Your morning jolt: Private negotiations for local governments

On Tuesday, the House passed a bill to limit public access to crime scene photos.

Here’s the take from today’s Athens Banner-Herald:

With little debate, the House quickly approved House Bill 1332, legislation drafted in response to Hustler magazine’s request for copies of crime scene photos from the 2008 murder of Meredith Emerson. The recent University of Georgia graduate was kidnapped while hiking with her dog two years ago; her nude and dismembered body was found several days later.

House Speaker David Ralston assigned Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta, to sponsor the legislation because in previous sessions she has championed giving the public more access to government documents.

The legislation has made the state’s newspaper publishers slightly queasy. Not because they’re eager to put readers off their Cheerios, but because measures like this can be interpreted very loosely once they become law.

But the Georgia Press Association might want to pay more attention HB 1386, sponsored by state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), which was given a second reading on Tuesday in the House.

The bill would allow local governments to close meetings “when an agency is discussing or deliberating a future or existing service delivery agreement between such agency and a private company.”

Which could cover an entire range of shenanigans. Willard is the city attorney for Sandy Springs.

My AJC colleague James Salzer has this about a list of cost-cutting measures handed to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who quickly disavowed many of the recommendations:

Among them: freezing longevity raises for the state’s 150,000 teachers and making them pay more into their retirement system. New teachers also would be shifted to things like 401-K retirement plans rather than the current pension system. The task force report, released today, backs Gov. Sonny Perdue’s recommendation to create a “merit pay” system for teacher raises.

The task force calls for a review of college tuition “to ensure they are analogous with comparable institutions nationwide.” For schools like Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, which are considered low-tuition schools, that would mean a sizable tuition hike.

Another radioactive measure proposed “broadening the sales tax base to include additional selected services.”

Said Cagle to reporters: “That sounds a little bit like something a former [House] speaker was proposing a year or so ago.”

On the same topic, over at the Macon Telegraph, Travis Fain has this list of sales tax exemptions that are due to expire this year – and may not be renewed:

1. Non-profit health centers.

2. Non-profit volunteer health clinics.

3. Liquified petroleum gas/other fuel used in structures where swine are raised.

4. Food and beverage to qualified food banks.

5. Overhead materials used by government contractors in performance of contract with the U.S. government.

6. Gas/fuel/coal costs (above those that existed during 2008 session) used to manufacture property for resale.

7. Qualified job training organizations.

8. Annual sales tax holiday.

9. Motor fuel exemption for public mass transit vehicles and vehicles operated by campus public transportation systems.

This bit of farm news comes from Hoosier Ag Daily, out of Indiana:

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, a senior member of the Committee, have sent a letter to the President opposing budget cuts to farm programs in a tough economy. The letter was also signed by Senators Cochran, Thune, Risch, Graham, Crapo, Bailey-Hutchison and Vitter.

In their letter, the Senators wrote, “Cutting farm programs in the midst of an economic downturn sends the wrong signal to rural America. While we agree that fiscal restraint is necessary and spending in the Federal budget should be reduced, doing so in this manner places a disproportionate burden on the backs of farmers, ranchers and rural communities and fails to recognize the recent sacrifices these constituencies made to expand nutrition programs during the reauthorization of the 2008 farm bill.”

Finally, on Tuesday, there was speculation in this space that, by becoming a regular political contributor (Fox News aficionados would say fellow traveler) on CNN, that Erick Erickson of Macon-based RedState.com would have to sacrifice his late-night dinners with Sean Hannity.

This morning, Erickson assured us that this was not so in this e-mail: “I’ll still be doing my regular Hannity commitment once a month. Bring on the steak!”

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

24 comments Add your comment

Junior Samples

March 17th, 2010
10:25 am

????

March 17th, 2010
11:03 am

We all know where Saxby’s heart & lobbist are, hint it’s not Georgia.

East Lake Ira

March 17th, 2010
11:10 am

Kill Farm Subsidies!!! Why is the GOP afraid of the free market?

DK

March 17th, 2010
11:26 am

????, your comment is ignorant. Are you really complaining that Georgia is represented in senate committees that make decisions that affect Georgia? I can’t possibly see where anything he said showed that he wasn’t thinking about Georgia. He was speaking on behalf of rural America, and Georgia has plenty of rural areas. Agricultural concerns are big for Georgia and I’m glad to see that our senior senator is the ranking member on the committee.

