Tuesday, October 30, 2007

David Corr, James Timley, Macon City Council and Forest Hill Road

I agree with Amy, this could get interesting.

If the Forest Hill Road activists get behind Libertarian David Corr's campaign to unseat James Timley (in what will be a citywide election), with no other real races on the ballot to pull in voters, and Timley not really campaigning, and a lot of people probably not knowing he faces competition... Corr could actually win this thing.

However, if he does win, there's some discussion of a possible challenge to Corr's right to be seated, based on some election law interpretations dealing with write-in candidates. Matt Barnwell here at the paper is looking into it.

UPDATE: This is Matt's story from the other day. I spoke to Corr today and he was emphatic that his candidacy is legal, and that the proper attorneys and authorities have been consulted.

Corr usually knows his stuff when it comes to election law. And the whole issue seems to boil down to this: State laws are hard to interpret when it comes to Macon because we're the only city in the state that has partisan primaries for city offices.

Anyway, it's certainly not a reason to stay away from the polls.

But do his tears cure cancer?

Macon's Erick Erickson, of Peach Pundit fame, is the 69th most influential conservative in America according to Britain's Telegraph.

He's two spots ahead of Chuck Norris. Chuck freaking Norris. Also, they mis-spelled his name. Whaaammmmy.
69. ERICK ERIKSON

Founder and CEO of the conservative website redstate.com who also blogs on his personal site erickerickson.org, entitled Confessions of a Political Junkie, and on Georgia politics at peachpundit.com. A Republican political consultant and self-described “recovering lawyer”.

At just 32, Erickson epitomises the new power of the internet. A small-government fiscal and social conservative based in the south, he taps into and influences the Republican “base” that the GOP’s 2008 candidates are courting. Only started blogging in 2003.

All jokes about Chuck Norris, Erick's name and the number 69 aside, congratulations to a good guy. I've always enjoyed quoting Erick because I feel like he's very fair minded and more than willing to criticize people in his own party when he doesn't agree with them. It'll be interesting to watch him join the Macon City Council this December.

UPDATE: Other folks he beat out: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Fox News Molester... er Host Bill O'Reilly.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Carville, Matalin here next week

In my haste to leave for Jacksonville last week I neglected to mention this.

It's for members only, but I'm sure we'll provide good coverage. From Mercer University:
MACON — James Carville and Mary Matalin, Washington’s best-loved political couple, will be the featured speakers at The Executive Forum of Mercer University Presented by BB&T, on Wednesday, Nov. 7. The couple will give a dinner presentation at 6:30 p.m. at The University Center on Mercer’s Macon campus.

A bit on water

This is from Halimah Abdullah, our correspondent in D.C. She got it from Barb Barrett, the DC correspondent for the Raleigh News and Observer who covered the hearing for McClatchy Newspapers.
Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga, tried to put N.C. Gov. Mike Easley on the spot Thursday during his testimony to the House Agriculture Committee. The state of Georgia happens to be in a spat with Alabama over stream flows that could – depending on how the Army Corps of Engineers cranks the faucet – provide water for the thirsty Atlanta region or flood out a pair of endangered invertebrates living in the water basin.

What, the congressman asked, would Easley do in the same situation?

Easley started out delicately, pointing out that he is friends with the governors of both states, and that he knows they are friends with each other.

“If I were in that situation in North Carolina, I would demand as much conservation as possible,” Easley said. “I think all of us can conserve more than we are now.”
Then he added, “But you’ve got to make sure people who need water can get water.”
Then again, he said, if a governor were to ask his people to conserve water, they’ll do it.

“If citizens are called upon and you give them something concrete to do, it’s amazing the way they’ll step up,” Easley said.

He finished by offering that Alabama and Georgia will likely find agreement somewhere.

“They’ll get together to work it out,” he said.

After the hearing, when reporters asked Easley about the question, he broke into a wide grin.

“I wasn’t going to touch that with a 10-foot pole,” Easley said. “I have too many friends involved.”

Dan Lakly, rest in peace

State Rep. Dan Lakly, R-Peachtree City, has died. I never met Rep. Lakly, but any man's death diminishes us.

My thoughts are with his family.

Rep. Lakly.

Well, I'm back

Left my heart in Jacksonville and my mind ain't what it used to be. But I'll try to get it in gear.

Couple of things from while I was out:

There's a new study out on the DOT's funding shortfall. Check it out here.

And the NRCC and Georgia GOP are jumping on U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall and other Democrats over U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel's tax plan and some campaign donations. Haven't had time to get the facts, but you're welcome to the press release.

The best part is where they call Rangel the "father of the Mother of All Tax Hikes."

Also, I think there might still be a drought on.

Glory, Glory to old Georgia.

UPDATE: From Doug Moore on the Marshall thing:
"Jim Marshall — I think he's pretty likely to buck leadership when he thinks they're wrong. This could be one of those instances."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On to more important matters

On my way to Jacksonville. See you Monday.

