State pension secrecy needs light

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Every now and then, achievements in science, medicine and technology are breath-taking. Two in the past week come to mind. The first was a stupendous achievement at Emory University Hospital where a team of surgeons led by Dr. Linda Cendales performed a 19-hour surgery to attach a hand to 21-year-old Linda Lu. As a 1-year-old, Lu lost her hand to complications related to Kawasaki disease. It’s a first for Emory, though the surgery was first performed by a team that included Cendales in 1999 in St. Louis. And this week, even without a functioning “black box” flight recorder, searchers operating undersea robots found the wreckage of Air France’s Rio-to-Paris flight resting 2.4 miles below the surface of the Atlantic — and can identify some of the bodies before they are recovered. Even with a daily diet of economic gloom and incomprehensible brutality and murder, some news is worth waking up to.

● I may become a liberal again …

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Tax bill a rush to future taxes

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all:

● The real flaw in the tax revision proposal that’s moving much too quickly through the Georgia General Assembly is that it does something small-government conservatives should never allow. It opens the door to a widespread service-by-service sales tax without actually eliminating the income tax. Sure the top rate is reduced from 6 to 4.5 percent on the income tax. But the grow-government crowd to rule Georgia in the next decade or so can do what they do best: agonize about “tough-choices” and “profile-in-courage votes” — and then raise the rates back. Meanwhile, the proposed legislation is salted with the word “services” in opening the door too new sales taxes. Future legislatures will penny-ante us to death on implementing them, one or two services at a time. Today, it’ll be a tax on auto repairs and next year it’ll be the services utilized by “the rich.” On and on. Democrats have wanted this opening for years. And it’s the party of …

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Meddling in boards goes too far

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● After playing President Undecider through the turmoil in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere, President Barack Obama did his best George W. imitation, practically stealing his words, while teaming up with the Europeans to launch cruise missiles and drop bombs under U.N. direction on a nation that has no strategic importance to the United States, thus advantaging a group whose commitment to democracy is unknown. Though American lives were put on the line, the war that is being led
 by us, the French — or some committee of nations — did not rise to the importance that would warrant the interruption of Obama’s tour of South America.

● Since my first days in metro Atlanta decades ago, commissioners and legislators have been fighting about how to structure county government. Legislation introduced by state Rep. Kathy Ashe of Atlanta would make the Fulton County chairman full time with authority to hire and fire the county manager …

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The flight of political courage

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Republicans, with full control over redistricting and the state budget, have power under the Gold Dome to run roughshod over the opposition on issues important to them, even to the extent of passing proposed constitutional amendments. Not to worry, though. Georgia has no conservative majority, no rock-the-boat majority, and no majority that should cause old-line Democrats to fear power sharing. Latest example: A proposed change in education law that would have given school choice to parents who serve in the military, to those with children with mild to moderate disabilities and to those who take in foster children, failed to come up for a vote. It was tabled for the year by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.

● Political courage to these alleged right-wingers is to take out the legislative trash left by Democrats. While failing to give parents choice in public education, the state Senate did pass a bill to allow locals to …

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State spending cap a good idea

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Help me think. Excluding anything to do with the personal lives of celebrity athletes and entertainers, has more ink been spilled needlessly on any issue more frivolous than voter ID? The Georgia Supreme Court this week joined others in smacking down the whiners who kept arguing that somebody somewhere would be kept from voting because of the requirement — but could never produce a living soul. Or, heck, even a dead one.

● A cap on state spending, as proposed by State Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, would be an admirable addition to the state Constitution. The proposal is so flexible that only the most partisan proponents of big government can find objection. Spending is limited to the highest previous budget or to the previous year’s, plus population growth and the rate of government inflation. Collections above that will go to pay for increased school enrollment, retire debt and build the state’s “rainy day fund” to 15 …

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No rush to deal on health care

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● The 94 Republicans who signed on to a bill that would keep candidates off the ballot who won’t — or can’t — produce evidence of their eligibility is being interpreted as a “birther” bill directed at President Barack Obama. This president should be defeated in 2012 on the basis of his record. Chances are good that he will. Win or lose nationally, he won’t carry Georgia. There’s no need, therefore, for state Republicans to gin up distractions now with legislation such as this. Bring it back in 2013. The state will survive in the meantime.

