Archive for March, 2009

Johnny Isakson’s second thoughts on Tim Geithner

Last night, President Barack Obama noted the sudden turnaround in Washington opinion when it came to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

“You know, it was just a few days ago or weeks ago where people were certain that Secretary Geithner couldn’t deliver a plan. Today the headlines all look like, well, all right, there’s a plan,” the president said.

Obama might have been talking about one Georgia senator in particular.

This from CNN/Fortune magazine:

“This could be the beginning of a very constructive improvement in capital flows,” Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson told Fortune.

Just last week, Isakson, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, became the first Republican senator to call for Geithner’s resignation.

Isakson was shocked that the former New York Federal Reserve president – who essentially “wrote the check” to AIG last September – was completely unaware of the bonuses that caused a national uproar six months later.

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Why that Obama resolution might have mattered

Last week, African-American members of the state House walked out of the chamber, angered by ruling Republicans who had voted down a resolution honoring President Barack Obama — then refused to reconsider their action.

By legislative standards, H.R. 673, sponsored by state Rep. Keith Heard (D-Athens), is no big whoop.

Obama would be named an honorary, lifetime member of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Under normal circumstances, out of a sense of mutual amity, H.R. 673 is something easily handled by a voice vote. No fingerprints. Declare it passed, and no harm done.

But for some reason, normal circumstances didn’t apply. Certain GOP members objected to words that described Obama’s “unimpeachable reputation for integrity, vision, and passion for public service.”

Even so, the consequences didn’t sneak up until state Rep. Bob Smith (R-Watkinsville) sought to push H.R. 672 at a House committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

This particular resolution asks President Obama …

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Your morning jolt: Gingrey refigures his taxes

U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey is figuring out how much he owes in back taxes after improperly claiming a homestead exemption for his Washington D.C. home.

The Marietta Republican was one of “a handful” of congressmen who have done so, according to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

Gingrey spokesman Chris Jackson said the application was an oversight. “Now it’s just really a matter of making sure it gets fixed, and figuring out restitution,” he told the Insider today. “We’’re glad they let us know.”

Here’s the web site Gingrey is using to arrange matters.

The deduction eased annual property taxes by hundreds of dollars, according to the newspaper.

Roll Call reported that Gingrey’s wife, Billie, was the sole purchaser of a three-bedroom row house in 2004. The property is valued at about $705,000, with a taxable value of $637,000.

No doubt the episode will result in wry commentary at the state Capitol, where debate in the Senate has focused on how quickly the …

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Cagle on transportation: If the House would only bend to his will, everything would be fine

On Monday, after the state Senate passed — for a second time — its proposal for a regional sales tax for transportation, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle did something unusual.

He began passing out a glossy, high-production flyer declaring that “Transportation relief is in sight.”

The operative subhead: “All it takes is an agree.”

The latter phrase is Capitol-speak. One vote by the House, conceding to the Senate position, would end a two-year debate over increased funding for traffic congestion, the lieutenant is saying.

Download a copy of the flyer here. It’s being distributed to those with an interest in transportation — i.e., the state’s business community, many of whom blame Cagle for the Senate’s failure to pass something similar last year.

Senate contacts are also trying to pressure the opposite chamber by pointing to a House Policy Committee summary of priorities, published last September.

Under transportation, this was first on the list:

“Pass legislation …

Continue reading Cagle on transportation: If the House would only bend to his will, everything would be fine »

This time, a Libertarian in the 2010 race for governor could rattle Democrats

If you’re weighing a run for governor in 2010, there’s this to consider: Not only is there likely to be a runoff in the GOP primary, but we could see another general election runoff as well.

Libertarian John Monds has put out word that he’ll formally enter the race on Wednesday with a state Capitol announcement.

Monds ran against Republican incumbent Doug Everett in the 2008 race for Public Service Commission. He was trounced, 67 percent to 33 percent — but he did become the first Libertarian to break the 1 million-vote mark. There was no Democrat in the race.

Complicating the calculation: Monds, from Cairo, is African-American. President of the Grady County NAACP, in fact.

In other words, Monds wouldn’t necessarily drain support from the Republican side, as Libertarian Allen Buckley did last year during U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ bid for re-election.

