By Buzz Brockway

Former Chair of the Gwinnett County Republican Party, State Representative for Georgia House District 102 (Lawrenceville).

Some Things I Learned In Silicon Valley

One of Google's self-driving cars.
One of Google’s self-driving cars.
Last week I attended something called the State Internet Policy Conference. The Conference, hosted by Apple, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, featured tours of Facebook’s and Google’s headquarters and panel discussions on a host of topics. It was an informative conference and I was glad I was able to attend.

I thought I’d pass on a few things I learned.

1) Overall, California is not very business friendly, but the talent pool tech companies draw from is enormous. California’s personal and corporate income taxes are among the highest in the nation. So why do these companies stay there? The Left Coast still has several things in it’s favor, most notably local talent. The sheer volume of programmers in the area is enormous. Also, California’s laws on non-compete agreements greatly favor employees and independent contractors. This encourages job hopping and even striking out on your own should you come up with a good idea.

2) Policymakers better get used to turmoil because disruptive technologies aren’t going to end any time soon. If you thought Uber and AirBnB were the end of the turmoil caused by new technologies, think again. Autonomous vehicles are coming – fast. Drones to deliver small packages to your home or business are not far behind. There are plenty of other cool gadets being developed in labs across the Valley. Some of these will turn someone’s world upside down. Legislators will be faced with clashes between current law and technologies seeking to uproot the established order for the foreseeable future.

3) Tech companies spend a lot of money regularly upgrading equipment. Old models of taxation don’t fit these companies well. Here in Georgia, we give tax breaks for certain types of manufacturing and farming equipment. Tech companies regularly spend millions on computer equipment but receive no tax breaks on these purchases. Additionally, manufacturers and certain agriculture entities do not pay state sales tax on the electricity they consume. Data centers are not exempt from the tax on power, which costs them a lot of money and make Georgia less attractive when a tech company is looking to expand. It might be time to revisit how we tax tech companies. A few changes could enhance our state’s attractiveness to the tech industry.

Georgia is seen as an attractive place for tech companies. Google Fiber is moving into metro Atlanta, most of the major tech players have a presence here and are looking to grow, there are a number of data centers here, and we have a thriving gaming industry. One Google manager said to me (not knowing I was a Georgia Tech alum), “whatever you can do to keep Georgia Tech a top engineering school, do it.” Midtown’s Technology Square is a hotbed of high-tech activity. We’ve got a lot going for us here in Georgia and as long as we’re willing to adjust our policies to meet changing technological times, our tech sector should continue to grow and provide good paying jobs for our citizens.

Cathy, Chick-Fil-A Move To Help ATL’s Westside

Last Thursday I attended the Council for Quality Growth’s annual dinner. They were honoring Chick-Fil-A’s Dan Cathy with their Four Pillars Award. Cathy accepted the award on the condition that he and others be allowed to talk about his latest effort, helping to revitalize Atlanta’s westside. Here is a video shown at the event:

As Maria Saporta reported yesterday Chick-Fil-A will be opening a restaurant in 2017 at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.

At the Council for Quality Growth’s Four Pillar Award dinner on Oct. 1, Cathy also was to tell to attendees that the Chick-fil-A Foundation would be donating a total of $300,000 to the Westside Future Fund, an entity that has been established to serve as a focal point for corporate and philanthropic donors wanting to invest in the Vine City, English Avenue and surrounding communities.

“Individuals and businesses are going to have to be willing to prime the pump and get the fly wheels to start spinning again,” Cathy said in an interview a few days before the dinner. “We are going to try to stop this socio-economic divide that’s seen in so many urban markets. We are going to take a stand with others including the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.”

Among the groups spotlighted at the Four Pillars Tribute was City of Refuge, which Cathy has supported for several years now. Read more

GOP Exceeds Fundraising Goal At Last Night’s Dinner

GOP Logo courtesy of Wikipedia.Jon told you about last night’s Georgia Republican Party dinner featuring Frank Luntz. This morning the GAGOP released a statement saying they had exceeded the fundraising goal for the event. From a press release:

Last night, Georgia Republicans from throughout the state gathered at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center in Atlanta for the 2015 Chairman’s Dinner, which featured Republican pollster and “public opinion guru” Frank Luntz as the keynote speaker and many of Georgia’s top Republican elected officials and grassroots leaders. While contributions are still being collected, the event exceeded the Party’s fundraising goal of $150,000.

