Archive for January, 2010

A new, updated AJC data base of property tax assessments

Is your blood pressure too low? Do you find it too easy to fall asleep at night?

We can fix that.

The AJC has a new, updated data base of property tax appraisals for metro Atlanta homes. Click here to see it.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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Hard times and horse-racing at the state Capitol

Hard times redefine what you’re willing to do to stay alive. Ask any college graduate in charge of the fry vat at Burger Doodle.

Republicans in the Legislature are experiencing a similar paradigm shift when it comes to prodding the state’s economy and scrounging for the tax dollars needed to keep state government, a $17 billion-a-year operation, from grinding to a halt.

Forbidden topics are being openly discussed. Tax hikes couched as fee increases, for instance.

Some ideas are darker than others. Early this week, an economic adviser brought in to lecture state lawmakers quite seriously recommended elimination of the minimum wage and a rethinking of child labor laws.

But we are not that hungry yet.

Other taboos, however, look more inviting. This week, state Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell) introduced HR 1177, a proposed constitutional amendment that would bring horse racing into Georgia. The bill number is no coincidence.

The legislation, which would require a two-thirds vote …

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A Senate bill to allow parents to keep kids on their health insurance until age 25

State Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome) has just cut loose with a pair of health care reform bills that, on first glance, look like they might have legs.

Among the provisions of S.B. 330 and 331, according to Smith:

– Prohibits health insurance companies from unjustly canceling health insurance “rescissions.” This will end the practice of health insurance companies rescinding or cancelling an insurance policy based upon their allegation that the original application contained an error or omission, which is often not even related to the claim. This provision ensures that no Georgian’s access to needed medical care will be harmed by the wrongful cancelation of their health insurance plan.

– Extends health insurance coverage benefits to dependents up to age 25, regardless of whether they are full-time students. This allows parents to keep their children on their health plan through young adulthood, increasing young adults’ access to affordable health coverage. “Young adults …

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Roy Barnes said he’d sign bill to permit Sunday sales of alcohol in grocery stores

Walking around the state Capitol this morning, I ran into a lobbyist who said that former Gov. Roy Barnes, running to reclaim his old job, had put out the word that – if the Legislature were to pass a bill to permit the Sunday sales of beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores – he’d sign it.

Barnes himself just confirmed it:

“Yes. It ought to be a local decision. I believe in local control. It ought to be a local referendum, just like we do any of the others. I don’t know why we get cranked up about this, to be frank. That’s something that people ought to have to regulate themselves.”

The governor said hard times have increased acceptance. “Of course, I’m a Methodist, so we even speak to each other in liquor stores,” he quipped. “There may be some parts of the state that say, ‘We don’t want no part of this.’ But in other places, it’s part of their economic fiber.”

Barnes is one of several candidates for governor, both Republican and Democrat, who is to speak at a …

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A brewing fight over ethics legislation, as applied to DeKalb County

It looks like last year’s feud within DeKalb County’s ranks will continue at the state Capitol this session. The following note from Eugene Walker, a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education, is making the rounds.

The ethics bill he refers to is H.B. 888, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Levitas (D-Atlanta).

To wit:

More often than not, when there is a political ax to grind, the unforeseen collateral damages harm a far greater number of people than the originally intended target.

Take state Rep. Mike Jacobs, for example. Angry with former CEO Vernon Jones and myself, this Republican lawmaker sought to legislatively exact political revenge. He convinced the Georgia General Assembly to pass a law that only affected the Development Authority of DeKalb County.

The Development Authority of DeKalb County used to bring in hundreds of millions in new investment and thousands of jobs every year. No more. Thanks to Mike Jacobs’ law, the Development Authority of DeKalb County can …

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Your morning jolt: We’ll talk about embryonic stem cells this year, House speaker says

House Speaker David Ralston just finished a drop-by at a breakfast reception hosted by Georgia Bio, a consortium of academic and business interests engaged in life science research.

The group has been the primary opponent of legislation such as S.B. 169, a bill to put limits on embryonic stem cell research – beyond the federal regulations recently recast by the Obama administration.

The bill passed the Senate last year, but never made it out of the House Science and Technology Committee.

Ralston’s appearance at Georgia Bio was brief and budget-oriented. But afterwards, the House speaker was asked whether S.B. 169 would move this session. Ralston could have said that he was too concentrated on the state’s financial problems to think about such things.

He did not. Said Ralston:

“I think this is an important discussion. I haven’t taken a position on that bill, or this group’s work. I think that’s something we can bring people to the table [on] and have a positive discussion. …

Continue reading Your morning jolt: We’ll talk about embryonic stem cells this year, House speaker says »

Economist to lawmakers: Rethink those child labor laws

State lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon listened to a parade of experts assessing Georgia’s economy and the likelihood of recovery.

By far the star performer before a joint meeting of the House and Senate economic development committees was economist Robert Prechter, who has become famous for predicting the 2008 crash – in a 2002 book, “Conquer the Crash.”

Gov. Sonny Perdue has built his 2011 budget around the belief that the economy has bottomed out and that better times are ahead. Prechter expects financial markets to tumble again this year, in a crash larger than the one in 1929.

Good times.

“Even though Wall Street says 2010 is a year of recovery and bottoming out, I’m looking at it as more like the year that’s going to resume the problems that we had in 2008,” said Prechter, who should be required to issue his audiences free rolls of Tums whenever he opens his mouth.

Though he admitted that some of his ideas might be considered “radical,” Prechter gave lawmakers a list of …

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‘ACORN’ film-maker arrested by FBI in wiretap plot

Posted this afternoon by the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

The FBI, alleging a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in downtown New Orleans, arrested four people Monday, including James O’Keefe, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group’s credibility.

FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes alleges that O’Keefe aided and abetted two others, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who dressed up as employees of a telephone company and attempted to interfere with the office’s telephone system.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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House looks to move past sex and cash scandals with a fund-raiser for Haiti

I’m happy to stand corrected, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press release like the one below coming from the House speaker’s office – whether Republican or Democrat.

Consider it an astute and worthy move, by a chamber trying to rehabilitate its image:

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced a fundraiser, House Helping Haiti, to benefit the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. The event will take place on Thursday, February 11th from 5:30-7:00PM at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot.

“The people of Haiti have experienced unbelievable loss and destruction since the earthquake on January 12th,” said Speaker David Ralston. “I believe that we are in the position to help this nation get back on its feet. That is why House Republicans and Democrats are joining together in a bi-partisan effort to host a fundraiser to bring much needed funds to Haiti to help provide people with food, water, and other supplies.”

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have …

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‘Loser pays’ may be a price of ethics reform in Capitol

One price of an ethics bill in the Legislature, likely to included limits on gifts on lobbyists, may be a “loser pay” provision aimed at complaints merely intended to embarrass lawmakers or candidates.

During Monday’s joint meeting of the House and Senate ethics commissions, one of the most detailed proposals came from Atlanta attorney Doug Chalmers, who has strong GOP connections.

Read Chalmer’s entire proposal here. But focus on this portion:

(h) Authorize Commission to Award Attorneys Fees to Defendants in Cases Involving Frivolous Complaints.

All too frequently, complaints are filed against elected officials and lobbyists by individuals with a political agenda. In a number of these cases, the complaints are substantially frivolous, making allegations that are flatly inconsistent with the law or factual assertions that are demonstrably false from reports that are already on file with the Commission and publicly available. In many cases, the persons filing the complaints …

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