● Republicans should consider health care deals like the one embraced by Obama this week after three things happen. One is that the U.S. Supreme Court affirms that the Constitution’s commerce clause gives the federal government the power to force individuals to buy a product designated by Congress. Two is that Obama is re-elected in 2012 and has the votes in Congress to uphold a veto. Three …

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Students, savers win with HOPE fix

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Among the more frightening revelations from the effort to keep the HOPE program solvent for future generations is how quickly the intelligent morph into welfare-state grubbers shouting “gimmee.” “HOPE must always fund 100 percent of tuition,” write the presidents of the student bodies at Georgia Tech and UGA in an AJC op-ed. Good students “should not have to go into debt in order to cover tuition.” Most frightening here, assuming that leaders speak for the masses, is that in less than two decades Georgia has turned its best and brightest into demanding dependents of government.

● Coupling HOPE scholarships to the state’s lottery revenues, as opposed to tuition levied, as Gov. Nathan Deal proposes, is a marvelous idea. While both the regents, who are responsible for setting tuition, and the governor and legislators, who are responsible for raising HOPE funds to pay it, have the same employer, it’s always been a bad idea to …

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Media should learn from Ludlow

Thinking Right’s weekend free for all. Pick a topic:

● Ah, so this is it. Drinkers who can’t make it through Sunday on the stash of booze they bought Saturday and those who were too discombobulated to remember on Saturday that booze is not sold on Sunday are not, it is revealed by the AJC, the driving force behind all the legislative attention directed to Sunday sales. It is the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores and its president, Jim Tudor. This is one of the reasons Republicans should be wary of getting too close to “business.” Business has the money and the incentive to legislate public policy in Georgia — and what’s good for their bottom line may not be good for others. (Really, this is not a hot-button issue with me. It’s simply that it’s symptomatic of a larger problem: Who decides what’s important for Georgia?)

● To all the recent comers to metro Atlanta, it’s a shame you weren’t here to hear radio personality Ludlow Porch, who died last Friday. America’s …

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Three cheers for a selfless coach

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Tuesday’s wrong-way-driver crash on I-285 caused an eight-hour shutdown of a section of the interstate that handles 200,000 vehicles per day. The wreck at Dunwoody demonstrates how vulnerable metro Atlanta is to gridlock — and how the terms employed in our transportation policy debate can lead to the wrong remedies. Commuters took to off-interstate roadways, the arterials. Those are, in fact, the “alternatives” that can serve a majority of the region’s drivers. Yet when the term “alternatives” is bandied about in transportation planning, it invariably is code for a costly mass transit network that’s an “alternative” for the few who happen to be near fixed stations. Spend where we get the most congestion relief for the dollar.

● Georgia’s children are more caring than we’ve realized. Last year a high number of students in about 10 percent of the state’s schools changed answers from wrong-to-right on the state’s standardized …

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Putting the brakes on junkets

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● State Republicans occupy all the big offices and control both the House and the Senate. And what does it get us? Probably Sunday liquor sales. And a House Speaker in David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, whose overwhelming appeal was that he possessed that common-sense grounding that has been a hallmark of the self-reliant, small-government fiscal conservatives. And what happens? He lets lobbyists promoting high-speed rail spend $17,000 sending him, his family, his chief of staff and his wife, to Germany and the Netherlands over Thanksgiving week to look at high-speed rail. In Washington, House Republicans have targeted for elimination or major cuts Amtrak subsidies, and intercity and high-speed rail. It’s a high-cost, subsidy-sucking pipe dream with no Thanksgiving-week urgency whatsoever. Free, unsolicited advice to the speaker. Pay back the money and never let lobbyists take you out of the state of Georgia. If a mass-transit …

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