“The Georgia Republican Party is fortunate to have strong supporters who are committed to growing the base and earning victory for our nominees at the ballot box,” said Georgia Republican Party Foundation Chairman Jack Kingston. “I am confident that we will have the funds in place to launch an aggressive, comprehensive, data-driven victory program that protects our U.S. Senate seat and helps Republicans win back the White House in 2016!”

“Thanks to the outpouring of support from hardworking Republicans throughout the state, the Georgia Republican Party is equipped for battle,” said Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett. “With our pro-growth, pro-freedom message, we can keep Georgia red and ensure that America’s best and brightest days are still to come.”

You too can donate to the Georgia Republican Party and help build a warchest for the 2016 elections.

Rubio Visits Atlanta, Draws Endorsements From Congressman Scott, Others.

2015-09-21 10.31.53Florida Senator, and GOP Presidential hopeful, Marco Rubio visited Atlanta this morning, speaking to a crowded room of supporters and potential supporters in Buckhead. Some news was made at the event as 8th District Congressman Austin Scott introduced Rubio and announced his support of the Senator for the GOP Nomination. The AJC obtained this quote from Scott, via the Rubio campaign:

“Marco Rubio is the candidate who is ready to be Commander in Chief the first day in office,” said Congressman Austin Scott. “He will provide the type of strong conservative leadership in national security that is important to the state of Georgia and vital to our country as a whole. He has a bold vision for uniting the nation, and has the optimism and strength of character to move our economy and country forward.”

Scott reiterated those thoughts as he introduced Rubio.

On Sunday, the Rubio campaign announced other endorsements including:

State Senator P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville)
State Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming)
State Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville)
State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula)
State Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown)
State Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta)
Sandy Springs Councilman Gabriel Sterling

I think Jon Richards will post more about today’s event but here is what the AJC reported a little while ago.

The 44-year-old Republican warned a crowd of a few hundred supporters at a Buckhead hotel that “America is on the road to decline” because of a Washington establishment that is increasingly out-of-touch with the rank-and-file.

“If you keep electing the same people, we’re going to get the exact same results. And I wish I could tell you that the people disconnected from your lives are all Democrats. And they are. But it’s not just Democrats,” said Rubio. “There are even people in my party as well.”

He added:

“Not because they’re bad. Not because they don’t love America. But it’s because their ideas have grown stale. And quite frankly, many themselves have just lost touch with what it’s like to owe student loans, what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, how hard it is to survive in business today. Whatever it may be, we cannot get off this road to decline if keep electing the same people with the same tired ideas and the same disconnect in the way they approach government.”

Rubio To Visit Atlanta Monday For Meet And Greet

l3r5AkroThe details are now finalized and we can share with you that GOP Presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio will be in Atlanta Monday morning. The event is free but space is limited so you need a ticket. Here are the details:

Please join us in welcoming Senator Marco Rubio to Georgia at a meet and greet in Atlanta on Monday morning, September 21st. This is a great opportunity to hear his vision for a New American Century!

Each guest is required to RSVP for this event. If you are unable to RSVP via Eventbrite, onsite registration will be available (pending venue capacity) at the door.

Look forward to seeing you there!

WHEN Monday, September 21, 2015 at 10:15 AM (EDT)
WHERE Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel & Conference Center – 3405 Lenox Road NE Atlanta, GA 30326

CLICK HERE TO RSVP via Eventbrite.

Former Rep. Alisha Morgan To Head Charter School

morgan1-300x201Ivy Preparatory Academy, which has three public charter schools in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, has hired former state Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan as their new Executive Director.

Morgan was recently named as executive director of Ivy Preparatory Academies, which serves more than 1,300 students in three metro Atlanta public charter schools. She was appointed by the Board of Directors of IPA to lead the charter network after a national search for a new executive director picked Morgan as a top contender among 100 applicants.

“Ms. Morgan has been very involved with public education in the state of Georgia, especially within the charter school movement,” said Christopher Kunney, chair of IPA’s governing board. “She is very passionate about providing students with a quality education. Her commitment to kids will resonate well with our teachers and the community that we serve. Under her leadership, we will build Ivy Preparatory Academies into a national model for single-gender education.”

On Monday, Morgan will visit with new and returning students during the first day of school at Ivy Prep Gwinnett, which is located at 3705 Engineering Dr. in Peachtree Corners. She will also visit Ivy Prep Kirkwood School for Girls and Ivy Prep Young Men’s Leadership Academy (IPYMLA), which are both housed at 1807 Memorial Dr. in Atlanta.

