A Legislature that once cowered in the face of angry church-goers out to protect their Sabbath is now entirely comfortable with a bill to permit the Sunday sale of six-packs and more.
The same state lawmakers who joined Zell Miller in his effort to deposit miscreants in state prisons for decades are giving second thoughts to the state’s two-strike policy.
Gov. Nathan Deal’s drug court idea, as a way to deal with addiction, is taking hold. Says the liberal state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, in today’s Savannah Morning News:
“It’s a sort of convergence of liberal and conservative ideas,” he said. “This idea is fiscally sound as well as socially responsible.
“We need to distinguish between the people we are afraid of and those we’re just mad at. We can’t afford to lock up everyone.”
Republicans often talk of the scare that November gave to President Barack Obama. Only rarely do they acknowledge that the same vote signaled the rise of a more libertarian brand of conservatism within the GOP.
This morning’s national example: Barbara Bush’s endorsement of gay marriage:
The working presumption here is that, as a second-generation – fourth, if you count Prescott Bush – Republican political voice, the daughter of George W. Bush ranks a step or two higher than Meghan McCain.
At 7 p.m. today, Republican presidential presumptive Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, will be signing his new book, “Courage to Stand,” at the Family bookstore, 6010 North Pointe Parkway, in Alpharetta. So far as is known, that’s his only public appearance during this particular foray into the state.
Not so fast, says Grover Norquist. The president of Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform on Monday took issue with an AJC article that said his visit to the state Capitol last week “gave cover” to the tax reform proposal now before the Legislature.
In a letter to lawmakers, Norquist called the piece “misleading.” More important, he said his verdict that, as a whole, the measure amounts to a tax increase remains in place — violating the no tax pledge that many state lawmakers have signed. In part:
On January 10, we informed you that a vote in support of the tax reform council recommendation is a vote for over $1 billion in higher taxes, and thus a violation of the Pledge.
That remains true today. The good parts of the reform package – reductions in marginal tax rates – are more than offset by base-broadening tax hikes. This is the Ted Kennedy school of “tax reform”: providing rhetorical cover for the growth of government. In a meeting with A.D. Frazier and others invested in tax reform for Georgia, I urged the council to adhere to the Ronald Reagan school: reducing marginal rates in a way that is at least revenue neutral, if not an pro-growth net tax cut. Tax reform does not require raising taxes.
Chairman Frazier assured me that he is committed to altering the proposal to achieve revenue neutrality. Should that happen, the council’s recommendation will be Pledge compliant. A statement of intention does not go far enough, though. It is incumbent on the council to either remove tax increases or further reduce marginal rates until the proposal is revenue neutral. When a final bill is filed with the legislature, we will examine it and inform lawmakers of its Pledge implications.
A few weeks ago, Carol Hunstein, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, told lawmakers that her branch of the government had taken to begging for pencils and pens from vendors to help cope with budget shortfalls.
Other senior state employees have taken up janitorial duties. From Walter Jones of Morris News Service:
Every Tuesday after work, 50 or so employees at the state Department of Agriculture volunteer to hang around the office to paint, scrub and scour the aging office building that houses their agency.
New state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black changes into work clothes and pitches in when his schedule allows. He also scrounged up donations for the paint, carpet and building materials since the agency’s budget won’t stretch that far.
Black’s goal is to dress up the building so it attracts school groups visiting the Capitol across the street.
Monday was a particularly uneventful day for the Legislature. Maybe we’re still feeling the effects of an icy beginning, or the long wind-up of a new administration, but Senate Rules Committee Chairman Don Balfour, R-Snellville, said he’s never seen legislative traffic so slow.
More evidence on the topic, again from Morris News Service:
The House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee’s only bill at its weekly meeting was House Bill 44 dealing with the wire buggies shoppers use in stores. While the legislation didn’t address the nuisance of wobbly wheels or annoying squeaks, it did take on the question of signage.
Current law makes it a misdemeanor offense to steal a grocery cart or to abandon it outside the store’s property. The law also requires the stores to display signs listing the law’s code section and warning shoppers of the price for hijacking buggies.
The bill’s author, Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, told the committee that the Georgia Food Industry Association had asked him to seek repeal of the sign requirement after a zealous code-enforcement officer cited a Food Lion store in Adel for failure to post the warning sign.
We’ve heard quite a bit from those in hot pursuit of federal cash for the dredging of the Port of Savannah. Not so much from those who are agin it.
The editorial section of today’s ajc.com has a pro-con on the topic. Here’s a taste of the con side, from Charles Watson Jr., president of Watson Technical Consulting in Savannah:
[A] deeper river can cause saltwater to intrude further upstream, killing freshwater wetlands used by migrating birds, harming fish habitats and requiring expensive filtration equipment on water intakes for businesses and communities.
The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers took over the studies in 2004 and, to save time, a computer model developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was modified for the job. I was contracted to evaluate that model. While it was a big improvement, it wasn’t quite ready.
The model has several shortcuts, large uncertainty in its predictions and wasn’t tested adequately. For example, it cannot handle the twice daily tide cycles in our marshlands, and estimates of the salinity levels at Savannah’s freshwater intakes could be much different than forecast.
As a result, the expense of filtering that water, a cost taxpayers will be stuck with, may prove to be greater than estimated. Or not as high. We just don’t know. Given the time, money and effort spent, this uncertainty is tragic, and could have been avoided. When the Corps begins dredging, it will be doing an experiment on Savannah’s greatest natural resource, an experiment with an uncertain outcome. I hope there are no surprises.
I would accept significant environmental risk if the economics were sound. But the macroeconomics of this project are terrible. A serious concern is that the deepening risks further damaging our already struggling manufacturing sector.
Everyone was rightly excited that Mitsubishi built a new plant in Pooler, near Savannah. A reason companies manufacture locally is that it’s less expensive than importing from places where labor is cheap and other costs (such as environmental compliance) are low.
By making imports cheaper, which is the main effect of the deepening, a future Mitsubishi may decide it is more profitable to stay put and import, rather than build systems here.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider