Quotes of Note
“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” – Aesop
“I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday – the longer, the better – from the great boarding school where we are forever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest.” – Charles Dickens
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January 24, 2013: Just one week after attending the national Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting, Robert W. Poole will keynote, “Moving Georgia Ahead: What’s Coming Down the Pike,” an 8 a.m. Leadership Breakfast at Cobb County’s Georgian Club. Poole, a Senior Fellow at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, is a co-founder of the Reason Foundation and its director of transportation policy. He will provide an update on the outlook for transportation policy, funding and innovation amid fiscal constraints and partisan politics, and outline Georgia’s options for mobility and congestion relief. Registration is $25; register here: http://tinyurl.com/y27h3dk.
Mark your calendar: Upcoming speakers at Foundation Leadership Breakfasts include Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute on February 19, 2013, and Yaron Brooks of the Ayn Rand Institute on March 19, 2013.
Atlanta Public Schools violated state law when it withheld $2.8 million in funding from a group of Atlanta charter schools and put it toward its unfunded pension liability obligations, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy L. Shoob ruled this week. She ordered the district to give the money to the affected schools and ruled that the district must follow state funding guidelines as outlined for charter schools in the future. Unfortunately, the ruling came too late for Tech High, the school the Georgia Public Policy Foundation helped establish, which was forced to close after its funding was cut. Source: Midtown Patch
Limiting government, freeing enterprise: State employees are flying less and Georgia taxpayers are expected to save more than $2 million a year as a result of a change in air-travel policy Gov. Nathan Deal made. Deal grounded state-owned airplanes and moved most official government air travel to three private charter-based services. The change is on track to lower state flight times by nearly 70 percent. The move to private flights is part of a larger effort to streamline state employee travel, which costs taxpayers nearly $100 million a year. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Double dip: Fulton County commissioners are irked by the pay that county Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, receives a base salary of $134,440. Utilizing state law (O.C.G.A. § 48-5-359.1), Ferdinand also collects an additional $212,624 in personal fees paid to him by the cities of Atlanta, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs. Ferdinand says he earns his money, taking on the massive responsibility of collecting property taxes for the state’s largest and sixth-largest cities, which he’s not required by law to do. On whose clock?
Putting the public (money) in public service: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has allowed a roughly 50 percent pay increase for City Council members to become law after the Council’s 10-4 vote to raise its pay. Reed also committed to sit down with employees next month to negotiate an across-the board pay increase for more than 7,500 city rank-and-file staff. City Council pay increases, which take effect in 2014 after citywide elections, will increase the annual salary for City Council members to $60,300, an increase of more than $20,000.
How to grow government: In an article reporting that the Fulton County Commission has decided (thus far) against hiring a lobbyist firm for more than $260,000, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution also noted that Fulton spent more than $600,000 on lobbying efforts in 2012. That included two state-level lobbyists hired as temporary employees, a federal lobbying contract and in-house staff charged with pursuing grants, among other things. Government using taxpayer dollars to hire someone to get government to give more taxpayer dollars to government = Big Government.
There’s an app for that: New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has approved a one-year pilot program allowing riders to use a smartphone app to e-hail yellow cabs, starting Feb. 15. London already has a thriving taxi e-hail system. Source: Associated Press
Mileage-based fees: The Reason Foundation has released a study on electronic tolling study co-authored by Robert Poole, our Jan. 24 event speaker. The study notes all-electronic tolling could be used to shift funding way from fuel taxes for maintenance and modernization of the limited-access highway system (interstates and urban expressways). “A system like the one that has worked well on Highway 407ETR for 15 years would equip only the on-ramps and off-ramps with antennas and cameras. A vehicle’s transponder or license plate would be read when it enters and again when it leaves the limited-access highway, with the charge based on the type of vehicle and the number of miles traveled. On urban expressways, this charge could also vary by time of day.”
DUI courts influential: DWI courts, intensive treatment programs designed to rehabilitate offenders who repeatedly drive while intoxicated, have been bashed for being too soft on habitual offenders, but new stats show that they may actually be working. Impaired driving fatalities dropped 2.5 percent in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. People who participated in DWI courts in Georgia are 65 percent less likely to be re-arrested for driving under the influence once they complete the program. Source: Business Insider
New report out: Governor Nathan Deal posted the new Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform report on his Web site this week. Foundation Editor Mike Klein discussed the report during a Friday morning segment with WGAU Radio in Athens.
This Week in The Forum: In Checking Up On Health by Benita Dodd, find out what’s in your genes, where telemedicine is going in Georgia, what it means if your insurance plan is grandfathered under ObamaCare, and much, much more! More recent Foundation articles and posts are on The Forum at http://forum.georgiapolicy.org/category/the-forum/.
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Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Help Patients and Budget: Replace Georgia’s Broken Medical Tort System,” by Ross Mason.
Have a great weekend and a Merry Christmas.
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To have an organization dedicated to the study of the problems that face Georgia in a bipartisan way….is absolutely one of the finest things that’s happened to our state.