Tuesday, December 30, 2008

State Rep. Richard Royal joining Speaker's office

Soon to be former state Rep. Richard Royal, who did not seek re-election this year, will join the Speaker of the House's staff when the General Assembly goes into session in January.

Royal, a former chairman of the tax-policy-writing Ways and Means Committee, will focus on transportation and tax issues as legislators try to put together a plan to deal with the Georgia Department of Transportation budget needs.

Much of the talk has focused on a new sales tax to fund transportation, with legislation allowing counties to band together and add a penny-on-the-dollar tax to purchases. But there are a lot of possibilities out there.

"I would say my job will be investigating every source of revenue... for transportation," Royal said this afternoon.

Royal said he expects to look at other tax issues, as well, including a potential funding source for trauma care.

State Rep. Larry O'Neal, the current chairman of Ways and Means, said he expects Royal to be something of a liaison between his committee and the House Transportation Committee.

State spending increases under Gov. Perdue

I'd like to develop this into a weekend story for the paper once Gov. Sonny Perdue releases his 2010 budget next month. But it's slow this week, so here are some raw numbers. I'll take any comments you've got as I try to figure out how to use them. Please consider this back of the envelope stuff for now.

But it's a good envelope, and I'm careful.


Gov. Perdue has made it clear that he'd like his legacy to be one of increased government efficiency. One way to judge that is to look at the annual spending per capita in the state before he took office versus now.

So I've done that, based on total spending numbers from the state Department of Audits and census population estimates.

I've included federal dollars that flow through state government, as well as state revenues. Perdue took office in January of 2003, so the FY 2004 budget was his first full one. These are fiscal year numbers and the population estimate was as of the end of the relevant fiscal year.


In other news, I'm bad at making charts.

I stopped at FY 2007 because the unaudited numbers for FY 2008 (and budgeted numbers for the current FY 2009) will likely vary, on the order of several million, from the eventual audited numbers. Some of that is because the state spends money that isn't appropriated in the annual budget, making budgets a less complete picture of state spending than later audit reports, according to the Department of Audits.

It seemed weird to me, too, but I digress.

As of June 20 2007, state spending had increased 11 percent per person during Gov. Perdue's tenure. Of course, when Perdue took office about halfway through FY 2003 the economy was down. The state raised cigarette taxes right off the bat to help make up a shortfall. Perhaps the continuance of that new tax and economic recovery contributed to the relatively large increase from FY 2003 to FY 2004.

Also, the state has significantly increased its reserves under Gov. Perdue, and that would affect total spending, as well. And health care costs have gone up - there are a lot of reasons.

What does all that mean? I don't know yet. But I think it's a good starting point for assessment.

UPDATE:
Chris Schrimpf, from the governor's press office, weighs in with his own calculations:
I think two things might be helpful for your revenue calculations. First is comparing increased spending to inflation. My back of the envelope calculation using the Consumer Price Index has inflation increasing 12.1 percent over the same years you use.
He also sent charts comparing the increase in state revenue to the increase in local government revenues the last eight years.



Remember, though, the state is able to basically pass costs along to local governments by, for example, giving local school systems less money for schools. It doesn't really work the other way around.

Also, those figures don't include the federal money the state spends, which makes up more than 40 percent of total annual spending for the state. It also doesn't include federal money the local governments spend, which would be quite a lot for large cities that get federal entitlements / community block grant money.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lucid Legislation: The Idiocy turns advocate

I am actually looking forward to the 2009 legislative session. I'm tired of the same story over and over again. At least this will bring new idiocy, guaranteed.

To that end, Lucid Idiocy is proposing legislation this year. Now, you might be thinking: "Isn't it kind of unheard of for a newspaper reporter to propose legislation?"

Yep. Kind of unprofessional, too.


1. The important one: A resolution calling for all non-seniors on the University of Georgia football team to return for their senior year. Said resolution to include Matt Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Jeff Owens, Asher Allen and others.

Whereas Georgia legacies are based on trophies, not talent...

2. The easy one: Legislation repealing whatever law it is that requires retailers to put a six pack of beer, bottle of liquor or other alcoholic beverage in a bag. Matter of fact, maybe we need legislation suggesting that, if an item has it's own handle, you shouldn't put it in a bag at all.

Whereas plastic is made of petroleum, and this practice is a pointless waste of precious resources...


3. The actual one: Legislation requiring one year of public service, or enrollment in a university or college ROTC program, to qualify for the full HOPE scholarship.

Students who qualify would be given a fifth year of HOPE funding in the form of a stipend while they participate in a year-long public service program, at home or abroad. Faith-based programs, such as missionary work, would count. ROTC students would simply get a fifth year of school paid for, or a check upon graduation after four years.

Whereas your B-student, suburban ass really should have to earn this...


