Atlanta Press Club hosts Georgia General Assembly press discussion

By Michael Mumper


Thursday night the Atlanta Press Club hosted “Georgia’s General Assembly Unplugged: Behind the Headlines with the State Capitol Press” , at the Commerce Club. Some 80-90 folks attended, by my count. The moderator was Jeanne Bonner of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

atlanta-press-club-logo-2012Panelists included:
Tom Crawford, The Georgia Report
Charles Edwards, Public Broadcasting Atlanta
Walter Jones, Morris News Service
Aaron Gould Sheinin, Atlanta Journal Constitution

The four issues that received the most attention:

BedTax – maybe the most important piece of legislation given its $700 million price tag, coupled with the implications of “tax” that could have derailed action. Gov. Deal’s support of quick movement of this through the Assembly is probably a huge win for everyone.

“What do Los Angeles Falcons Do?”

Falcons Stadium – Crawford: $300 million of public money, really? Even if it’s just $200 million; never see the return for that. Jones: but if you have to tax, is there anyone better to tax than yankees? Theoretically, this is a good fight for the Tea Party because giving public money to a billionaire is an easy fight. But people outside of Atlanta don’t care too much about this legislation either way. Sheinin: this is also a “bed tax”. Edwards: there’s too much interest in seeing it happen, it’ll fly, but probably from the Atlanta City Council rather than the Georgia General Assembly. Notably, however, there will be no or negative impact to neighboring Vine City. And given the recent reports that Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank has been approached from Los Angeles interests to move the team there, Edwards asks, with his fist in the air, “What do Los Angeles Falcons Do?”

Ethics Reform – Sheinin: probably a 60% chance that this will pass this session. Depends on what’s really in Ralston’s heart and mind about this, and that’s hard to tell. Supposed poison pill elements of the bill would need to be addressed.

Gun Control – something like 1 bill in favor of more stringent control; 12 for less control. Crawford: But Deal and Ralston seem to have put their foot down that there’s not much taste for gun legislation this session. Edwards: Will the Price Middle School shooting impact this?  Sheinin: only if It’s true that an armed counselor at the school helped subdue the shooter.

Other issues that got a notable mention:

  • Juvenile Justice Reform should pass easily (said Jones), like last year’s Criminal Justice Reform, given how this issue meets both progressive criteria (shifting punishment to treatment) and conservative criteria (cheaper).
  • Adjustments to tax reform from 2012 (e.g. car leasing problem)
  • Elder Abuse
  • Dog Bill – Jones is kinda kiddin’ with us here

Key Missing Legislation (things Georgia really needs but there just ain’t the climate for it, according to the panelists):

• Investment in K-12 (Edwards), even though (wrongly) more attention is currently being given higher education.
• Roads & Bridges (Sheinin), and I might add, transportation in general, as many predicted would happen if TSPLOST fell last July, which, well, you know…
• Uninsured Georgians (I can’t recall if Crawford or Jones mentioned this)

No one discussed Chip Rogers on the record. Well…

Governor Deal’s legacy
Criminal Justice Reform and Juvenile Justice Reform, so far, are Deal’s key achievements. Per Sheinin, after May 25, 2014, when qualifying for next term elections for Governor are due, we’ll find out if Deal has any real competition. If not, we may see a “new Deal”: bolder, stronger, faster. Could be tackling Georgia’s underinsured problem. One attending journalist cautioned that we’ll never again see the boldness of a Zell Miller-type Governor, given today’s 24-hour news cycle, the transparency that social media engenders, etc.

Any future legislative leaders emerging?
Senator Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) hold promise.

Is the Tea Party impacting the Assembly?
Sheinin: Some 87 of 180 in the General Assembly are freshmen, and perhaps 20-30 of those are Tea Party members or sympathetic thereof. So, electorally, not yet a major impact; no “big” wins like the Tea Party defeat of Senator Lugar in Indiana. (Though some think US Senator Chambliss’ not seeking a 3rd term is bowing to Tea-party pressure.) But from a policy standpoint, there’s much agreement among the panelists that the Tea Party is an important factor.

