Author: Jeff Emanuel

Lynn Westmoreland co-sponsoring a Value-Added Tax bill

Update: Icarus has added some info on this in the comments, saying, “I just spoke to Westmoreland’s office. The Hill article doesn’t have a bill number. Lynn does not support a Value added tax, and will have more to say on the subject shortly.”

The bill in question is HR 2927, or the “Border Tax Equity Act of 2009.” Section 4491 of the bill, titled “Imposition of Tax,” states:

    `(a) General Rule- There is hereby imposed a tax on imports of goods and services from any foreign country that employs an indirect tax system and grants rebates of indirect taxes paid on goods or services exported from that country.
    `(b) Amount of Tax- The amount of the tax imposed by subsection (a) on an imported good or service shall be an amount equal to the excess of–
    `(1) the indirect taxes that are rebated or not paid on the good or service upon its export, over
    `(2) any indirect taxes imposed on the good or service at the border of the United States.

HR 2927’s cosponsors do include Westmoreland.

As income taxes creep towards their highest rates in decades, you may soon be required to pay more tax in the checkout line, as well.

The Hill is reporting that Lynn “Three Commandments” Westmoreland (R-GA), my former Congressman, has jumped on board a proposal by New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell that would impose a Value-Added Tax on products imported from countries that also have a VAT — a list which currently includes Mexico, India, and the entire European Union.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-SNC), another co-sponsor of the VAT bill, has called on people to “let experts to analyze various tax reform plans before judging them” — including the VAT, which President Barack Obama (D-IL) and one of his chief economic advisers, Paul Volcker, have spoken favorably of as a way to decrease the administration and Democrat Congress’s record deficits.

Just two weeks ago Georgia’s two Senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, voted in favor of a Sense of the Senate resolution opposing the VAT, which called it “a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.”

Macon Reporter ‘Dragged Kicking and Screaming’ From Press Area Near Air Force One

Brenda Lee, a writer for the Macon-based GA Informer and self-identified “Roman Catholic priestess,” was drug away from a press area near Air Force One while the president was in Los Angeles this morning, according to NBC.

Lee, who said she has White House press credentials, said she wanted to hand-deliver a letter to Obama asking him to “take a stand for traditional marriage.” After refusing to hand the letter to an Obama staffer, Lee was asked to leave, then told by security she could stay “as long as she did not yell or wave.”

Security apparently changed their minds, asking her to leave once again; when  she refused, security lifted her by the arms and legs and carried her away.

According to NBC, “Lee, who said this was the second presidential event she has covered, was later released.”

Note: If the Georgia Informer can get White House press credentials, then Peach Pundit should be getting invited to freaking state dinners. Where’s the justice in this world?

Update: Here’s a column by the “Catholic Priestess” in question “urging Christians to boycott Vatican events” because of the Catholic Church’s “tradition of murder.” Very interesting…

Your Doctor, or some random Bureaucrat? Georgia jumps in on the wrong side of the debate over who has final say over your health care decisions

The Peach State, represented by Department of Community Health commissioner Rhonda Medows, has sprinted to the forefront of the effort to secure and safeguard the “right” of state bureaucrats to overrule diagnoses and prescriptions made by doctors to their patients.

In March, Georgia filed, and Florida and Alabama joined, an appeal of a 2008 U.S. District Court ruling that a patient’s physician was better positioned – and better qualified – to make decisions about that patient’s medical treatment than state bureaucrats. The case is currently being considered by a panel of the 11th U.S. Ciruit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Oral arguments were made on March 24.

The case, Moore v. Medows, has thrust into the spotlight debate about an issue that has long been confined to dark, smoky rooms in state capitals and Washington, DC, and to the back pages of legislation Members of Congress aren’t bothering – or being allowed – to read before their passage.

From state governments to the federal legislators and bureaucrats who had a hand in writing and passing President Barack Obama’s 2009 “stimulus” bill, more and more officials are beginning to make the public argument that it is not a trained doctor with years of experience and personal knowledge of a patient’s medical history and needs who should have final say when it comes to patient diagnoses and prescriptions, but some nameless, faceless bureaucrat inhabiting a cubicle in some nondescript government building, with nothing but an agency-developed cost-effectiveness spreadsheet to guide them in determining what is and is not medically appropriate or necessary for every patient seen within their jurisdiction.

