Thursday, April 30, 2009

What happened to Georgia's drivers license fingerprint database?

Remember about a decade ago when you had to have your fingerprints scanned to get a Georgia driver's license? At some during the legislative session I wondered what happened to the actual data.

According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, it was destroyed "following the enactment of O.C.G.A. §40-5-2(k)(1) during the 2005 Legislative Session."

"As required by the statute, the DDS engaged the vendor that runs the driver's license issuance system on a project that culled this material from the driving records of each customer," a department spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "This electronic material was then destroyed, and the DDS was given certification thereof."

The department also provided me with an electronic copy of the certification letter, which I have turned into a jpeg file. Click to enlarge.

It took less than 24 hours for the DDS to answer my question and dig up this document from 2006. As opposed to the federal government, which I asked to provide a database in December. They haven't even told me yet whether I can have it, despite my pointing out a Supreme Court case that I say says I can.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This just in: Barack Obama hits 100 Days

A live blog translated.

Pres. Obama calls current flu "H1N1."

Fundamental change in economy needed as we "clean up the wreckage of this recession." And that's what his budget begins to do. Problem eventually solved.

My administration is unstoppable in all days numbered off in 100s.

"We will rebuild a stronger nation, and we will endure as a beacon for all of those weary travelers beyond our shores who still dream that there’s a place where all of this is possible."
- updated from Chicago Sun-Times transcript

Calls on "Jennifer" first and microphone does not work. Gaffe!

It seems to me that, if you're going to get H1N1, you'd want to do it early, before, say, the 50 million antivirals were taken. The president didn't say that, but it might be my new plan.

President: Take sensible precautions. Wash you hands. Cover your mouth when you cough. Possibly qualified to be president: Your mother.

Uh-Oh! Someone asks an Arlen Specter question!
Pres. Obama: "I've been there. Turns out all the senators have strong opinions."

Immigration: Hey, we're working on it. Janet Napolitano is on it. We'll probably move this year. "Ultimately I don't have control of the legislative calendar."

Question: What are you gonna do for black people?

Answer: "Keep in mind every step we are taking is designed to help all people. But... "

Lucid Idiocy is happy to endorse the concept of community health clinics, without comment as to how they should be funded. Think of them as triage locations for hospitals.

Question: What kind of shareholder are you going to be in AIG, G.M., etc.? What is the government's role as the keeper of public trusts and bonds in soon to be public companies?

Answer: "Shareholders that are looking to get out."

Helen Thomas has her notebook closed. She is smiling and laughing as the president lists off stuff he'd rather do than fix G.M., Chrysler and the banking industry:
I want to disabuse this notion that we want to grow government. "I would love a nice lean portfolio to deal with, but that's not the hand that's been dealt us."
Bob Schaffer: "This was a clinic in how you run a good news conference."

V.P. Biden on health care, immigration and the economy

Vice President Joe Biden did a conference call with "regional" reporters today, which I assume is a press office euphanism for "bunch of people not important enough to be in D.C., which is the only place anything important happens."

I was too far down the line to ask a question, but it was an interesting conference call nonetheless. Coverage on the main site:
Biden was asked whether a Web site breaking down all the federal stimulus spending would be provided as promised. The vice president said there are several Web sites now, but all the information is being consolidated into one site, which he hoped would be available this summer.

“(People will) be able to zero in on a county or a state and be able to determine exactly how much money ... is being spent in that state, on what project, for what purpose (and) whether it’s on time or not on time,” Biden said.

Gov. Perdue signs various bills

He signed them today. The list from the governor's office:
House bills: 149, 173, 312, 475

Senate bills: 13, 27, 30, 44, 151, 170, 172, 240
UPDATE: SB 13 is the life without parole bill.

100 days, top 10 gaffes

CNN did a piece on the Obama administration's Top 10 faux pas of the first 100 days. Pretty entertaining.

Plus, Nick sent me a note, said he wanted to see more negative things about President Obama.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wolf Blitzer reports cost of Air Force One fly-by

It was $329,000ish, according to the Department of Defense, Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room reported a few moments ago.

Wolf, if you're reading this, send me a direct link.

The military says it was originally a training operation and the photo-op was tacked on. The "hours would have been flown anyway and simply chalked up to a different mission," they say.

Hard to argue with that. NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with a wry look, said the administration has apologized. "Ok. Now is the time to go on," Bloomberg said.

Says my buddy Mike Donila: "I hope that was stimulus money they were using."

From the comments: Keich provides this link to a CBS story:
Federal officials knew that sending two fighter jets and a 747 from the presidential fleet to buzz ground zero and Lady Liberty might set off nightmarish fears of a 9/11 replay, but they still ordered the photo-op kept secret from the public.
Does that make them less stupid, or more?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Obama Administration loses mind, buzzes New York Harbor

This may be the absolute dumbest thing I've ever seen a government entity do:
Invoking fears that another terrorist attack was underway, a low-flying plane, closely escorted by two F-16 fighter jets, was spotted over Staten Island's North Shore and New York Harbor just before 10 a.m.

The plane, which resembled Air Force One, was a "pre-planned" military flight taking photos of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
NY Daily News: "A perfect storm of idiocy..."

Apparently this flight was not announced to the public and understandably caused a panic in lower Manhattan. The director of the White House Military Office has taken responsibility for the flight, according to several media outlets.

Put aside for a moment the shocking lapse of reason it takes to OK an unannounced, low-flying 747 flight at the scene of the worst terrorist attack in United States history.

Why is it so important to get a picture of Air Force One that the taxpayers must bear the cost of flying two F-16's and a 747 over New York Harbor?

The New York Times provides this answer from administration officials:
The mission on Monday, officials said, was set up to create an iconic shot of Air Force One, similar to one that was taken in recent years over the Grand Canyon.
I have no idea how much an F-16 flight costs. The 747s that serve as Air Force One cost about $54,000 an hour to operate, according to 2000 GAO report that I've referenced several times.

What's a brief panic and a few hundred thousand dollars when you need a new picture? Image courtesy United States taxpayers.

UPDATED from the comments: You get a good idea of the flight altitude in the video below. Thanks to the commenter and But as for Me, whose slogan is "Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty."

About the 20 second mark. The video is described as "a second pass around 30 Hudson in Jersey City, NJ," which is across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center site, according to Google maps.

Of course this could all be a cover-up/facilitator for the coming Swine Flu Pandemic, which caused 20 new cases discovered today in New York.

The Daily News reports: "no one is gravely ill, officials said today."

SB 55 delays Bibb County revaluation

Here we go. A complicated situation gets more complicated, but some folks may end up seeing lower taxes for it. From Telegraph reporter Jennifer Burk:
The mailing of new Bibb County property values has been delayed one month as assessors work to comply with a new law requiring them to consider foreclosures and bank sales in their assessments. ...

On April 14, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill into law requiring that foreclosures and bank sales be considered in determining a property’s fair market value, Crutchfield said. Those kinds of sales usually were not taken into account because they typically don’t have a willing buyer and a willing seller — a characteristic of a fair-market sale, she said.
Given that we haven't had a successful reval since 2001, that people are just ready and waiting to appeal their assessments, that our last (failed) revaluation produced about 18,000 appeals and that the tax commissioner's office says it needs these new values by late August...

It will be impressive if the tax assessor's office is able to get all this done, and hear all the appeals, in time.

The John Oxendine Contract with Georgia

I think we're getting very close to the day when Oxendine won't just be a self-made, third-person campaign reference. It will also be a verb.

