Perhaps the most important item in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution was an op-ed piece by state Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), recommending that MARTA be folded into the state Department of Transportation.
The most likely vehicle would be the penny sales tax for transportation that has been debated in the Legislature the last two sessions.
Technical problems prevent a link to the actual Millar article on the AJC web site, so I’ve built a temporary link to a Google document instead. But here’s the gist:
It is my intention in 2010 to add to SB 200 or any other approach a Public Transportation division under DOT with the director of that division also being appointed by the Governor. This director can be responsible for operating public transportation agencies in Georgia including MARTA.
At the same time, I plan to introduce local legislation in DeKalb and have one of my fellow members in Fulton do likewise to repeal the current MARTA Act.
Obviously there are details that need to be worked out with the state assuming the assets and liabilities of MARTA. Priority issues include operations and federal funding. Hopefully, in the not too distant future other transit systems such as Cobb and Gwinnett and agencies such as Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority can be incorporated into this comprehensive approach.
Any comprehensive transportation solution voted on by the people requires a two-thirds vote by the House of Representatives and the Senate in order for the initiative to be placed on the ballot….
The Republican continues:
This is our one chance to get away from a Department of Highways and have a meaningful Department of Transportation.
With this new MARTA financial data, any reasonable person must conclude that Fulton and DeKalb can no longer carry this burden alone. I would hope Fulton and DeKalb representatives and senators would agree with me and insist that MARTA be folded into any comprehensive transit solution.
Furthermore, per Georgia State University, metro Atlanta (10 counties) pay 53 percent of the state’s taxes and receive 37 percent of the state’s spending. If metro Atlanta’s physical infrastructure can not allow further growth and/or our competitive position deteriorates, then the balance of our state will not continue to receive this additional funding over what they collect.
This alone should be the necessary incentive for non-metro legislators to support the creation of this public transportation division under DOT and a regional transportation solution with a sales tax component.
No great city in our country (New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco) relies only on highways. We either seize the initiative now or in the not too distant future explain to our children why Atlanta is no longer the Capitol of the South. Remember when we were the financial headquarters of the South?
In an interview on Sunday, Millar said he gave the chairmen of the DeKalb and Fulton county legislative delegations an early peak at his article. He has not discussed the matter with Gov. Sonny Perdue, but has swapped letters with House Speaker Glenn Richardson.
The Millar approach has two hurdles. First, there’s the matter of whether state government and its parts are willing — and able — to assume responsibility for the operation of a major component of urban life.
Then there’s the question of the investment made by DeKalb and Fulton Counties over the last three decades in MARTA’s infrastructure. Can they be made whole? Should they be made whole?
Millar says he’s flexible on all counts. “There’s nothing sacred in what I’ve written here,” he said.
But all sides need to look past the black-white, metro-rural Georgia issues to see what’s in their long-term self interest, the lawmaker said.
“It’s not about MARTA. It’s like trauma isn’t about Grady,” Millar said. The state is well aware that, in terms of growth, “we don’t get squat if we don’t have mass transit,” Millar said.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson will endorse Kasim Reed, a former state senator, for mayor of Atlanta in a press conference later this morning.
Look for Reed to begin focusing on his ties to both the Obama administration and other members of Georgia’s congressional delegation as well.
State Sen. Cecil Staton of Macon was the topic of a 5-2 state Supreme Court decision released this morning, reversing an automobile insurance case from Floyd County.
At issue was whether the “stacking” of several insurance policies, in order to maximize the amount of coverage available to Staton. “The short answer is ‘yes,’” says today’s opinion, written by Justice Hugh Thompson.
Staton was headed to Rome in 2003 to meet friends for dinner when another driver failed to negotiate a curve and hit Staton’s Chevrolet Suburban head-on. Staton was severely injured and required multiple surgeries.
U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss were two of 30 Republicans who voted last week against a defense appropriations amendment to prohibit contracts being issued to companies who prevent employees from suing their employers if they’ve been raped or assaulted at work.
The amendment, offered Al Franken of Minnesota, stemmed from accusations from a KBR/Halliburton employee, Jamie Leigh Jones, that she was drugged and raped by multiple co-workers in 2005 while working in Iraq.
Jones was initially prevented from suing KBR/Halliburton because, as a condition of her employment, she signed an agreement that forced her grievances to be addressed by an independent arbiter, preventing her from taking the company to court. A Texas court later allowed the lawsuit to move forward.
This from the Macon Telegraph:
Both Chambliss and Isakson, through written statements, defended their votes on the grounds that the amendment would be thwart arbitration as an option for employers to address grievances.
“This would be a major, fundamental [shift] in U.S. labor law and I believe it would be very detrimental to employees to eliminate arbitration as an option,” Isakson said.
“If that happens, these employees’ only recourse will be to litigate suits in court, which is a very lengthy, expensive and time-consuming process,” Chambliss added.
It is easy play the curmudgeon and dismiss Twitter, along with other social media, as a narcissistic tool for self-promotion. But in politics, social media can also serve as a kind of early warning system. If it doesn’t pinpoint a politician’s location exactly, it reassure us that they are doing us no harm.
Republican candidate for governor Karen Handel put this out on Twitter at about 9 p.m. last night:
Go Falcons! Kicked butt in one Fantasy league. Got butt kicked in the other. Falcons get the INT! Woo hoo!
While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:
Are drastic swings in CRCT scores valid? Georgia often sneers as Atlanta struggles. Death sentence for killer ‘freakish.’ GOP won’t turn down stimulus spending. Georgia banks bracing for major hit. Q&A: Cleland discusses war, politics. GSU inaugurates new president today. Candidates grill Norwood on past votes, budget plans. EPA investigation into Atlanta lead smelter.
Kyle Wingfield says taxpayers can’t spring for new Falcons stadium. Pro & Con: Should federal lawmakers create a ‘Passenger Bill of Rights’?
And from beyond:
WP: Digital texts gaining favor, but critics question quality. LAT: U.S. says credible partner in Afghanistan is crucial. WSJ: U.S. Enlists Oil to Sway Beijing’s Stance on Tehran.
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