Archive for July, 2009

Two ‘water war’ reactions that weren’t by the book

On Friday, a federal judge stunned Georgia with his diagnosis of the 19-year, tri-state water war:

Metro Atlanta had no right to rely on federally constructed Lake Lanier for its water supply, he said — and Congress needed to step in to clarify the issue.

Most of the reaction from Georgia politicians and candidates has been predictable — an expression of disappointment followed by a promise, brimming with earnestness, to work toward a bipartisan, tri-state solution.

But two reactions diverged from the ordinary. U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville reflected an emerging view that Georgia’s congressional delegation might punt the issue back to the three states involved:

“I am disappointed in the ruling and will begin immediately working with my colleagues in the Georgia delegation to resolve this issue.

At the same time, there is nothing to prohibit the governors of the three states from coming together and reaching a long-term workable solution.”

Or maybe that was …

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Your morning jolt: Thank God for California

Taxes collected by the 50 states dropped by nearly 12 percent overall in the first three months of 2009 over the year before – the largest such decline in nearly half a century, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

According to a report issued late last week, the only good news is that Georgia is somewhere in the middle:

All regions of the country saw declines in total state tax collections, with the Far West seeing the largest decline at 16 percent. Only the Rocky Mountain and Plains regions saw single-digit declines at 5 and 6 percent, respectively.

In other words, forget Mississippi. Thank goodness for California. Read the entire report here.

With that kind of data in mind, my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin spoke with Sonny Perdue about the 2010 budget and what the governor estimates as an immediate, $800 million shortfall. Click here for details.

The Republican base will want to read Perdue’s comments on his veto of a capital gains tax cut bill …

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Shifting ground in the race for mayor of Atlanta

For the first time in more than a generation, a white candidate stands a chance of becoming mayor of Atlanta.

This is not a topic that Mary Norwood, the two-term, at-large member of city council, wants to dwell on.

“We all come in our packages. This is the package I got. It’s not very big. It’s good and feisty. And it’s real passionate,” she said over a recent lunch.

The last viable white candidate was Sidney Marcus, a prominent state lawmaker who worked his way into a runoff with Andrew Young in 1981. Marcus lost, of course.

There are many reasons to place Norwood in the same league, or better. She is driven and organized. In June, Norwood became the first 2009 mayoral candidate to break the $1 million mark in fund-raising.

But this is not just something about Mary. Far from it.

In the last decade, the city of Atlanta has experienced a population revolution.

We won’t know the details until after the next census. But there’s every reason to believe that the city’s poorest …

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The F-22 runs on ‘vintage ‘83 IBM software’?

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent critique of the dismal state of U.S. military contracting by John Lehman, secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration.

Here’s a taste:

The situation is worse in the Air Force. In 1983, I was in the Pentagon meeting that launched the F-22 Raptor. The plan was to buy 648 jets beginning in 1996 for $60 million each (in 1983 dollars). Now they cost $350 million apiece and the Obama budget caps the program at 187 jets.

At least they are safe from cyberattack since no one in China knows how to program the ‘83 vintage IBM software that runs them.

There are other problems. Navy shipbuilding fiascoes like the staggering overruns on new surface combatants, the near total failure of the Army’s Future Combat System that was meant to re-equip the entire army, the 400% cost overrun of the new Air Force weather satellite — to name but a few — all prove that we are currently unable to design, develop and deliver major weapons systems in …

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Consider the Sotomayor fight over

This from today’s Washington Post:

Three Senate Republicans yesterday endorsed Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, giving increased momentum to securing President Obama’s choice a place on the high court by early August.

Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.), former chairman of the Republican National Committee, joined veteran Sens. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) in support of the first Hispanic nominated to the Supreme Court.

The senators dismissed allegations from some of their GOP colleagues, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), that Sotomayor had shown herself to be a partial jurist because of speeches in which she said a “wise Latina” could be more likely to make better rulings than a white male judge.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Georgia is suddenly thirsty for friends in Congress

A federal judge has ruled against the state of Georgia in the tri-state water wars litigation.

