Way too much of this interview dwelt on that insignificantly small person that parades as Speaker of the Georgia House, Glenn What’s His Name. Jason Pye describes the recent vengance wreaked by the Speaker on those members of the House who dared to vote against his choice for DOT Commissioner from the 9th District. Banished and stripped of power, the Speaker certainly knows how influence people. I am not sure about winning friends. Arrogance and pettiness are his trademarks. Bullying is his tactic. I applaud his perverse sense of leadership solely because I am sure it will ultimately seal his fate. It is only a matter of time.
If Richardson were a child he would have been disciplined (somewhere between spanking and beating) months, if not years, ago. He might even have done a tour in “juvy” for attitude correction. But, apparently the other Republican members of the House enjoy being abused, harrassed, threatened and deprived of any claim to manhood–if you know what I mean. Too bad there isn’t one leader among them with the balls to stand up to a brat.
What really gets me is the possibility that all this strutting and strong-arming is somehow a prelude to a gubernatorial campaign in 2010. (Good Lord, will it be that long before Sonny leaves!) Pick up a mirror Glenn, and kiss your political future goodbye. Tick, tick, tick……
We mention briefly the quick approval of the Water Plan. Jason doesn’t appear to be overly concerned about the ultimate implementation of this plan. His reasoning: it can always be changed, if need be. (They said the same thing about the Constitution!) I still have a lot of friends who think the Water Plan is nothing more than a plan for Atlanta to get more water and the rest of the state, less water. The total lack of debate over it still makes me think that politics is at work behind the scenes on this one. We will just have to wait a decade or so and see how it goes.
Jason finally convinces me that talking about mass public transportation in Atlanta is nothing more than misplaced nostalgia for what could have been. Let’s face it, Atlanta is going to be concrete gridlock forever. There is no hope to improve, much less eliminate the problem. The leadership that was needed came and went 40 yers ago. Until we have personal transport vehicles that fly, Atlantans will continue to fight traffic and hate it. Move south!
In a parting comment about voting on Super Tuesday, Jason gives a plea: Don’t vote for Huckabee! Jason characterizes Huckabee as a tax and spend liberal from Arkansas. Huckabee scares me because he confuses religion and government, something Jesus never did. Alas, our comments were to no avail. Georgians, at least the Republican part of the state, continue to prove that we have no idea what the Constitution of the United States says or what it means.
If you don’t know about Glenn Richardson’s plan to eliminate ad valorem taxes in Georgia, you must be dead–just like his Great Plan. Speaker Richardson supposedly toured the state telling everyone about his proposal to do away with property taxes, but he only told people bits and pieces and would entertain no public discussion. The city and county governments jumped on him. Casey Cagle and most everyone else in the Georgia Senate expressed grave concern about such a proposal and essentially said it would not pass the Senate. For whatever reason, his plan has now morphed into a plan to eliminate the school tax portion of the property tax.
My question: Why schools? Why education? If it won’t work for city and county governments, what makes it good for schools? In this interview Jeff Hubbard, President of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), explains what this proposal means for education.
There are a lot of problems with this misconceived plan to take away local control of the education budget, but regardless of the shear power grab by the legislature, I don’t understand why we would want the quality of our education to depend on how much money people spend on goods and services, particularly with an economy that may be going downhill. If teachers get paid out of sales tax revenues and the economy goes in the tank, revenues go down and school districts have to scramble from month to month to make ends meet.
If you talk to these guys in charge of our state budget, like the Governor, they just love to tell you that they put more and more money into education every year. That may be true, but as Jeff points out, the fact that we spend more does not mean we are improving the quality of the education our kids receive. Georgia is one of the fastest growing states in the nation and a lot of the increase in education funding is due to this increase in the population of the state. More money does not translate into more money for classroom instruction. There may be more money for more buildings to house more students, but the money to improve the quality of instruction doesn’t increase.
There are about 1.6 million school age kids in Georgia. About half of them qualify for free lunches, which means they are generally from lower income families. About 57% of the state budget goes for education. And yet, we have never fully funded education according to the formulas set up 23 years ago in the Quality Basic Education Act.
