Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for February 7, 2014

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections for February 7, 2014

On February 7, 1733, the first Georgia colonists had been here a week and they finished building a hand-operated crane to move heavy supplies and livestock from their boats to the top of the forty-foot high bluff where they were building a settlement.

In the first half of FY 2014, the Port of Savannah moved 14.36 million tons of cargo for an eight percent increase over the previous six month period. Today, the Garden City Terminal at the Port of Savannah includes 27 cranes for moving containers.

The newest cranes at the Port of Savannah cost $10 million each and can move 65 ton-containers. The super-post Panamax cranes weigh, 1388 tons each and measure 433 feet wide by 185 feet tall and can lift containers 136 feet above the dock height.

On February 7, 1990, the Communist Party Central Committee of the Soviet Union agreed to a proposal by Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev that is should give up its political monopoly.

The response from the United States was surprise and cautious optimism. One State Department official commented that, “The whole Soviet world is going down the drainpipe with astonishing speed. It’s mind-boggling.” Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger indicated that he was “personally gratified and astonished that anyone would have the chance to say such things in Moscow without being shot.” President George Bush was more circumspect, merely congratulating President Gorbachev for his “restraint and finesse.”

Ironically, the fact that the Communist Party was willing to accept political challenges to its authority indicated how desperately it was trying to maintain its weakening power over the country. The measures were little help, however–President Gorbachev resigned on December 25, 1991 and the Soviet Union officially ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.

Ronald Reagan’s 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals is his first known use of the phrase “evil” to describe the Soviet Union.

They preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth. They are the focus of evil in the modern world….

So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

Men who are married or in a relationship: this is your seven day warning to make plans for Valentine’s Day before it is too late. You are welcome.

Under the Gold Dome Today

The only scheduled committee meeting for the Georgia Senate today is the Rules Committee, which will meet upon adjournment. On the Senate Floor today will be HB 743: Amended FY 14 Budget (APPROP – 4th).

HOUSE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

TBD FLOOR SESSION (LD 19) HOUSE CHAMBER- 9:00am
8:30 AM RULES 341 CAP
11:00 AM Fleming Subcommittee of Judiciary Civil 132 CAP (15 minutes Upon Adjournment)
1:00 PM Jacobs Subcommittee of Judiciary Civil 132 CAP
1:00 PM Pak Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 606 CLOB

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Open Rule
HB 654 – Guardian; change provisions relating to appointment of a testamentary guardian (Substitute) (Judy – Oliver-82nd)
HB 766 – Work Based Learning Act; enact (Substitute) (Ed – Lumsden-12th)

HB 837 – Probation services; provide for legislative findings and intent; provisions (Substitute) (PS&HS – Hamilton-24th)

Senate in a Minute: Senator Brandon Beach

They sure have improved the Google Glass interface since the earlier version shown here:

The haircut remains the same.

Two Issues Worth Watching

Delvis Dutton: Free(dom) Bird!

Common Core

Yesterday, I ran a sound clip from the business community’s press conference in support of Common Core education standards and was roundly criticized for some readers who felt I had shortchanged the previous day’s rally to Stop Common Core. What actually happened was a technical problem that prevented me from completing what I had planned to run, which also included this from Senator William Ligon.

Truthfully, I don’t believe I know enough about Common Core to have a valid opinion, so I have sought to put each side’s position out there. So here’s my question: if Common Core is about educational standards, is there a way to teach the material that is not as offensive to the sensibilities of many socially-conservative Georgians as what we see on the interwebs? So many examples of “Common Core” lessons or test questions include material that may be irrelevant to the underlying content: for example, math word problems that take place in some kind of radical utopia and questions including material that is neither mathematical in nature nor relevant.

Is there a middle ground that includes testing to allow comparisons to other states, which I think we agree is useful, but doesn’t mean total assimilation into the United States Department of Education Collective?

I am by no means an expert on education policy, but I do claim a certain expertise in electoral politics, and I will tell you this. The optics favor the opponents of Common Core. My Politics 101 textbook tells me that this:

Common Core Signs

trumps this:

Chamber Common Core

Every. Single. Time.

Congressman Phil Gingrey has introduced federal legislation that seeks to prevent federally-mandated academic standards and curricula.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, M.D., today introduced the Educational Freedom Act, which would ensure that the federal government is prohibited from directly or indirectly mandating state and local academic standards and curricula.

“We can’t continue to allow the Obama Administration to strong-arm our state into accepting its one-size-fits-all education plan,” said Gingrey. “Conditioning federal funding from the Race to the Top Fund and No Child Left Behind waivers are nothing more than a political tactic to let federal bureaucrats into schools with the intention of establishing a federal curriculum. This bill is critical to protecting the future of our children by ensuring that local educators and parents – not Washington paper-pushers – are the ones making classroom decisions.”

Two Issues Worth Watching

Two issues before the Georgia General Assembly highlight the internal struggle within the Republican Party about the role of government in our economy and whether it exists to protect current businesses, or to foster innovation through deregulation and freer markets.

Tesla Motors hopes to win passage of legislation that would allow the niche automaker the ability to sell more cars in Georgia. From Urvaksh Karkaria at the Atlanta Business Chronicle, coincidentally a Tesla owner:

Unlike the rest of the auto industry, Silicon Valley-based Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) sells its $100,000 sedans directly to customers, bypassing franchised dealer networks.

For the past year, Tesla has been selling in Georgia under an exemption that allows the automaker to sell “zero-emission vehicles” directly to the public. That exemption, however, limits sales to 150 cars a year.

Legislation, introduced Feb 6 by Republican House Reps. Chuck Martin, Buzz Brockway and Earl Ehrhart, calls for that cap to be raised to 1,500 vehicles a year.