From an Oxendine campaign press release today:
Politics as usual have failed Georgians. Whether meted out by Democrats or Republicans, the results have been the same - mediocrity at best, regress at worst. The centerpiece of my campaign for Governor is a pledge. This pledge will break the cycle of promises made but not kept and transform government with one basic ideal - the good of the people before politics. I offer this contract for a better Georgia; a detailed agenda for transformation of state government, which is a written commitment.

The critics will complain, the doubters will hesitate, and the status quo will oppose; but I will move forward in a positive, determined and inclusive way. I will work for Georgia and offer real solutions to our most pressing issues. If you have been seeking an innovative approach, a new direction for government, then join me as we transform Georgia.

On the first day of the 2011 General Assembly, the new Oxendine Administration will have our Legislative Floor Leaders begin to introduce the following major reforms aimed at transforming our state government:

John Oxendine's Contract with Georgia

First - make state government smaller and more accountable by implementing zero-base budgeting.

Second - create a modern 21st century tax code for Georgians which abolishes the state income tax.

Third - implement a comprehensive statewide transportation system.

Fourth - actively assert that pursuant to the tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution belongs to the American people and not Washington politicians. (Editor's note: Easily my favorite.)

Fifth - break ground on new water reservoirs to ensure an adequate water supply for our future.

Sixth - invest in all schoolchildren by allowing tax dollars to follow the child in the form of an education voucher. An equal access voucher system supports the rights of parents to decide how to best educate their children.

Seventh - create an outcome-based, educational model which eliminates process micromanagement at the state level; maintaining local control but ensuring accountability.

Eighth - aggressively support legislation which protects and preserves human life from conception to death.

Ninth - fight for less government restrictions on where law abiding and permitted citizens can carry a firearm.

Tenth - protect taxpayers by defending the integrity of Georgia's borders through upholding and enforcing immigration laws.

Eleventh - implement focused domestic and international economic development which targets our efforts on the recruitment of industries for which Georgia is a talent and resource fit.

Twelfth - work with the Governors of other states to strongly encourage Congress to adopt The Fair Tax.

"If I'm elected governor I will lower taxes whether those bureaucrats in the state capitol like it or not!"

UPDATE: State Sen. Eric Johnson has made it official via twitter, jumping into the governor's race. Surely that sets the Republican field at five candidates.

This race should be nothing short of fantastically entertaining.

UPDATE 2: Obviously there's good reason to believe Congressman Nathan Deal may run for governor. The Insider reports.

Jason Pye: Legalizing weed more popular than the GOP

Makes sense to me. Let's say you're having a party. You gonna invite this guy, or Rush Limbaugh?


Hat tip to Creative Loafing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Is "Obama's a Socialist" the GOP's main message?

It's been interesting listening to very smart, previously very normal Republican politicians the last few months. To hear them talk, President Barack Obama is taking us from a right-center country into a anti-utopian socialist nightmare, separated from Communist Russia only by our superior weather.

It will be pretty impressive if the president pulls that off. It will also be a pretty big disappointment if the ideals of this country manage to last more than 200 years, then wither in the face of a single presidency.

But this message of fear seems to be playing well. Blake Aued from The Athens Banner-Herald attended the 10th District GOP Convention last weekend, and what he wrote stuck with me:
I just got back from the 10th District GOP Convention at the Georgia Center, where, on the most beautiful day of the year, hundreds of Republicans chose to stay indoors, listen to speechifying and argue about parliamentary procedure.

Call it Fear and Loathing in Athens. The convention had all the paranoia of a Hunter S. Thompson book, minus the drugs and drinking. President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are coming for your guns, your money and your freedom.

Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, had few friends at the 2007 convention, but he returned this year as a conquering hero. His message – socialism yadda yadda Marxist yadda yadda yadda – has now become the message of the mainstream.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is all forgiven on transportation funding?

Or are conservatives just getting ready to fend off Democrats in 2010?

Two interesting emails this morning on the General Assembly's "failure" to pass new transportation funding.

The first is from Georgia Chamber of Commerce Senior V.P., and Campbell High School graduate, Joe Fleming, who has penned an op-ed piece:
If one judged the first term of the 2009-2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly by what he or she reads in the newspapers, one might conclude the wheels are falling off, that locusts have descended on our state, and famine and plague are next to set in. No, not so.

We're all disappointed that legislation inspired by the Georgia Chamber's Commission for School Board Excellence (CSBE), fixed trauma care funding, and transportation funding didn't pass - all indeed high priorities that we are confident will find successful resolution in the next session, perhaps sooner.

But first, in a year of extraordinary if not historic economy difficulty and revenue constraints, the legislature and governor worked closely, sometimes quietly, to produce a balanced budget that trims almost $2 billion from our state's budget in a responsible, thoughtful way. No easy task. The governor's staff, and Appropriations Chairmen Rep. Ben Harbin and Sen. Jack Hill in particular, deserve special credit for doing their business in a professional, determined way.

Second, for business, it was a pretty darn good year. We are grateful for the overwhelming majority of our legislature who understand that business is THE true engine of economic development, job creation, opportunity and prosperity ... especially while I suspect most every other state in the country, and the federal government - if not virtually every industrialized nation - was/is busy raising taxes on business.
For the record, I know of no state newspaper that reported locusts descending upon the state. But it would be an easy mistake to make if you spent too much time around the freebie lunches at the Capitol.

The second email is from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which is an independent watchdog/think-tank group that leans conservative:
Just because no agreement on funding was reached, however, doesn’t put the brakes on Georgia transportation policy.

First, despite the criticism over their disagreement, it’s just as well for Georgians that senators and representatives couldn’t find common ground over whether a statewide or regional one-cent sales tax plan could fund transportation.
I think the talking points have been issued. The glass is officially half full.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Also, is anyone else surprised they have same-sex marriage in Iowa?

Best New York Times lede for a state employee furlough trend story ever?:
Licenses for same-sex marriages were supposed be issued in Iowa starting this Friday. But because of a crimped state budget, court employees will be on mandatory furlough that day and the courts will be closed. Gay couples cannot start filing for their licenses until Monday.

As they try to cope with gaping budget deficits, at least 15 states from every region — like Alabama and Georgia in the South; Arizona, California and Washington in the West; and Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York in the Northeast — are in various stages of considering or carrying out furloughs.
When you have to delay a new marriage license program three days, you know things are serious.

Get excited: The GAO updates the DME

That's Desperate Money Explosion...

The first Government Accountability Office bi-monthly report on states' and localities’ uses of Recovery Act funding is out! The first Government Accountability Office bi-monthly report on states' and localities’ uses of Recovery Act funding is out!

Forty-two pages of AWESOME:
As discussed in my March testimony, we selected a core group of 16 states and the District that we will follow over the next few years to provide an ongoing longitudinal analysis of the use of funds provided in conjunction with the Recovery Act. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. These states contain about 65 percent of the U.S. population and are estimated to receive collectively about two-thirds of the intergovernmental federal assistance funds available through the Recovery Act. We selected these states and the District on the basis of outlay projections, percentage of the U.S. population represented, unemployment rates and changes, and a mix of states’ poverty levels, geographic coverage, and representation of both urban and rural areas. In addition for this bimonthly review, we visited a non-probability sample of about 60 localities within the 16 selected states.
Hell yes there's a non-probability sample! Sweet! These reports, and other information not surprisingly, will be accessible through a GAO site dedicated to the stimulus program.

They have a page dedicated to Georgia.