Speaker Richardson and anyone who supports his efforts to transfer the cost of funding public education from the property owners (many of them wealthy) to the working families of Georgia (through the sales tax) is not seeking to improve education in this state. They are seeking power. They are manipulating the people of this state by promising the elimination of a significant portion of their property taxes without explaining the dangerous consequences for our struggling, underfunded educational system.
I think he gets it.Â I hope he gets it!Â But only time will tell and it will take the 2008 session of the Georgia legislature to reveal just how Senator Williams and the rest of the Republican leadership are going to deal with the issue of water.Â Â This interview focuses primarily on water, butÂ near the end we discuss Glenn Richardson’s proposal to eliminate theÂ property tax.Â
When it comes to Speaker Richardson’s proposal, TommieÂ makes it clearÂ that while it may pass the House, it will not pass the Senate, at least not in its original form.Â I am not sure what that means, but Senator WiliamsÂ is equally emphaticÂ that theÂ 2008 legislature is going to do something about property taxes.Â According to Senator Williams, people are upset about their property taxes are going up.Â
He points out that people on fixed incomes have to worry about their property taxes increasing to the point they can’t afford to pay them.Â I don’t think anyone would argue with the idea that the elderly and people on fixed incomes need some protection, I don’t think this justifies a criticism of the property tax as an effective and fair tool for raising revenue.Â There are two basicÂ reasons the taxes of homeowners go up significantly:Â (1) correcting years of under-stated property values because assessors did not do their jobs,Â or (2)Â the inflated value of real estate in this economy.Â
I mentioned to Tommie that Warren Buffett, the billionaire, had recently announced that he paid 18% of his income in taxes and his secretary paid 33% of her income in taxes and had challenged members of Congress to disclose their tax rates.Â I then asked Tommie if he thought the shifting of the tax burden fromÂ a wealth basis, such as the property tax, to a consumption basis, such as the sales tax, would result in his paying less taxes.Â He readily admitted that he had already done the math and that he would pay less tax.Â
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the primary reason behind Glenn Richardson’s efforts to eliminate the property tax: less taxes for the rich, more taxes for consumers.
Water, is not an easy topic to discuss, since it seems that no one wants to talk specifics.Â However,Â in light of Governor Perdue’s recent public confession of sin regarding the way the water problem has been handled, I really wanted to know what sins had been committed that may be affecting the delivery of water from the heavens.Â Â I am still not sure what those sins are, but I still resent having my supply of water affected because of them.
It did not take long to establish that the water plan proposed by the Water Council is not going to receive the legislature’s approval.Â The real question is what plan will pass, because some plan has to pass unless they change the law.
Tommie also pointed out that everybody is sick and tired of the hassles that come from too much growth and development in Metro Atlanta.Â Too many cars.Â Too much traffic.Â Too little water.Â However, I did not detect any real desire to curb the enthusiasm of developers for more.Â
Tommie readily acknowledges that South Georgia is not going to stand for having its water sent to Atlanta.
He doesn’t think that building more reservoirs isÂ a long termÂ solution to the water shortage, mainly because he thinks the EPD and the Endangered Species Act would effectively prevent a reservoir being approved.Â
He mentions the possibility of a desalinazation plant to pump water from the coast to Atlanta as a possibile means ofÂ providing more water to the Metro Atlanta.Â That is certainly a possibility, but the costs is going to be a big issue.Â Not only that, will Atlanta pay for it?Â Can Atlanta pay for it?
I was surprised when he mentioned the Tennessee River, which he indicates Georgia owns half of.Â Hmmm!Â Never thought of that, but Tommie indicated that Georgia might claim a right to pump water from the Tennessee River to Metro Atlanta.Â Of course, there are all sorts of issues with this, such as the power and control of the Tennessee Valley Authority over the Tennessee River, not to mention building the pipeline to Atlanta.
While these long term possibilities are interesting to discuss, I was more interested in finding out if anyone, including Tommie, had any idea what Atlanta was going to do in 250+ days, if and when the water ran out.Â He indicated that the emergency managment agencies were working on that problem and I really did not get any idea what short term options were under consideration, other than, of course, hauling water to and fro.