I’m not a Republican and have plenty of issues with Chambliss, but remarks like your drips with blind partisan thinking that is neither constructive nor helpful.

Hazel

March 17th, 2010
11:39 am

But we are all fiscally conservative. Why don’t the rest of you cut your programs?

In their letter, the Senators wrote, “Cutting (Your Program Name Here) programs in the midst of an economic downturn sends the wrong signal to (Your Contributors/Constituents Name Here). While we agree that fiscal restraint is necessary and spending in the Federal budget should be reduced, doing so in this manner places a disproportionate burden on the backs of (Your Contributors/Constituents Name Here) and fails to recognize the recent sacrifices these constituencies made to expand (Something) during the (Recent Legislation-Pick One).”

oldfart

March 17th, 2010
11:41 am

Why would fuel for hog farmers be exempted from sales tax in the first place?

Jane

March 17th, 2010
11:53 am

Somehow the hogs have to get to market for slaughtering so that we have pork chops, roasts, sausage etc. I am under the assumption that trucks still operate with fuel. In order for the farmer to get the hogs to market they have to be transported. So this would be why hog farmers would be exempted from the fule sales tax.
I am sure that dairy farms and chicken farms have the same exemption if you check – for the same reason.

You Asked

March 17th, 2010
11:56 am

Oldfart… Fuel subsidies for hog farmers is just another in a long line of pork barrel projects.

oldfart

March 17th, 2010
12:02 pm

Uh, Jane, it states: “Liquified petroleum gas/other fuel used in structures where swine are raised.”
Nothing about trucks, etc. and chickens, goats, or other livestock are not named. I don’t think they are transporting them in “structures”, do you? Why do hog farmers get to heat their barns without paying sales tax on the fuel? It should be part of the cost of doing business just like the fuel used to heat say, the new KIA plant or any other industry.

Churchill

March 17th, 2010
12:14 pm

Saxby Chambliss is always 1st in line when it comes to taking care of the Ag. Billionaire Welfare Queens. I understand that Saxby’s Son is a lobbyist for the Ag. industry..

You Asked

March 17th, 2010
12:16 pm

Legislators and Gubernatorial candidates… Put down the axe and look at what services are being provided by state employees. State services have not been a “jobs program” or welfare especially since Governor Zell Miller made us a “right to work” (aka right to fire) state employee system.

While Federal and Local Government salaries are higher in many cases than private industry, compensation for state employees is anywhere from 4% to 30% lower than equivalent jobs in private industry. How many of the most talented state employees do you suppose will stay once private industry starts hiring again if you use them like a savings account and threaten to balance the budget on their backs? You are out to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

The “logic” that because the income is lower means we don’t need state employees is either ignorant or cynical election year politicking. At the same time our budget goes down our demand for services goes up. Medicaid claims, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families claims, unemployment claims, mortgage assistance programs, property crime, consumer fraud, etc. These and more are all areas where the demand for state services suddenly skyrockets at the same time budgets are slashed. You depend on state employees to work harder for less. In some cases people are doing 2-3 jobs and working a lot of uncompensated time because they care about serving their customers.

By any number of measures (low spending per capita, low revenues per capita, low fees, low state taxes, low tuition…) Georgia is one of if not the most fiscally conservative state in the nation. If you want to gripe about big government then look to the Feds who don’t know what a budget means. At the same time they have shifted the burden of many programs back on the state. We can be fiscally conservative and still have a reasonable expectation of what kind of revenue it takes to fund necessary services.

Can there be efficiencies gained and money saved in current budgets. Absolutely- but continue to do what employees are already doing, like the millions saved by Forestry by changing schedules and modifying travel plans, or the millions saved by DFCS by consolidating and updating their call centers, or the millions of hours and dollars saved by Driver Services by re-engineering their office procedures and making renewal available on line. All of these and more are employee led improvements that use the intelligence and pride state employees have in serving our citizens to the best of their ability. Don’t slash the talent- put it to work finding better ways to serve.

This is the best approach for the long term health of Georgia and her citizens.

DKS

March 17th, 2010
12:18 pm

Saxby’s son Bo is a Lobbyist for the Ethanol Industry and we all know what waste the taxpayer gets on Ethanol.

DKS

March 17th, 2010
12:20 pm

that should have been we all know what a taxpayer ripoff Ethanol is.