For the record, I was an A-student, suburban ass who really should have had to do more to earn HOPE.

UPDATE: This legislative slate is already drawing important feedback, with this suggestion from the Lucid mailbag:
Can't believe you're going with a namby-pamby resolution on Stafford and Moreno. Considering UGA is going to be, like, 7-5 or 8-4 without them next year, you should go for a backdated law that outlaws football players at Georgia's largest public university (not naming names here) from leaving college until they have been on said campus at least four calendar years. If approved, the law would be effective for any football at said school who was participating as a member of said team as of Dec. 31, 2008.
It's brilliant, but I don't think there's any precedent for something shady like back-dating a law that really only affects a narrow slice of the state's population.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Jekyll Island deal is shady

And, remember, I live in Macon. I covered Jack Ellis. I know shady when I see it.

From The Times Union:
JEKYLL ISLAND - Jekyll Island's governing authority ducked public review of its most important redevelopment contract prior to the Dec. 1 vote which approved it, internal e-mails show.
"Ducked public review... internal emails show." Not good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

Every now and then, one of those chain emails is worth it. This one came from my Aunt Sherry.
A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed 'round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "It's really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night.
It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times."
"No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at Pearl on a day in December."
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas Gram always remembers.
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of Nam,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am."

"I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.

"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home."
"I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.

To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
Snopes.com says the poem was authored by Michael Marks on Pearl Harbor Day in 2000.

Someone some where on Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How many guys in this picture have game?

Best political line of the week comes from the bowling lobby. Paraphrased and quoted from The Wall Street Journal:
It would be "a sad, sad day" if President Barack Obama replaced the White House bowling alley with a basketball court, says Jim Sturm, president of the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America and owner of two bowling centers in Charleston, W.Va.

Said Sturm: "I think his political analysts ought to take a long look at removing [it]. It could have a long-term impact on his political prospects."
Guess which president had the bowling alley installed? Nixon, but Truman first.





















Image: NBAE/Getty Images. Playing middle schoolers, the caption makes it seem. But scroll down and look at his cabinet and body man's basketball resumes...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lying to the legislature, part 2

Aha! It's a Supreme Court deal.

From state Sen. Ed Tarver, sponsor of the the legislation discussed here:
SB 7 is not redundant. It provides for sworn testimony to committees and subcommittees of the General Assembly and for criminal charges for falsely swearing to such committees or subcommittees. Code Section 16-10-20 of the O.C.G.A. criminalizes "false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement[s] or representation[s] ... in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government ...." The Georgia Supreme Court has held that the General Assembly is not a state department or agency. See Coggin v. Davey, 233 Ga. 407 (1975). Also, "[t]he General Assembly, including its committees, commissions and offices, is not subject to a law unless named therein or the intent that it be included be clear and unmistakable." Harrison Co. v. Code Revision Comm., 244 Ga. 325 (1979). A criminal law must be strictly construed against the state; if there is any ambiguity, it must be resolved in favor of liberty. Knight v. State, 243 Ga. 770 (1979). I am not aware of any circumstance where a member of the General Assembly sought to have someone prosecuted under 16-10-20 for making a false statement to the General Assembly.
It still seems to me that 16-10-20 doesn't speak to who the lie is told to, but only makes it illegal to lie about "any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government or of the government of any county, city, or other political subdivision of this state."

But I am not the Georgia Supreme Court. And you're lucky. Because I'd jam you up.

Deep six keeps the population down...

By 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today.
- DOT Earth, The New York Times.


The Science Times comes out on Wednesdays.


Energy usage forecast 2030.


Progress on Giardia vaccine. I know, right? It's a water-born parasite.

"Cooler year on a warming planet."


Image: Nasa, via Dot Earth, The New York Times.

Evans: I'm not running for governor. Ever.

Consider Lucid Idiocy's greatest whisper campaign to date hopelessly crushed. Georgia DOT Commissioner Gena Evans was in Macon today and said she hasn't, and will not, consider running for governor.

A brief portion of her answer: "No. I will not run for dog catcher."

Please note, she wasn't comparing the governor's office to the office of dog catcher. She was saying she wouldn't even run for dog catcher, were that a relatively non-controversial elected position, so she certainly will not run for governor.

Schools and toxic air

USA Today has done a pretty interesting investigation, mapping the locations of schools across the nation and the levels of industrial pollution nearby.

You can look up your child's school here.

King Springs Elementary School in Smyrna, Georgia, (aka, the best elementary school ever) ranks in the middle of the pack in both "exposure to cancer-causing toxins" and "exposure to other toxic chemicals."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The DOT's bailout wish list

Lindsay Holliday, a Macon dentist, long-time environmental activist and twice, I believe, candidate for Bibb County Commission Chairman has provided the public with a pdf of the Georgia Department of Transportations' stimulus package proposal to the federal government.