The only thing that is still certain is that 2008 is going to be interesting, to say the least.
Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-3) isn’t one of the legislators designated as a member of the Jekyll Island Authority Advisory Board, but as he points out, this State owned island is in his district, his constituents have a great interest in what happens there and he is concerned about some of the recent actions of the Authority.
There are two aspects of the current controversy surrounding the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA). In September 2007 the JIA selected Linger Longer as its Revitalization Partner to design and develop a new 45 acre (or is it 63) tract with hotels, motels and all the things that go with them. The only problem, as discussed in my interview with Wade Shealy, in selecting Linger Longer the JIA engaged in some sleazy tricks that appear to have been intended to benefit a particular Republican contributor and which also appear to have violated the law. In the very least, the JIA tarnished its status and justified criticism that it was acting unfairly and arbitrarily.
Sen. Chapman left the issues surrounding the bidding process to be resolved between the JIA and the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group, whether in or outside of court.
His concern is a little more fundamental. Regardless of who was selected as the Revitalization Patner, Senator Chapman is concerned about the nature of the development being contemplated by the JIA. To understand his concerns you can listen to the interview or you can read his letter of November 5, 2007 to the Oversight Committee of the Legislature.
When you talk about Jekyll Island there is one distinguishing factor which you have to keep in mind: the State of Georgia owns it. We, the people, own it. It is for us, for all of us, for the rich, for the poor, for the old couple that wants to drive to the beach and sit in the sand for a few hours, and for the couple with 5 kids that can’t afford a trip this year, but can entertain the kids at the Jekyll beach where the sand is wet, the water salty and the waves mesmerizing.
The JIA seems to be focused on turning Jekyll Island into a money making venture which simply means nothing cheap, nothing affordable (or very little), nothing inviting to the good old, average Georgian.
And then there is that view of the ocean. Just as soon as you get to the end of the entrance road, you turn to the left and there it is. The ocean, the waves, that sound! And, it goes on and on and on. When I was a kid it was 3 zillion miles from that first view of the ocean to the hotel! It is public and it is big and it is accessible. In contrast, go ride around St. Simons and count the number of times you can see the beach. You can hardly find the beach unless you are at a hotel.
Senator Chapman points out in his letter that several actions of the JIA appear to be
inconsistent with the parkâ€™s statutory purpose as a public facility set aside for the benefit of â€œthe plain peopleâ€ of Georgia.
And what is it that the JIA has done?
1. The possible violation of a constitutional prohibition against granting gratuities, including the forgiveness of a public debt as a result of the JIA “…granting a rent abatement estimated to be in excess of $10,000,000 to Trammell Crow and Partners…”
A similar possible violation of the gratuities prohibition by the JIA’s acceptance of “Linger Longerâ€™s proposal for a combination of general obligation and revenue bonds totaling $84,500,000 to cover infrastructure costs associated with the proposed town center.”
2. An expressed intent by the JIA to make sure that ocean view rooms are not affordable by the average Georgian by allowing developers to charge what the market will bear and letting the “not so rich” go elsewhere if they can’t pay the bill. Senator Chapman notes:
This kind of thinking is reflected in policy shown by the Boardâ€™s approval of the replacement of the affordable Buccaneer Resort by Trammell Crow and partners, where room rates averaged $89 per night during the years 2002-2006, with a 540-room upscale hotel, where room rates will average double that amount in the off-season and $250 per night during the summer months. Add to these 540 rooms the 400 high-end rooms proposed by Linger Longer for its Jekyll town center, along with the 157 existing rooms at the upscale Jekyll Island Club Hotel, and the park will have well over half of its lodgings priced beyond the means of most Georgians.
3. “The Board is currently considering a proposal by Linger Longer Communities which calls for a beachside Jekyll town center that would result in the elimination of the state parkâ€™s most popular oceanfront public parking lots.”
4. “The Board has failed to take into account the environmental impact of a beachside community of the scale proposed by Linger Longer.”