We wish Ms. Thomas well in her new endeavor.

It’s Donald Trump’s World And We’re All Just Living In It.

trumpNot only are Georgians searching for The Donald more that other GOP candidates, they actually want to vote for the guy. Remember, we’re months away from people actually voting, but Trump is showing more strength than most thought he’d have….ever.

A FOX 5/Morris News Poll Conducted by OpinionSavvy/InsiderAdvantage shows Trump with a solid lead ahead of Thursday’s first RNC sanctioned GOP debate and this week’s Red State Gathering in Atlanta.

Donald Trump: 30%
Jeb Bush: 17%
Ben Carson: 10%
Mike Huckabee: 7%
Ted Cruz: 6%
Scott Walker: 5%
Chris Christie: 3%
Carly Fiorina: 3%
John Kasich: 3%
Rand Paul: 3%
Marco Rubio: 3%
Bobby Jindal: 2%
Rick Perry: 2%
Lindsey Graham: 0%
George Pataki: 0%
Rick Santorum: 0%
Other: 2%
Undecided: 4%

Does Trump have staying power or will his renegade ways cause him to implode? Discuss in the comments.

CON, A Discussion That Needs To Take Place.

Jessica linked to it in the Morning Reads and this was in this morning’s Peach Pundit Daily:

The Coming Battle Over Certificate Of Need. – Two Cartersville ob/gyns filed suit Tuesday to overturn the state’s health care regulatory process, saying it restricts competition and is unconstitutional. Drs. Hugo Ribot and Malcolm Barfield are challenging the Georgia Certificate of Need program, a complex set of regulations governing the creation and expansion of medical facilities. The Certificate of Need process has long been controversial because hospitals often use it to challenge competitors’ proposed projects. It has also pitted doctors against hospitals in battles over building surgery centers. The physicians’ lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, is believed to be the first such litigation seeking to overturn the state’s entire Certificate of Need, or CON, program, said Glenn Delk, an Atlanta attorney for the physicians. This is one to watch.

According to the Department of Community Health website:

The Certificate of Need (CON) program is intended to achieve three goals: (1) to measure and define need, (2) to control costs, and (3) to guarantee access to healthcare services. Georgia began reviewing health care projects in 1975 under Section 1122 of the 1972 Social Security Act Amendments and Georgia’s CON program was established by the General Assembly in 1979 (O.C.G.A. Title 31, Chapter 6).

A report by the Mercatus Center takes a different view:

While CON programs were intended to limit the supply of health care services within a state, proponents claim that the limits were necessary to either control costs or increase the amount of charity care being provided. However, 40 years of evidence demonstrate that these programs do not achieve their intended outcomes, but rather decrease the supply and availability of health care services by limiting entry and competition. For policymakers in Georgia, this situation presents an opportunity to reverse course and open the market for greater entry, more competition, and ultimately more options for those seeking care.

Hopefully this lawsuit will encourage a discussion about Certificate of Need and whether or not changes to the system are needed. I would suggest changes are needed. Of course, if the Doctors win, change will come.

What Can Fundraising Data Tell Us About The HD24 Special Election?

A blog called “Local And Special Elections” has taken a look at the fundraising data reported thusfar in the special election for House district 24. The election of course takes place today.

The author matched donations over $100 with precincts within the district and within Forsyth in an attempt to a) gauge support each candidate has from people who can vote and b) predict what might happen today. He wisely decides not to predict the outcome since the sample size is very small. However, there is some interesting data in his post.

– The two vote-rich areas of HD 24 are likely to be precincts 10 (Midway) and 16 (Otwell), which comprise much of the middle of the district. The three candidates who received contributions from within the district (Gilligan, Underwood, and Van Sant) all received money from multiple individuals and businesses in Midway, so I would expect that the votes from there will be split.

– Surprisingly, only one campaign donation came from someone in Otwell precinct (to Gilligan). One data point isn’t much to base a strong conclusion on – the method would be better tested with more data. Perhaps this suggests that turnout in Otwell will be less than in the district as a whole.

– Precinct 29 (Polo) is likely to produce the third-most amount of votes. Here, Gilligan boasts more contributions than anyone (3), and she also received another from someone in the precinct, but just outside the HD 24 boundary. This suggests she should run very strong here.

– Underwood received the only contribution from an address in precinct 15 (Heardsville), which has almost as many voters as Polo. Based on the address provided on his registration documents, it is also his home area. I would expect him to finish first or second here.

