Author: Mike Klein

by Mike Klein Georgia General Assembly sessions usually move at NASCAR speed into the final few days but some of the highest profile pieces are finished before next week’s final three days. Thursday afternoon the Senate unanimously approved tax reform and the House passed criminal justice reform.  The tax reform bill is ready for Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.  The Senate must vote on criminal justice and that is expected on Monday. The Senate approved tax reform 54-0.  The House approved criminal justice reform 164-1 but the single no vote later was changed to yes.   Tax reform is one of two big dominoes that fell this week.  Monday afternoon the Senate passed the controversial charter schools constitutional amendment resolution with a… View Article
By Ross Mason The United States spent $2.4 trillion on health care in 2011. If that represented a country, it would be the world’s sixth-largest economy. Health care accounted for more than 17.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, a larger share of GDP than any other developed nation. “Moore’s Law,” which states that “computing capacity will double every 18 months” on smaller, cheaper processing platforms for larger and larger markets, was the driving force behind U.S. global IT dominance. By contrast, health care seems to be driven by “Moron’s Law.” Costs have been increasing over 18 percent each year – year after year – without corresponding improvements in quality, access or outcomes. To remain globally… View Article
By Mike Klein The second version of criminal justice reform legislation is better than its earlier cousin because of what the bill does not include – hundreds of lines of rules and regulations about how to run the state probation and parole programs. The absence of a legislative mandate means there would be more flexibility to expand programs that work and jettison those that are found to be wanting.  One example is electronic monitoring which is being successfully developed inside the state parole program. The House was expected to debate and approve the criminal justice reform substitute bill today.  It would firmly commit Georgia to incarceration alternatives for non-violent offenders, especially mental health and drug court treatment options. The state… View Article
By Mike Klein The Georgia House overwhelmingly approved tax reform legislation Tuesday afternoon, sending the bill to the Senate on the wings of a powerful 155 – 9 bipartisan victory lap.  Speaker David Ralston closed debate with a rare appearance in the well, telling members to, “Vote Green!” Ralston personally thanked A.D. Frazier, chairman of the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform that traveled the state and took testimony from hundreds of Georgians before it submitted a far-reaching … and some would say, politically challenging … set of recommendations. “Some of you who followed that Council know that even though he was one of my appointees, I really couldn’t do much with him!” Ralston told House members.  “He led what… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia online shoppers could begin to notice changes in their internet purchase sales taxes three months sooner than originally announced.  The new effective date would be October 1 – just in time for holiday shopping – rather than on New Year’s Day which was the original date. The announcement was made Tuesday morning during the second and possible final meeting of the House – Senate revenue committee that oversees tax reform.  House Bill 386 passed out of committee on a voice vote after a 13-minute hearing and no witnesses.   The bill moves to the House for debate and a possible vote today.  The track is fast; the bill was introduced Monday. A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling… View Article
By Mike Klein Senate Democrats intent on defeating a charter schools constitutional amendment vilified the legislation Monday afternoon.  Then four of their own including the Senate’s two longest serving members crossed the charter schools political divide to assure that Georgia voters will decide whether the state shall be allowed to approve charter schools when they vote in November. George Hooks of Americus and Steve Thompson of Marietta have been in the Senate since 1991. They came to Atlanta as House freshmen ten years earlier. Together they have walked those State Capitol corridors and heard thousands of speeches for some 60 combined years. Monday afternoon Hooks and Thompson helped provide the difference in a charter schools bill vote that one day… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia online shoppers would be required to pay state sales tax for more purchases starting on New Year’s Day 2013 if tax reform legislation unveiled on Monday becomes law. Georgia shoppers currently pay state sales tax only to online retailers that have a bricks-and-mortar presence in the state.  The proposed tax reform bill would expand the number or retailers who are required to collect state sales tax by eliminating the bricks-and-mortar distinction. Expansion of online purchase state sales taxes and changes to taxes on personal motor vehicles are the two biggest consumer focused headlines from a tax reform package that makes very few big headlines.  Sen. Donald Balfour presented the bill during a hearing Monday and even… View Article
By Sherena Arrington Joseph Califano, secretary of health, education and welfare in the Carter administration declared that “in its most extreme form, national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.” That was in 1977. This month, syndicated columnist George Will cited Califano’s warning in a column bemoaning the Obama administration’s latest education intervention through the Common Core Curriculum State Standards Initiative. Almost every state in the nation has rushed to join the Common Core curriculum movement with hardly a thought of the cost, financial or otherwise. In most cases, however, the “states” have barely been involved. Simply put, massive educational bureaucracies have signed on to the Common Core and have expected, and generally received, no interference… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia legislators have begun to remove shackles that prevented the Georgia Virtual School from achieving its vast potential to help connect students with digital learning.  Two bills would fix a flawed funding model, prohibit schools from blocking students who want to enroll in GAVS courses, and create an expanded clearinghouse of courses available statewide. Legislation (SB 289) to fix the funding formula and significantly expand student access to digital learning has passed the Senate and this week it received unanimous voice vote approval in a House education committee hearing.  Legislation (HB 175) to create the state clearinghouse of online course offerings has passed the House and Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers sponsored SB 289.   As originally… View Article

“Tough on Crime, Smart on Crime”

By Kenneth L. Shigley My first job after law school was as a prosecutor in a rural judicial circuit. Soon after joining the district attorney’s office, I assisted in a death penalty trial for the rape and murder of a young girl.  In such cases I looked into the heart of evil, prosecuting dangerous criminals from whom we needed to protect decent citizens. In other cases, it also became apparent that perhaps 85 percent of those I was prosecuting would probably not have been in trouble but for alcohol, drugs and mental health issues, were not prone to violence and were generally more dangerous to themselves than anyone else. They deserved some punishment but did not need to become long-term… View Article

“I am here today to thank the Georgia Public Policy Foundation for your role in building a fiscally conservative, pro-growth state. Not only did you help pave the way for a new generation of leadership, you continue to provide key policy advice and to hold us accountable to the principles we ran on. In short, you have had a transforming influence on this state. We are healthier, stronger, and better managed because of your efforts.

State Senator Eric Johnson, President pro tempore, Georgia State Senate more quotes