5. “The proposed Jekyll town center includes 14 acres, currently designated as a â€œnature preserve,â€ that lie within the parkâ€™s 65% protected zone. Acceptance of all or any part of this segment of the proposal would require a redrawing of the existing 65/35 map and would constitute an amendment of the parkâ€™s Master Plan. Accordingly, the Authority would have to comply with sections 12-3-243.1 of the GA Code (see Attachment B) beginning with the submission of â€œa complete copy of the proposed amendment to the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, members of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority Oversight Committee, and Office of Legislative Counsel at least 60 days prior to the date of the meeting at which the proposed amendment will be considered.â€
Senator Chapman suggests several recommendations for the Oversight Committee’s consideration:
1. Seek an Official Opinion of the Attorney General on the question of the power of the Jekyll Island Authority to grant rent abatements or other subsidies to persons and corporations leasing property in the State Park from the Authority. Included among such subsidies the Attorney General should be asked about: a) the Constitutionality of a sale of bonds by the Jekyll Island Authority at the prescription of a party to whom the Authority is leasing property, when the proceeds of the sale of such bonds is to be used for the improvement of that leased property, and b) the legality of granting a rent abatement to a party for hotel redevelopment on nine acres of prime oceanfront property in light of OCGA 12-3-271, which calls for the Jekyll Island Authority to develop the park â€œat the lowest rates reasonable and possible for the benefit of the people of the State of Georgia.â€
2. Seek an Official Opinion of the Attorney General in regard to that portion of the GA Code OCGA 121-3-235(14), calling for Jekyll Island State Park to be available to and affordable for people of average income, specifically in light of the Authorityâ€™s failure to exercise its power in behalf of the interests of Georgians â€œof average incomeâ€ in its pursuit of the redevelopment of the hotel and other lodging facilities at Jekyll Island State Park.
3. Seek an Official Opinion of the Attorney General in regard to the applicability of the Environmental Policy Act, OCGA 12-16-1 et. seq., to the actions of the Jekyll Island Authority, specifically its duty to prepare an â€œenvironmental effects reportâ€ pursuant to that statuteâ€™s requirements.
4. Notify the Board of the Jekyll Island Authority of its duty to conform to the provisions of OCGA 12-3-243.1, in which notice of changes to the Master Plan for Jekyll Island must be submitted to the Overview Committee.
While the JIA apparently has some autonomy in ruling Jekyll Island, I certainly hope that the Oversight Committee flexes its muscles and imposes the will of the people of Georgia. The Governor appoints the members of the JIA, they aren’t elected. But those elected officials that can fix this, ought to and if they don’t that is what elections are for. If you think the JIA is on the wrong road, you can notify the members of the Authority Board, or Governor Perdue, or Sen. Tommie Williams (R-19) who is a Senate member of the Oversight Committee or Senator Chapman.
Let’s hope that Jekyll’s great view of the ocean is preserved for our kids and grandchildren!
If you haven’t heard, two of the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax, have announced plans to offer the ability to freeze their credit to consumers in all 50 states. The third big credit bureau, Experian, is apparently not motivated to join the party.
The effective date is supposedly October 15th. So get ready to make that call and tell them you don’t want any more credit. Good grief, that sounds weird to me. It is somewhat like swearing off water. While I am not at that age and status in life (retired/debt free) where I can, would, should, freeze my credit, I know there are plenty of people out there that want to be able to freeze their credit and avoid any risk of identity theft. To me, this is a matter of who owns my credit, me or them. Seems to me I do, since I pay the debts. I and anyone else ought to have the right to freeze our credit any time and for any reason we want.
In this interview with Danny Orock, Legislative Coordinator for Georgia Watch, we discuss various aspects of the “credit freeze” debate. While it is certainly a good thing that two of the credit bureaus have bestowed this favor on the people that make their existence possible, without legislation, state or federal, what business gives, business can take away. That is precisely why the effort to get our state legislature to pass appropriate legislation should continue.
Of course, my take on the matter is that this voluntary program is an effort to forestall legislation. Can anyone think of an industry where self-regulation has worked?
