Morning Reads for Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 2012 7:30 am

by Todd Rehm · 12 comments

Today’s morning reads are on time-delay. I post them first over here, where you can sign up to receive them in your email inbox every weekday morning.

Tiana is about 5 months old and 20# and is a recent arrival at Walton County Animal Control. She’s described as a “spunky, playful girl” who looks to be mostly German Shepherd. Walton Animal Shelter is a great bargain if you’re interested in rescuing a dog, as they come pre-vetted for a $40 adoption fee. Their Director does an outstanding job of photographing the dogs and cats that end up there, and as a result they appear to have a pretty high adoption rate.

Legislative News

A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee House Bill 397, which would rewrite the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws to clarify the requirements for other state bodies and subdivision and raises the fines for government workers who knowingly violate the acts. The bill is expected to be heard by the Full Committee today at 1:30 PM.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed Senate Bill 483, to allow the state’s Public Service Commission to elect its own Chairman, rather than the currently-mandated rotation among the members. Passage came after the bill was amended to allow embattled PSC Chairman Tim Echols to finish his current term as Chairman.

House Bill 1176, by Rep. Rich Golick, proposes reduced prison sentences for some offenders and expansion of diversionary and treatment programs. According to the AJC “The governor will need to see changes in the current bill that will bring it back toward the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Reform Council,” said Brian Robinson, Deal’s spokesman. “The process is intended to reduce costs to taxpayers, and it’s his opinion that this bill might actually increase costs.”

Senator Buddy Carter took what was described as a “walk of shame” yesterday after pulling his solar bill from consideration before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. Greg Roberts of Georgia Power writes that allowing third-party financing of solar and power purchase agreements is likely to raise the rates for all other users.

The Senate Passed House Bill 800, which removes the requirement that Georgia’s National Guard Assistant Adjutant General have five years experience in the Guard. The revision will allow Joe Jarrard, a 21-year decorated Army veteran to serve in the post, despite having no service in the Guard.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 355 by Sen. Renee Unterman, which will make failure to report child abuse a misdemeanor.

Executive Branch News

Superior Court Judge John Girardeau writes that Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed expansion of “Accountability Courts,” will save taxpayer money, reduce recidivism and attempt to reduce the underlying causes of juvenile crime. The courts are based on the concept of drug courts, which puts offenders into treatments programs for at least two years and requires weekly court appearances to ensure the individual stays on track. The courts appear to be much more successful in reducing recidivism rates that prisons.

Did you know that Gov. Deal has a blog that covers his legislative agenda?

Attorney General Sam Olens continues to live up to his campaign promise to revise Open Records and Open Meetings laws. Olens worked on the drafting of SB 397. Walter Jones of the Morris News Service writes that “People on both sides applaud the attorney general for coming up with a revision that incorporates court decisions in the decades since the current law was enacted. ”

Local News

Savannah property owners might pay higher property taxes when the state’s moratorium on rising property valuations for taxes expires. The moratorium capped property tax valuations for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Barrow County school teachers will be banned from social networking with students under new rules adopted by the school system unless it is part of a school-approved educational program.

Snellville Mayor Kellie Kautz said “It became apparent tonight … that regardless of what appointments I would put up, that this council is not willing to work to move our city forward,” after the City Council rejected two of her nominations to committees. City Attorney Stuart Oberman, appointed by Kautz, resigned after four members of Council voted to retain their own attorney questioning the “quality and accuracy” of Oberman’s advice.

Gwinnett County Commissioner and former Duluth Mayor Shirley Fanning-Lasseter will not stand for reelection this year.

Ports, Railroads and Freight

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has vetoed that state’s bill that purports to undo a state agency approval of plans to dredge the Savannah Riverto improve access to the Port of Savannah. According to Gov. Haley, the bill “amounts to unconstitutional legislative overreaching into an agency’s ruling,” and “reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about the administrative process.”

A third ocean port located at St. Mary’s on the Florida border is gaining some support from local residents in Camden County, where the unemployment rate is significantly higher than the state rate. The proposed location already has rail service, is close to I-95 and is on a river channel that already is maintained at 48 feet deep in order to allow passage of Navy submarines to and from King’s Point, but significant hurdles remain. “This strategic property is one of the largest remaining sites in all of coastal Georgia that enjoys navigable water access and has all infrastructure in place,” noted John McDill, chairman of the Camden County Joint Development Authority.

Georgia Chamber CEO Chris Clark visited Gainesville, where he told the Rotary Club that the state’s TSPLOST will be good for economic development.

Dennis O’Hayer has posted part two of an interview with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, in which Reed discusses the TSPLOST. The DeKalb NAACP has announced its opposition to the TSPLOST.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood writes that part of the problem for Metro Atlanta transportation is that no single elected leader is responsible for solving problems that beyond the local level

Calypso February 28, 2012 at 8:07 am

I just finished reading the opinion piece by Greg Roberts VP of GEORGIA POWER provided by the above link.

What utter BS his article is. I’m sure he couldn’t keep a straight face while he was writing it. Shame on the senators for not taking up Carter’s bill. The slimy workings of Don Balfour (R-Ga. Power) at its worst, I imagine.

saltycracker February 28, 2012 at 10:00 am

C,

Agreed everyone is fighting for their turf – but isn’t Roberts’ question fair that if he sells electricity he’s regulated but a small solar seller isn’t , plus he contends they shouldn’t be able to use his poles & lines for free ? Both got some kind of subsidy/rebate, right or wrong, for something. Maybe I missed something beyond being territorial.

