine — they were using all the toner. I figure anything with that much controversy needs a little more study.”

Amerson also mentioned a May convention of 20,000 biotech experts in Atlanta, which has been eyed by state officials as a chance to recruit cutting-edge industries. “I don’t want to put anything up that might be a stumbling block for economic development,” he said.

S.B. 169 passed the Senate after harsh debate last month. Originally intended to put restrictions on clinics that provide invitro fertilization treatments, the measure currently prohibits one form of …

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