For example, the two credit bureaus will freeze your credit, as long as you are willing to pay for it, $10 or so. And to be effective you have to freeze it with all three, so that is $30 to do it right. And you can’t really do it right with only 2 of the 3 credit bureaus participating. There is still one left from which your credit and identity can be stolen. I wouldn’t mind a fee to freeze your credit that reflects the cost of actually doing it (push two buttons, 5 seconds each, multiplied by $7.15 per hour, equals $.02 rounded). To be fair you also have to cover the time on the phone or email, cost of equipment, etc. So let’s add 1000% of the actual costs and a good fee seems to be $0.20. What the heck, I am a generous man, give them a quarter.
According to Danny, there is a hearing this Thursday in the House Banks and Banking Committee on the credit freeze bill or bills. But don’t expect any progress. The committee, chaired by James Mills, (R-25), has failed to do anything so far.
Danny and I discussed two other issues with regard to which the legislature seems to be unable to oppose insurance companies. First, there is uninsured motorists (UM) coverage. You know, the insurance that pays you cash when the other guy didn’t buy insurance. Must be kind of like AFLAC, I guess. Most people don’t understand how important UM coverage is. You don’t have to buy it, but everyone should. It is cheap and can provide a degree of protection when the person that hits you has no insurance. Under the current law, if you purchase the coverage you may not get any benefit from it, even if the other person doesn’t have enough liability coverage to pay your bills. Why? Because your insurance company gets a credit for the amount of the other person’s (the one that caused the accident) liability coverage. You paid for it, but you don’t get it! Get it!
The other issue is getting the boys in power (the Republicans) to change some of the laws they screwed up in 2005 when they tried their very best to make it as hard as possible to sue your doctor, no matter how bad he screws up. They hit a home run for the insurance company when they passed a law that said you can’t sue hospitals and doctors for what happens in the emergency room of your local hospital, unless they actually intend to hurt you. The Senate Republicans have been saying for two years they realized the law they passed in 2005 was unfair and needs to be changed. Yeah, sure! They tell you this, and then say they are impotent to actually get it changed.
In addition to being a Democratic Representative, Rob Teilhet, is an attorney in the off-season. In this interview we focus on healthcare issues.
Gov. Perdue has recently announced a proposal to allow small businesses to pool funds in order to obtain a better insurance rate. The state and federal government would also contribute to this fund and the hope is that with about $20M to $30M from the State, about $180M could be generated to cover another 30,000 or so Georgians. Of course, this plan has to pass the legislature.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has recently proposed to fund 5 new health clinics throughout the state. With 1.8 million Georgians without access to healthcare they can afford, Rob thinks that opening 5 new clinics is like putting a “bandaid on a severed jugular.”
Rob indicates that small businesses are growing more vocal in insisting that something be done about the high cost of health insurance and healthcare. If small business gets behind it, maybe, just maybe, something will get done. He particularly thinks something is going to get done to cover the uninusred children of the state.
We also discuss the issue of competition in health care and the Certificate of Need (CON) which has become a vehicle by which hospitals maintain monopolies and exclude competition. You can expect the CON to come under attack until it is gone. It just depends on how much money the hospitals and their lobbyist throw at the legislature.
Now for my rant and rave!
I was recently told by a doctor friend of mine that he had been notified by the Department of Community Health that the DCH intends to deny reimbursement to doctors and hospitals for costs incurred in taking care of complications that occur during treatment that would otherwise be covered. Folks, that is &%$#@!*&^% insane. Suppose you have surgery and then get an infection, which can happen and which does happen way too much. If DCH refuses to pay for the care you receive for the infection, do you think you will receive the best care that money can buy? No! This kind of policy is going to decrease the level of care you receive.
Why does something like this get implemented? One reason! Not enough money in the budget. And why isn’t there enough money in the budget, because the Republican legislature doesn’t care about the quality of health care, just money.
In case you don’t know it, the reason nothing gets accomplished to fix the problems with healthcare in this country is nothing but politics and money.
Some of you may not know it, but a trial took place last week in the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the Honorable Harold Murphy, presiding, which may affect your right to vote. David Brackett and Emmett Bondurant of Bondurant, Mixson and Elmore, together with more lawyers from other law firms, are representing the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs consist of two real voting Georgians, Eugene Taylor from Sylvania, and Bertha Young from Rome, together with an assortment of groups such as Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, just to mention a few.