The candidate with the most unique contributors (donating over $100) within HD24? Sheri Gilligan.

Happy Birthday Peach Pundit!

Strange and Weird Birthday Cakes Ever 2Ten years ago today, Clayton Wagar made this post, as he and Erick Erickson launched Peach Pundit. The post later turned into the first “thread of dreams” which almost crashed the server and forced the implementation of time limits to commenting on posts.

Over the years we’ve talked about Georgia politics and a whole lot more. Just when we thought we’d discovered Paul Broun really did get sworn in, we found it might have been in the wrong state. Some guy named “Icarus” missed his chance to meet Mitt Romney at the Varsity because he was too busy trying to build his own Buzz Brockway, while Mike has a name picked out if this blogging thing fails and he decides to get in to uh…movies. No doubt the Tanalach Media Conspiracy was involved in all these disasters.

It’s been a fun ten years. I look forward to many more. Happy Birthday to us!

Discuss this and whatever else is on your mind in this OPEN THREAD.

Anti-ALEC Hysteria Reaches New Heights.

By now you’ve probably seen this report by 11Alive on a recent meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, down in Savannah. You also might have seen this article claiming the meeting was a “bill writing meeting.” These report made it look as if something evil and nefarious went on there. I wasn’t there but I have been to other ALEC meetings in the past and know what happens.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the political Left’s hatred (there’s no other word for it) of ALEC. It’s sad to see 11Alive and the AJC pick up the “ALEC is evil” narrative. As I’ve written before, conferences like the ones ALEC puts on are valuable, especially to part-time Legislators. They help us keep up with advances in technology, learn about how other states are solving problems, how we might help us solve similar problems in our state, hear from experts in various fields, and network with legislators from across the country.

The political Left finds value in this too as evidenced by the fact they have started several organizations to do EXACTLY what ALEC does – exchange ideas and craft model legislation. I’ve written about that as well, and also learned of the Left’s newest attempt to compete with ALEC. You know what, I applaud these efforts. Sharing, debating ideas, learning from industry experts and other legislators are good things. What bothers me is the the twisting of what ALEC is and does and the lack of scrutiny of left-leaning groups doing the exact same things as ALEC.

If ALEC is bad, so are left-leaning legislative policy conferences, but I haven’t see any stories about Georgia Legislators attending left-leaning policy conferences. That fact alone should make people pause before believing all the terrible allegations about ALEC.

Erick Erickson spoke with Bill Meierling of ALEC last Thursday and cast doubt on several items in the 11Alive story. Most notably, why didn’t the 11Alive reporter simply comply with ALEC’s media availability policy? I realize that’s not as dramatic as attempting to barge into a room, but it would have been a more accurate report. Listen for yourself:

One other point I’d like to raise. There are dozens and dozens of legislative policy conferences every year in America. They can either be funded with private funds or public funds. Georgia doesn’t, but many states help fund some of these organizations with tax dollars. I oppose public funding of these types of conferences. In my opinion, tax dollars should be used for the public good, not to enhance my education – especially in tight budget times. Thus, I support private and corporate funding of legislative policy conferences. ALEC receives no taxpayer funds to my knowledge, which opponents claim is one of the things that makes them bad. I wholeheartedly disagree with that notion. Furthermore, the fact that ALEC offers scholarship funds for people to attend is common practice at legislative policy conferences. I hate to break it to you but not all legislators are rich folks with extra money laying around to attend policy conferences. Scholarships play an important role in making sure more legislators attend these meetings.

Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps the government should fully fund all legislative policy conferences to avoid the influence of evil corporations. Or only rich people should be allowed to be Legislators. Or better yet, conservatives shouldn’t be allowed to meet together to discuss policy.

That’s my opinion. I welcome yours.

Price’s New Health Care Reform Plan Gaining Traction.

Republicans are criticized, sometimes fairly, for not offering solutions to the problems they complain about. One Republican in Congress who has been offering alternatives to Obamacare since before there was an Obamacare is Georgia Congressman Tom Price. His latest plan was introduced with 46 co-sponsors and is gaining national attention as evidenced by this article in National Review this morning.

The new model of H.R. 2300 differs from the prior model in several key ways. Instead of a combination, in the individual market, of income-based tax credits and tax deductions, it now calls for simple age-based tax credits, which will let people quickly see what they’ll receive, reduce the I.R.S.’s role, and avoid work-disincentives. In addition to making it easier for people to have and use health savings accounts, it now offers a one-time tax credit of $1,000 per person for having or opening an HSA. Instead of an open-ended tax break for employer-based insurance, it now closes that tax loophole while continuing to give those with employer-based insurance their full tax break on insurance that costs up to $20,000 for a family or $8,000 for an individual. In other words, the tax treatment of the typical person’s employer-based plan wouldn’t change one bit (and anyone with, say, a $23,000 plan, would still get the full tax break on the first $20,000).

