Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 12, 2015

Today is Georgia Day, celebrating the founding of the Thirteenth Colony on February 12, 1733.

After years of planning and two months crossing the Atlantic, James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists climbed 40 feet up the bluff from the Savannah River on this day in 1733 and founded the colony of Georgia.

George II granted the Georgia trustees a charter for the colony a year earlier. The trustees’ motto was Non Sibi Sed Allis—not for self but for others. Georgia would be a philanthropic and military enterprise that would provide the “worthy” poor a new start and serve as a buffer between Spanish Florida and the English colonies.

The trustees prohibited slavery and large landholdings….

Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law, on February 12, 1793 requiring states to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if the state in which the slave was captured did not permit slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.

On February 12, 1867, the editor of the Milledgeville Federal Union expressed dismay at the rapidity with which Atlanta was growing and basically everything about Atlanta.

“Atlanta is certainly a fast place in every sense of the word, and our friends in Atlanta are a fast people. They live fast and they die fast. They make money fast and they spend it fast. They build houses fast, and they burn them down fast… . They have the largest public buildings, and the most of them, and they pass the most resolutions of any people, ancient or modern. To a stranger the whole city seems to be running on wheels, and all of the inhabitants continually blowing off steam.”

George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was performed for the first time on February 12, 1924. The piece was written for solo piano and jazz band.

On February 12, 1999, the United States Senate voted 55-45 against convicting impeached President Bill Clinton on a charge of perjury. Senator Paul Coverdell voted guilty and Senator Max Cleland voted not guilty. On the second charge of obstructing justice, Coverdell and 49 other Republicans voted guilty and Cleland joined 49 other senators in voting not guilty. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to convict a President, so Clinton was acquitted on both counts.

One year ago, on February 12, 2014, most of Georgia state government was closed by Executive Order because of an ice storm.

On February 10, 2015, on the anniversary of the United States House of Representatives passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation proclaiming February as Black History Month.

Gov Deal Black History Month

Under the Gold Dome Today


GaPunditGas_Tax2

8:00am – 9:00am HOUSE – Natural Resources & Environment – 606 CLOB
8:00am – 10:00am HOUSE – Appropriations General Government Subcommittee – 406 CLOB
8:00am – 10:00am HOUSE – Appropriations Economic Development Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
9:00am – 10:00am House Rules Committee – 341 CAP
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
1:00pm – 1:30pm House Regulated Industries Professional Bds – 406 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Health & Human Services Committee – 450 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Economic Development Committee – 606 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee – 123 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Science & Technology Committee – 310 CLOB
1:00pm – 3:30pm House Setzler Subcommitee of Judiciary Non-Civil – 515 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance Committee – 125 CAP
2:00pm – 4:00pm House Appropriations Education Subcommittee – 341 CAP
2:00pm – 4:00pm House Transportation Committee – 506 CLOB
2:00pm – 4:00pm House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee – 415 CLOB
2:00pm – 4:00pm House Appropriations Human Resources Subcommittee – 406 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Veterans, Military & Homeland Security – 125 CAP
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Ways & Means Committee – 606 CLOB
3:30pm – 4:30pm House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee – 515 CLOB
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Judiciary Committee – 307 CLOB

 

Today, the Georgia Senate will take up two bills, Senate Bill 8 and Senate Resolution 7, both by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and addressing the scourge of sex trafficking of minors.

I will address an objection I’ve heard to these bills.

To those who say that this is another government programs providing social services and increasing the dependence of individuals, I would suggest that an ambulance for someone who has jest been in a car wreck is also a government program that provides social services and increases the dependence of individuals, but that providing that ambulance is the proper response.

First, we are dealing with minors who have been taken out of human trafficking situations, and they will, by definition be dependent upon someone. Depending on their home situation prior to being trafficked, they may well come into the custody of the state, so we should do a better job of caring for them.

Second, this is not just an issue of providing social services, but also giving law enforcement tools to prosecute those involved in trafficking children. GBI Director Vernon Keenan told the Senate Judiciary Committee that safe housing and other services to victims would be an additional tool to aid in prosecuting sex traffickers. The Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia and the District Attorneys Association of Georgia also support the bills.

Third, the major theme of criminal justice reform in Georgia for several years has been giving those accused of crimes the tools to overcome issues like alcoholism and drug dependency or mental health issues that prevent them from living productive lives. We heard testimony this week about how counseling helped Rachel, a sex trafficking victim regain her confidence so that she’s now in college and holding a job. Don’t children who are victims of sex trafficking deserve the same treatment we are giving criminals?