Almost 2 years ago the plaintiffs filed suit in federal court to have the 2005 Voter ID legislation declared unconstitutional. The lawsuit arose out of the passage of HB 244 which was sponsored by Sue Burmeister (did not seek re-election in 2006) in the House and John Wiles (R-37) in the Senate. (You may remember Sue. She is the Republican who made national news by stating that Blacks in her district didn’t vote unless they were paid.)
After suit was filed the district court enjoined the implementation of the law. While this ruling was on appeal, the 2006 legislature changed the law in an attempt to fix the problems which the district court found present. According to David, there are numerous local special elections scheduled around the state for later in September and because of this he expects a ruling maybe as early as this week.
A few things about the law. First, this law has nothing to do with registering to vote. Logic tells me that if you provide sufficient identification when you register to vote, that ought to be enough.
Second, if you think the purpose of the law was to prevent fraud, think again. None of the defendants offered any testimony as to why the law was passed. Not so much as a word. You would think that ole Sue and John, who sponsored the legislation, would have gotten on the witness stand, raised their hand and sworn there was some good reason for wasting all this time fighting over a photograph on election day. Certainly, they could have explained just exactly what evil or problem this photo requirement was supposed to fix or avoid.
If not Sue and John, you would at least think that the Secretary of State of Georgia could tell the court (and you and me) why a few hundred years after the invention of photography and a few thousand years after the invention of voter fraud, this law was needed in Georgia. Well, the Secretary of State, both the former, Cathy Cox, and the current, Karen Handel, did testify during the course of the litigation, but they said that no one ever complained to their offices about voter fraud at the polls on election day. In fact, there has never been a single reported case of voter fraud by someone going to the polls on election day and trying to vote for someone else. I guess most people who steal another’s identify don’t try to go vote for them!
Third, if voter fraud occurs in Georgia, it probably occurs with regard to absentee ballots. But ole Sue and John, and the legislature did not try to fix voter fraud with regard to absentee ballots. This law didn’t deal with absentee ballots. Could this be because a greater number of Republicans vote absentee, than Democrats?
Fourth, the Secretary of State’s office did find out that between 200,000 and 400,000 registered voters do not have a driver’s license, the most common form of photo ID. This means simply that there are a lot of elderly and poor that can’t or don’t drive, but they do vote!
According to David, Mr. Taylor, is one of those people. Taylor testified that everyone in Sylvania knew who he was and a photo ID was not necessary. I feel the same way. In fact, it may be a small thing, but I don’t even like it when I go to vote and my next door neighbor asks me for my drivers license. It is one of those stupid bureacratic things that I detest, but since it is my neighbor, I am nice–most of the time.
Of course, the fact that the people that passed the law (the Republicans in the legislature) could not offer any reason justifying the law tells us why it was passed: to suppress the vote of the people who tend to vote for Democrats, the poor, the elderly and Blacks. Now, should anyone disagree, just raise your right hand, come on down to Vidalia and I will find us a court house where you can testify about it. Might even get a camera to record the event.
What should offend all of us, including the real Republicans who are fiscally responsible, is the amount of money the State is spending on high-priced lawyers to defend a law they can’t even justify. Nothing against the lawyers at all. They are just doing what their clients want. The state just shouldn’t have to hire them for this crap!
And on top of that, this case and this waste is a good example of how the U. S. Department of Justice under Alberto Gonzales and George Bush has been politicized. Due to the 1964 and/or 1965 Voting Rights Act legislation like this has to be approved by the Dept. of Justice. When the Republicans of Georgia, including Gov. Perdue, sent this law for approval, the staff attorneys recommended that it not be approved, but this recommendation was overruled by Alberto & Company. And so, here we are wasting good taxpayer money in court with a bad law that should have been nipped in the bud by a non-politically motivated Justice Department.
Somebody out there, do an Open Records request and find out how much the State has paid for this litigation so far! Less than a million? More than a million? Who knows?
