Holidays With The American Family

December 22, 2014 10:00 am

by Charlie · 1 comment

This week’s Courier Herald column:

This week we complete the celebration of Hanukkah and begin the Christmas season. It’s a joyous time when people of faith celebrate miracles at the cornerstone of our belief systems.  We’ve merged a copious amount of gift giving to the celebration.

Of all the best gifts I have received in my life, my three sisters have to rank up there. I mean, they were no train set, but they’ve managed to endure long after the wrapping paper of other gifts was long forgotten.

They, of course, required some assembly and instruction.  For that, I’m eternally grateful for having two awesome parents.  I can even say I helped in making them better at their jobs.  I’m speaking of the ill-advised time I once told my Mom her spankings didn’t hurt.  Sure enough, she got better quite immediately at that skill.

My dad needed no instructions on the art of the spanking, but he was also quite thoughtful in a lot of the disciplinary lessons he taught us.  He knew that one of our great bonds as a family was the ability to endure momentary disagreements.  Our strength would come from being united, especially at times when we wouldn’t necessarily want to be.

To that end, Dad devised the “shower time-out” when we were still quite small.  When my sisters and I were fighting, we would have to sit in my parents shower until we could come back to them and tell them we had worked it out.  [click to continue…]

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International

Watch out: N. Korea says, the worst it yet to come

Protester takes perch on St. Peter’s façade

National

Gunman who ambushed NYC cops had troubled past

Former NY police commish says blood is on the hands of mayor, Sharpton

Evan Satanists believe in some sort of holiday season

Gas prices continue to fall

Another blackout for Dish customers, this time for Fox News

Local

Chatham County judges making justice swifter for major crimes

Are we finally nearing the end of all of these DeKalb cityhood discussions?

Sally Yates is reportedly heading to Washington

Unsettled weather through Christmas Eve

Sports

Winner take all, next Sunday in the Dome

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The AP is reporting that Sally Quillian Yates has been tapped by President Obama for the No. 2 position at the Justice Department.

Citing sources who requested anonymity, Yates would serve as deputy attorney general.

Yates has been U.S. attorney since 2010. She was previously a prosecutor in that office.

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Hospitals in rural Georgia haven’t taken advantage of a policy change intended to let them save money. According to Ray Henry of the Associated Press, the change allowed unprofitable hospitals to limit services to emergency room care and some outpatient services. It would apply to hospitals serving counties with a population less than 35,000 people that were no more than 35 miles away from a full service hospital.

From the beginning, though, there was a question over whether the plan would actually save any money.

Analysts have cautioned that the demographics of rural Georgia make it difficult for a hospital to break even, much less turn a profit. Rural areas tend to have higher-than-normal levels of poverty, large pools of uninsured people and too few patients.

Industry data show that an emergency room needs 35 to 40 visits daily to break even, said Charles Horne, an accountant for Draffin & Tucker LLP, who modeled the performance of a freestanding emergency room in Georgia.

His models showed the facilities would suffer losses ranging from $400,000 to $1.2 million. Those figures did not include the cost of a hospital building and other equipment expenses.

Emergency rooms are expensive for hospitals to operate because they have to remain open 24 hours a day, and there has to be staff on hand in case of, well, medical emergencies. In addition, emergency rooms are required by federal law to treat anyone walking in the door, no matter whether they can pay or not. And for many who are covered by insurance, the reimbursement for services provided to them is less than the cost of providing those services, especially in rural areas.

Just over a year ago, we talked about how changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act could affect charity and rural hospitals. The standalone emergency room rule change was one possible idea to address the issue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have had the desired result.

Two weeks ago, legislators at the Biennial listened to a panel discussion about the merits of setting up standalone treatment centers in order to cut overall healthcare costs. It’s an issue related to the policy change made in order to prop up rural hospitals. From the Morris News coverage of the panel discussion:

Hospital executives say they depend on the law that requires a state certificate of need before any health facility can open. Removing it would jeopardize an estimated 19 rural hospitals that are on the verge of closing, such as Putnam General Hospital in Eatonton.

“You take all the requirements off of hospitals to be open 24/7 and never being able to turn away a patient like these treatment centers enjoy, then our costs will go down,” said Gregory Hearn, the CEO of Ty Cobb Health­care System in Royston.

How to lower overall healthcare costs while ensuring that all Georgians have access to the treatment they need is a challenging issue that could take up legislators’ time when the General Assembly meets in January. And that’s before the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision on King v. Burwell, a case that could have a major effect on the viability of the Affordable Care Act.

It’s an issue that bears watching.

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Did you know many high school graduates don’t know who George Washington is? I know, shocking! Well, there’s a proposal in North Dakota to force high school seniors to take a ten question oral exam, similar to the one applicants to become US citizens have to take. They’ll only have to get six of the questions right, so unless five of the questions are about George Washington (as they obviously should be) they’ll still not have to know who Washington was.

The AP reports that “similar efforts also are underway in South Dakota, Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah…”

Could Georgia be next in the chute?

The effort is being pushed by the Joe Foss Institute out of Arizona, who has given honorary awards to Sammy Davis, Jr. and Jay Leno, so you know they’re a serious outfit.