Bush 41: The U.N. is full of wimps, China relations crucial, I'd have gone to Kuwait without Congress

The last in former Telegraph Keich Whicker's dispatches from Texas A & M, where former President George H. W. Bush spoke this week.

U.N. full of talk:
Bush said NATO is the only real way to do multilateral actions overseas, because “The UN can’t fight its way out of a wet paper bag.”

The former president, who represented the United States at the UN in the 1970s, said he couldn’t remember that body accomplishing much of anything the entire time he was there, because all it did was talk.

Kuwait or Bust:
Bush said he would have used military force to liberate Kuwait regardless whether he received Congressional support.

The vote to approve Desert Storm was close, the president recalled, and one that largely broke along party lines. Bush said many friends he had across the aisle disappointed him, because they voted against the war for purely political reasons.

In one striking example, he recalled how Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) told him that if the Congress voted against the war and Bush went into Kuwait anyway, he would be impeached by the U.S. Senate.

“I told him, ‘Well, you do what you have to do,’” said Bush, who stressed that he believed he had the legal authority to liberate Kuwait without Congressional approval. After the war ended successfully, Bush said many of the lawmakers who had initially opposed the military intervention told him that he had done the right thing.

On China:
Bush, who served as an ambassador to China early in his political career, is incredibly bullish on U.S./Sino relations. No other international relationship is as important, he stressed.

“China is incredibly important to the United States and the United States is incredibly important to China,” he said. “The relationship is fundamentally important.”

Contrasting the China of Mao Zedong to the “huge evolution” the country has made since the totalitarian leader’s death, Bush said the Eastern giant is “very different” these days than it was when he was stationed there.

“They’re emerging, they’re strong and they’re honorable people,” he said.

He chastised critics of China, many of which exist in his own party, for not seeing the big picture. Americans need to ignore anti-Chinese propaganda and “stay involved” with the country.

“The rhetoric has to change and the level of understanding has to change,” he said.

Keich is the one standing. Image courtesy Keich Whicker.

Slight good news on unemployment

Initial unemployment claims were still up in March (compared to March 08 and to February 09), but look at these total unemployment charts for the state and Middle Georgia:

Don't buy that Escalade just yet, though. From the Georgia Department of Labor:
The "unchanged" (statewide) March unemployment rate is significant because this is the first time in 20 months that the rate did not increase over the previous month.

An array of monthly employment statistics presents a conflicting picture of a job market struggling to regain its footing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Atlanta Unfiltered: Not a blog

Atlanta Unfiltered has been added to the media links.

Note the short piece on Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's PAC on the front page now. And the mission statement, also on the front page:
We dig up & share public records on ethics and transparency in public institutions. Tips, documents & feedback are welcome. We also offer tutorials (we know, it's geeky) so you, too, can dig up public records.
That's a strong mission statement. From former AJC editor Jim Walls, whose biography says he is a journalist of 36 years.

I don't know about you, but I trust that.

The 48th is going to war

Family, friends, Macon line parade: “The military has been good to us,” she said. “We don’t have a problem with giving back.”

Photo gallery on the same page. Image below by Grant Blankenship, The Macon Telegraph.

Bush 41: "I’d be on my knees praying" on economy

Former Telegraph reporter Keich Whicker attends the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A & M. He attended a speaking engagement with President George H.W. Bush and is summarizing the event in several short pieces.

Bush dealt with economic downturn during his presidency, and some say his decision to break a campaign promise and raise taxes to deal with that crisis is what led to his electoral demise.

Asked what he would do about the current situation, the former president said the economy has changed so much – mostly in size and international interconnectedness – since his term in office that he would find it difficult to know where to start the recovery process.

“I’d be on my knees praying, because I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

He added that although “we’re in for a rough time, the country “will emerge fine.”

The billions and trillions of dollars being bandied about by the government and Wall Street bankers are just “mind-boggling.”

“It’s too much, too much,” he said, referring to the money in play, both in terms of debt and TARP funds.

Even so, the former president said he personally promised Barack Obama that he would not criticize his policies – and he planned to keep that promise. However, “I think you’re going to see him come under a lot of fire” from other people for what he is doing.

Bush 41: Death to pirates

Former Telegraph reporter Keich Whicker is enrolled at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A & M, where he will presumably be better prepared for world domination than if he'd remained here at the paper covering local government alongside myself.

Former Pres. George H.W. Bush spoke to a group at the school the other day and Keich and other students were allowed to ask questions. Keich says segments on China and the economy are to come, but here the president deals with the issue of piracy.

I asked Bush about his take on the Somalia piracy.

It was, after all, his administration that inserted American troops into that country in the final days of his term. For those who forget the rest of the story, U.S. troops left the country a year or so later, per the decision of President Clinton, after 18 American soldiers were killed in the so-called Black Hawk Down incident.

Specifically, I wanted to know how Bush would handle the piracy today and whether he thought some kind of nation-building, with American troops on the ground, was called for in Somalia to end what has become an irritating problem for the international security and trade of all nations.

Bush said the pirates should be “dealt with severely.”

He expressed a muted kind of outrage toward the 16-year old Somali boy who entered a New York City courtroom Tuesday to face piracy charges with a large grin on his face. And after referencing the history of harsh measures against piracy, he said he had no problem with pirates paying “the ultimate price” for their transgressions.

“Perhaps, I’m old fashioned, but that’s what I think,” he said.

The president went on to temper these remarks by saying that something should be done to address the economic incentives driving the terrorism, but he gave no specifics. He concluded by heaping praise on the US Navy for its recent rescue of the imprisoned American sea Captain, calling it the “right thing to do."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gov. Perdue signs various bills

The governor's office highlighted House Bill 581, which "will allow Georgia to draw down $226 million in federal funds to shore up the state’s unemployment trust fund," according to the governor's news release.

The others:
Senate Bills:
8, 24, 26, 31, 47, 76, 79, 110, 111, 122, 165, 193, 196, 198, 210.

House Bills:
29, 46, 49, 59, 64, 121, 141, 145, 226, 237, 243, 245, 254, 308, 313, 330, 343, 344, 368, 371, 427, 436, 453, 464.
UPDATE: Thomas Wheatley rightly notes the big deal in all of this: Gov. Perdue signed SB 31, the bill that allows Georgia Power to raise its rates to finance expansions at its nuclear facility near Augusta.

It was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, bill of the session.

An important issue, which is sure to inspire even-tempered debate and move this community forward.

Or, as I told our online staff when I filed the story, "Be prepared to delete a bunch of racist comments from this one."

Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, wife of state Rep. David Lucas, wants to name President Barack Obama an honorary member of the Macon City Council.

If you're thinking, why does that sound familiar...

Monday, April 20, 2009

So much going on, so little time to dismiss it as either boring or unimportant

Apparently the Georgia State Senate managed to dissolve the United States government earlier this year. That's pretty impressive.
The New York Times on the EPA's decision that carbon dioxide is bad for you:
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that endanger public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that will lead to the regulation of the gases for the first time in the United States.
Environmental lobbyist extraordinaire Neill Herring's analysis, in light of the Fulton County court decision on this matter:
The EPA is basically affirming what the Fulton Co. judge said: "These gasses are pollutants, and they must be regulated."