If you don’t know about Georgia Watch, you need to pay attention. It began its efforts in 2002 as a non-profit consumer advocacy group and since that time has made its mark as one of the best such groups in the country. A lot of that is due to Allie Wall, the Executive Director, who has been there from the beginning and has a knack for organization and motivation. (This is not to detract from the other excellant staffers.)
This interview with Allie was recorded before two legislative hearings which took place last week. You can read more about what happened at the hearings at GeorgiaWatch.com.
One hearing concerned legislation to allow consumers to freeze their credit. There were 3 bills introduced in the 2007 session which did not pass but which are still alive for the 2008 session: HB 35, 38, 130. These bills are a bipartisan effort headed up by Tommy Benton (R-31), Rob Teilhet (D-40) and Calvin Hill (R-21). All 3 are pending in the House Banks and Banking Committee which is chaired by James Mills (R-25).
About 39 states allow consumers to freeze their credit, but not Georgia. The credit bureaus don’t want consumers to be able to freeze their credit. Maybe the lobbyists for the credit bureaus will have their identities stolen in 2008 and at least one of the bills will get passed.
The other hearing concerned legislation to repeal an almost 20-year old law that requires auto insurance companies to obtain prior approval from the Insurance Commissioner before raising your premiums. Rep. Bill Hembree (R-67) introduced HB 867 at the 2007 session and it will still be alive in 2008. I don’t know why, after 20 years, Hembree thinks there is a reason to change the law. You can go to Project Vote Smart for information on Hembree’s campaign finances and voting record on the issues. The bill is pending in the House Insurance Committee which is chaired by Tom Knox (R-24). Another hearing is scheduled for later in the fall.
Now is the time to call your legislator and let them know what you think!
Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams discusses some thoughts about the newly unveiled Georgia Water Plan from the Water Council. Tommie said he has not read the entire plan but he is aware of controversial issues such as interbasin pumping. As to that issue he says he is in agreement with the Riverkeeper organizations that oppose such methods.
According to Tommie the legislature is prepared to do its own investigation into this issue, not just adopt whatever the Water Council proposes. There is $20 million in the budget to allow for adequate study and development of an alternative proposal. That sounds good, real good.
What I don’t understand is the provision in the 2004 Comprehensive Statewide Water Management Planning Act which provides that if the legislature does not adopt some plan at the 2008 session of the legislature, the Water Council proposal becomes law. I have never understood why the legislature passes legislation that essentially says that if the elected officials can’t decide what to do, so unelected agency or bureaucrat gets to decide the issue. What do we elect them for?
Tommie was quick to point out that there is some question as to whether or not this delegation of responsibility is even constitutional. A court will have to decide that and it may well come to that. I just wonder why nobody thought about that when the Act was passed into law 3 years ago.
This is going to be a big issue folks, pitting environmentalists and the country people against the big city developers that want to pave everything between the north Georgia mountains and Macon. All I can say is the day someone tells me the water under my land is going to be pumped to Atlanta so some rich dude can develop something is the day the Devil Came Down to Georgia.
Tommie also gives us a glimpse of the push in the 2008 legislature to do away with property taxation in favor of a broader sales tax base with fewer exemptions. That would probably mean taxes on services, as well as goods. You know services, like haircuts, mowing lawns and attorney fees.
Tommie did not indicate that the income tax may be eliminated, although some have talked about that as well. I am not sure Tommie has much appreciation for the fact that the sales tax is a regressive tax. Simply, people with low income pay a higher percentage of their income toward the tax than people with higher incomes. Higher sales taxes shifts more of the burden to low income families. Some people think this is fair on the theory that if you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t spend the money. That logic may apply to a boat but not to a bottle of milk for the kid.
It is sure to be a sticky issue.
Tommie also talks about the transportation problem in Metro Atlanta. He seems to agree that building more roads is not going to solve the problem. He told me that some 450,000 people ride MARTA everyday. The problem is the 2 or 3 million that don’t. Tommie threw out 2 suggestions: some sort of perimeter oriented mass transit and trolleys for downtown. Is this what he was thinking about? I was thinking more like a high speed train from Alpharetta to Five Points. Another intractable problem solved!