Read more

1,800 patients at Augusta VA Clinic Among Those Possibly Infected With HIV and Hepatitis due to Gross Negligence by Government Employees

Over 11,000 veterans who received routine colonoscopies at three VA health centers are being warned to get blood tests for HIV, hepatitis, and other malignant viral infections in the wake of revelations that government-employed clinic staffers frequently neglected to sterilize the equipment between procedures.

1,800 patients at the Veterans Affairs health center in Augusta, as well as 3,260 in Miami and 6,400 in Murfreesboro (TN), may have been exposed to “potentially infectious fluids,” according to the VA. The fact that this is due to negligence on the part of the government-employed hospital staff is bad enough on its own, of course — but it gets worse, as some of those may have been infected with HIV or hepatitis as many as six years ago, and are just now being told to get tested.

Patients who underwent the procedure at the Murfreesboro facility as long ago as April 23, 2003 may be at risk, according to the VA, while Miami patients could have been contaminated as far back as May 2004. The Augusta exposures appear to have been limited to a period of “11 months last year.”

Read more

House Unanimously Passes SB13

House approves sentencing changes

The House unanimously approved a measure that would give prosecutors more leeway to seek sentences of life in prison without parole.

SB13 was withdrawn and recommitted on March 17, a move which, according to the AP, caused “angry Senate sponsors [to] accuse House leaders of trying to amend it to allow the death penalty without a unanimous jury verdict.”

The bill as passed didn’t make it any easier for prosecutors to obtain the death penalty; rather, it revoked the requirement that prosecutors push for capital punishment as a first option and hold life imprisonment without parole in reserve.

The bill now goes to conference, and then to the Governor for his signature.

Georgia’s Version of Bernard Madoff-lite Pleads Guilty in Gainesville

Wendell Ray Spell, the Gainesville-based proprietor of North Georgia Equipment Sales, LLC and Cornerstone International Investments, LLC, has pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in his Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say defrauded investors of $60,000,000.00 over three and a half years.

Spell’s Ponzi scheme stole “millions of dollars from investors who believed they were making wise investment choices,” said U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias of Atlanta.

According to the Daily Report:

Evidence showed that from February 2005 to October 2008, Spell obtained funds to buy equipment through his , promising investors a 50-50 split in profits or 36 percent annual interest. …

Spell faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

“Wise investment choices”? Look, what Spell did was incredibly wrong and he deserves the punishment he’ll receive for it, but I look at that promised ROI — “50-50 split or 36 percent annual interest” — and I can’t help but wonder how many of the folks he defrauded with outrageous promises like that have also sent their bank account information to someone who sent them an email offering a cut of the cash if they’d help get a few million dollars out of Nigeria for them, you know?

Judge: Chambliss Has Immunity in Sugar Refinery Explosion

Last fall, Saxby Chambliss was served with a subpoena by Savannah attorney Mark Tate, who wanted to question the Republican Senator “on whether Imperial Sugar enlisted his help to defend the company after the Feb. 7, 2008, explosion that killed 14 workers and injured dozens more” as part of his lawsuit against Imperial.

According to the Daily Report, “Senate attorneys argued that the U.S. Constitution gives Chambliss immunity from being questioned about official business in civil lawsuits.”

State Court Judge Hermann Coolidge agreed, issuing a one-paragraph opinion on Monday throwing out the subpoena. I guess we’ll never know if Saxby was a “sugar” daddy to Imperial in the wake of the blast or not… (okay, I couldn’t help that one 😉 ).

Re: We Should All Learn Something From Meghan McCain

Fine, Andre. We’ll give President Obama every bit as much support as President Bush got from Democrats in Congress, “journalists” at MSNBC, and bloggers at DailyKos and FDL.

The fact is, you don’t have to support what an elected official is trying to do in order to support your country. If you don’t like legislation going through the Congress (say, yet another trillion dollar bailout, or a “stimulus” package that contains $787 in aimless pork spending and safeguards for AIG bonuses), do you cover your ears and your eyes and say “it doesn’t matter, because I support the Congress!”?

Of course you don’t, for the same reason those of us who disagree entirely with President Obama’s liberal ideological dogma (as evidenced by his singleminded determination to spend this country into deeper debt than previously imagined by man, his  his attempts to bring down health care costs by jacking up the cost of everybody’s health care, his removal of any and all restrictions on abortion and infanticide that he possibily can, and his preliminary surrender to terrorists in “Pock-eee-stohn”) and his tired liberal “solutions” that apparently just haven’t been tried by the right people yet, want to see him fail utterly in his attempt to implement them in the first place.