Reservoir presser tomorrow

The Speaker and the Lt. Gov. just put out a joint press release announcing a press conference tomorrow about "future water reservoir development."

It's at 10 a.m. at the Capitol.

Boiling down the boil down

I try to read Fitzlew every day. It's essentially a state news clipping service linked over on the right there.

A few things I found interesting today:

An AJC piece on building codes and the drought. The sentence that caught my attention:
In Cobb and Gwinnett counties, for example, officials considering building requests don't require developers to report how much water their projects will use.

Current population of those two counties, by the way: Elleventy Billion. Swells to twentity billion about 10 minutes after the downtown rush hour.

105 percent is more than 100 percent.

The latest state credit card fallout.

The coming retirement whammy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Blah blah blah. Drought. Blah blah blah. Taxes. Blah blah blah. Jim Marshall

Nothing is grabbing me today. Though I do think it's cool to have the Dalai Lama around.

I heard him speak at an Emory graduation several years back. He was funny.

"Big hitter, the lama."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Water questions

It looks like the drought story is starting to turn to the obvious question of: How did we not plan better for this? That's a good thing. But the key is to figure out what else we're not preparing for.

Anyway, I have two questions about water:

1. If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, why is it important to conserve water?

2. Exactly how much of the water the Army Corps of Engineers is letting out of Lake Lanier is for mussels, how much is for sturgeons, how much is for that power plant and how much is for other stuff?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mac Collins: In or out?

UPDATE: Damn internet. I miss the days of just one deadline. Just got off the phone with Collins. His comments have been added below the original post.

---

This is going to be in our Political Notebook tomorrow. I have next to no idea what it all means, so if someone wants to explain it to me before I have to leave for the airport at 3:30, call me at 478.744.4213.
Mac Collins, who lost a tight race to (U.S. Rep. Jim) Marshall last year, has said he's likely to make another run for the Republican nomination (in the 8th District). But in late August he sent the FEC a letter — called a disavowal response — specifically stating he's not a candidate for Congress. That letter was in response to an FEC letter to him triggered when he hit a certain fundraising threshold.

At any rate, if Collins is planning another run, he's taking it easy on the fundraising. He has more than $134,000 on hand, according to an FEC filing that he amended Thursday to show a $130,000 loan he apparently made to the campaign at the end of June and some other cash he had on hand before this latest reporting period ended Sept. 30.

Before that amendment his Oct. 13 filing showed about $858 on hand.

It's all kind of confusing. Via email, Collins very politely declined to comment on this stuff, though he did call The Telegraph's attention to the amended filing.

Collins on the disavowal letter: "They thought I was a candidate and it simply says I'm not a candidate today. That doesn't mean in April, when qualifying comes around, I won't be in it."

On the amended filing: "It was an error, plain and simple. (The original) was filed without all of the previous two reports being accrued and merged into the third one."

Who says money makes you successful?

This isn't a completely formed thought, but I have to get on a plane this evening...

In response to the tax article referenced below, many of the online commenters said I was attacking people for being successful. By successful they meant wealthy.

Who says they're successful? Or that having money, a nice house and property is what makes them successful.

I've got a buddy who's a missionary. He's getting married on Saturday. He might never make money.

Anyone think he's not successful?

Forget taxes for a minute. Why do we put rich people on a pedestal?

Maybe NFL players and celebrities should get paid in the opportunity to do good deeds.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Uh, oh. The wedding may be off.

I am sure some will see this as a hit-job. I promise that was not the intent.

Taxes.

As always, if there's an aspect of this story, or any other, you want me to cover, I'm not hard to find. tfain@macon.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Boom!

The House is auditing state departments. From the Political Insider guys:
“I haven’t spent a lot of effort asking if there is going to be any cooperation. I am just trying to do my job,” (Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson) said. “If refuse to cooperate … they will have a budget of zero. This is not a request. You are going to have a zero in your budget if you don’t come forward with information.”

I don't know which is more ridiculous, the idea that the departments would refuse such an audit, or that the Speaker of the House would threaten to completely defund them. I think I have a man crush on the Speaker.

Almost the first loser

Mike Huckabee needs to learn how to brag better. From a Huckabee campaign press release:

RASMUSSEN REPORTS POLL: HUCKABEE "VIRTUALLY TIED"FOR SECOND IN IOWA, CLOSING ON ROMNEY
Little Rock, AR – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has continued his strong push toward the top of the polls in Iowa, moving into a statistical tie with former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson and leading national frontrunner Rudy Giuliani by 6 percent, according to a poll released today by the Rasmussen Reports. Rasmussen Reports, the nation's most accurate polling firm during the 2004 presidential election, indicated Romney attracts 25 percent of likely caucus participants, followed by Thompson at 19 percent and Huckabee at 18 percent, "virtually tied for second."

"This poll is just the latest in a series that reflect what we have been seeing across Iowa," Huckabee said. "We are gaining more support and momentum as each day goes by and it's clear my conservative message is resonating with the people of America."