Price’s alternative, therefore, would deal with both costs and coverage while finally fixing a longstanding inequality in the tax code for millions of middle-class Americans who have to buy health insurance on their own. Since the 1940s, those with employer-based insurance have gotten a generous tax break, while those without employer-based insurance generally have not. Obamacare’s 2,400-plus pages managed to assault Americans’ liberty without correcting this unfairness in the tax code. Price’s 242-page bill achieves what Obama’s could not — at one-tenth the length.

Kudos to Congressman Price for continuing to offer sound policy on this important issue.

Governor Deal Signs The ‘Student Data Privacy, Accessibility, and Transparency Act.’

As many of you know, I was appointed last year to a study committee that looked at the federal role in education. One of the topics that came up was the increased reliance on data schools collect from students. This data is valuable for teachers and educators as it helps them understand how the student is doing, and what areas the student may need help. It also presents challenges. Over time this collection of data can get out of hand by seeking to collect data not necessary to improve classroom instruction, and by collecting data parents might feel is intrusive. I decided to do something about this. So this Legislative session, I introduced HB414, the ‘Student Data Privacy, Accessibility, and Transparency Act.’

Colorful Chalk at ChalkboardAfter a lot of work on the bill with a broad coalition of education and technology groups, as well as input from the Department of Education, HB414 passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee. It did not make it out of the House Rules Committee in time to be considered by the Senate, but no bill is ever really dead in the Legislature so we began looking for a Senate bill we could attach our bill to. We found one and I’m grateful to Sen. John Albers for allowing us to add HB414 to his bill SB89. The amended bill received final passage on Sine Die and last week Governor Deal signed it into law. The ‘Student Data Privacy, Accessibility, and Transparency Act’ has already become a model bill other States, and even Congress, are considering. This important law will limit the education related data schools collect on students and make sure it remains private and secure. For more on this bill, see the press release below from Excellence in Education, one of the many education reform groups that supported this legislation. – Buzz

Read more

AOL Co-Founder Steve Case Visits Atlanta Today To Celebrate Entrepreneurship

512px-Steve_case_05092009Steve Case, co-founder of AOL (remember them?) will be in Atlanta today as part of a road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship and give a cool $100 Grand to some lucky start-up. All this is part of the “Rise Of The Rest Road Trip.”

Here’s more information about the tour from Case’s visit to Charlotte yesterday.

Eight Charleston area startups will be showing their stuff this week as they vie for a big investment from an Internet search pioneer.

The local firms will deliver their best business pitches at a competition Wednesday on board the aircraft carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant.

They’ll all be gunning for a $100,000 infusion from AOL co-founder Steve Case.

Case, who now heads up Revolution, a venture capital firm based in Washington, D.C., picked Charleston as one of the stops on his five-city “Rise of the Rest Road Trip.” He’s also scheduled to visit Atlanta, New Orleans, Raleigh and Richmond.

Case will hold a Fireside Chat at 2 PM. The Pitch Competition will take place at 3 PM and a Happy Hour will commence at 5. All events take place at the Opera Nightclub 1150 Cresent Ave NE Atlanta, GA 30309. Free tickets are required and are available through their website.

RIP: Representative Harry Geisinger

More sad news from the General Assembly today as Rep. Harry Geisinger has passed away at the age of 81. Geisinger was one of those Republican Pioneers who served in the House when Republicans were almost as rare as a comet. Geisinger, along with people like Paul Coverdell, John Linder, and many others worked hard to make the GOP appealing to more Georgians. As Jim Galloway notes:

Geisinger was a member of the inner corps of Republicans of the post-Goldwater period in Georgia, and was first elected to the House in 1968. He attempted a run in a multi-candidate Republican primary for governor in 1974, but was defeated – “Machine Gun” Ronnie Thompson, the mayor of Macon, was the GOP nominee that year. He lost to Democrat George Busbee.

Geisinger won re-election to the House in 2004, where he became an advocate for pari-mutuel wagering and the horse-racing industry.

It was an honor to get to know Rep. Geisinger and to serve with him in the Legislature. He will be missed.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Pat and their family and friends.