Archive for the ‘MARTA’ Category

When a fiscal watchdog files for bankruptcy

For years, bureaucrats, attorneys, and lobbyists from MARTA have trudged to the state Capitol to defend their operations, their bookkeeping and their investments.


State Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta, chairman of the legislative committee that oversees MARTA, holds up a transit agency contract during a 2009 hearing. AJC/Kimberly Smith.

They come at the beck and call of state Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta, who chairs the General Assembly’s committee that has oversight of the state’s largest transit operation.

Chambers has taken a fine-tooth comb to MARTA’s expenses, whether credit-card abuse by low-ranking drones or the leasing of its train lines and rail cars to private firms for tax benefits.

Last year, MARTA board members declared that they were forced to pay an extra $480,000 to lobbyists just to cope with Chambers’ demands. The lawmaker said she was merely attempting to help the agency avoid the embarrassment of bankruptcy.

So office-workers at MARTA are no doubt …

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The jolt is back: Candidates for governor duck talk about science and jobs

Last month, Georgia Bio invited Democratic and Republican candidates for governor to a pair of forums, where they could express their views on science and economic development before an assembly of the state’s scientists, academics and CEOs of bioresearch companies.

The consortium of research and business interests scheduled two dates at Kennesaw State University: May 20 for Democrats, and May 27 for Republicans.

The stampede of candidates has been less than thunderous.

On the Democratic side, only three have agreed to attend: Attorney General Thurbert Baker, who last week declared biotech to be an essential part of his jobs program; former National Guard commander David Poythress; and Ray City Mayor Carl Camon.

House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter and former Gov. Roy Barnes have yet to commit, even though the KSU event is in Barnes’ backyard.

Response from the GOP side has been even weaker. Only former congressman Nathan Deal has agreed to appear.

Charlie Craig, president of …

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Your morning jolt: NAACP rescinds endorsement of anti-abortion bill

The Georgia chapter of the NAACP has formally rescinded its endorsement of SB 529, a bill that would bar physicians from performing abortions in cases where the fetus has been targeted because of race or gender.

The measure, intended to challenge Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court, could come up for a House floor vote on Tuesday. The statement from Edward DuBose, chapter president:

Earlier this month, the Georgia NAACP submitted a letter to support Senate Bill 529. We now fully understand the intention of this legislation and wish to retract our support for it.

At the time, we were of the understanding that this bill would work to benefit the women in our community. However, after many conversations with membership and constituents, we now realize that this is nothing more than using women’s health as a political tool.

Women of color in Georgia need more than divisive messages and deserve better access to health care.

We look to the Georgia General Assembly to support …

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Your morning jolt: The traffic jam resumes over a transportation bill

The state Capitol is full of workaholics. So when conference committees don’t work beyond rush-hour – this is a sign that the conferees are at an impasse.

Despite reports of a breakthrough, that’s what happened last night with efforts to move a transportation funding bill out of a conference committee.

We understand that the deal killer is a provision that would allow one-half of a one-cent sales tax to be used for MARTA operations.

House opponents to the provision are led by Speaker pro tem Jan Jones of north Fulton County. The Atlanta Regional Commission is warning that without the guaranteed income stream, MARTA won’t be able to qualify for additional federal funding.

Festivities are allegedly to resume this morning.

Grover Norquist, leader of Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, gave Republican lawmakers dispensation to vote last week for HB 1055, the conglomeration of tax increases, fee increases and future tax reductions designed to balance the state budget …

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House Speaker David Ralston: MARTA will have to wait

As mentioned this morning, Republican lawmakers are contemplating a quick transportation funding bill that doesn’t adhere to guidelines established in Gov. Sonny Perdue’s HB 1218.

But a hard-won provision in the governor’s transportation bill was a termporary lifting of the state requirement that MARTA equally divide its sales-tax revenue between capital and operating expenses.

MARTA official have described the flexibility as crucial to the transit agency’s operation in the current economy.

Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) has posted the second part of an audio interview with House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

The speaker drops few clues on what a passable transportation bill might look like. But this exchange doesn’t bode well for the transit agency:

O’Hayer:Can MARTA survive another year without a transportation plan that includes some loosening of the restrictions that it faces on how it spends the tax revenue it gets?