In other news, the Dawgs may be tied for 4th in the SEC East against Florida, but we're only one game away from being tied for first place. Unfortunately that game has already been played. We called it "Tennessee."

Yes, I'm taking a cheap shot here that doesn't really make a lot of sense. No, I probably wouldn't poll very well in Iowa.

Herring: Stop blaming the mussels. Solve the problem.

I met Neill Herring earlier this year at the state Capitol. He's an environmental lobbyist.

I found him to be extremely well informed every time he opened his mouth. He's coming from a certain place: He's a passionate environmentalist. But I trust him and I trust his logic.

He sent this out via email today and I'm printing it here:
Poor Atlanta Has a Head Cold. Therefore, Everyone Downstream Should Die of Pneumonia

The problem for Atlanta is an inadequate water supply.

That inadequacy is now apparent because a drought has made it plain enough for even Saxby Chambliss (or ___ ____ fill in the blank) to see that there is an inadequate water supply.

If you don't have enough money to meet all your expenses, you either find more money, or you reduce your expenses. For example, you will probably choose to pay your rent instead of going out to eat three times a day.

Editor's note: Isn't that a pretty typical conservative argument? That government needs to tighten it's belt, like a family would, instead of raising taxes. To continue:
What your landlord does with the money he gets from you for your rent may be as wasteful as it can be, but that fact is none of your business, nor is it an argument for lower rent to which anyone but you will pay any attention.

Atlanta needs to quit "eating out three times a day." That means, for water budgeting, in addition to stopping its wasting of water on thirsty landscapes, Atlanta needs to do four things: 1) Fix its leaking water pipes. 2) Set a price for water that discourages wasteful use of it. 3) Switch its one million obsolete high use plumbing fixtures. 4) Stop letting developers "save money" (for themselves, maybe, but certainly not for anyone else) by putting in new septic tanks in Metro, and get a program in place to put the existing Metro septic tank users on sewers, so that water will be in streams instead of in tanks in people's yards.

When all of that is done, then perhaps it will be time to worry about shellfish in Florida having too much water during droughts.

The people who are blaming shellfish in Florida for Atlanta's inadequate water supplies are the same people who have avoided doing any of the things listed above to increase the amount of water Atlanta has available, our elected officials.

Even if these leaders succeed in their perfectly mad project of killing every mussel and oyster between the GA line and the Gulf of Mexico, Atlanta will still be wasting water, and it will run out again, at the next drought, with no aquatic species to blame.

Atlanta can continue to grow, or Atlanta can stop wasting water, but it cannot do both.

Our Brilliant Federal Legislators Find a Solution--Perhaps next they will devise a Problem to Accompany it.

I would like to know where John Lewis thinks the south would be if Governors could set aside federal statutes in case of "emergencies.?"

I think this is a legitimate question. Any time these fools come up with this kind of stupid tinkering this is the sort of suggestion we see.

This bill says that we want to protect endangered species, as long as they are not actually endangered, but if they are in danger, then we dont really care all that much if it means car washes and commercial landscapers are inconvenienced.

Editor's note: Nice. And he's talking about this bill, in case you didn't know. He's not being literal in the next paragraph. That would be jumping the shark:
A similar attitude on other statutes would be welcome in some places. Homicide, for instance, should be prohibited, unless you really need to kill someone, and in such an emergency, it would be ok. Likewise theft.

Finding More Water for Metro Atlanta, and Storing it in Reservoirs

On the matter of reservoirs, a radio newsman from Atlanta asked me about new reservoirs to supply water to Metro Atlanta. He asked the most obvious of questions, yet the one that is almost never asked: "Where is the water to fill those going to come from?"

I told him that I suppose it will come from the existing reservoirs, by intercepting water that would otherwise flow into Allatoona, Lanier, and the like.

This reservoir solution reminds me of fairy tales.

There is one about the fishermen with the magic salt mill who wanted salt for their fish for lunch. They got that salt, but could not stop the mill from making salt, so they cut a hole in their boat to let the salt out. The boat then sank and now the ocean is salt water, because they never did stop that mill from making salt.

Or maybe its the one about the leprechaun who was seen burying his rainbow gold under a tree by a woodman, who then tied his handkerchief around the tree trunk while he went to get a shovel. When he returned, there was a handkerchief around every tree in the forest.

Editor's note: I was following it right up until the word "leprechaun." He may have jumped the shark.
There is also a Midas touch in this: Everything Atlanta touches turns into over-development, instead of gold.

What fairy stories and Atlanta reservoir schemes have in common is magic thinking. Reality offers no barrier to either type of narrative.

With apologies to Neill, allow me to sum up his thoughts, as I took them to be. Atlanta's problem is not a bunch of mussels and an evil Army Corps of Engineers. It's decades of wasteful practices, a populace too selfish to conserve and politicians too eager to pander to actually help solve the underlying problem.

Where am I from, you ask? Smyrna. And where do my parents live? Just outside of Roswell, in east Cobb County, in a three story house in a neighborhood with a lot of really green sod.