You can download the approximately 240-line document from Doc Holliday here. He, of course, received it from the DOT, which provides quite a lot of information through its own Web site.

From his response / thank you note to various DOT staff members:
I notice that GDOT is not asking for any roundabouts - anywhere in the entire state. In comparison, Chattanooga, TN is asking for 2 roundabouts at the very top of their "Obamabucks" wish-list. I will send you an article about Tennessee's smart(er) choices later.

I also notice that the 2 Bibb County intersection projects on this list are ones designed/managed/whatever by Moreland- Altobelli. These projects are not well designed. GDOT should look to forward thinking road planners, instead of building the same old inefficient and unsafe intersections that are the staple product of Moreland's company. Georgia taxpayers need a better return on their investments.
I think it's safe to say Moreland Altobelli, headed by former DOT Commissioner Tom Moreland, would disagree with Dr. Holliday, but what the hell. They're big boys. They can take it.

Holliday and I were both at public hearing where DOT Commissioner Gena Evans went on record as "really interested roundabouts." That was 3 months ago, and I imagine not enough time has passed that roundabout projects are designed and ready to go like the feds want.

But, still, out of 240 projects across the state, not a single one? Interesting.

(Please note, I have not verified Holliday's count yet, but he's usually solid on details.)

Go Fish Georgia doesn't cost money, it makes money. Discuss.

Gov. Sonny Perdue's Go Fish program has been an easy target for critics in and out of the media as the state continues to cut its budget. It's tough to build fishing ramps, for example, when DFACs employees charged with looking out for children are getting furloughed.

But I've thought all along that Go Fish would likely end up making more money for the state than it costs, in the form of increased sales taxes. You spend $19 million in state money to build fishing facilities, you get who-knows-how-much back (scroll to the bottom) when more bass tournaments come to Georgia.

This is from the governor's office today:
ATLANTA — Governor Sonny Perdue joined FLW Outdoors Chairman Irwin Jacobs and other state and local officials this afternoon to announce Lake Lanier and Atlanta as the site of the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup presented by BP and Castrol. This championship fishing tournament, which is scheduled for August 5 – 8, 2010, will draw the top bass anglers in the country as they compete for a $2.5 million purse. The tournament will be staged out of the Go Fish Georgia mega-ramp currently under construction at Laurel Park on Lake Lanier.
Now, if you want to talk about the appropriateness of building the state's "Go Fish" headquarters and hatchery in the middle of a county known a hell of a lot better for being Sonny Perdue's home than it is for fishing, go right ahead.

UPDATE: Johnny Fly-too-close-to-the-Sun disagrees.

Lying to the legislature

Tondee's Tavern has published an editorial by state Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, who has pre-filed legislation dealing with people who lie to General Assembly committees.

It's Senate Bill 7. It would change State Code 16-10-71, which deals with people "to whom a lawful oath or affirmation has been administered."

That's where it varies from Sen. Tarver's attempt to pass a similar law last year via SB 442. The new version grants more leeway to the chairman of whatever committee the person is testifying to.

That is, it would be up the chair to decide whether an oath should be administered before testimony, as opposed to SB 442, which just said you can go to jail if you lie.

Of course, I'm pretty sure state code already makes it a crime to lie to the General Assembly, unless you don't think the Assembly counts as part of state government. ***UPDATE: Sen. Tarver says that's exactly what the state Supreme Court thinks. See below.*** This is state code 16-10-20 as it exist now:
A person who knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; makes a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or makes or uses any false writing or document, knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government or of the government of any county, city, or other political subdivision of this state shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.
It seems redundant to me, but Sen. Tarver obviously doesn't think so, and I digress.

Sen. Tarver addresses something in the proposed legislation, and the Georgia Constitution that I may have raved like a lunatic about earlier this year. Writes Sen. Tarver, via Tondee's:
There is one part of the legislation that deserves explanation: legislators are exempted from penalty. This is an constitutional mandate, not an attempt to provide cover for politicians. Our state constitution, like the federal constitution, sets out a balance of powers between the branches of government, and immunity from prosecution for political speech prevents the executive branch from unduly pressuring members of the legislature with criminal prosecution for actions and speech in political matters. Moreover, it prevents office holders from using the law to criminalize political speech and activity.

On its face, exempting elected officials seems to be laughable. And it would indeed be maddening if legislators could not be held accountable for their words. But that is not the case. Every two years in Georgia, the entire legislature stands for re-election. Voters may, and many times do, fire those that they believe have violated the standards for the office to which they were elected.
It will be interesting to see if this passes. Or if a member of the General Assembly has ever tried to have someone prosecuted under the law as it exists now.