This time, you can see the possibility of a Libertarian candidacy tapping the strength of the Democratic …

Continue reading This time, a Libertarian in the 2010 race for governor could rattle Democrats »

Lynn Westmoreland sidelined

My AJC colleague Bob Keefe says that U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, the Republican from Coweta County, is in a lot of pain — and it has nothing to do with the Democrats in power or the state of his party.

Westmoreland was rushed from his Washington apartment to Bethesda Naval Hospital on Monday morning, suffering from kidney stones. Spokesman Brian Robinson said Westmoreland was still “awaiting another procedure” on Tuesday, but declined to discuss specifics.

Westmoreland, who has suffered from painful bouts with kidney stones before, never made it to work on Monday or Tuesday, and Robinson said he’s not sure when he might be back on Capitol Hill.

Continue reading Lynn Westmoreland sidelined »

Geithner wants expanded power to regulate AIG and other non-banking interests

Photo credit: Associated Press

Photo credit: Associated Press

After weeding out the distracting back-and-forth caused by the AIG bonuses, this from the Washington Post is the real news of the day:

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner asked Congress today for new regulatory authority for non-bank financial institutions such as insurance giant American International Group in order to “eliminate gaps in supervision” and avoid destabilizing threats to the nation’s financial system….

In making his case for regulatory reform, Geithner told the committee, “AIG highlights broad failures of our financial system. Our regulatory system was not equipped to prevent the buildup of dangerous levels of risk.” He said the federal government lacks the legal means at present “to manage the orderly restructuring of a large, complex non-bank financial institution that poses a threat to the stability of our financial system.”

He called for “new resolution authority” to give the federal government the tools it needs to …

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Your morning jolt: Of homophobes and Geithner video

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank calls U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a “homophobe” in an interview posted on the gay news Web site 365gay.com.

The elevated language came in the context of a discussion of gay marriage, and whether the high court would ever be called on to recognize it.

“I wouldn’t want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has too many votes on this current court,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, who is gay. The comment, of course, is also on video.

Also found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:

  • Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald may face $24,000 in ethics fines for his 2002 campaign.
  • House and Senate leaders are still split on a transportation sales tax.
  • Despite protests, DeKalb will proceed with a new school based on a partnership with the U.S. Marines.
  • Some opinion:

  • Jim Wooten on unwarranted restrictions imposed by Voting Rights Act.
  • From elsewhere in Georgia:

  • SMN: Judge …
  • Continue reading Your morning jolt: Of homophobes and Geithner video »

    ‘MARTA Day’ escalates to a full Senate committee hearing

    Tuesday is MARTA Day at the state Capitol, and the battle over the financially strapped agency has grown.

    Here’s the time line to date:

    — Seven days ago, MARTA passed out a memo to lawmakers, warning that unless the transit agency can devote all cash raised by a sales tax toward operations, it will have to significantly reduce service. Rail traffic could be included — “either certain days or times, or entire lines altogether.”

    — Days later, state Rep. Jill Chambers (R-Atlanta), chairman of the Legislature’s MARTA oversight committee, responded by ordering up a 2 p.m. Tuesday subcommittee hearing and ordered MARTA bookkeepers to appear. Chambers wants to talk about the agency’s financial practices — and to ask questions about raises given last year to managers.

    — Last Friday, state Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna) countered with an 11:30 p.m. Tuesday hearing by a Senate Transportation subcommittee, to give MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott a preemptive …

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    The DHR shuffle: Have a pink slip — no, wait. Give it back.

    Tom Barton, an editorial writer over at the Savannah Morning News, recounts a cruel debacle over at the state Department of Human Resources:

    Last Wednesday, the superintendent at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah distributed from 75 to 89 layoff notices (the actual number was never confirmed) to employees at the state-run mental hospital, under orders from his bosses in Atlanta.

    I understand he didn’t sleep the previous evening.

    But by the end of that day, his superiors gave him another command: Take them back.

    Oops.

    Barton uses the incident to argue that it’s time for DHR Commissioner B.J. Walker to leave.

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    Continue reading The DHR shuffle: Have a pink slip — no, wait. Give it back. »