So which Georgia legislator will be the first to take the bait and pre-file the above bill? We’ll take your bets below, the winner getting the bill that Washington is actually on.

 

 

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Republican Congressman Tom Price (GA-06) is scheduled to make an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” this Sunday to discuss the fiscal and economic issues facing the upcoming 114th Congress of the United States of America.

Congressman Price will be joined by Greta Brawner of C-SPAN, Damian Paletta of the Wall Street Journal and Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press. The incoming Chairman of the House Budget Committee will be speaking about his Committee’s role in coming up with solutions to combat America’s fiscal and economic challenges.

The interview will air on Sunday, December 21, 2014 at 10:00 A.M followed by a re-run at 6:00 P.M. The program will also be is available for viewing online at www.c-span.org.

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A House Governmental Affairs subcommittee voted 3-1 on Friday to set the boundary between the proposed DeKalb County cities of LaVista Hills and Tucker. The boundary settles the dispute between the two cityhood movements over the disposition of the Northlake Mall area, a commercial hub that would provide much of the property tax base both cities want. The vote was 3-1, with Chairman Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) voting in favor of the boundaries, and Rep. Howard Mosby (D-Atlanta) voting against.

LaVista Hills - Tucker Boundary MapAs you can see in the map to the right, those living outside the perimeter south of I-85 were placed in LaVista Hills. At a public hearing earlier this month, that seemed to be the wishes of that area’s residents. The real challenge, however, was dividing Northlake, which was done by placing parcels north of LaVista Road in LaVista Hills, while making the area south of LaVista part of Tucker. You can see more detail by clicking on the map.

The end result is that Northlake Mall, along with several hotels and other offices will be in LaVista Hills, while the Northlake Tower Festival shopping center and some manufacturing and office/warehouse space will be in Tucker. This is what a representative of the business community in the Northlake area said he didn’t want during this month’s hearing.

According to the AJC, representatives of Tucker and LaVista Hills cityhood movements vowed to move forward:

Mary Kay Woodworth, the co-chairwoman of LaVista Hills Yes, wants to move ahead with incorporation but said dividing the Northlake Mall retail area would cause problems for policing and land use planning.

“It splits the business community,” she said. “We’re going to see how we can make it work.”

Michelle Penkava of Tucker 2015 said the compromise map provides the area with a path toward cityhood after squabbles over borders scuttled proposals in the Legislature earlier this year.

“Our hearts are with those who are rejoicing and those who are being pulled out of their community,” Penkava said. “We’re looking forward to moving ahead.”

While the boundary along I-285 is settled, there may be further changes to the maps before they are voted on. Brookhaven has annexed Children’s Healthcare and Executive Park, which would have been part of the proposed city of LaVista Hills. The city of Stone Mountain has indicated an interest in annexing area long Mountain Industrial Boulevard in would-be Tucker, while the city of Atlanta is pitching an annexation of the Emory – CDC area north of Decatur.

The next step for each peoposed city would be to find a sponsor for its cityhood bill, and secure passage in the legislature. After that, residents in the proposed cities would need to vote in favor of the move. In other words, there’s still a long way to go before either group can put up a city limits signs.

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Peach Pundit Radio Redux

December 19, 2014 17:50 pm

by Chet Martin · 2 comments

Saturday morning at 9 AM, tune in to 640 WGST to hear Charlie, Jon, and me talk budgets, bud, and barbecue with Sully. If you don’t want to huddle by your ol’ fashioned living room radio, listen here. Come for Charlie asking me to solve the state’s problems in two minutes, stay for my nervous sputtering.

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Balfour Calls Out Sam Olens, Again

December 19, 2014 13:30 pm

by Lawton Sack · 6 comments

Outgoing State Senator Don Balfour took to Facebook today to call out Attorney General Sam Olens, again, continuing his less than positive exit:

Today, Dec 19 unless it is your birthday, isn’t a big day. But it is a big day for me. A year ago today the frivolous charges brought by an incompetent Georgia Attorney General were found unanimously NOT GUILTY. The Jury foreman stood before the press and told them that they should find out why this was even in a court of law. The Jury could not believe the Attorney General had totally wasted their time.

The Judge told the State to refund me all my legal fees.

Most people are shocked that the State paid hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating this. And are surprised that a person could be charged a felony for an eleven dollar mistake on an expense report.

The AG knew before the indictment that I am one of a hand full of legislators that is not taking a state pension saving the state over 160,000, that I was the only legislator who reduced his salary at his company by the salary made in the State so there wasn’t any increase of pay (over 300,000), and that I could have taken over 45,000 in expenses that I chose not to. So why would I give up on my own over a half a million dollars but steal 11 or 22 ?

Next time, lets election a DA who knows how to prosecute or not prosecute.

A screenshot of the post can be seen after the break, just in case it disappears from Facebook.

Comment or view post

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Editor’s Note: Jose Perez is a Cuban native who lives in Gwinnett County. He is a former member of the Georgia State School Board, and presently serves on the state Charter School Commission. Prior to the election of President Obama in 2008, Perez penned an op-ed for the Gwinnett Daily Post expressing his concern about a future Obama administration.