From Sen. Tarver, via email:
SB 7 is not redundant. It provides for sworn testimony to committees and subcommittees of the General Assembly and for criminal charges for falsely swearing to such committees or subcommittees. Code Section 16-10-20 of the O.C.G.A. criminalizes "false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement[s] or representation[s] ... in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of state government ...." The Georgia Supreme Court has held that the General Assembly is not a state department or agency. See Coggin v. Davey, 233 Ga. 407 (1975). Also, "[t]he General Assembly, including its committees, commissions and offices, is not subject to a law unless named therein or the intent that it be included be clear and unmistakable." Harrison Co. v. Code Revision Comm., 244 Ga. 325 (1979). A criminal law must be strictly construed against the state; if there is any ambiguity, it must be resolved in favor of liberty. Knight v. State, 243 Ga. 770 (1979). I am not aware of any circumstance where a member of the General Assembly sought to have someone prosecuted under 16-10-20 for making a false statement to the General Assembly.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Guy throws both shoes at Pres. Bush

Hell, you should see this if you haven't:



Apparently the man yelled, "This is your fairwell kiss, you dog."

I prefer the full video, with the president's comments on the incident, from The Associated Press:
It is one way to gain attention. ... I don't know what the guy's cause is. But one thing is for certain, he caused you to ask me a question about him. .... I didn't feel the lest bit threatened by it. ... That's what happens in free societies, where people try to draw attention to themselves.
He makes a nice dodge, too.

UPDATE: The title of the post used to say "Iraqi throws both shoes at Pres. Bush." I'm not entirely sure of this man's nationality. This is what The Associated Press is reporting:
The reporter, Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt

Friday, December 12, 2008

Taste of Macon: cancelled for now

If I was going to bet, I'd say folks will end up making this happen, but, as of yesterday afternoon, Taste of Macon was canceled.

So anyone looking to buy dinner for a state legislator, they now have an open slot on Feb. 26. Story on the main site.

That's probably it from me today. I'm in Johnson County, North Carolina.

UPDATE: Chamber of Commerce President Chip Cherry says they're looking at a lot of options, from canceling to holding a moderated Taste of Macon to holding it as usual. Chamber's board should make a decision by late next week, he said.

Dec. 23 UPDATE: Yep, canceled. They'll still do the lobbying day, and lunch will be a little nicer than in recent years, and some gifts might be given to legislative staffers as a thank you, but the evening party is canceled. Also - no cherry trees for legislators this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Auto Bailout: How your guy voted

I don't see the vote up on Thomas.gov yet, but govtrack has the breakdown. H.R. 7231 passed 237-170 with most of the Georgia delgation against:
Georgia
Nay GA-1 Kingston, Jack [R]
Aye GA-2 Bishop, Sanford [D]
Nay GA-3 Westmoreland, Lynn [R]
Aye GA-4 Johnson, Henry [D]
Aye GA-5 Lewis, John [D]
Nay GA-6 Price, Tom [R]
Nay GA-7 Linder, John [R]
Nay GA-8 Marshall, James [D]
Nay GA-9 Deal, Nathan [R]
Nay GA-10 Broun, Paul [R]
Nay GA-11 Gingrey, John [R]
Aye GA-12 Barrow, John [D]
Aye GA-13 Scott, David [D]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

1-800-GEORGIA

Did you know there's one number you can call to ask pretty much any question you have about state government services?

1.800.436.7442 or 678.436.7442, for those who never mastered how to use the letters on telephone buttons.

Uh, yeah, is this the 1-800-Georgia?

Yes, sir.

Yeah, uh, this is Larry in Griffin. When you gonna fire Willie Martinez? And thanks, Coach Richt, for being a good Christian example for the kids. I'll hang up and listen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Perdue: State can do own stimulus package

ATHENS — Gov. Sonny Perdue on Monday announced an "aggressive" state stimulus package of new infrastructure projects to help Georgia out of its economic malaise.

Perdue didn't discuss figures or specific projects, which will come out as his administration finishes a budget that the governor said they're "putting to bed right now." But Perdue said education and transportation projects would be particularly important as the state takes on debt to build new projects and put people to work.

The state issues bonds most years to fund large construction projects, but this year Perdue discussed bonded projects as a tool for job creation.

"We will have an aggressive bond package this year," Perdue told reporters, following a speech to legislators gathered in Athens for a couple of days of pre-legislative-session training and hob-knobbing.

The governor's announcement came with some positive economic news: November revenue figures were up 1.4 percent for the state this year compared to November 2007. But revenues are still down for the current fiscal year as a whole, and last year wasn't a good year for state finances, either.

That amounts to a cash flow problem, but the state has strong reserves and an excellent bond rating, Perdue said. Federal bailout money may be coming for infrastructure projects as well, but Perdue said he's not counting on that as he builds a budget and his bond package.

"We're cash poor, but we've got good credit. ... " he said. "(We can do) our own stimulus package for the state of Georgia."


Not pictured: me.