The other thing that is going on in this is that the EPA is effectively putting Congress on notice to pass legislation regulating these gasses, or it will do it by regulation. That is quite a stimulus for the legislative branch to get to work.
From the Obama Administration:
The President released a strategic plan outlining his vision for high speed rail in America. The plan identifies $8 billion provided in the ARRA and $1 billion a year for five years requested in the federal budget as a down payment to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future. The strategic plan will be followed by detailed guidance for state and local applicants. By late summer, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin awarding the first round of grants.
Read the plan here.
It's been 20 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped more than 10 million gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska. Where does 46 percent of the oil released into the ocean come from? Seepage from the Earth itself, according to the April issue of National Geographic.
The Albany Herald says Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens is in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Karen Handel announced her senior leadership team today. Marty Ryall is campaign manager. Dan McLagan, who used to run Gov. Sonny Perdue's communications show, is communications consultant and spokesman.

Also, state Rep. Austin Scott made his formal announcement, and everyone seems to expect one soon from former Gov. Roy Barnes and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is pointing out polls that show him with a comfortable lead.

Is it possible that I'm already tired of this race? Yes.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's spine.
Toby Carr has been named the new executive director of the Georgia Republican Party. He replaces Ben Fry, who is running state Sen. Eric Johnson's campaign for... well I guess lieutenant governor still, but it's hard to say for certain right now where everyone ends up.
Presumably hilarious Daily Show segment on the Tea Parties I haven't had time to watch:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Nationwide Tax Protests
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"RIP America"

My buddy Brian Huff sent this to me, from the comments section of an Atlanta Tea Party Web site. You think there are more crazy people in the world, or clever?
-Fellow Tea Party Attendees:

Please do NOT take MARTA to the Tea Party. There will be many liberal commie socialists riding to and from the Braves game that night and you might get infected with common decency. Besides, mass transit is a radical Stalinist Black Hellicopter Comintern plot to take away our rights to traffic gridlock and air pollution! Let's all vow to drive our huge gas-guzzling SUVs instead -- Sean Hannity (that Great American) will thank us for it as he has no small amount of stock in Exxon/Mobil!
-- A Real Patriot

-Has everyone asked their parents to refuse their social security and medicaire benefits? We wouldn't want Granny being a socialist, now would we?

-End representation without taxation. Welfare recipiants should NOT be allowed to vote

-And I thought moslems didn't like pork!

-For Sale - "Pre-Obama" Chevy Impala. Collector's car. American Classic.

-Has anybody else realized that Obama has NOT raised ANYONEs taxes yet?
Everyone of you is protesting GW Bush's tax policy! Sure could have used you guys 8 years ago.

-What would Reagan do?
well, he would cut taxes and double the deficit, just like Obama.

-"Atlanta Tea Party: Bailing Out Shean Hannity Since 2009"

-you people are ALL completely retarded... Thank you very much for making my country look a little worse than it already does. I voted for McCain and I'm against what is going on, but all your "sign ideas" make it look like the only people that are against this are in the 4th grade. Thanks to all the dumb people out there for doing this.. Do America a favor and stay home and don't make a fool of yourself... please?

And some of the suggested sign ideas:

-Read My Lipstick! No More Bailouts!
-Read My Liptstick! No New Taxes
-Tea is only the beginning
-RIP America
-One Bad Ass Mistake America
-I would rather live under a bridge than live under socialism
-Less Pork in Bills, More Pork on Grills
-Born Free but Taxed to Death
-Don't Tax Me, Bro
-Honk if I’m paying your mortgage
-Give Me Liberty Not Debt
-I blew my middle class tax cut on this sign.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Macon Tea Party: These things ain't no joke

At least 400 people, and probably more like 600, showed up for the Macon event at noon. I've been trying to think when, in my more than 10 years as a reporter, I've ever seen that many people show up to protest anything. I can't come up with one.

I'd say the crowd was nearly 100 percent white. There were a lot of people under 35, though not a majority. I recognized a lot of political types, but it seemed to be, by far, just regular people. It wasn't an angry crowd, more like boisterous.

Organizers were collecting names and email addresses.

What will come of all of this? We'll see. We'll see what the follow through is, and how Democrats respond.

But I wouldn't underestimate this thing.

Said Erick Erickson, a Republican never afraid to criticize Republicans:
"If the GOP will recognize this for what it is and admit that it is partially responsible, then, yeah, I think it can turn a corner and really harness it."
UPDATE: I rarely read the comments on our main site, but this one from Matt's initial breaking story on the protest caught my eye:
I just still can't believe how fast Obama has turned this country, twelve weeks and look at all the stuff he is responsible for!!!!

As soon as they start saying Obama, without referencing Dubyah, they lose me. What we have is a natural swing of events resulting from the last administration. What we should all be doing is trying to dampen the swing and wind up somewhere much closer to the middle ground.
For the record, a woman with the Heritage or American Heritage Foundation (I did not get her name) noted this at the Tea Party: "This movement is not about one party doing wrong. ... This movement is about our federal government gone wrong."

I apologize for not getting her name or the exact name of her group. I left the event early to post the information below about Lt. Gov. Cagle.

UPDATE 2: From an NY Times story on the tea parties:
For his part, (Eric Odom, the administrator of insisted that Mr. Obama was not the focus of the outrage, and that government in general was the target.

“This is a protest that has been in government the last few years,” he said. “Bush himself was guilty of socialist policies.”

Yet featured the Tax Day Tea Party on its web site in the last two days and implored people to send virtual tea-bags (in four categories) to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid.

“It’s obvious they’re trying to ride on the brand that we created,” Mr. Odom said. “It’s somewhat insulting.”

Full statement from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle

From the lieutenant governor's press office. Highlights are mine:
“For the past several months, it has been my full intention to campaign aggressively for election as Georgia's next Governor. We have recruited a top-notch team, raised over a million dollars, and I've worked to help my family understand the kind of stress we will face. I did this because I truly believe our state is at a crossroads, and the next Governor will play a critical role in determining whether our kids and grandkids have an opportunity to enjoy prosperity and opportunity here in Georgia.

“I have experienced pain in my back and neck for years, but during this past legislative session, the pain worsened. At times my arm was numb and the pain spread. Therefore, as part of preparing to run, I visited my physician. That doctor's appointment significantly changed the way my life will look for the next several months.

“I've been diagnosed with some serious nerve and bone problems and a degenerative spinal condition. The issue could be hereditary or it could be the result of an old injury, but the unfortunate reality is that it requires immediate surgical treatment.

“The good news is that my odds of making a full recovery without long term nerve or muscle damage are high. Left untreated, the lasting affects could be severe. However, fully focusing on treatment and healing without long term problems will severely restrict my ability to campaign for much of this year.

“I feel a deep obligation to Georgia's future, while I also have a strong sense of duty to my family. I want to serve the citizens of our state, but I also need to stay healthy so I can provide for my wife and three sons, the oldest one of whom just began his college education. Georgia needs a strong Governor, but Nita and my boys also need a dad who can provide for them well into the future.

“The only way I can balance both obligations is to make the difficult decision to end our campaign for Governor and seek re-election to the office of Lt. Governor.
It would be wrong to tell the thousands of Georgians who want to support a gubernatorial campaign that I am in the race when I simply cannot give it my full attention for most of this year. I expect to make a full recovery by next year's legislative session and intend to campaign vigorously for re-election at the appropriate time. As of Monday, my schedule will be adjusted accordingly to make time to address my medical needs.

“It's an honor to have been considered for this opportunity by so many leading members of our state. And, I want to assure each citizen of our state that I will do everything in my power to work ceaselessly as Lt. Governor and Senate President to build a better future for all of us. If you choose to honor me with another term, I will work just as hard in the next four years as I have worked for the past three.