Do journalists impact/cause legislation? (e.g. school dropouts, sex trafficking)
As Jones relayed, back in the day, media could more easily impact legislative action. When one journalist pursued a story, others in the Assembly hallway would hear, pursue and drive the story forward. Many papers would be propelling a story line. The antagonist couldn’t claim that one paper’s geographic or political leanings were motivating the angle. Nowadays, with fewer papers and smaller staffs, it’s harder to gain and keep momentum. (My note: Ethics legislation certainly was propelled this year by considerable coverage from every political bent last year.)

Journalism’s business model
On a separate note, I had a discussion with a journalist before the panel discussion about the future of journalism models, given the slam that has hit print news media in the last 10 years. It was noted that Tom Crawford’s Georgia Report is completely “behind the firewall” – meaning you have to pay to read any of it. We both gave kudos to Tom for making that happen. The Saporta Report is completely free, paid for by some advertising and mostly (we think) from guest columnist thought-leaders.  Of course PBA has a member-donation model, and I am a regular listener. The AJC is partially behind the firewall, but, my friend said, “If the AJC goes totally behind the firewall, I would definitely pay to read it.” I agreed with my friend, but said that I would never tell the AJC that.


Michael Mumper

See Michael Mumper’s bio in the About Us section above.

The Yin and Yang of Obama’s “victory”

By Michael Mumper

While I voted for President Obama in yesterday’s election, I’m in no mood to gloat.  National debt is too high, and the weight of corporate and governmental interests overwhelm the voice of the individual.  While the Affordable Care Act, I think, will move us to be a healthier, preventative-care culture, the price tag will be staggering.  While I admire the more respectful tone to our international friends around the globe (which I think Obama brings), there is a lot we can take to heart about our conservative friends’ message regarding individual responsibility, the value of wealth creation and the sustainability of financial conservatism.

Read more »

Official Recap of the GeorgiaForward 2012 Forum

New World, New Georgia: Re-visioning Statewide Prosperity

September 12-13 at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia

Click here to be taken to the GeorgiaForward website and to see a copy of the final 2012 Forum Report!

Georgia resides in the midst of and is being shaped by major global economic trends. These trends, from the rise of the global middle class, to limited natural resources, to the migration of jobs and the best and brightest to cities, create a playing field on which Georgia is finding its footing. As our state adapts to a globally connected and competitive environment, statewide prosperity remains elusive. Yet, the challenges of the global framework also provide new opportunities.

Read more »

2012 GeorgiaForward Forum drives key themes in moving Georgia….Forward!

By Michael Mumper

Last month I joined some 225 government, academic, civic and education leaders convening in Athens, Georgia, as part of GeorgiaForward’s third annual conference.

The goals of the forum were formidable.

As Maria Saporta captured in her recap of the forum:

As long as we are a divided state with multiple and contradictory visions for Georgia we will never reach our potential.  So how can Georgia build consensus towards a cohesive and inspirational vision for our state? …. How can Georgia in 20 years become a national model for prosperity in every corner of the state?

Read more »

Charlie Harper: I’m right, and you’re evil

By Charlie Harper

Published: August 24, 2012 by, at

I was a little bored, and I decided to weigh in on a Georgia legislator’s Facebook page regarding traffic congestion in suburban Atlanta. I should know better, but I also know better than to slow down and look at car accidents on the side of the road as I pass them, too. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself, despite the fact that you know you’re going to see things you probably wish you hadn’t.

Read more »

Why ATL Crossroads is voting “yes” for Atlanta and Georgia’s TSPLOST

By Michael Mumper

The Atlanta Journal Constitution did a wonderful job of compiling “for” and “against” educated opinions on the TSPLOST, and even went so bold as to organizationally endorse the TSPLOST.  Read their arguments, and others, here.

Here’s ATL Crossroads’ summary of the pro’s and con’s of TSPLOST, and in the end why I’m voting “yes”.

“Yes” arguments summarized

  1. Status quo is unacceptable: our traffic commutes are among the nation’s worst and Georgia’s current transportation investment level of 49th among states shows no commitment for improvement.  People and businesses outside our state see this and – knowing our population is projected to grow considerably higher – won’t bring their dollar or their job-creating business here.  They’ll go elsewhere.
  2. It has been forecasted that TSPLOST will create and support 200,000 job-years between now and 2040.
  3. Environmental benefits of fewer cars, less smog and more bike/walk path will be achieved.
  4. Atlanta and Georgia have built their history being bold and innovative, and the citizens believe in that approach.