November revenue figures out

They're up. But we're getting to the point that we're comparing a bad economy this year to a faltering economy last year. Gov. Perdue has just taken the podium in Athens. No doubt he will discuss the economy and state budget.

From Perdue's office:
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of November 2008 (FY09) totaled $1,419,543,000 compared to $1,399,595,000 for November 2007 (FY08), an increase of $19,948,000 or 1.4 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY09 compared to FY08 is -1.3 percent.

Harp: Sunday sales legislation coming back

State Sen. Seth Harp, R-Midland, said today that he will bring back his effort to legalize packaged-to-go Sunday alcohol sales.

The legislation has been controversial in recent sessions, and failed to pass. It sparked efforts against it by conservative Christian groups, and efforts for it by the grocery industry.

"We're gonna try," Harp said, adding that he's "cautiously optimistic" this time out.

"When you're in the hunt for money, there's a lot of money that could be made in terms of sales tax. ..." Harp said. "That gives a little leverage."

The state is in the middle of a budget crunch, having already held back raises for many employees and cut most departments by 6 percent this year. Deeper cuts are expected and November revenue figures are expected to be released within the hour.

Harp's legislation would basically be the same as it was two years ago, he said. Local counties and cities would have to call for a local referendum — and the votes would have to approve — before Sunday sales would be authorized in a given community.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mental Health Ombudsman: Approved 8 years ago, position never funded, never filled.

So why did the General Assembly approve the position... twice... the second time in response to a newspaper expose into 115 suspicious deaths... and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation... that's led to an outright condemnation of the whole system... that means the feds may force the state to spend way more money than any ombudsman could cost?

I don't know. But that's a good question.

Andy Miller, The AJC:
Two nights after Joel Young was assaulted by another patient at the state mental hospital in Atlanta, his father says, Young got a new roommate: his attacker.

General Assembly: No raise for us this year

Apparently state legislators were due to get a raise.

But the General Assembly's legislative services committee, meeting in Athens today as part of a couple days get together for legislators, voted this morning to suspend the raise members were due.

The idea, of course, was that it would look bad to take a raise now, when other parts of the budget are being cut, and most state employee raises are being withheld.

"We're all in this together," said Marshall Guest, spokesman for Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, who introduced the measure this morning.

Fannie, Freddie, Money and Congress

Why am I not surprised?

AP details lobbying efforts to fend of regulation.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Just putting it out there: Gena Evans for Governor?

Excuse me, Dr. Gene Evans.

I'm not saying, I'm saying, 'What if?' Or, 'Wouldn't that be interesting?' It would.


Note: Lucid Idiocy does not endorse Gena Evans for governor, nor is it reporting any news of any sort about her. Image from itsmarta.com

----
UPDATE: Former Gov. Roy Barnes tells The AJC he's a maybe not for the 2010 governor's race. I liked this quote:
Like many others, Barnes called Obama’s strong showing a bellwether for change in Georgia. “But it’s not necessarily a change from Republican to Democrat. And I think that’s what we’re missing in all this,” he said. “I think that it is a change from extremism to moderation.”
----
By the way, this is the DOT's organizational chart. Check out what they're doing on the far right, in the financial section. Not that it's a surprise, but it looks like a circumvent around the treasurer's office due to all the budget issues that were found.


Image: DOT. Click to enlarge.

DEC. 15 UPDATE: From the DOT:
Atlanta - The State Transportation Board today unanimously elected Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) Chief Administrative Officer Kate Pfirman as the new Treasurer of the state‚s Department of Transportation. Ms. Pfirman, who has held key financial positions in state government for more than 13 years, is expected to begin her tenure as Georgia DOT Treasurer by early February.

Sen. Big Daddy is a pretty funny nickname

Jon Stewart also thought it was weird. Via Blog for Democracy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Though I'm glad to talk about her... I mean it, again

My buddy Wes sent this to me, from Live Apartment Fire, which may be the only blog with a name better than mine, this one,, this one, or this one.

I don't agree with everything on the LAF (LAPTF?) link, though. If Gov. Palin did indeed say "Let the people see where their food comes from," she is actually awesome.

I don't blame the camera man for the shot at all if she didn't. I get pissed when photographers completely miss the story.

And, I gotta tell you, if Gov. Palin was giving a small press conference, and turkeys were being slaughtered nearby, I'd be paying more attention to the turkeys.

Know what I mean?

I'm pretty damn glad to justify talking about that Palin Turkey Killin' video, though.

Stay classy San Diego.

UPDATE: I have just realized this week that politically active partisans are just as nuts as College Football fans. I don't know how this could have escaped my attention.

I understand Tommy Tuberville is available.

Next week: We talk budget.

The biennial get together of state legislators starts Sunday in Athens and runs through Tuesday, I believe.