David S

March 17th, 2010
12:24 pm

Its amazing seeing how everyone seems to justify one special priviledge by raising up another special priviledge. Jane, please explain why anyone should get an exemption for anything. More importantly you so-called conservatives, please explain why the government should get ANY taxes as a result of a private transaction of goods or services. Either there is equity or there is not. Either there is freedom or there is not. The fact that we try to please everyone is why our government spending is out of control and everyone in society resents everyone else.

David S

March 17th, 2010
12:30 pm

As for the rest of the government shenanigans (a good Irish word for the day), that’s just more par for the course and yet another reason why government power must be taken away and restored to the voluntary private and productive sector of society. We never worry about backroom deals in private industry unless our tax money is involved. That is the beauty of letting people keep all of their income, spend their money only in voluntary exchanges, and for services that they wish to use.

d2

March 17th, 2010
12:31 pm

I think the problem is that tax exemption have no rhyme or reasons–For example, corporations get the biggest exempt but we have the highest unemployment. This is not going to change. The state legislature is full or well-to -do people. How else could you take off 40 days from what you are doing to make 20,000 dollars. These are the same people who write of their polaris as a business expense yet it is for pleasure, the same people who write off their John Deere riding mower for their businees expense, the same people who but a magnet sign on their personal care and write the depreciation off. Then working people are stuck because we can not find the loopholes they created. We cut the budget, and cut and cut, but continue to say run the state like a business. If that was true, business raise their prices to cover their expense, shouldn’t the state do the same.

d2

March 17th, 2010
12:32 pm

that should be car not care

????

March 17th, 2010
12:57 pm

DK 11:26 am

Did you know that Saxby’s Farm Bill was vetoed by President Bush because of the waste in it and the large amount of subsidy $’s going to nonfarmers? Rather than making the small cuts that President Bush wanted Saxby turned coat and worked with Pelosi, Ried and his best friend Teddy Kennedy to over over ride W’S Veto.

Inspite of the fact that Chambliss is the ranking member of the Ag. committee, Georgia does not get our fair share of the farm bill’s pork because Saxby is owned by the Corn & Sugar industry. Do a Google search on farm bill waste and you’ll throw up at what’s in it.

d2

March 17th, 2010
1:15 pm

Did you see who is on the Task Force–Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Deloitte and Touche–Yeah like that is good group to get input from–All state regulated with the most money to spend on lobbying. Georgia power can say layoff the state becuase to keep their employees they just raise our rates with a the commission rubber stamping it. The same goes for Atlanta Gas light. BCBS just raised thier rates again and up the deduction–Have any of this people laid off anyone–NO–have any of these business raised our rates–YES.. What an idiot–to put a team like this together to come up with STATE recommedations when they are the ones that benefit the most.

DannyX

March 17th, 2010
1:38 pm

d2 brings up some excellent points.

Just how does Georgia Power go from bragging about their “lowest rates in the country,” to almost the highest rates in the country in just 7 years?

Monroe Burbank

March 17th, 2010
1:57 pm

Republicans scream that Obama spending needs to reigned in, then they scream when some of those cuts adversely affect their constituency. I wonder how many other groups have borne a “disproportionate burden” when their funding was cut? Probably most in one way or another, I would think.

DannyX

March 17th, 2010
2:00 pm

How about Delta Airlines? Here’s a company that can be lampooned as much as marta. Yet to “protect jobs,” and keep them alive the state government showers them with gifts. Including that nice fuel tax exemption.

You ever hear a state politician scream to Delta, “RAISE YOUR FARES!!!!”

Nope, the disrespect is a one-way street. In fact it would be easier to lampoon Delta Airlines these days. Suffering from previous bad management, billions in debt, flight attendant cat fights, pilots forgetting to land, drug scandals, still losing money, bad on time record, and low customer satisfaction ratings, recent bankruptcy.

The state wouldn’t even allow marta to use an easy accounting fix to help them out a bind.

Delta gets a socialized government bail-out. Free market? LOL!

perverts lose

March 17th, 2010
2:05 pm

Why do newspapers want to print pictures of nekkid dead women? You are perverts

AF

March 17th, 2010
2:50 pm

Regarding Chambliss support of farm programs:

I see that a little socialism for farmers and rural America is okay. Does he really believe in capitalism or just opporunism?