“Thank you, and may God bless our state.”
Politics is one thing. Health is another. Stepping away from your go at the brass ring is another thing still. If you would like to send the lieutenant governor a card, this is the address:

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
240 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334

UPDATE: Casey Cagle is leaving the governor's race

1:45 p.m. UPDATE: It is confirmed. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will withdraw from the 2010 governor's race due to health issues. He will seek re-election to his current office instead.

The original posts are below.
I cannot confirm that yet. But the lieutenant governor has called a press conference for 1:30 p.m. today to make "a major announcement."

I can confirm that Lt. Gov. Cagle plans to have a conference call with state senators at 1:15 p.m.

At the Macon Tea Party this afternoon, several well-placed Republican sources said they expect the lieutenant governor to withdraw from the race.

UPDATE: By several, I mean three. Plus a fourth I reached by telephone.

UPDATE 2: The press conference is probably underway now in Atlanta. But, in that conference call, the lieutenant governor told GOP senators that health issues, which became worst in the last weeks of the session and will require serious surgery, will keep him out of the governor's race.

He did say, though, that he will run for re-election as lieutenant governor.

I wish the lieutenant governor the best as he deals with this.

UPDATE 3: Obviously this changes the lieutenant governor's race. State Sen. Eric Johnson was at the Macon Tea Party. He would not confirm Lt. Gov. Cagle's decision, but when I asked how that would change the lieutenant governor's race, he said: "We've got options."

I can't read much of anything into that at all.

State Sen. David Shafer, also a candidate for the lieutenant governor's office, released this statement moments ago:
I spoke to the Lieutenant Governor earlier today. I was very sorry to learn about his health problems. He is a good friend, and I hope he recovers fully. We are reevaluating our options in light of his
UPDATE 4: I've done a separate post with Lt. Gov. Cagle's full statement to the press. Secretary of State Karen Handel, who remains a candidate for governor, has released this statement:
I am saddened to hear about the Lt Gov Cagle's health and his withdrawal from the race for Governor. I hope his health issue is resolved quickly. Steve and I will keep Casey, Nita and their family in our prayers and wish them the best.
UPDATE 5: Final update. One more statement, this time from Insurance Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine:
As I said when Casey initially entered the race, I consider the Lieutenant Governor to be a friend and leader in the Republican Party. I have always acknowledged that Casey Cagle and I share the same general, conservative philosophy and he was an honorable opponent. I wish Casey and his family the very best.

I would consider it an honor to earn the support of my fellow Republicans who had initially chosen to support Casey Cagle. I am at their service to answer any questions they have about my race, and where I stand on the issues, and help move this party forward with a conservative nominee.

Boring, boring, Blagojevich!

Gov. Sonny Perdue has signed three more bills into law, according to a release from his office yesterday.

House Bill 74 is a Larry O'Neal special. Looks like it cleans up state tax codes and meshes them with federal codes. Insert "is it retroactive?" swipe here.

Senate Bill 46 looks like it just cleans up typos, etc., in the state code.

Senate Bill 55
changes the way forestry conservation easements are assessed. More information on the bill here.
UPDATE: SB 55 also includes changes in the way your home, and other real property, is assessed. Foreclosures in your neighborhood would now be factored into the assessment used to figure your property tax bill. This was in another bill, but apparently pasted into the forest conservation bill.
The governor's office expects to have a final list of everything that passed by the end of the week or so, Communications Director Bert Brantley said. Then Gov. Perdue has until May 13 to sign or veto them.

If he does nothing, it becomes law. Interestingly, the signing order can be important. If two bills are in conflict, whatever was signed last takes precedent, Brantley said.

Take the Department of Human Resources bill. Brantley said the governor will sign any other DHR-related bills he favors first. That way the over-arching DHR re-organization bill will take precedent in the final law.

President Obama doesn't want to be left out of the "I hate taxes" movement, and issued this press release this morning:
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is based on the simple premise: what is good for working families is good for the economy and what is good for the economy is good for working families. Specifically, cutting taxes for working families helps to create jobs because these families are the most likely to spend the money. And staving off a deep recession disproportionately helps working families that would have been most likely to get hurt by the recession.
Chief among the highlights of the plan: 95% of all working families will receive a tax cut.

Oddly, House Minority Leader John Boehner disagrees, also press-release style: While Democrats just passed a budget that scrapped President Obama’s promise of a middle-class tax cut...

I think I'd rather he be sent to prison. From The Chicago Tribune:
(Indicted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich) has agreed to appear on "I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here," a survival-style reality show set to air beginning June 1 on NBC, the network confirmed. The opportunity could prove a bonanza for the financially pressed former governor, given the show would pay him $80,000 a week, a source said.

Before he can ink the deal, however, Blagojevich would need permission from the federal judge presiding over his corruption trial to fly to Costa Rica, where the show will be filmed. Blagojevich's attorney told the judge Tuesday that the ex-governor soon would be making a request to loosen travel restrictions placed on him as part of his bail.
In a related story, if you're a federal judge looking to be accosted by an angry Chicago mob, have I got an opportunity for you.

Local Libertarian: Tea Party is a sham

David Corr is a long-time Libertarian here in Macon. We published this letter to the editor from him today:
Tea Party a sham

I will not be attending the Macon Tea Party (today). I have fought for tax cuts and spending cuts for years. The Libertarian Party has specific proposals to eliminate federal and state income taxes, payroll taxes, estate taxes and capital gains taxes.

The Macon Tea Party is nothing more than a GOP pep rally. Where were the Republicrats when Bush was spending like a drunken sailor for the past eight years? Where were they when Bush was trashing the Constitution with the Patriot Act and suspension of habeus corpus?

Gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine will be there (at the tea party). He opposes Sunday booze sales and is clearly no friend of liberty or capitalism. That local shock jock will be leading the party without any specific proposals in a park named for a true American hero, i.e. Rosa Parks — makes me wanna puke! Rosa Parks was a courageous woman who fought for civil liberties for all regardless of race, gender and ethnicity. not a divisive blowhard who slanders local leaders.

— David Corr
It puts me in mind of some things I couldn't answer yesterday: Who came up with the first Tea Party? Was it really "grassroots" like current proponents say? And when did it become a nationally coordinated event orchestrated, at least in part, by a large PAC?

UPDATE: A must-read post on this issue from Thomas Wheatley at Creative Loafing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meanwhile, among the Socialists, another backlash

President Obama's election was at least in part a backlash against the Bush administration.

And all these "Tea Parties" are kind of a backlash against that backlash.

So is this going to be a backlash against the backlash of the backlash?

Obama administration plans "listening tour."

Does Michael Steele know what a "tea bagging" is?

I can't decide if "yes" or "no" would be the funnier answer to that question. From an email blast just sent out by Michael Steele, chairman of the RNC:
So on this Tax Day, April 15, the Republican National Committee is asking you, along with hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists across our country, to assert a real patriotic act by sending a virtual tea bag to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the tax, spend and borrow Democrats.
Someone get this man an urban dictionary.

Hannity: "Since when did America become the land of equal results, not equal opportunity?"

I interviewed Fox News Channel commentator and talk radio host Sean Hannity last night. He called in during his ride home from Fox's studios in New York.

He was gracious with his time and I've transcribed most of the 26-minute interview, which we will run in its entirety online tomorrow. But I thought I'd highlight a couple of paragraphs here.

Hannity will be in Atlanta Wednesday for one of the hundreds of "tea parties" planned across the country to protest the bailouts, stimulus, the Obama administration's tax policies and the general trend away from conservative values in this country.

