Monday, April 30, 2012

Unified Government's FY 2013 Budget

So, City Hall is upping spending by $3668.87 per day. Year after year, I keep telling the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County (and the Clarke County School District, and the State of Georgia, and the Federal Government of the United States), that it does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem – and my words continue to fall on deaf ears.

Be that as it may, City Hall has just released its “mayor recommended budget” for FY 2013. The 342-page document tallies $107,532,470, an increase of $1,339,139 over the current FY 2012’s $106,193,331. See the recommended budget here.

The Commission has three budget review sessions slated for:

• Monday, 07 May

• Thursday, 10 May

• Tuesday, 15 May (IF NEEDED)

All three of these review sessions will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Governmental Building located at 120 Dougherty Street.

A public hearing on the FY13 budget is scheduled for Thursday, 17 May.

The Commission will adopt the FY13 Budget at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, 05 June.

These last two meetings are both scheduled for 7:00 p.m. in the Commission Chamber in City Hall, located at 301 College Avenue.

And just as an aside, The Clarke County School District’s proposed $117,979,316 budget for FY 2013 comes in at a mere 59 pages – so much for clarity and specificity, huh? See the CCSD’s tentative budget here.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lobbying Shows Best, Worst Of Representative Government

Read the column here.

Just some food for thought:

Money in Politics Archive (podcasts and transcripts)

Lobbying: The Myth, the Reality and the Impacts on Policy (“The Scarlet L”)

Lobbying: From First Amendment to the Obama Era (timeline)

What is the History of Lobbying?

The late Robert Byrd’s excellent Senate essay on “Lobbyists”

The lobbyist through history: villainy and virtue

United States v. Harriss (1954)

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Good News On Legislative Ethics?

Read the column  here.

The original version of HB 875 was reported favorably out of the House Game, Fish, and Parks Committee and passed by the full House. Across the legislative way, a substitute version was favorably reported out of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee and passed by the full Senate. Note that the subject of “ethics” does not spring to mind when considering the jurisdiction of either of these committees. Thus, a conference committee was appointed to reconcile the differing versions.

I have reviewed several accounts of what transpired with the amended version of HB 875 and they all read the same way: the Senate hurriedly passed the conference committee’s version by a vote of 46 to 4, with 5 not voting and 1 excused, but did so largely in ignorance of what the amendment entailed (both Cowsert and Ginn voted in favor); once legislators got wind of what the conference committee bill actually did via the amendment, the measure failed in the House by a vote of 25 to 143, with 7 not voting and 5 excused (Heard and Williams voted against, only McKillip voted in favor).  Since the different House and Senate versions were never reconciled, in that the conference committee version failed in the House. the original bill was never passed:

For Ray Henry’s AP piece on the amended version of HB 875:

For Aaron Gould Sheinin and James Salzer’s AJC rundown of Balfour’s current ethical problems (with a hat tip to Atlanta Unfiltered’s Jim Walls – himself a former AJC editor and investigative reporter):

For PeachPundit editor Charlie Harper’s interesting take on the mess the Senate Republican Caucus has gotten itself into vis-à-vis Balfour:

For Chris Joyner’s AJC analysis of lobbyists’ spending during the 2012 legislative session:

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

CCSD Budget Hearings

The “tentative” FY 2013 budget and property tax millage rate for the Clarke County School District will be released at tonight’s regular meeting of the Board of Education, to be held at 6:30 p.m. at the CCSD Administrative Offices on Mitchell Bridge Road.

Even though particulars of the budget will not be release until then, some observations are in order.

First, the budget.  For those who do not know, the CCSD per pupil expenditure for FY 2011 was $11,900, placing it in about the 95th percentile statewide, a position that has been constant for some years now.  For that stratospherically high level of spending, we get a graduation rate recently recalculated at 66.1% according to a new method imposed by the U.S. Department of Education (I’m shocked, shocked, that local and state education bureaucracies played games with the calculation of their graduation rates – yeah, right).

Second, the millage rate.  The CCSD’s portion of the local property tax millage rate has been at the constitution limit of 20 mills since about 2005 (as I recall), so don’t expect any change there.

Finally, budgetary "reductions."  Citing a decrease in federal and state revenues, not to mention the decrease in the local property tax digest, Superintendent Lanoue states that the tentative budget includes reductions estimated at $9 million.  Perhaps, but in past years so-called “reductions” have amounted to nothing more than decreases in anticipated (or hoped for) increases rather than a lessening of actual spending.  In fact, the budgets keep going up, even as the CCSD claims millions of dollars in reductions on an annual basis.

Be that as it may, the Board will adopt the tentative budget and millage rate at 6:30 p.m. on 19 April, also at 6:30 p.m. at the CCSD Administrative Offices.

The schedule for the CCSD’s three TBOR public hearings is:

           15 May – Alps Road Elementary School at 6:00 p.m.
           22 May – Gaines Elementary School at 6:00 p.m.
           24 May – CCSD Administrative Offices at 6:00 p.m.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Santorum Bye-Ku

Here is yet another GOP presidential candidate bye-ku, shamelessly lifted from the WSJ's James Taranto (and there won't be but a couple more, so pay attention):

Rick Santorum (10 April 2012)
I want to throw up
All religions make me sick
Oops, wrong Kennedy

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ethics Should Be Focus Of Election Season

Read the column here.

State Integrity Investigation:

Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly the State Ethics Commission):

Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform:

HB 1105.  This bill never made it out of the House Rules Committee:

SB 391.  This bill never made it out of the Senate Rules Committee:

HB 397.  This bill was reported favorably out of House Judiciary Committee and then passed the full House by a vote of 154 to 5, with 10 not voting and 11 excused.  It was similarly favorably reported out of Senate Judiciary Committee and then passed the full Senate by a vote of 46 to 0, with 3 not voting and 7 excused.  Since the Senate passed a substitute version of the bill, the measure went back to the House for reconsideration, where it passed by a vote of 169 to 1, with 5 not voting and 5 excused:

Even though HB 1105 and SB 391 went nowhere in the General Assembly and are dead for the session, the fight is not over.  From Debbie Dooley’s Facebook page concerning a more limited “pledge campaign” to keep the ethics reform issue alive:

All candidates have been invited to join Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Conservatives in Action, Georgia Tea Party Patriots and other organizations supporting ethics reform to a press conference announcing the candidate pledge campaign.

Below is text of the letter sent to incumbent members of the Georgia General Assembly.

Dear Senator or Representative:

I know many of you are disappointed that you will not have the opportunity to vote for the ethics bills that were proposed during this session, so we are providing you the opportunity to show your constituents that you support limiting lobbyist gifts to legislators. During this session, members of the General Assembly told constituents they would vote for the ethics bill if it reached the floor. Since you were denied that opportunity, we are giving you the chance to support meaningful change in 2013 if you are re-elected.

A copy of the pledge text appears below:

Candidate Pledge:

I pledge, if elected, to co-sponsor a bill during the 2013 legislative session to limit each lobbyist gift to $100.

The proposed legislation will add the following language to a new section of the Ethics in Government Act, Chapter 5 of Title 21 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated:

“It shall be unlawful for a lobbyist to make a gift to a public officer where the value of the gift is more than $100.00.”

Candidate Signature:_______________________

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