The Tesla-backed legislation is likely to draw fire from the state’s franchised dealers, who might view Tesla’s approach as a threat to their business model.

The legislation lays the groundwork for Tesla to expand its marketshare in a high-growth market.

The Peach State ranked fourth in the nation in the percentage of electric vehicle registrations, according to auto website Edmunds.com. Georgia was the only non-West Coast state, trailing Washington, Hawaii and California.

Even so, EV adoption is infinitesimal — accounting for just 1.1 percent of all vehicle car registrations in Georgia between January and November.

Tesla opened its first retail store Jan 19 and is scouting additional sites in in-town Atlanta and Alpharetta.

Tesla Motors Store Washington DC

I was in Washington, DC recently, and being a car geek, photographed the outside of the Tesla store. Isn’t this what free markets look like and isn’t there a vacant storefront in, say, Johns Creek or Buckhead where these cars could find a market?

More than simply the effect such regulation has on a single niche automaker from California is the effect it will have on Atlanta’s technology economy. Today, the Atlanta Business Chronicle profiles a new way of selling cars pioneered here in Georgia: Carvana.

A new online car dealer wants to take the salesman out of the sale.

Carvana, a company that allows customers to buy a car completely over the Internet, from click to delivery, is launching nationwide after having a successful first-year test run in Atlanta. The company was formed by DriveTime Automotive Group Inc., which operates more than 100 brick-and-mortar used car dealerships across the country.

Carvana is the first complete online national auto retailer — from search to finance to delivery. The company boasts a 48-hour doorstep delivery guarantee and focuses on mid-market and luxury vehicles, which are from 2009 and newer.

Here’s how it works, according to Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: After selecting a car from the company’s website, customers can choose to finance the vehicle through Carvana.com, pay cash or use their own financing. If buyers decide to finance the vehicle through Carvana, they can use Carvana’s “Finance Dials” to adjust purchase terms and compare different combinations of down payments and interest rates that are available and unique to each buyer.

Then, after the customer goes through the ordering and financing process online, he is given the option to have the car delivered or to pick it up at the company’s innovative “vending machine,” Carvana co-founder Ben Huston said.

Carvana previously offered delivery-only, but in September, the company opened an interactive, 24-hour, three-bay, car “vending machine” in Midtown to give customers an option to pick up the car if they wanted it before their scheduled delivery.

The vending machine supports the company’s regional and national expansion plans — it will allow for customers to fly into Atlanta, come to a physical location and pick up their cars, Keeton said.

The other side of this issue also has a Washington DC nexus for me. When I visited our nation’s capital city last year with my Republican Leadership for Georgia class, several classmates and I took a Lincoln Town Car from Reagan National Airport to our hotel for a total of about $9 per person, luggage included. It was the first time I ever used Uber, an iPhone app that helps you summon and pay a taxi, executive sedan or SUV.

Uber has since come to Atlanta, and like Tesla, has run into a regulatory regime that appears to discourage competition.

There was a time when, if you needed a lift home from the bar, to the doctor’s office, or to the airport, your only private option was a cab company. Now you can just open a free app on your phone and instantly find a ride from a handful of companies. And not just any ride, but a clean, even fancy, and quick-to-arrive ride for roughly the same price as a cab.

Atlanta’s taxicab industry has been watching from the sidelines, waiting for the companies with the silly names but alarmingly similar business models to be forced to comply with the same regulations they’re legally required to follow.

A turf war between cabs and the flashy transportation upstarts has erupted in cities across the United States, including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, and, now, Atlanta. The taxicab industry is sick of the car services poaching its business, not paying the fees, and driving around town picking up fares without any oversight. These companies are to taxicabs what blogs were to newspapers, digital cameras to film, and Airbnb to hotel chains. Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick has built his career on creating such disruptive business ventures.

For Atlanta’s taxi industry, the infusion of new, unregulated vehicles was a shock. The path to becoming an Atlanta taxi driver is not an easy one. Men and women who want to drive cabs must pay a $75 application fee and $20 for fingerprints and a background check to be approved for a permit. They must also complete an annual daylong training session that includes a review of the city’s taxi ordinance. On top of that, they must already be partnered with a city-recognized taxicab company that owns a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience, or what’s commonly known as a medallion. Basically, a license to operate a taxi.

The city has created 1,600 medallions, nearly all of which have been sold. The city possesses the final 46 and plans to hold them because it considers there to be an overabundance of taxis in Atlanta. You’re more than welcome to buy one on the open market. The current going rate is around $65,000, a steep price, albeit a fraction of what you’d pay in New York City where they can run closer to $1 million. Most people lease the medallions, which, depending on what type of company they choose to work for, can cost as much as $775 a month. Full-service companies, which provide and maintain the vehicle, can charge as much as $600 a week.

Cab drivers are required to get their fingerprints checked every year. Vehicles must be inspected twice annually.

And State Representative Alan Powell (R-Not Atlanta) wants to require Uber and other new services to comply with the same burdensome local regulations that have created a major metropolitan area almost devoid of taxi cabs. Seriously, when is the last time you used a taxi in Atlanta? The State Capitol would seem a natural area for taxis, as lawmakers and lobbyists head to lunch every day, but you never see them unless someone has ridden in from the airport.

In response, Hewatt and his colleagues have started a behind-the-scenes push to do what other cities across the country have done: regulate companies that act like taxis but swear up and down they’re not. Uber and Lyft have hired high-powered lobbyists to defend their interests at City Hall and under the Gold Dome. So have the taxicab and limo executives. They’ve also found an influential state lawmaker who sees the merits of their arguments. If the Old Guard gets their way, the technology companies might have to follow some set of rules. If it doesn’t, the checker cabs and limos could face an uncertain future.

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