Here, Perez provides his opinion on the President’s recently announced proposal to normalize relations with Cuba.

I am an American born in Cuba that believes capitalism is the best and most effective mechanism to organize economic and social activity. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot, however in the history of mankind there has not been another system that has more efficiently addressed the individual needs and wants of its citizens.

By most people’s account I am a practical man with a focus on facts that seldom allows emotions to get the best of me. As an American, I can see opening relations with Cuba as an internally consistent American policy; after all we are doing business with China and Vietnam, as well as with other non-communist countries with also terrible human rights tract records.

But, as a Cuban, Mr. President, I have difficulty believing your premise that by normalizing relations you are helping the Cuban people. Perhaps there is already a deal in the works with the Castro brothers. After all, they run the Cuban economy! They are self-appointed one-percenters that have acquired enormous family wealth without ever producing anything. They buy and sell everything in Cuba and then allocate what they think is right to his people. Is there a deal with the Guantanamo base you want to close and a Cruise Line donor? Or more strategically are we trying to prevent a Chinese foothold in our backyard?

Once a thriving economy, today Cuban economic prospects are dire. Conventional wisdom cause and effect blames the U.S. embargo. I do not. I blame Castro’s centralized controls with its diseconomies of scale and the individual disincentives to produce, for driving the Cuban economy into the ground. Cuba in fact trades with the rest of the world, so there is global demand for Cuban goods, but the problem is that Cuba cannot produce enough to satisfy demand. So, throwing additional U.S. demand their way is not going to resolve anything. All it will do is put American tax payer money in Castro’s pockets that they will use to raise havoc in the rest of the world instead of helping the Cuban people.

President Obama, if your intent is really to help both the American and the Cuban people then, negotiations to open relations must extract from Castro a re-establishment of the rule of law with the protection of private property. These protections would enable Cuba to attract the necessary investment and managerial talent necessary to improve production and satisfy global demand. Without these solutions the effort would become another American tax payer money pit and add to the illegal immigration problems that we already have.

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Including Charlie Harper, Stefan Turkheimer and Jon Richards. If you’re near a radio from noon until 1 today, tune in to WGST 640AM. If not, listen live right here. Feel free to suggest topics in the comments.

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6 Shopping Days ’til Christmas. Get on with it, already.

Here:
– Finally, some Federal funding for Savannah.
– Rejoice! Christmas break comes early to Polk County schools. Oh wait.
– GA unemployment rate drops again.
Herding cats. Or something.
– This might some of you people happy.
– No fast internetz for you!

There:
Sad news for Cheyney University.
Romney finally has a good idea.
– CNN wins Quote of the Year…wait, what?
Be careful when trading in your truck.
Fredo, I always knew it was you.
Saints Preserve Us!

Random Everywhere:
So many mummies, so little time.
– Brings a whole new meaning to “Honey, let’s drive around and look at the Christmas lights.”
The Force is strong in this one.

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I’ve seen some strong language from conservative friends on Facebook who are saying that Georgia’s Republican congressmen who voted in favor of the termed “CROmnibus” bill that recently passed Congress have “betrayed” conservative voters. Of course, a lot of liberals are upset over the bill too, so there’s that. You can see the statements from some of the congressmen on their vote here, but Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA-09) has sent out an email newsletter that explains what is in the bill and setting the record straight. You can read it in its entirety after the jump.
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Two days ago a letter was sent to all 180 state Representatives (and presumably all 56 Senators) from Trey Childress of a group called Competitive Georgia. According to the Political Insider, the group is “a coalition of mostly business interests “united against discrimination.”” And as you will see below, Childress warns that passing a bill taken from a federal law which has been on the books since the Clinton years will damage Georgia’s reputation and ruin it’s businesses. The full text of the letter I received is below the fold, as is a response from the House sponsor of the bill Rep. Sam Teasley.

Add your comments in the comment section. [click to continue…]

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There has been much talk about how, with the departure of Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun and John Barrow from the U.S. House, Georgia would be losing many years of seniority, and therefore clout. But the news isn’t all bad, as the Peach State’s remaining congressmen gain seniority and new responsibilities.

6th District Congressman Tom Price will step up to chair the Budget Committee, replacing Paul Ryan. We mentioned earlier that 14th District Congressman Tom Graves will serve as chair of an Appropriations subcommittee, and how 7th District Congressman Rob Woodall landed a spot on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee.

Now comes word that 9th District Congressman Doug Collins will be joining Woodall on the House Rules Committee, which is the one committee that touches every piece of legislation passing through the lower chamber. Collins will continue on the Judiciary Committee, where he will become Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. In an announcement, Collins said,

In the 114th Congress, committees are where we’ll be doing the hardest work in turning this country around. I’m honored to be in a position to make Northeast Georgia’s voice heard as every piece of legislation makes its way through the Rules Committee to the House floor. On the Judiciary Committee, I’ll be working even harder on ways to encourage innovation and intellectual property for the next generation. We’ll also be making sure that in President Obama’s final two years in office, we’re protecting the American people from his increasingly reckless regard for the Constitution.

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