Ralston: I’ve been trying to understand how …

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Your morning jolt: Georgia Supreme Court upholds lawsuit protection for emergency rooms

In a split 4-to-3 vote, the state Supreme Court has upheld a key portion of tort reform legislation passed in 2005, which holds that emergency rooms can’t be sued without “clear and convincing evidence” of gross negligence.

Lawmakers had been watching the case, and were ready to respond with legislation had the court overturned the law.

The case, Gliemmo v. Cousineau, stemmed from a Muscogee County woman’s visit to St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, after she reported a “snapping in her head.” She was treated for high blood pressure and sent home.

Two days later, her family doctor discovered a brain hemorrhage that left her paralyzed.
The couple had argued that the 2005 tort reform law was unconstitutional because it gave hospital emergency rooms special treatment – protection from lawsuits that other medical providers don’t receive.

MARTA caught Gov. Sonny Perdue in the act on Saturday. Never a big booster of rail during his two terms in office, Perdue was spotted with his …

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Your morning jolt: Pro-tax, anti-tax forces ready themselves

When the Legislature reassembles next week, the pro-tax and anti-tax sides will be ready to pounce.

On Monday, backers of a dollar-a-pack cigarette tax will pitch their cause as one solution to a billion-dollar state budget gap. They’ll bring in the No. 2 medical officer for the American Cancer Society, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld.

On Tuesday, the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity will host a noon rally on the steps of the Capitol. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and no friend of Gov. Sonny Perdue, will be one of the speakers. Click here for the rest of the day’s AFP agenda.

House Speaker David Ralston on Thursday announced that a bipartisan fund-raiser for Haiti last month brought in a total $46,302. The fund-raiser also featured one of the more astute political moves we’ve seen out of the region’s predominant transit agency.

Beverly Scott, general manager and CEO of MARTA, presented the speaker with a $30,000 contribution from MARTA employees. …

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MARTA, Sonny Perdue and something of a thaw

Woody Allen is rumored to have said that 80 percent of life is showing up. The same fraction might be applied to politics.

If the meeting isn’t requested, if the invitation isn’t issued, if the face-to-face doesn’t happen, then nothing else does. Just as in real life, egos matter. Sometimes even more than the greater good.

Last year, MARTA chief Beverly Scott wandered the state Capitol, telling any lawmaker who would listen, and many who wouldn’t, that the Legislature needed to release MARTA from a kind of bondage imposed since the transit agency’s inception.

State law has prevented MARTA from using more than 50 percent of the cash it raises from the penny sales tax levied by Fulton and DeKalb counties on operating expenses. The other half must go to construction.

Without a change, without access to more of its own cash during hard times, MARTA would have to reduce service, perhaps by one day a week, the transit agency’s CEO told lawmakers.

But she didn’t tell …

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MARTA may charge by the mile or time of day

In less than two years, MARTA could move to a system that charges riders according to the distance traveled – or the time of day.

MARTA chief Beverly Scott told state lawmakers this afternoon that the transit agency is considering a shift away from the flat-fare charge system – which allows a rider traveling a train from Dunwoody to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to pay the same as a rider traveling one or two stops.

Scott said a recommendation will be made to the MARTA governing board by the end of April. If approved, the new pricing system could be in place by 2012.

The variable rate system could be applied to both bus and rail systems, or simply the rail system, Scott said. For some short-distance riders, the new system could result in a fare decrease, she told a meeting of House members representing DeKalb and Fulton counties.

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Kasim Reed to Legislature: ‘It’s time for a cease-fire’

Last year witnessed several loud, knock-down-drag-out fights between the Legislature and elements associated with the city of Atlanta. Usually, the city lost.

But in an effective appearance before the state House this morning, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed essentially promised that – while the situation may be even more dire this year – there won’t be a repeat.

“It’s time for us to have a cease-fire. We can deal with the stuff between us later. But right now, Georgia’s dominance as the capital of the South is threatened,” the mayor said.

Note that Reed identified Georgia as the capital of the South. Not Atlanta.

Reed’s invitation to speak was recognition that the House had served as the starting point for his political career – though Reed actually spent more years in the Senate. So the mayor understands that his former colleagues can be a prickly bunch. If Reed used the word “humble” once, he used it five times — before House members and in interviews afterwards.

His …

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