Perhaps I should offer them equal time.

UPDATE: My parents report that the lawn is no longer green. Perhaps I should visit more often.

Glenn Richardson, Charles Darwin, taxes and human nature

I'm reading The Origin of Species. Watch me speciously relate it to tax philosophy.

Let's assume, for the purposes of this post, that Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson/famed economist Arthur Laffer's tax plan for Georgia is a fairer system; that it won't significantly raise taxes for the poor or middle class; that it will spur growth (without somehow also exacerbating our water issues) and expand the economy so that everyone's tax burden goes down.

Here's why it still won't pass: It's too much. Instead of lowering property taxes, or doing away with them on people's primary home, or putting in some kind of circuit breaker for people on fixed incomes, or doing away with some of the sales tax exemptions politicians say they hate but keep voting in, or doing any of a hundred other small things, it goes after the whole enchilada.

No more property taxes. A new sales tax on services instead and something between a $8.5 and $10 billion swing in revenue collection. People can't grasp it. There's no way to predict how their tax burden will actually change. It scares the $(*% out of them.

Even the speaker's office can't or won't show the math it's using to say the tax will raise enough money to keep all these local governments running.

What the hell does this have to do with Darwin? I ran across this quote last night. He was talking about why no one would believe in the concept of natural selection, despite the fact that it seemed to make a lot of sense:
The chief cause... is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps. ... The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations.

My prediction? We'll see some sort of tax reform when the General Assembly convenes next year. But not so sweeping as has been suggested.

Of course, what I don't know could fill a warehouse.

DOT names new head

UPDATE: The link may expire soon, but Dick Pettys wrote a great piece about the inside politics of this decision. Of note for Middle Georgians: Our DOT Board Member, Larry Walker, nominated Abraham for the position.

---

It's Gena Abraham, who will be the first woman to hold the position. Pretty cool.

From the DOT:
ATLANTA — The State Transportation Board met today and named Gena Lester Abraham, PhD., as DOT Commissioner effective December 1, 2007. Abraham will become DOT's 14th Commissioner and first woman ever to hold the stateユs top transportation post overseeing 5,800 employees statewide and over $2 billion annual agency budget.

"There were several great candidates and it was a tough decision but Gena's experience and management discipline are extraordinary. The Department faces many challenges and I know Gena has the ability to face them head on. I have every confidence that she will be able to shape a bright future for transportation in this state," said State Transportation Board Chairman Mike Evans.

Dr. Abraham was appointed by Governor Sonny Perdue in February 2006 as State Property Officer and has served as the Executive Secretary and the Director of the Construction Division of the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission (GSFIC) since June 2003. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor of Construction Engineering and Management in the Civil Engineering Department at the Georgia institute of technology.

Dr. Abraham has also served as Chief Engineer for the Georgia Building Authority. Prior to coming to state government she managed construction across the U.S.ハfor LaSalle Partners. Dr. Abraham serves on several boards including: Chair of the Georgia Land Conservation Council, Secretary Treasurer of the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority, MARTA Board, State Board of Equalization and the Capital Asset Management Advisory Council.

She holds a bachelor's degree and doctorate in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Abraham has one son.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Goddard, Marshall $$ numbers are in

For those of you who are into campaign finance numbers, and who don't also read Political Insider (there's gotta be, like, what, two of you?), the 8th District fundraising figures are in.

Some coverage.

The FEC's Web site if you aren't the trusting sort.


I glanced at the numbers myself - looks like retired Gen. Rick Goddard out-raised U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall in the 8th District the last period, but Marshall has more cash on hand overall.

And if Mac Collins is running for Congress, he sure is taking a laid back approach to the fundraising. He's got about $858 on hand.

Congress jumps into the water issue

Just got this announcement from U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss' office, but it had quotes from pretty much every member of Georgia's Congressional delegation:
WASHINGTON – Members of Georgia’s congressional delegation have introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to alleviate the current water crisis by allowing states suffering from droughts to be exempt temporarily from the Endangered Species Act, which in Georgia is threatening our low water supply by taking away large amounts of water from north Georgia and sending it downstream to protect mussels and sturgeon in Florida.

Specifically, the legislation would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to allow a state to be exempt from the Act when the Secretary of the Army or a Governor declares that drought conditions are threatening the health, safety and welfare of residents in a region served by a river basin managed by the federal government. U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have introduced the legislation in the Senate and members of Georgia’s delegation introduced the legislation in the House.

Hard to say if this will bring a solution, without further litigation, to the state's fight with the federal government over lake water levels and how much water the Army Corps of Engineers lets out of them.


"Don't know why/ I love you like I do."

Monday, October 15, 2007

They're going to win a Pulitzer

I wrote a couple of pieces about the state's mental health system for today's paper.

One focuses on Central State Hospital in Milledgeville.

The other is a broader look at a new sense of optimism and potential increased spending after the Department of Justice kicked off its investigation into the system.