University System Chancellor Erroll Davis is scheduled to speak to legislators Monday. Gov. Sonny Perdue speaks on Tuesday. I would think November revenue figures would be public by then, so look for more information about the state budget.

Already, Perdue has said 8 percent across-the-board budget cuts (for the most part) are more likely than the current 6 percent (Insider Advantage).

On Wednesday, the governor has invited reporters to meet with department heads about the budget process.

That's all I got. Have a nice weekend.

DOT Board elections this year

Looks like only two of the 13 seats are up this year. From a DOT spokesman:
Terms are for six years, elections staggered...the only two expiring in 2009 (May) are Brandon Beach from CD 6 (north Metro Atl.) and Bill Kuhlke from CD 10 (Augusta)...I presume Beach will certainly run again as he was only elected this year to fill remainder of Garland Pinholster's term...don't know about Mr. Kuhlke.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tracking The DME: How the housing money is split

I'd like to revisit one of the maps discussed here, which is part of a state government draft report seeking to split a portion of Georgia's $153 million in federal neighborhood stabilization money, which is a small part of a small part of all the bailouts.






















It shows foreclosure/home abandonment risk in Georgia. My thesis was: It shouldn't be that red.

The data for this Georgia Department of Community Affairs map comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The red means that the area, at the census tract level, is in the top 30 percent of the country for a series of factors that make up an abandonement risk score, according to Todd Richardson, a HUD researcher who worked on the data.

"It's not saying that everybody will be foreclosed on," Richardson said.

This data was produced within the last few months as a response to Congress, which basically said here's $4 billion, spend it in areas affected by, and at risk for , foreclosures and home abandonment.

The at-risk data didn't really exist, Richardson said, but the U.S. Post Office keeps data on homes that are vacant more than 90 days. Bulk mailers like to use the information. HUD also looked at high-interest loan data, foreclosure starts, falling home values and unemployment to calculate a census tract's score, which was compared to the average score nationwide, Richardson said.

There was no real baseline for this from previous years, Richardson said.

The red in rural Georgia may be elevated because there is a higher percentage of vacant houses there, particularly compared to the lower population, Richardson said.

"Rural areas are a little hard to get your hands around. ..." he said. "The markets in rural areas are very unique."

This map may over-state the potential problem in individual communities. But Richardson called falling home values nationwide "unprecedented." Of course, the price increases that immediately preceded the drop were "fairly unprecedented," he said.

Thanks to Mr. Richardson, HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan and Georgia DCA spokeswoman Kim King for their help on all this.

More state budget cuts likely to come, bailout money not being counted on, but possible

UPDATE: Pettys put it more simply: Perdue: State Budgets Cuts May Be Closer To 8% Than 6%
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Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke today at an economic outlook luncheon that also included Steve Forbes. Initial coverage is up at The AJC. I'll excerpt a bit of Gov. Perdue's prepared remarks, which came one day after governors met with President-elect Barack Obama in Philadelphia:
As President-elect Obama considers putting together a stimulus package, we encouraged him to look at our country’s long term needs – investing in projects, not in budgets. Simply doling out money to states to fill budget gaps is no different than handing it out to companies with flawed business models. I believe it is imperative that we ensure that any stimulus avoids creating an undue burden for the future generations who will be left to foot the bill.

I'm sure you've heard T. Boone Pickens decry what he calls the "greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind" between America and other countries. But what troubles me, and many of my fellow Governors, is that this bailout fever sweeping through our economy will result in the greatest transfer of debt in America's history to our sons, daughters and grandchildren.

As we wrapped up nearly two hours of open, candid discussion, looking at America’s future from both the federal and state perspective, I am confident that many of my fellow Governors, as well as President-elect Obama, realized how much we all had in common when it comes to getting America back on track.

I was especially encouraged that we were able to put partisanship aside. Everyone in the room recognized that governors must be engaged to ensure that America’s economic health is restored. Despite the bitter campaign that has raged, the spirit in Congress Hall yesterday was one of collaboration, and I was proud to be a part of it.
I emailed Bert Brantley, the governor's press secretary, to ask if the state government is going to get any of that sweet, sweet federal bailout money, and whether we're holding firm on 6 percent budget cuts for most departments, or if we're going to see those cuts hit 8 or 10 percent. His answer:
As the Governor said in the speech today, the meeting wasn’t about states asking for money. It was really more about President Elect Obama asking Governors for their input on how to design a federal stimulus package that works. I think he was pretty clear in the speech that he is concerned about the long-term obligations that are building up as each wave of bailout money goes out.

As for what will be included in the stimulus package and will any come to Georgia, we obviously don’t know that yet and aren’t planning on it. However, if Congress does pass some kind of stimulus package that includes money for infrastructure projects and for safety net programs, we certainly have needs in those areas.