UPDATE: The full interview on our main site.
TELEGRAPH: Let's talk about the media for a minute. This maybe is a personal pet peeve of mine. How come amazingly popular guys in the media are always saying the media is ignoring things?
HANNITY: (Laughs). Because we are the alternative media.

TELEGRAPH: You're the No. 2 talk show host in the country. You're not that alternative.
HANNITY: Well, but we're alternative in as much as — people are scratching their heads all the time, 'Well why is talk radio and the Fox News Channel successful?" If it wasn't filling a void, and it was the same old media... I don't think we would have the viewership or the listenership that we have. ... I would argue that most of the nation's newspapers are standardly liberal. You look at the last campaign and I first interviewed Jeremiah Wright in March of 2007. ... It was about a year later that it became a big issue. Same thing with Bill Ayers. When I discovered that issue we stayed on that pretty hard and it was months later that the rest of the media kind of picked up on it. So I would argue that we're doing things and covering stories that they ignore on a regular basis. I would argue that conservatives are not typically the people that go to protests. They're busy working hard. ... And for them to want to get politically active (with these tea parties), I think, shows a heightened level of concern that I think is fairly unprecedented.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I'm interviewing Sean Hannity tonight at 10:15 p.m. Please entertain yourselves by thinking of smarmy liberal media questions I can ask.

There's a bunch of those tea parties Wednesday, which is when your taxes are due. I know there's on in Atlanta, one in Macon and one in Warner Robins. Call your local Ron Paul supporters for times and dates. Someone has also done a google map showing them.

From the Democrats:
Atlanta, GA – Senator Max Cleland will be the keynote speaker of the Young Democrats of Georgia 2009 State Convention in Helen, GA.

Senator Cleland will address the Young Democrats of Georgia (YDG) on this year’s convention theme; “A New Generation of Leadership,” on April 18. The speech will be the highlight of YDG’s award supper. The convention will take place at Unicoi State Park, April 17 – 19.
The OX is coming to your city:
John Oxendine, Republican candidate for Governor, has begun his grassroots listening tour of Georgia. The tour is called John Oxendine Governor 2010 - The Grassroots Georgia Tour. It will be a multistage tour throughout the spring and summer taking John to every region of the state.

Stage one of the John Oxendine Governor 2010 Grassroots Georgia Tour runs Monday 13 April - Monday 20 April, 2009.

John will visit Appling, Bartow, Bibb, Carroll, Chatham, Clayton, Cobb, Coffee, Colquitt, Coweta, DeKalb, Dougherty, Fayette, Floyd, Fulton, Glynn, Gwinnett, Lowndes, McIntosh, Pierce, Thomas, Ware, Wayne, and Whitfield counties.

For regular photo updates on the trip, visit Facebook at John Oxendine for Georgia's Governor and

Follow John's journey as he posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook throughout the tour.
The Obama administration is buying a bunch of new cars. Average price is about $16,000. From an administration press release:
The GSA will spend $285 million of Recovery Act Funds to purchase about 17,600 commercially available fuel efficient vehicles for the government fleet before June 1, 2009. All purchases will be made from manufacturers with an existing contract with the GSA, which are General Motors, Chrysler and Ford.

This includes the purchase of 2,500 hybrid sedans that will be ordered by April 15. This is the largest one-time purchase of hybrid vehicles for the federal government fleet in history.

By swapping out less efficient federal vehicles for new hybrid and fuel efficient ones, this strategy will reduce gasoline consumption by 1.3 million gallons per year and prevent 26 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Also, President Obama changed our Cuba travel policies for Cuban-Americans with family on the island. How does this guy have any time left to fight piracy?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"I don't read this newspaper."

In lieu of news today...

I was talking to a buddy of mine the other night. The pay stinks, the industry is dying and I'm pretty sure the stress is shortening my life. But I don't really want to be anything but a newspaper reporter.

See you Monday.

The last straw. What exactly were the previous straws?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You know what we really need in Georgia? Forty-seven pages worth of new laws.

I have a draft summary of all the laws that passed the full General Assembly this session and were sent to the governor's office.

It may not be complete yet, but it includes the bill or resolution numbers, as well as short summaries that run anywhere from one sentence to several paragraphs.

This summary is 47 pages long. I was going to count all the things that passed, but even that was painful.

Let me say that another way: Just counting the number of new laws the Georgia General Assembly wants enacted is a painstaking process that requires careful reading of a 47-page report.

The governor's office, Communications Director Bert Brantley said, hasn't begun reviewing all these bills yet. They're waiting for the legislature to finish putting everything together the way it passed, with all the amendments and bill substitutes in the right place.

March Revenue numbers: Down 14.5 percent

ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of March 2009 (FY09) totaled $987,986,000 compared to $1,155,087 for March 2008 (FY08), a decrease of $167,101,000 or 14.5 percent.

The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY09 compared to FY08 is 8.0 percent.
The year-to-date figure is probably the best one to keep your eye on. We continue our downward trend. Last month it was 7.3 percent. The month before it was 4.8 percent.

The fiscal 2009 budget was based on a 6.8 percent revenue drop compared to 2008, according to Alan Essig, executive director of the watchdog Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. So if we stay on this trend line, we'd have to balance the '09 budget by dipping further into the state's reserves than we already planned to.

And then the new fiscal year begins July 1. Basically, things need to improve or you're talking about more furloughs, maybe layoffs for state employees.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Newt Gingrich in Athens, paraphrased

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke at the University of Georgia today. Lucid Idiocy Athens Bureau Chief Brian Huff, who often provides content for our sister blog, checks in with this summary:
All bureaucracy is evil. Giuliani is awesome. Government spending is bad unless it's for building up our arsenal for war. Obama = Jimmy Carter. Our children will pay for Obama's deficit for their entire lives, but apparently won't have to pay for Bush's deficit. Reagan was the Second Coming of Christ.
UPDATE: Interesting link in the comments about Pres. Jimmy Carter's legacy and his "Crisis of Confidence" speech.


That's how much lobbyists spent of state legislators this session, as of March 31, according to the Georgia State Ethics Commission.

Obviously that doesn't take us through the April 3 close of the session, and there could be some March filings that aren't on the Web site yet. But the deadline to file for March was April 5, and the next deadline is not until May.

Here is the full list, which you can export into an excel file if you like.

Some of the biggest lobbyers (based on the number of entries they have in the list, not total spending) in no particular order:
The Board of Regents and University System of Georgia (the state spending money to lobby the state for state money - awesome), Georgia Power, Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, AT&T, Atlanta Gas and Light, SCANA, Georgia Natural Gas (was there a natural gas bill I didn't know about?), Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Oilmen's Association, AFLAC, Usry Consulting, RCR Capital Consulting, Georgia Link Public Affairs Group.
Those last few are lobbying groups.

Some of the biggest lobbyees, again based on number appearances on the list, not total spending:
Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour, House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin, Perdue Floor Leader Jim Cole, state Rep. Sean Jerguson, state Rep. Matt Ramsey, state Rep. Mark Williams, state Rep. Kevin Levitas, Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Mullis, state Rep. Bob Smith and state Rep. Allen Peake.
UPDATE: Tondee's has an idea you just gotta like:
Why not create a law that says "if a legislator receives any food, beverage, refreshment, or other substance typically used for sustenance or nutrition from a lobbyist during the legislative session, including days when the legislature is in recess or otherwise does not convene, he or she must forfeit that amount of his or her per diem.

Glenn Richardson: Protector of open government

I'm not sure I could hear anything about state government today that would concern me more: Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson wants to tinker with the Georgia Open Records Act.