I asked most of the advocates that I interviewed for these stories how much credit The AJC deserves for getting things to turn on this issue. At least, they seem to be turning. The AJC's fantastic series, written by Alan Judd and Andy Miller, is online here.

Basically, their answer was: A ton. They also had kind words for Don Schanche, who wrote a lot about mental health before he left The Telegraph for The Associated Press.

The state didn't give The AJC the same credit when I asked how much the newspaper's reporting had to do with this new funding push.

"I would say that The AJC told the public a story that many of us work in every day," said Gwen Skinner, who heads the DHR division responsible for the state's mental hospitals.

It took her a while to get that out, with lots of pauses.

State officials can downplay The AJC's role in this. They can say recent budget requests and hiring pushes aren't related to the Department of Justice showing up at their doorstep with an investigative team.

But don't kid yourself. Journalism works. Take that, Bill Shipp.

Bill Shipp's kind of a jerk

But I suppose he's got a point.

Sort of. Everything he's complaining about he appears to know about because he read it in a newspaper. I guess the Democratic Party can't call him about everything.

I can't answer for "the media," which all intelligent people blame when things go wrong. But, as for myself, I'm trying, Bill. Thanks for the pep talk.

On self-fulfilling prophecies

Look, I'm a white kid from metro Atlanta. What I don't know about race could fill a warehouse.

But I do know that can't never could. And what happened to supporting the best candidate without regard to winning?

Been doing it my whole life. It's called Georgia Bulldog football.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Man, the water issue is hopping today.

MONDAY UPDATE: Stop using water. Don't flush the toilet, don't turn on the sink, don't even sweat. I suggest this instead.

Wish I had more time for analysis, but here's the three press releases, in the order recieved:

Gov. Sonny Perdue's:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that he has directed the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to provide a letter outlining a solution to the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the excess release of water from ACF reservoirs.

Governor Perdue has requested the immediate alteration of all ACF reservoir releases, so that releases from Woodruff Dam at Lake Seminole are only equivalent to inflows, up to 5,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). Governor Perdue stipulates that if inflows are greater, releases should only equal 5,000 CFS and all additional inflows will be stored. In order to make an immediate short-term impact on Georgia’s water supply, Governor Perdue requested this action be taken at once, and kept in place until March 1, 2008.

“Today we are handing the Army Corps of Engineers a solution to an ongoing problem that has contributed to the most severe drought in Georgia history,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “This is a unifying document that will help citizens that live upstream, midstream and downstream of Georgia’s reservoirs, as well as citizens in Alabama and Florida. I am extremely grateful for the united support of Georgia’s state leaders such as the Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker Glenn Richardson, as well as our Congressional delegation including Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson.”

Governor Perdue set a deadline for a response from the Corps by of close of business Wednesday, October 17, 2007. If a favorable response is not rendered by this time, Governor Perdue will pursue all options, including legal measures if necessary.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle:
“The document that the Army Corps of Engineers received today presents a win-win solution for all involved. This is a reasonable and workable resolution to our water shortage and I commend the Governor as well as our entire state and federal delegation for working together to aggressively address this issue. It is our hope that the Corps will quickly move forward with the plan presented before them."

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson:
"Obviously the current water shortage is an issue our state must address. The solution offered to the Army Corps of Engineers is something Governor Perdue, Lieutenant Governor Cagle, Senators Isakson and Chambliss, Georgia's Congressional delegation and I have worked together on, and I am committed to ensuring that the Corps follows through on the solution we have submitted."

Showing your work

Remember when you were in high school and your teacher wanted you to show your work on math problems? In fact, at Campbell High School (the best high school in the world) you couldn't get credit unless you did.

I've been asking the speaker's office for weeks to show their work on revenue predictions on the GREAT plan. At various times they've said the plan to add a new sales tax to services, and repeal various tax exemptions on good (such as food) would raise $8 to $10 billion. The Georgia Department of Revenue puts total property taxes levied around the state, which are used to fund local shools, cities and county governments, in the neighborhood of $10 billion.

But obviously there's a hell of a lot of assumptions and math involved in getting to that $8 or $10 billion figure. So let's see it. You've got an answer, so you must have some equations.

The speaker's office says this is coming, but it's not done. And since no one is going to vote on this thing until at least January, I suppose that's reasonable. Sort of. But in the meantime it seems like they're asking us to trust them.

But the Georgia State University Fiscal Research Center has put out a brief on this issue, which seems to estimate far less revenue from the new taxes:
In this report we present alternative estimates of the additional revenue that could be generated by eliminating current sales tax exemptions and taxing services. The revenue that could be generated depends on how aggressive the state wants to be in eliminating sales tax exemptions and adding services. No one knows what the General Assembly might decide to do, so it is not possible to produce one estimate, and thus we present a range of estimates.