As agency heads have come in and discussed their budgets with the Governor, he has told them to prepare for further reductions above and beyond the 6 percent being withheld. The next allotment is scheduled for January 1.
That last bit, about the next allotment — state departments get money from the treasury once every 6 weeks. The next payout comes Jan. 1.

The governor changed the schedule from every 3 months to every 6 weeks so he could exercise better control over the budget situation, Brantley has said in the past.

Free college for "B" students = an "F" in affordability.

As I was writing this, I discovered that the Board of Regents approved a new fee today that is essentially a tuition increase for Georgia colleges and universities. They will also charge employees more for health insurance, according to From The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education put out a report this week that gave 49 of the 50 states an "F" in college affordability. Only California, a bastion of sound fiscal policy, got a passing grade.

It made me wonder: How can Georgia, where all you have to do to get a free college education is maintain a "B" average, get an "F" in college affordability?

The center put me in touch with Will Doyle, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University and consultant on the report, for answers. You can look at their state-by-state reports here. Just Georgia is here.

I recorded the conversation, but don't have time to transcribe it exactly. This is close, but paraphrased:
ME: Explain to me how a state where, if you maintain a "B" average you can go to college for free, can get an "F" in affordability.
DOYLE: The HOPE scholarship is a big, generously funded program that a lot of people get. The thing is, it goes mostly to middle income, upper income students. You're left with a lot of low-income people who have a hard time affording higher education. There are two parts to the grading. Half is based on ability to pay — tuition plus room and board, less financial aid as a percent of income. The second compares the state's investment in need-based aid to the federal investment. Georgia doesn't have any, essentially, need-based aid, so it gets a very low grade.

ME: When you say a lot of poor folks aren't able to get HOPE, like what percentage.
DOYLE: I couldn't say. What we know about the distribution nationally is that they're more likely to go to middle and upper income students. I can give you those numbers nationally. I can't give them to you for Georgia.

ME: Well, I mean, they must have been used in a formula to give us an "F".
DOYLE: We know, nationally, generally how aid is distributed. We have to say 'this is what the distribution most likely is going to look like.'

ME: How long have y'all been doing this? Has it always been 49 of 50 failing?
DOYLE: Since 2000. Every year since then it's gotten worse. Tuition's been going up faster than anything else, income, inflation, health care costs. And financial aid, whether need or merit based, hasn't been keeping pace and income hasn't been keeping pace, either. In 2000 you have five states that got an "A," 11 states with a "B," 18 states with a "C," 13 with a "D" and three with an "F." Georgia got a D in 2000.

ME: When more than 98* percent fail a test, is that a problem with the test takers, or the test?
DOYLE: It's not a test. It's just, 'How affordable is a college education?' And the answer is, 'It's not.'
*To be fair, I said 90 percent on the tape. I cannot multiply by two.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Runoff results, brought to you by interesting information tangentally about Sarah Palin.

I was not aware of this. Blake Aued:
The original photo was actually snapped in 2004 at a rock quarry in Elbert or Oglethorpe County by a former Athens resident, Addison “Doctor Casino” Godel, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio.
Can you guess which photo he's talking about?

Early returns have Sen. Saxby Chambliss well in the lead. ---UPDATE 8:22: And not a single Cobb precinct is in---- Lauren McDonald as well. The appeals court race is a toss-up, other judgeships, not enough to tell.

Secretary of State's Office.

None of DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, Bibb in yet. Based on my absolute estimates of registered voters in rural Middle Georgia counties that I know a bit about, I'd say Republican turnout there is going to be relatively strong.

UPDATE: 10:14: Nearly 2 million people's votes counted so far. That's not bad for a runoff. 3.7 million voted in the senate race the first time around. Chambliss is at 58 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting.

Strange things afoot on Jekyll Island

The Linger Longer deal on Jekyll Island... lingering issues. From The Jacksonville Times Union:
State Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, whose district includes Jekyll Island, had been asking to review the contract ever since an October meeting of the authority board. Krueger had sent Chapman a letter promising he would review the particulars of the agreement with Chapman "prior to board action."

"Once I have a document to discuss, I will be in touch to set a meeting," Krueger wrote in the Oct. 27 letter.

But Krueger never followed up, Chapman said.

"To notify everyone last Wednesday of an emergency meeting to decide on a 50-year agreement is totally out of order," Chapman said. "Public notice [of the meeting] wasn't posted until Friday of Thanksgiving Day weekend. This is wrong."

Oh, 2008 Senate race. We hardly knew you.

Go vote today if you haven't already. The senate runoff, the PSC runoff and a judgeship are up for grabs.

This Senate runoff kind of had it all. Did anyone really notice?

I wished I'd appreciated it more and put the time into covering it, but I wish that about everything important.

Anyway, I could never hope to capture the sheer excitement that was the Jim Martin campaign for Senate, nor the great depth of substance that was Sen. Saxby Chambliss' runoff platform.