Today, StreetGrace, Georgia Cares, Wellspring Living, and youthSpark, along with hundreds of activists, will be holding their 2015 Lobby Day at the Depot across from the Capitol. They’ll hear from Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, Sen. Unterman and others about the importance of SB 8 and SR 7. Please stop by the Freight Depot from 9 to 10 AM, even if you didn’t register online.

StreetGrace Lobby Day

The House Rules Committee meets at 9 AM to set the calendar for today.

Yesterday, Gov. Nathan Deal and his Senate Floor Leader Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) unveiled legislation to allow the state a greater measure of control over consistently failing schools.

“While Georgia boasts many schools that achieve academic excellence every year, we still have too many schools where students have little hope of attaining the skills they need to succeed in the workforce or in higher education,” said Deal. “We have a moral duty to do everything we can to help these children. Failing schools keep the cycle of poverty spinning from one generation to the next. Education provides the only chance for breaking that cycle. When we talk about helping failing schools, we’re talking about rescuing children. I stand firm on the principle that every child can learn, and I stand equally firm in the belief that the status quo isn’t working.”

In the governor’s proposal, persistently failing schools are defined as those scoring below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability measure, the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years.

The Opportunity School District would take in no more than 20 schools per year, meaning it would govern no more than 100 at any given time. Schools would stay in the district for no less than five years but no more than 10 years.

“I would like nothing more than for the need for the Opportunity School District to decline every year; that would show our reforms are working,” Deal said. “But everyone – regardless of where they stand on this issue – can agree that today there is a need. We know from other states such as Louisiana and Tennessee that these programs can produce positive results for students and communities.

“Educational opportunity opens the door to the American dream. We can’t guarantee that every child will achieve, but we must do everything in our power to make sure they at least get the chance.”

Creating the Opportunity School District requires a constitutional amendment. Deal this session will work with legislators to put the amendment on the 2016 ballot and to pass enabling legislation that will govern how the district operates.

Maggie Lee writes for the Macon Telegraph of the potential scope of the Opportunity School District.

A “failing” school is one that has spent at least three years at the bottom of the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index.

By that metric, some 140 schools are failing statewide, including the 14 in Bibb. The new bill that lays out Deal’s plan says the state would take over no more than 20 at a time.

Choose too many and “you have budget issues,” said state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin.

It’s not clear which 20 may be chosen first.

State Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, said he thinks the bill is an excellent idea. He said he would feel comfortable applying it to any school in his district if it needed it.

“I think what we’re doing is trying different approaches, innovative approaches,” he said. “We’re going to go in there, try it and work on it and then hopefully give it back to them.”

Tennessee and Michigan also have created school districts fashioned after New Orleans’ post-Katrina model.

The Senate Higher Education Committee heard about Senate Bill 44 by Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta), which would grant in-state college tuition rates for those who have been given deferred action status on immigration issues.

[Silvia] Carrera is a so-called “Dreamer” — someone who was brought to the United States illegally as children and has been granted a federal stay from deportation. According to Atlanta’s Latin American Association, some 19,000 Georgians have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status.

More than a dozen Dreamers arrived to testify before the state Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday with tales of qualifying for higher education, but not for the more affordable in-state tuition rate. Some have sought deals or scholarships elsewhere, and others are not sure what to do.

All of them arrived at the Capitol to testify in support of Senate Bill 44, which would grant Dreamers in-state tuition rates to Georgia’s public technical colleges and universities. That would override a decision by the University System of Georgia to consider Dreamers out-of-state students.

Two separate bills would impact ride-sharing service like Uber and Lyft.

Republican Rep. Alan Powell of Hart­­well said Uber is paying thousands of Georgians to use their own cars as hybrid-taxis, without regulation. He said his goal is to prevent Uber from ducking state and federal rules.

Powell, the chairman of the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said Uber’s background checks aren’t good enough. He said Uber drivers “are basically driving without insurance and are not paying taxes like everybody else.”

The company said it provides $1 million in insurance, and that its workers provide an economic boon by paying taxes.

FreedomWorks opposes the Powell legislation and puts it in perspective of the national fight over ride-sharing services.

This is a replay of a fight that has taken place in states and municipalities across the United States. Busybody lawmakers often claim that they’re acting out of concern for public safety, but, more likely than not, they’re beholden to the antiquated taxicab industry looking to regulate ridesharing services to insulate themselves from competition.