As a benchmark, one might consider a sales tax that continued to exempt most business-to-business sales and that taxed purchases of services by households other than health services and education services, but not business purchases of services. Our estimates suggest that this alternative would generate an additional $2,605.2 million in state sales tax revenue and $1,420.9 million in local government sales tax revenue, or a total of $4,026.1 million. This would be a sales tax that applied mostly to consumers.

If services provided to business were included, the revenue estimate would increase to $4,106.9 million for the state government and $2,434.7 million for the local governments, for a total of $6,541.6 million. (This estimate assumes that 30 percent of gross receipts would not find their way into the tax net, e.g., because the purchases are made by a government, etc.) To generate more than $6.5 billion in additional sales tax revenue would require the state to be much more aggressive than other states appear to be in dealing with exemptions and adding services.

It's all pretty complicated. The full report is available here. It's the second one from the top, called Revenue Estimates for Eliminating Sales Tax Exemptions and Adding Services to the Sales Tax Base.

I'm putting in another request for the math with the speaker's office and I'm going to call the Fiscal Research Center for some comment.

UPDATE from the speaker's office: Clelia Davis, spokeswoman for Speaker Richardson says:
"This is the same Georgia State economics department which, only a few weeks ago said that eliminating sales tax exemptions alone would generate 9-10 billion a year in revenue. That study turned out to be wrong, and that is part of the reason we have had a delay in releasing our numbers."

By the way, James Salzer at The AJC is way ahead of me on this. Maybe I shouldn't have spent so much time outside yesterday.

No, I made the right decision.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Drop what you're doing and go outside

Seriously, how can you spend a moment of your spare time doing anything else today?













Macon, Georgia, 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reading within the lines

I think we can safely say Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is against the speaker's tax plan.

Last month:

"Senior citizens most likely, in most cases ... would be penalized greatly."

Last week in Macon:
"First of all, this is not a tax cut, it's a tax shift," he said. "There will be winners and losers. ... People who don't own real estate are going to have huge (tax) increases."

And yesterday:
"It will put Georgia in a competitive disadvantage versus other states for business," he said. "And that would give me great heartburn."

Muslims in Macon

I went to the mayor's Ramadan dinner last night. I must say, it was weird seeing 50+ Muslims pray toward Mecca in the City Council chambers.

And the white robbed Imams - I'm not going to lie, they made me nervous. Because they were young, Middle Eastern men dressed like you'd see a terrorist dressed in the movies.

But that's my prejudice, my problem. All they did was pray.

A lot of people freaked out about this event, and they probably have a point about setting a precedent by allowing a religious themed event in council chambers. But, even with a large crowd praying in Arabic Tuesday night, the score for city hall praying is still Muslim prayers: about 50, Christian prayers before council meetings: a billion.

And of course I didn't see the folks who freaked out there. Heaven forbid they actually witness what they were complaining about. What I did see were several Imams, a Rabbi and a Baptist minister sharing a podium.

"We have to share," said one Imam, whose name I did not catch. "We have to know each other."

Amen. That is how things change.

I wanted to stay for dinner, but had to leave to edit some video I shot. I edited it poorly. But you can see it here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Obama questions

UPDATE: Computer problems are dominating my afternoon, so I had to jump off the call. The Obama campaign is opening an Atlanta office Nov. 1, though.

I'm going to sit in on a conference call tomorrow with David Plouffe, who is U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign manager.

Any questions, post them in the comments or email them to tfain@macon.com and I will do my best to ask them.

The parking lot guns bill

Joe Fleming, over at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, called my attention to this: Oklahoma gun law struck down by federal court.

It'll be interesting to see how that affects efforts to pass similar legislation here. The NRA is pushing for legislation that would keep business owners from forbidding their employees from keeping a gun in their car in the business parking lot. The chamber is dead-set against it.

The fight got a little ugly during the past legislative session. The language was eventually lifted into another bill (HB 89), but you can still read the original language of Senate Bill 43.

UPDATE: State Sen. Chip Rogers, SB 43's initial sponsor, says:
I don't anticipate SB 43 will be up for consideration. However, HB 89 will likely move. Whether there is anything attached to it, I can't say for sure. The last we debated this issue the proposed Georgia legislation was much different that what was law in Oklahoma.

Ramadan / looking around this morning

Not surprisingly, this is the most popular story on our Web site right now.

Because there is absolutely nothing more important going on right now than our wacky mayor holding a community forum on Ramadan, followed by a dinner, at City Hall.

I think I'm going to put aside concerns of separation of church and state and attend. This town needs people to deal with each other on their own turfs.

In other news:

I won't pretend to understand this, but I know it's important. (It's a Jim Wooten piece about changing the way education is funded in Georgia.)

Also: Use less water, jerk.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Wait, Jack Ellis likes to travel?

The best thing about this story isn't that Macon Mayor Jack Ellis spends more time traveling than the mayor of Atlanta. It isn't that he spends more days out of the country than our congressman.

It's that we've written this same story three times and he seems to be increasing his travel, not decreasing it.