I wonder, once all the third party spending is added up, and final disclosures from the candidates are due, if this race will have topped $20 million in spending.

Can you really paint Jim Martin as a yes vote for Barack Obama when he didn't vote for Obama in the Democratic primary?

And when was the last time 58 members of one party and two independents all agreed on anything in the United States Senate? I'm not in D.C. and I have no idea, but I'd like to know the date as we pontificate on cloture and filibuster-proof majorities.

Jim Martin held most of his major campaign events in Atlanta during the runoff. He's got to turn out the vote there to have a chance.

But when Young Jeezy rallies with him in Atlanta instead of Macon, where he grew up... Fair warning, Mr. Jeezy, a strongly worded letter may be in the works.

Shoot. The New York Times came to Perry and I had no idea:
But Michelle Grasso, a spokeswoman for Mr. Chambliss, said Georgians voted against Mr. Obama and oppose one-party control. “In Georgia and across the country, people realize that there needs to be a balance of power,” Ms. Grasso said.
Quick, someone tell the Georgia governor's office, House of Representatives and State Senate that the people oppose one-party control...

UPDATE: I took down the picture and the video. One day is enough. On this election night props to all the folks willing to put their lives out there and run for office.

Wait - there's a recession?

I have some questions about this story from The New York Times, and probably most other American newspapers:
WASHINGTON — The United States economy officially sank into a recession last December, which means that the downturn is already longer than the average for all recessions since World War II, according to the committee of economists responsible for dating the nation’s business cycles.
If it's taken us this long to determine that the recession began in December, how do we know it's still going on?

Also:
But many analysts said they saw no signs yet that the economy was nearing a bottom. American consumers, who for decades have been the country’s tireless source of growth when all else failed, have cut back on their spending more sharply than at any time since the early 1980s.
Oh, man. The 80's. If ever there was a lean time of fiscal restraint...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Palin! The Movement.

Of course there was an element to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's Georgia visit beyond getting Saxby Chambliss re-elected to the United States Senate.

Palin's speech sounded a lot like something you'd hear on a national campaign trail; stuff about the conscience of the party, fiscal prudence, reasonable energy policy, national security, being pro-life and being good to small businesses.

Yeah, she was saying Chambliss embodies all that, but it was also kind of an 'I'm sorry this whole thing got messed up, but nothing fixes things like a populist movement... Awesome-style.'

And she got to give the speech four times, shake hands with people who love her and not do press conferences.

You betcha.

Palin opened by thanking the crowd in Perry for "joining me in this effort to re-elect your good United States Senator Saxby Chambliss."

Good? Don't over-sell it, governor.

Point No. 2 was that Georgia holds a special place in Palin's heart, because her son attended boot camp at Fort Benning. She watched him graduate there less than a year ago.

"You took good care of my son. ..." she said. Later, she asked, "Will you elect a man who will see America's cause all the way through?"

I feel the Jim Martin campaign would raise its finger here and say, "Ahem," or maybe do one of those fake coughs and say "deferment" under its breath.

But I can't say I've checked all that out. All people not reading this for free may complain.

Those simply seeking the "You Betcha" moment should fast forward to the 58 second mark. The crowd loses it, and it is nearly perfect.


Liz Fabian, The Macon Telegraph.

"Just as Saxby does, let us be true to our beliefs. And we must be strong in defense of the weak and unafraid to speak up for American ideals, and firm in our support for Americas' finest, because they are the ones who defend those American ideals in such a dangerous world."

Sarah Palin ain't no joke.

UPDATE 2: One of my many partners in crime went to Jim Martin's Macon event while I was in Perry.

UPDATE: Palin story, Palin photos, Palin video... it's a Palinfest over on the main site.
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This Palin rally isn't supposed to start for another 45 minutes, but it's packed.


If you like white people, this is your gig.

I've heard from a Chambliss staffer and a television camera guy that there were lots of people waiting out front before 10 a.m.

Senate race ending with a bang

This senate race... it can't go into another runoff tomorrow night, can it?

Sen. Saxby Chambliss is travelling the state today with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Jim Martin counters with his own tour, wrapping up in Atlanta with rap star Ludacris.

The times, they are a changing: From the Martin campaign:
AUGUSTA, GA
Martin Headlines Rally with Veterans and Georgia Leaders to Get Out the Vote
11:00 AM
Richmond County Democratic Headquarters
1101 Greene Street
Augusta, GA

MACON, GA
Martin Headlines Rally with Veterans and Georgia Leaders to Get Out the Vote
3:00 PM
Campaign for Change office
486 Poplar Street
Macon, GA

ATLANTA, GA
Martin Hosts “Rally for Change” with Ludacris
5:30 PM
Georgia State Capitol
Steps on Washington Street side