But he wants a political solution and is sending the fight to Congress.

According to my AJC colleague Bill Rankin, the judge ruled that the Corps of Engineers should have sought congressional approval before allowing water from Lake Lanier to be reallocated for use by the metro Atlanta.

Read the 97-page order here.

Rankin writes:

If there is no congressional authorization by the time the end of three years is up, [U.S. District Judge Paul] Magnuson said, his order will take effect. That means that the operation of Buford Dam will return its “baseline” operation of the mid-1970s.

“Thus…only Gainesville and Buford will be allowed to withdraw water from the lake,” Magnuson said….

The topic will have to be explored, but the immediate question that comes to mind is the effect this will have on House Republicans from Georgia.

The hard-line tactics of Tom Price of Roswell, Lynn Westmoreland …

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Mark Sanford’s press aide calls it quits

This from The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.:

Gov. Mark Sanford’s communications director, Joel Sawyer, said today he is leaving for an unspecified private-sector job, effective Aug. 5.

Sawyer said his decision to leave his $65,000-a-year job had nothing to do with Sanford’s recent six-day disappearance and the Republican governor’s subsequent disclosure of an affair with an Argentine woman.

“I want to be crystal clear that my departure is purely about what’s best for me and my family on a personal and financial level,” Sawyer said in a statement. “I wish Mark and the rest of my talented and dedicated colleagues the best.”

Also Friday, parts of Georgia became very hot. But the sun had nothing to do with it.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Fortunes of F-22 now linked to hate crimes measure

The fortunes of the F-22 have now been formally linked to hate crimes legislation, a pairing that’s giving heartburn to all kinds of U.S. senators, especially two from Georgia.

Late last night, the Senate voted to attach the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act to the $680 million defense bill. The hate crimes measure would extend greater federal protection to people attacked because of their gender or sexual orientation.

This from the Associated Press:

“The Senate made a strong statement this evening that hate crimes have no place in America,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said….

The House in April approved a similar bill and President Barack Obama has urged Congress to send him hate crimes legislation, presenting the best scenario for the measure to become law since Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., first introduced it more than a decade ago.

And yet, President Barack Obama has promised — again and again — to veto the bill because, as of now, it contains …

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Your morning jolt: In F-22 fight, Gates calls for an end to ‘defense business as usual’

While you ate dinner last night, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a passionate response to congressional attempts to boost spending for the Marietta-built F-22 Raptor.

As he delivered his argument, according to the New York Times, the one major holdover from the Bush Administration felt the need to burnish his conservative credentials:

Saying he “didn’t molt from a hawk into a dove on Jan. 20, 2009,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply criticized Congress on Thursday for trying to push more F-22 fighter jets into the Pentagon budget than he and President Obama say the country needs.

“If we can’t get this right, what on earth can we get right?” Mr. Gates said in an acerbic, sometimes withering speech to the Economic Club of Chicago. “It is time to draw the line on doing defense business as usual.” From his point of view, that means overbuying weapons for wars the nation is unlikely to fight….

A Senate vote on the amendment is expected in days. Mr. Gates told …

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Signs of a deal in the works over F-22 spending

We’ll know more after Secretary of Defense Robert Gates addresses the topic this evening in Chicago, but it looks like we may have a compromise brewing in Congress over increased spending for the Marietta-built F-22 Raptor.

The Associated Press just moved the following:

Despite adding money for two programs that the White House has said will result in a veto of the defense spending bill, a key House Democrat said Thursday he’s confident the legislation will avoid that fate.

“We’ll work it out,” John Murtha, head of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, told reporters following a markup of the bill. “In the end, the bill won’t be vetoed.”

The panel included $369 million as a down payment for a dozen more F-22 fighter jets, and $560 million for an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, both actions which the White House has said will lead to a veto.

Murtha’s optimism, which comes after a Senate committee also recently added F-22 funding in its version of the …

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