I want what’s best for our country, and want it to succeed. Opposing policies which would damage our country in the short and long term is part and parcel of that. Ergo, I oppose President Obama, and hope he fails to implement even a single shred more of his agenda.

Either way you look at it, I’m just doing my patriotic duty as an American — whether that be “patriotism” by the definition recounted in the above paragraph, or “patriotism” as defined to us by the left over the last eight years: namely, a state of belief and being of which “dissent” is the “highest form.” Take your pick — either way, it works for me.

ABC News picks up on the Pole Tax

I know they say all press is good press, but when your bill is covered in a report titled, “You Want to Tax What? Government Gets Desperate,” I’m not so sure you’re helping yourself — or your cause — out a whole lot.

ABC’s Alice Gomstyn reports:

Strip and Save?

It’s been dubbed the “pole tax,” but Georgia State Sen. Jack Murphy insisted his money-making proposal is really a surcharge, not a tax.

The Republican lawmaker is asking the state government to charge a $5 fee per visit to patrons of strip clubs. The revenue from the surcharge, he said, would go to fund new rehabilitation centers for teenage prostitutes.

“This bill is strictly to try to get some of these 13-, 14-year-olds off the street to give them a place to go, give them some therapy,” he said.

If Georgia was flush with cash, Murphy said, he wouldn’t include a proposed funding source — the surcharge — in his campaign for new rehab centers.

But right now, according to the Georgia governor’s office, the state is $2.6 billion in the red.

“I couldn’t see sending forth a bill without having some sort of funding source in it because we need money,” Murphy said.

It’s unclear how far Murphy’s proposal will get. The bill didn’t make headway in the state legislature, so now, the state senator said, he’ll try to attach it as an amendment to more successful bills.

We’ve already given the Pole Tax a good bit of the Treatment here on Peach Pundit. However, when even the national outlets are jumping on and having a swing around the pole at Sen. Murphy’s expense, well, I suppose that’s a good enough excuse to trot the old girl back out onto our stage and let her have another dance in the spotlight.

Will the Peach State Become More Veteran-Friendly?

For all its military history and patriotic citizenry, Georgia offers its veterans precious few benefits in comparison to other states. Kentucky and Illinois, for example, provide full four-year scholarships to any state school to those who enter active service from that state and return there after a term of honorable service. Texas’ department of labor has an entire program dedicated to veteran job training and workforce integration. This is only a pair of examples from several available.

Georgia, on the other hand, is just starting out in terms of expressing gratitude to its veterans in practical terms. As a veteran who separated from active duty and returned to school myself, I’m familiar with the dearth of benefits available in Georgia — in short, there are none. However, House Bill 484, sponsored in the House by Larry O’Neal (R-146) and in the Senate by Ross Tolleson (R-20), is a step in the right direction for the Peach State and its military population.

If passed, HB 484 would automatically credit the children of active duty military personnel stationed in Georgia with having met the state residency requirement to be eligible for the HOPE scholarship, even if their serving parent was relocated here too recently to have been a resident for the currently-required period of time.

This is a common-sense piece of legislation. The children of military personnel are shipped all over the country — and the world — with their serving parent (as the son of an Air Force pilot and then as a military member myself, I personally lived in over a dozen states growing up and in young adulthood). Denying them access to a benefit afforded the children of state residents because the Department of Defense shipped that parent to Georgia at too close a date to the child’s college start date — something entirely out of all involved parties’ control — is a policy that doesn’t do anybody any good.

HB 484 has already passed the House, 162-0. The Senate should quickly follow suit, as it is, quite simply, the right thing to do.Then, the state legislature should get to work on providing benefits for the actual military personnel who depart Georgia, serve honorably, and return to further their education and add to the Peach State’s work force.

Again, it only makes sense to do so.

9.3%

Georgia’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.3% in February according to the Department of Labor.  With unemployment at its highest level since record keeping was standardized in 1976 (h/t AJC for that detail), the Peach State remains in worse shape unemployment-wise than the national average of 8.1% but still well ahead labor loss leader Michigan’s last-reported 11.6% (new numbers from the state that looks like a mitten, which are expected to be even worse than that, should be out later this morning).