What HB 224 would do is treat ridesharing services like taxis or limousine services, requiring them to obtain “either a certificate of public necessity and convenience or medallion authorizing the provision of taxicab services in such local government if the certificate of public necessity and convenience or medallion is required.”

This would bring a heavy cost for ridesharing services. In Atlanta, for example, the market value of one of the 1,600 taxicab medallions issued by the city is in the ballpark of $65,000, according to Creative Loafing. As of January 2014, all but 46 of the city’s medallions had been issued and regulators were holding those due to “an overabundance of taxis in Atlanta.”

Thankfully, not every Georgia legislator shares Powell’s desire to push ridesharing services out of the state. State Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville) has urged his colleagues to level the playing field through deregulation. “I maintain policies like the medallion system in Atlanta and other places harm low and moderate income people by preventing them from entering a business that could lift them out of poverty and raise their standard of living,” Brockway wrote in September. “Toss out the medallion system and let taxi drivers, Uber drivers, Lyft drivers and whatever other rideshare companies’ drivers who want to, compete for business.”

Count Neal Boortz among Uber’s supporters.

[Y]you can rest assured that taxi companies and drivers don’t love Uber; not one little bit.  They’re losing customers.  Now rather than trying to clean up their act so that they can compete, they’re doing what so many businesses do in a situation like this.  They’re whining to the government.  Whah whah whah!  These people are providing a better product than we are, and they’re taking away our business.  We want you to stop them!

Here’s the approach the taxi companies are using with their helpers in the legislature.  They’re saying that Uber, which is not a taxi company, doesn’t have to abide by the same regulations that they do.  Now there are two approaches the cab companies could take here.  One; they could ask the general assembly to loosen the regulations they operate under so that they can compete with Uber.  Two; they can ask the legislature to increase the regulations on Uber to prevent them from competing.  So guess which tactic the taxi company have chosen.  Sure .. no real guessing here.  They’ve done what so many other regulated companies do … ask for more regulations, not less, to drive out competition.  Sadly, they’ve found five Republicans who are willing to help.  The Democrat?  Well … that goes with the territory.

The only thing that will save Uber from the taxi industry’s desire to regulate them out of business is a level of outrage from the voters.  These lawmakers aren’t going to continue carrying water for the taxi companies if they think it will cost them votes.  Let the know that the answer here is less regulation for the taxi companies, not more for Uber.

In fact … regulations can be blamed for the dismal state of Atlanta taxis.

I think we can all accept the fact that taxis in Atlanta are a complete disaster.  Generally speaking, the cars themselves are in hideous condition. There aren’t three working shock absorbers in the entire fleet of Atlanta taxis.

State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) has a significantly more narrow bill that would require certain levels of insurance coverage for ride-sharing network drivers.

Insurance bill sponsor Rep. Rich Golick of Smyrna said he wants to “treat everybody the same if you are a for-hire driver.” He said any legislation should not be “so onerous that it’s going to put them out of business.”

Rep. Golick’s legislation, House Bill 190 seems to make sense to me, though, as always, I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks.

Two reports suggest that state taxpayer subsidies for electric vehicle purchases (“hipster welfare”) are beneficial to the state’s economy.

[T]here are big savings awaiting Georgia drivers of electric vehicles.

And they’re likely to spend that pocketed cash in ways that benefit other Georgians.

Two reports released Wednesday make this argument, countering an attempt by Georgia lawmakers to slash subsidies for electric vehicles.

The state’s overall economy benefits from the credit, according to a study sponsored by the Washington-based Securing America’s Future Energy.

The author of the SAFE analysis, Robert Wescott, estimates that without the credit, the 16-year drain on the state’s economic production would be $252 million, mainly from drivers paying more to operate gasoline vehicles instead of buying electric ones.

Macon-Bibb County will “ban the box,” or stop asking on initial job applications whether the applicant has any prior convictions.

That won’t stop background checks or later questions about criminal history, but it will prevent automatic rejection before an applicant’s qualifications are known, Tillman said. Making it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs is one of the best ways to prevent recidivism, but often people automatically are rejected based on that checked box on an application, he said.

“It’s like this is a continued punishment for them, even though it may have been 10, 20, in some cases we’ve found 30 years (since people served their sentences),” Tillman said.

Many other states and cities, including Atlanta, have “banned the box” and have seen an uptick in hiring former convicts with no problems, he said.

 

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