From Matt's story Sunday:
Macon Mayor Jack Ellis' globe-trotting is not easily ignored: His out-of-town trips had him away from the city for more than 10 of the first 36 weeks of the year, according to his schedule.

From my story in 2006:
Last September, Macon Mayor Jack Ellis logged more than 6,000 miles in a few days, eating well in restaurants in Spokane, Wash., and on the island of Bermuda.

Less than two months after the city took out a $5 million loan to make payroll, Ellis went to Spokane, where he and other city officials studied the city's parks system. He left Spokane on Sept. 21 and, the next day, his city-issued credit card was used to charge $316.86 at Macon's City Club, an invitation-only club and restaurant downtown. ...

By Sept. 23, Ellis was in Bermuda, using city funds to dine with actor Danny Glover and officials in Bermuda for a tourism conference.

From Mike Donila in 2004:
Two days after winning the Democratic mayoral primary last July, Mayor Jack Ellis boarded a plane for Jackson, Miss.

Two weeks later, he was off to Ghana. Less than three weeks after returning, he departed on another trip to Africa.

Since then, it seems as if Macon's mayor has barely unpacked his bags. Ellis has spent about 20 percent of the past year, one work day out of every five, outside Georgia.

Nowak for Congress

UPDATE: Talked to him. He's running against Marshall in the primary. He's a former Bibb County teacher, but most recently taught at Parkwood Elementary School in Houston County. He's taking a year off to run this campaign. More coverage up on the main site.
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Picked this up from Peach Pundit just now: Robert Nowak, who appears to be a teacher here in Bibb County, is running for Congress in the 8th District.

Looks like he's a Democrat. I'm trying to get him on the phone right now. If you know him, ask him to give me a call at 478.744.4213.

Nowak, from his Website:

It's not a new 4 cent tax.

It's a new 7 cent tax, 8 cents in Atlanta. I'm seeing a lot of coverage, most recently from Georgia Trend, that refers to the speaker's tax plan as replacing property taxes with a 4 percent tax on services.

That's the state portion of the tax. You have to remember that the local SPLOSTs, LOSTs and ELOSTs are going to stay on the books and be charged on services. In most counties those amount to an additional 3 cents, and in Atlanta it's 4.

I've checked this with the speaker's office repeatedly.

A new constitutional convention?

The AJC is ran a really interesting piece Sunday about changing the makeup of Congress and radically altering a few other things, too. Must-read big-picture philosophy.

Here.

If you're interested in Grady

This is a good place to read about the unsealed whistleblower documents. It's state Sen. David Shafer's blog. He's been more of a bulldog on this thing than most reporters I've seen over the years, and I know Mike Donila.

And some context from The AJC.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Zero-based budgeting and the GREAT plan

I really like The Rome News-Tribune. They just do good work.
Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson said Thursday he will pick two state agencies in 2008 to start with zero-based budgets — and require it of the rest in subsequent years.

“I know you don’t trust state government. I don’t trust it either,” he told nearly 200 Northwest Georgia officials at a dinner hosted by the 10-county Coosa Valley Regional Development Center. “That’s why I’m going to zero-based budgeting.”

That should be easy to get passed, since the Senate already OK'd pretty much the same thing during the last session.

There's also a good, short Q&A with the speaker about his tax reform plan.

Got a federal issue you're interested in?

The Telegraph has a reporter in Washington D.C. now. Actually, we share her with our sister papers in Columbus and Lexington, Kentucky, but she and I speak every Friday and she's eager to track stuff down of local interest.

So, if you've got a bill or an issue that your interested in (not SCHIP - we've heard of that one), or if you know of Middle Georgians headed to D.C. to lobby, drop me an email any time. tfain@macon.com

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The flex work week

One of the more interesting ideas I heard at the Capitol during this year's session was the concept of a flex-week to help cut down on traffic and pollution.

There are a few ways to achieve this. You can have employees work longer days, but fewer of them in a pay period, meaning they don't have to drive to work those days. You can also stagger start times to spread out the rush hour.

Ironically, the study committee is meeting next Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Capitol in Atlanta, which means attendees will have to fight (and contribute to) rush hour traffic to get there.

From the press release:
The committee will study the impact a flexible work week would have on traffic congestion and the air pollution produced by the congestion. The committee will examine the issue to determine if there are further steps the state of Georgia can take to reduce traffic congestion by encouraging businesses to allow employees to work the same amount of hours in a week or two, but in fewer days. If fewer cars were on the road during the week, then congestion and air pollution would be decreased. In addition, it is likely that productivity and employee morale will increase as well, providing additional incentives to employers.

The committee will study the implementation of flexible work weeks by state agencies, and if necessary request Georgia state agencies to do everything possible to offer employees the opportunity to utilize flexible work week options. “We have piloted this program in our office at the capitol for several months, and production and employee morale have both benefited,” said (state Rep. Earl) Ehrhart. “We were able to take two cars off the road at least one day a week, and that multiplied all over the state could possibly make a substantial impact on traffic congestion.”