Really? Mr. "You can't see my obviously public records because they're not public?" That guy? Really?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Perdue signs HB 455, school systems get extra month to decide contracts

I had actually lost track of this bill, which is now law. From the governor's office:
ATLANTA – Today Governor Sonny Perdue announced that he has signed House Bill 455 into law.

The law gives school systems an extra month to offer teacher contracts for next school year. Many systems are facing tight financial constraints because of the economic downturn, and the extra month will provide additional time to determine the number of teachers needed for the upcoming year. School districts now have until May 15, rather than April 15, to extend contracts and teachers have until June 1, rather than May 1, to accept their contracts.

The law also extends the sunset on the Master Teacher program, and ends the additional supplement to teachers who have leadership degrees that are not in leadership positions. Current teachers with these degrees will continue receiving the supplement. Teachers currently enrolled in a leadership degree program must receive the degree by July 1, 2010, to receive the supplement until they begin a leadership position.

The housing bubble explained

Seriously, I think that if you read just half of this thing you'll be the most knowledgeable sounding person in the room when the housing crisis comes up at parties. From The Wall Street Journal:
The 2001 recession might have ended the bubble, but the Federal Reserve decided to pursue an unusually expansionary monetary policy in order to counteract the downturn. When the Fed increased liquidity, money naturally flowed to the fastest expanding sector. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations aggressively pursued the goal of expanding homeownership, so credit standards eroded. Lenders and the investment banks that securitized mortgages used rising home prices to justify loans to buyers with limited assets and income. Rating agencies accepted the hypothesis of ever rising home values, gave large portions of each security issue an investment-grade rating, and investors gobbled them up.

But housing expenditures in the U.S. and most of the developed world have historically taken about 30% of household income. If housing prices more than double in a seven-year period without a commensurate increase in income, eventually something has to give. When subprime lending, the interest-only adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), and the negative-equity option ARM were no longer able to sustain the flow of new buyers, the inevitable crash could no longer be delayed.
If you need a metaphor at that party, say something like "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Halftime at the Georgia General Assembly

One bit of news: When Gov. Sonny Perdue visited the House on the last night of the session, he was invited there by Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, according to the speaker's office.
When you add in all the federal money, the legislature passed a $35.4 billion budget* Friday. I haven't read it yet. Have you?
It will be interesting to see how many times the word "failure" is used in post-session analysis pieces, and how much of the "failure" to hammer out a new transportation funding agreement is unfairly laid at Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's feet, since he's the only guy involved running for governor.

Any way, a "failure" to charge an extra $25 billion in taxes isn't much of a failure for folks who don't like taxes. I know that used to include the Republican Party...
As for the transportation governance bill, Speaker Richardson played that masterfully. I'm not sure the changes they passed are actually constitutional, though, so we'll see who has the last laugh there.
As the session was wrapping up late Friday night, Richardson's spokesman was telling reporters it was merely halftime on transportation funding. With another session to go before the 2010 elections, I suppose that's accurate, if unfulfilling for those who favored a new tax.
I did a video full of mostly in focus pictures from the session, but it's only for you hard-core state political junkies.

Much like the session, it gets kind of good at the end. And then it ends.

Also, it begins with Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford declaring for the NFL draft, which seemed the proper place to start.

On a related note, please purchase the music of Widespread Panic. All images by me, except the Knowshon picture, which was taken by Brian Huff.

* As noted in the comments, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is using a different figure for the 2010 budget. It's $3 billion different, and we're both right, which ought to tell you something right there.

Kelly McCutchen with GPPF said the difference is how you deal with intra-state transfers, and that he prefers the larger number of $38.8 billion because it's a better match with audited statements from past revenues and expenditures.

I used the "total public funds" figure from the 2010 budget bill available through the state Senate Web site.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Post session thought: Will Perdue sign HB 481?

Yes, he probably will.*

Gov. Sonny Perdue appeared in the House shortly before sine die and gave a short speech in which he thanked legislators for their hard work. He did not visit the Senate, and I don't know whether to read anything into that or not.*

After his visit to the House, the governor certainly did not say he'd veto House Bill 481, which contains all the job tax credits as well as the capital gains tax cut. But he was cautious.

"We'll really have to look at all of these," the governor said. "I frankly am going to have to look at it in the context of capacity (in the budget). ... I am always worried about pop-up revenue measures that come up."

That last part references the fact that the capital gains tax cut made it into HB 481 on Thursday. And Gov. Perdue can't simply remove that cut from the job tax credits in the bill. He has to sign the whole thing or nothing.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said there will probably be a lot of lobbying to get the governor to sign the bill. He also said that the governor's attorney was in the room when the capital gains cut was added to the bill.

* I mean, I think. Also, I do read something into it and it's a big "hey buddy" to the Senate, and/or a "thank you" for getting that governance bill passed 91-84.

The 2010 governor's race has begun.

UPDATE: The speaker's office says Gov. Perdue was invited to visit the House.

The 2009 Georgia state legislature has adjourned Sine Die

You know that song "Stay," by Jackson Browne? The opposite of that.

When I took that second picture there was another person shooting essentially the same thing.

"These are the people passing our legislation," the shooter said. "And they just trash the place and leave it for poor people to clean up."

That might be a little harsh, if potentially accurate.

I asked one of the people cleaning it all up and he said it will probably take until about 4 a.m.

"It don't make any sense," he said. "But it don't bother me none."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Transportation governance has passed

The Senate just gave final approval to the House's version of Gov. Sonny Perdue's transportation governance bill 33-22.

We'll have to wait and see how this affects transportation funding, if at all, and whether Gov. Perdue will sign this version.

UPDATE: Transportation funding did not pass, in case you haven't heard.

HB 481 has passed, with capital gains tax cuts. The senate is on DOT governance.

The House is talking about metal theft. The Senate is working on SB 200, which is now the House's narrowly-passed version of the governor's transportation governance bill.

Word on the street is that, if it doesn't pass the Senate as is, it won't pass muster again in the House.

House Bill 481, which includes numerous business tax cuts meant to create jobs, passed the Senate easily. It had already passed the House and moves now to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his Senate.

UPDATE, 10 p.m.: I'm pretty sure state Sen. Preston Smith just accused DOT Board Member David Doss of attempting to bribe him with a road project over the DOT governance bill. And the Senate applauded him. Now might be a good time to go watch the House and Senate wrap up their evenings.

UPDATE, 10:12 p.m.: State Sen. Steve Thompson took up for Doss, and said it wasn't a bribery attempt. He read a series of text messages or emails. The governor was mentioned, State Senate Pro Tem Tommie Williams, some guy named Gary... This is pretty entertaining. Plus, billions are at stake, so it's got that going for it.

Gov. Perdue just left the Speaker's office

I don't know what was discussed, though I imagine transportation came up.

As Gov. Perdue was heading back downstairs I asked him if he had any comment. I think he was about to say something, but an alert staffer asked me to give them 30 minutes, and the governor and his entourage continued on.

I'm not sure whether that means Gov. Perdue plans to hold a press conference shortly or not.

UPDATE: The governor's press office says a press conference is "a definite possibility."

UPDATE 2: More than 3 hours later, that would seem less likely.

Cagle calls recess, tells senators to lobby the House

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has just sent the Senate into recess until 6:30 p.m. and asked every senator to lobby their state representatives to compromise on a new transportation funding plan.