Calypso February 28, 2012 at 10:07 am

The solar producer is selling the electricity back to Ga Power. They can figure into the selling/purchasing price the use of GP’s poles and lines.

When I buy groceries at Publix they don’t charge me (separately) for the bag in which I bring them home, it is merely included in the cost of my groceries.

saltycracker February 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm

C,

Correct – see the article on reasons why the producer is restricted to sell back a regulated power company. That part was clear.

When you buy groceries from Publix you don’t expect Krogers to supply the bags.

ricstewart February 28, 2012 at 8:08 am

“The process is intended to reduce costs to taxpayers, and it’s his opinion that this bill might actually increase costs.”

I wish Governor Deal was as concerned about costs to taxpayers last year when he signed HB 87 without a fiscal note.

saltycracker February 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

AJC article today: The Higher Education Funding Commission is developing a new way to fund Georgia’s public colleges so that more emphasis is placed on student success. Student enrollment currently drives how much taxpayer money colleges receive.” Gov. Deal will be meeting with college presidents Tuesday.

Forbes article this week: A talk about skills gap with Jeff Joerres, CEO of Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup ( $22 billion in ­annual sales and operates in 80 countries.) Joerres, CEO since 1999, is a ­favorite of Wall Street analysts because of his straight talk.

“This skills gap is sure to grow as the population ages and industries from health care to manufacturing are altered by technology.” Two of his questions:

Fifteen percent of parking lot attendants have B.A. degrees. Would more students be better off going to a trade school?
Clearly. This trend started in the 1970s—and for the right reasons: The knowledge economy will need knowledge workers. But the knowledge economy was defined too narrowly. It was defined as a service industry. We failed to see that manufacturing would also be part of the knowledge economy. In many ways manufacturing has a bad name. Parents want to send their kid to a college, not a trade school. That the kid might end up waiting tables with his history degree is, weirdly, considered a better result than if the kid had gone to a technical school and become a master plumber. Even though the plumber will earn four times as much as the waiter.

How do you break the prejudice against trade schools?
We have to bring honor to the trades, to technical schools. We have to do that with messaging and proof points, and we have to realize that it will take years to change hearts and minds. It took years to convince people that everyone should go to a four-year college, so it’ll take years to undo that thinking. But if we never start, we’ll never get out of the quagmire.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/richkarlgaard/2012/02/22/manpowergroups-jeff-joerres-on-the-skills-gap/

Will that high dollar (soon to be investigated ?) land and tax incentives to CAT benefit local college grads or vo-tech trained employees ?

John Konop February 28, 2012 at 9:03 am

Very good post Salty! The sad part is kids leaving college with massive debt with a 4 year liberal arts degree over taking a more pragmatic approach. Nothing wrong with a liberal arts degree, but leaving school with massive debt and no real job prospects to support the investment is a tough road. Students should think about living at home, public schools over private………..before taking on the massive debt for education. And as Salty pointed out trade schools should be embraced and coordinated with 9-12th grade as an option.

saltycracker February 28, 2012 at 9:32 am

It is sad to see Georgia so far behind they are embracing 1970’s thinking to get everyone a college degree when they have an opportunity to fast forward to the new paradigm.
It is even more of a missed opportunity when testing the typical student.

It is an opportunity for universities to demand more money and special interests to offer up more gambling ideas to fund them. Or shorter educational career years with better retirements ? What’s next, the Feds to take over student loans (now more than credit card debt) ? oops…..

And agree, drug use is a health issue and an incredible misuse of taxpayer funds from law enforcement costs to legal costs to prison overload. When crimes against property and people are put on the back burner, we are misdirected.

John Konop February 28, 2012 at 8:22 am

Governor Deal is right about his issues with bill 1176. We have to move toward decrimalizing drugs, especially low level use. If a person gets caught smoking pot, their criminal record and not being able to use their car creates a massive underclass under the current system. Drugs are a health issue not a criminal issue unless a person violates crimes on drugs. We must give Judges the ability to work with low level crimes that are committed, with a carrot and stick approach. The current heavy handed stick approach has created bigger problems ie massive increase in repeat offenders, lack of job opportunities for offenders, massive increase in prison spending……

We must all agree the war on drug approach that created concepts like 3 strikes and you are out failed. If you put a person in a corner with no real opportunities we should not wonder why the idea failed.

Calypso February 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

Legalize, regulate, and tax ALL drugs. Take 10% of what we are now spending on the incredibly screwed-up failure called the ‘War On Drugs’ and direct it toward preventive education and treatment.

saltycracker February 28, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Agree a piece of the action needs to go to education & treatment.
But legalizing all drugs ? There are some nasty ones out there to do everything from making you a vegetable, insane, totally vunerable, dangerous to others and everything else to death.

Regs can be put into place on the distribution, selling, use and possession or banning with criminal charges for those non-compliant.

Calypso February 29, 2012 at 6:51 am

I’m willing to entertain those ideas, but one must ask, ‘What is stopping folks from using those sort of drugs now?’ The law? The knowledge that those drugs can really f you up?

Why don’t people take rat poison?

Remember, current laws don’t stop anyone from taking any drug (or doing any thing) now. The laws are there merely to punish those that take illegal drugs or commit illegal offenses. After the fact, societal retribution, feel-good sort of stuff.

How many times have you heard, “You can’t do that, it’s against the law.”? Well, how many times does someone do it anyway. The law doesn’t prevent illegal action, it punishes (or rehabilitates, depending on your point of view) after said action takes place.

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