UPDATE from the comments: Rep. Erhart weighs in:
I enjoy your blog. What better way to incentivize legislators on such a committee into solving the problem, than ensuring they have to endure the problem just to have a meeting?

I didn't see anything after "I enjoy your blog." But I will say that, regardless of meeting time, if these folks can ease traffic in Atlanta — even just a little — without spending tens of billions on concrete, that's about the hugest small thing a legislature can accomplish.

Ellis "running" for "Congress"

Mayor Ellis, who has said before he may run against U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall next year, said this morning that he's setting up an exploratory committee. Matt has the details.

About a month ago the mayor told me he was going to work in Uganda after his term is up, which it will be in December. He said he'll work in tourism development for the African nation, which he has visited frequently the last few years and which he's been named an honorary consul general of.

He told the Associated Press recently that he's going to start a an international consulting firm and help a candidate run for president of Ghana, which is also in Africa.

And he's already got an extended vacation planned for December and January, after he leaves office, including time in Vietnam for the 40th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, and time in east Africa to celebrate his Jan. 6 birthday.

That seems like a lot to have going on while you're running an uphill battle for Congress, doesn't it?

Voting under the Dome

Vic Jones posted a question in the comments below, based on this story out of Texas:

He wanted to know if Georgia legislators vote on legislation for each other(given their insatiable desire to stem voter fraud through the new voter I.D. laws). The answer is yes. If someone isn't in their seat when a vote comes one of their colleagues will sometimes vote for them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Three quick things

aka stealing from other blogs...

Dick Pettys has a piece up on tax reform. It's free now, but they usually cycle into the pay section of the site after a little while. First I'd seen this:
(Speaker of the House Glenn) Richardson said taxes on medical care would be kept low - say a tax up to the first $500 on procedures.

That would go a long way toward helping senior citizens.

Also, everyone says Johnny Isakson is running for governor in 2010.

And, finally, I had pretty much the same thoughts, though much less partisan, when I read this story.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Also, the sun rises in the east

Least shocking sentence in today's Telegraph:

Mayor Jack Ellis spent nearly double the amount he was budgeted for travel and training expenses (in the 2007 budget year).

But, wait. We also have this story, about Ellis vetoeing a council ordinance that would have frozen half his discretionary spending money this year to make sure it's there when the new administration takes over in December:
In a memo to the council's president, Anita Ponder, he offered three reasons for the veto:

• I feel that the ordinance is personal and an insult to my professional integrity.

• To suggest that I would overspend the sums of money appropriated to carry out the functions of mayor thereby leaving no funds for the incoming mayor is absurd.

• I am as committed as the city council is to sound financial practices in the city government, therefore if such legislation is to be enacted, it should include both branches of government; however, I give the council under your leadership more credit than to suggest that you would permit the funds for council to be depleted before your term of office expires.

Absurd. Exactly the word that came to mind.

On this one, I actually do blame the media

A buddy of mine sent me this story about Rush Limbaugh's phony soldier's comment.

I wish we could convince everyone that neither party is the patriotic one, neither party is the religious one and questioning America doesn't usually make you less patriotic. Sometimes it makes you more.

Monday, October 1, 2007

It's not Georgia warming, so we should be OK.

Been out of the office most of the day and I was traveling Sunday, so I've just read Heather's story about global warming and Georgia legislators' "response."

A couple of gems. From state Rep. Jeff Lewis:
"It's global warming, not America warming," the lawmaker said. "Other countries like China, India and Russia must do something also. So the question becomes: Why should we handicap our economy when they're not willing to do the same to theirs?"

Somewhere Rep. Lewis' parents are asking: "If China, India and Russia jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?"
Hubbard, a Democrat, said the Georgia delegation shot down an aggressive global-warming policy in committee at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lewis and state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, said they were reluctant to ask for federal interference and wanted a cost-benefit analysis before any new rules.

But the full conference did vote in support of California's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases, with Georgia one of a handful of holdouts.

"There are 40 states who feel we ought to start looking at this issue," said Hubbard, who championed the policy at the convention.

He said the science of global warming is clear, and he accused Georgia's skeptics of greed. "The lobbyists from the Southern Co. were over there in the committee meeting whispering in their ears," he said.

(State Rep. Mitch) Seabaugh, one of Georgia's legislators at the meeting, said the Southern Co.'s lobbyists voiced no opposition. ...

Seabaugh, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, received more than $24,000 in campaign donations since the beginning of 2006 from industries that are major emitters of carbon dioxide and their lobbyists, including energy, paper, building materials and oil companies.

Poythress to face Chambliss?

Saw this on the political insider:
And there’s speculation that at least two more soldiers may join the election fight. Lt. Gen. David Poythress, Georgia’s state adjunct general who will retire in November, has been mentioned as a possible opponent of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) Poythress, former secretary of state and labor commission, has experience running statewide.

He’s stepping down from his current post to become CEO of American United Bancorp Inc. in Gwinnett County.

Note the word speculation, but that would be a very interesting race.