According to the AJC, “445,498 unemployed Georgians are now seeking work, up 69 percent from a year ago.” This can tell us two things: first, there are obviously fewer jobs to go around at the present time. Second, the folks who are rounding out the unemployment rolls now are actual workers, who are making an effort to get back into the workforce wherever they can.

Unsurprisingly at a time when the federal government is printing and borrowing money hand over fist and shoveling it to the states in the form of earmarks and bailouts, the small number of jobs gained were working for federal, state, or local governments. In that vein, Georgia Labor commissioner Michael Thurmond’s suggestion to those looking for work was, quite simply, to go back to school or work for the government.

Almost all jobs lost in February were in the private sector.

Reality Check for the Oconee School Board: When the State is Billions of Dollars in the Hole Isn’t the Best Time to Demand a 333% Pay Raise

The Oconee County school board is up in arms this week because their State Representative, Bob Smith (R-Watkinsville), isn’t going to carry legislation they’ve proposed which would grant them pay raises from 333% for ordinary board members to 556% for the chairman.

Perhaps these members, who are in mid-term (if you can call it that; they were just elected back in November), haven’t noticed that the entire country — their state included — is in the middle of a pretty noteworthy economic downturn. Regardless, they clearly don’t see the impropriety in demanding a trebling or quintupling of their salaries at a time when the state is billions of dollars in the hole and the unemployment rate is continuously climbing.

Oconee Board of Education chairman David Weeks seems to think he was mislead and then thrown under the bus by Rep. Smith, with whom Weeks claims to have been “talking…about the proposal since January.” However, “talking” about a proposal, and actually promising to carry legislation that flies in the face of all good sense, are entirely different things, as Mr. Weeks has now learned. Read more

From Tea Party to Constitutional Convention?

Note by Jeff: For clarity’s sake, HB250 is proposing a convention to amend the GA Constitution with a provision reforming “state and local taxation and finance” only.

On December 16, 1773, a group of colonists known as the Sons of Liberty boarded three English ships at Massachusetts’ Griffin Wharf. They pulled over 90,000 lbs of tea from the ships’ cargo holds and threw it into Boston Harbor in a symbolic act of protest history would remember as the Boston Tea Party.

The Tea Party was a key step in the course from resistance to Revolution in the American colonies. Less than a year after the event, the first Continental Congress presented the colonies’ British hegemons with a  united American opposition — and, less than a year after that, the Revolutionary War had begun and the second Continental Congress, which would adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, had gone into session.

Fourteen years after Boston, America’s Constitutional Convention met to draft and ratify the document which governs our nation to this very day.

State Rep. Bob Smith (R-Watkinsville) hopes the modern day tea parties held in Atlanta and around the country last Friday in opposition to President Barack Obama’s budget, mortgage bailout, and “stimulus” proposals will help build momentum for a modern Constitutional Convention in a much shorter period of time.

Read more

Senate Passes Campaign Finance Bill

The state Senate voted unanimously (50-0) yesterday afternoon to pass SB 70, a bill by Sen. George Hooks (D-Americus) requiring special or expedited reporting of campaign contributions made by those who do business with the state.

The AP reports that Hooks said the bill, inspired by former Illiniois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D), “closes a loophole in Georgia ethics law and creates more accountability for those running for public office.”

I Don’t Think Gloria Butler Quite Understands What “Stimulus” Means…

State Sen Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain) went to the floor yesterday (13:10 here) to call on Georgia lawmakers to take the borrowed cash available to the Peach State as a result of the unread “stimulus” bill and to use it not to create jobs or develop/modernize infrastructure, but to prop up “underfunded” government services and programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

“Georgia needs to use the economic stimulus aid to expand and sustain services to the residents of this state,” said Butler. Apparently she missed the fact that the $485,000,000.00 headed this way this year is already earmarked solely for Medicaid use (though I can’t really blame her for missing that; after all, not even the folks who voted to pass the 1,076-page, $787,000,000,000.00 bill have read the entire thing — nor has the executive who signed it into law).

Apparently Sen. Butler is also missing the fact that the ostensible purpose of a stimulus bill is to create jobs and to get money flowing in an economy again — something that pumping cash into food stamps and Medicaid simply will not do. Social safety net programs have a very important place in society, but increasing funding to them is not economically stimulative, and would be an utter waste of the as-yet-unknown (but highly speculated on) amount of borrowed cash Georgia is eligible for under this bill.