"Now is the time," Cagle said. "I want you to go and ask your house members, do they want to solve transportation? Do they want to get MARTA out of the fix that they're in? Because now is the time. Time is running out and we need to act and we need to act now. We stand in recess."

Then he hit the gavel. Kind of hard, too.

Budgets laid on the desks in the Senate

UPDATE: The budget received final passage from the Senate at about 9:30 p.m. Story here.
UPDATE, 5:38 p.m.: I can see budgets being distributed now in the House.
Copies of the 2010 budget were handed out in the Senate about 4:20 p.m.

I don't see them in the House, yet, but the House has more than three times as many members, so that's more than three times as many copies.

I note this because the budget must lay on legislators' desk for an hour before they can vote.

At the brink on transportation funding. What else might the impasse bring down?

UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has recessed the Senate to push the House on this issue.
We are nearing zero hour on transportation funding, and frustrations may boil over soon.

Senators, in particular, are upset with the House's refusal to budge from their desire to ask voters for a statewide penny tax. The Senate has compromised a little over the last 24 hours, maintaining their regional T-SPLOST concept, but allocating the fourth penny of motor fuel taxes and other funding to regional freight corridors statewide.

But the perception is that the House leadership is not negotiating in good faith, and may not care too much if nothing passes. Asked a few minutes ago if this might all break down soon, state Sen. Kasim Reed, a member of the Senate's negotiating team, replied: "It's there. It's getting ready to be ugly."

If this thing goes down, the question is, what will it take with it? DOT governance? Sounds reasonable. A change to the way MARTA is funded? Certainly possible.

Then there's HB 480, a bill favored by the House leadership because it kills off the hated "birthday tax" on cars. It's sitting on the Senate's calendar, and with every hour the House doesn't budge on transportation its chances probably diminish.

House Ways and Means Chairman Larry O'Neal, who called HB 480 one of the best bills he's ever seen, said he's not sensing a lot of desire to move on it in the Senate.

"I'm hearing a lot of anger from Senators (about transportation)," O'Neal said. "It really might mean another summer of refinement (for HB 480) at the end of the day."

2010 budget update

UPDATE, 2:18 p.m.: Please see the latest, with information from Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill.
UPDATE, 1:53 p.m.: Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams confirms it, we have a budget:
"We're all good. It's printing. It's going to take about four hours."
I'm trying to get an electronic copy now.
UPDATE, 1:24 p.m.: James Salzer says we have a deal.
There isn't one, really, other than to report that an agreement has apparently not been reached.

Here's how it will work, though: At some point the House and Senate will reach an agreement. As soon as I hear about it, I'll file a story. Then it will take several hours to print enough copies of the budget for members to read. Then we'll have final votes in the House and Senate.

But the logistics of all that show why it's problematic to wait until the last day to finalize the budget. While the printing presses are running copies of the budget, other bills and amendments can't be printed, Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson told House members earlier.

"If we reach an agreement on the budget... it's going to take about 4 hours to print and the clerk's office will be doing little else," Richardson said.

Day 40

UPDATE: I'll have some updates here and on the main site throughout the day. But the best place to go for a prety ridiculous level of detail fast is probably going to be The AJC's legislative blog.
I suppose we've had some excitement this morning. Senate Bill 56, which would create an electronic database for purchases of cold medicine and diet pills and other items that can be mixed in methamphetamine, has been tabled.

It was a close vote, though, 84-84. So the speaker got involved to break the tie and table the bill.

Parliamentary procedure is awesome! You get to pay attention when the speaker says things like: "There is no reconsideration of a motion to table. If we take it off the table and it is defeated, it's still on the calendar."

And they say no one reads government coverage any more. This stuff could not be more relevant to your life in a meaningful way!

Over in the Senate they've been talking about transportation funding and MARTA. The upshot, I believe, is that the House isn't being very reasonable.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"A well crafted Greek melodrama"

Conference committees pass for interesting at the Georgia General Assembly.

That's where three legislators from the House and three from the Senate sit down and either negotiate away House-Senate disagreements, or pretend to. Cynical sources say most of the actual negotiating / political brow-beating is done behind closed doors, and the open-to-the-public conference committee meetings are more for show.

Take last night and this morning's conference committee meetings on transportation funding. The two sides didn't even face each other across a table. They were all on one side, facing the camera that provides the House Internet feed.

There's a "Last Supper" joke in here somewhere.

It is, as I heard one lobbyist put it, "a well crafted Greek melodrama." I don't think I even fully grasp just how right-on that description is.

UPDATE: BREAKING NEWS!!!: The House-Senate transportation conferees will be facing each other when they re-open talks in a few moments.

UPDATE 2: The ability to look each other in the eye had little effect on the outcome of negotiations. There was some back and forth about the fourth penny of the motor fuel tax, but little agreement. The House and Senate remain divided and will meet again later today.

Your Thursday tax policy update: Corp. Income tax phase-out gone, capital gains tax cut in

I sat down with House Ways and Means Chairman Larry O'Neal earlier this afternoon for a story I'm working on for tomorrow's paper.

The upshots:

House Bill 481, which contains a bunch of job-creation tax credits, may be stripped of its corporate income tax phase-out again. In its place, O'Neal said, would be a cut in the state's capital gains tax.

A House-Senate conference committee, which O'Neal is on, will meet on this later today. For you tax policy wonks out there, the new code language is below. But, basically, instead of paying state taxes on capital gains at the same rate you would regular income, there would be a discount, O'Neal said. That would bring Georgia's tax code in line with federal code on this issue, he said.

To put it another way:
For the taxable year beginning on or after jan. 1, 2010, and prior to Jan. 1, 2011, there shall be subtracted from taxable income an amount equal to 25 percent of the total net amount of long-term capital gains subject to federal income taxation.

b. for all taxable years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2011, there shall be subtracted from taxable income an amount equal to 50 percent of the total net amount of long term capital gains subject to federal income taxation.
Said O'Neal: "(This is) to encourage transactions, people to take profits. Because that's.... the beginning of having the conomy reinvigorated."

The income tax credit for buying a home, as detailed in House Bill 261, is likely to shrink to $1,800 during conference committee. It had been $3,600.

Who knows whether House Bill 480,
which does away with the birthday car tax and sales taxes on vehicle purchases, replacing them with a title fee, will move in the Senate.

That bill, like several others, was tabled Wednesday night in the Senate, meaning the Senate can take it up Friday if they desire. Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown said he's heard "a lot of disagreement with that bill... on both sides of the aisle."

O'Neal sees it as a potential bargaining chip as the Senate pushes its position on other legislation:
"I think that there's a faction in the Senate that thinks that's a bill that will be useful for barter, O'Neal said. They think that's one of the House's premiere, desired pieces of legislation."
I think he's right. And so, for that matter, is the Senate.

The GOP: Not sure whether it's for crushing economic growth

Considering that I've never supported a political candidate, financially or vocally, I get a pretty ridiculous amount of email asking me to give money to both the Republican and Democratic national parties.

And this showed up today. It's the GOP's "State of the Republican Party Survey." If some of these are at all serious questions, then the state of the Republican Party is ridiculous.

These were my favorite two:
5. Should Republicans unite to block new federal government bureaucracy and red tape that will crush future economic growth?


6. Should Republicans in Congress oppose the new wasteful government spending programs passed in the recent "stimulus" bill by the Pelosi-Reid Democrats designed to "spread the wealth"?

I answered "no" on both, due to my LIBERAL! policies of being pro-wasteful spending and for the crushing of future economic growth.

UPDATE: For the record I did not actually answer this survey. You just can't believe everything you read anymore.