Read more »

Common Cause Keeps Up the Cause – and Pressure – on Ethics Reform in Georgia

By Matt McWilliams

For as much controversy as it stirs up, the Tea Party does make a good point: Money may have too much influence over politics in Georgia.

It is one of the reasons that gave rise to the Tea Party, which continues to be politically relevant nationally and locally.

AJC Columnists Jay Bookman, left, and Kyle Wingfield, right, join Common Cause GA’s William Perry on People TV for an ethics reform discussion. Click the photo to visit the actual YouTube video of the show.

“One of the reasons, I think, why the Tea Party has latched onto this issue is because the Tea Party, like many other groups, is very attuned to the gap between the citizens and their elected officials,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution conservative columnist Kyle Wingfield said recently on PeopleTV. “And certainly the issue of lobbyist gifts speaks to that gap.”

Wingfield pointed to an AJC report that shows lobbyists showered more than $800,000 in gifts on legislators during the most recent legislative session.

The Tea Party is not alone in calling for reform. The group has found an unlikely ally in Common Cause, an organization that has long called for increasing transparency in government. Together – along  with Georgia Watch and the League of Women Voters – they formed the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform.

Read more »

Three Questions on the Transportation Investment Act

The following post was written by Brett Bittner, executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, and vice president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association. It has already been published by both the Civic League for Regional Atlanta and Peach Pundit. Nevertheless, I respect Brett’s commitments to free market principles and fiscal conservatism, so didn’t want to bypass the opportunity to reflect his viewpoint. Here’s Brett:

Brett Bittner

After serving on the Steering Committee for last summer’s “Get A Move On” Townhall, I was asked by the Civic League to respond to three questions regarding the upcoming voter referendum on the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.

Originally, my responses appeared on their blog and in an e-mail newsletter. I’ve included the questions and my responses below:

What’s good about the Transportation Investment Act?

When the Transportation Investment Act passed in 2010, it showed a genuine concern for the transportation issues here in Georgia, especially metropolitan Atlanta. Its passage also indicated a desire to address the failed attempts of the centrally-planned Georgia Department of Transportation attempts to improve the seemingly endless commutes for Atlantans. Legislators presented municipal and county officials an opportunity to work together to relieve congestion woes in a cooperative and efficient manner.

Read more »

Is STEM a panacea for education?

By Aundrea Bailey

The term “STEM” seems to be coming up in every conversation about education. You may already know what STEM stands for: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. But as far as how and whether to firmly apply STEM to our education system, that’s where the agreement ends. Googling STEM will generally send you one of two ways: STEM careers or STEM education. But why even google STEM? Does it matter? Simply put, yes it does…in a crucial way.

People are scared. Private companies, educational administrators, economists, government entities, and even the President are worried about the future of the United States. Why? According to advocates of STEM such as Change the Equation, technological innovation from STEM disciplines accounted for almost half of the United States’ economic growth over the past 50 years. Many view STEM as an economic necessity that keeps the US economy robust and competitive, and that imperativeness is what scares people to the point that STEM education is a priority in the President’s agenda, the agendas of Fortune 500 companies, and government organizations.

Read more »

Livable Communities Coalition kicks off Fast Track Forward campaign for July 31 TIA vote

In addition to the recap below, you can also see our Audio Slideshows – featuring Doug Hooker and Jim Stokes – and Photo Gallery, by clicking here.

By Matt McWilliams

The number is 20,000.

That’s the number the Livable Communities Coalition believes will determine whether this summer’s transportation sales tax referendum passes.

Jim Stokes, LCC executive director

“We are looking for 20,000 voters that we bring in,” Livable Communities Coalition executive director Jim Stokes explained Wednesday night at the organization’s Fast Track Forward launch at Midtown’s Shout restaurant.

And here’s a better idea about who those voters will be.

As Stokes indicated to the small crowd, they will be “Young, urban voters; transit-dependent voters; smart growth voters; transit advocates and progressive voters; as well as a group we call under-voters, which are voters that generally vote in general elections but skip primary elections.”

Read more »