Posts Tagged ‘Georgia House’

Muscogee Legislators “Tell It Like It IS’

April 8, 2009

The state budget crisis,  the transportation fiasco,  a July session of the Georgia Legislature,  Sen. Harp’s plans to run for statewide office, billboards highlight the town hall meeting at the Columbus Public Library.

Muscogee County legislators made no attempt to sugarcoat what was not a satisfying session of the Georgia Legislature.

Muscogee County democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Muscogee County Democratic Party Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Public Library, Columbus GA

Both state senators,  and the dean of the delegation,  all were not happy that the legislature failed to come up with a transportation plan.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Calvin Smyre said,  “It was irresponsible.  It cannot stand. It will not stand.  I am going to make this clear in a news conference Thursday.   It will be addressed this year. ”

He predicted the legislature will be going back into session in three months to deal with the state budget,  and,  he seemed to be saying it will also deal with transportation plan.

“It is wrong for the state to tell the people of Atlanta what they can do with the penny tax they approved at the polls to expand Marta.”

Marta,  the Atlanta area public transit system whose ridership has soared,  cannot access it’s own money to improve and expand the system without the state’s approval.

“That’s wrong.  It has to be changed.”

The audience at the Muscogee County Democratic Party town hall meeting at the Columbus Library applauded enthusiastically.

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Georgia Senate

And the Republican state senator who was at the Democratic meeting also got a few big hands, himself.  Sen. Seth Harp, said he would have voted for either of the plans, the one favored by the House or the Senate plan, but he didn’t think either would get taxpayer support.

“They waited too late.  They should have passed it last year. Now, with the recession causing pain in the pocketbook,  it is doubtful that people will vote a penny tax regionally or statewide,” Senator Harp said.  The tax is necessary to fund the plan, which advocates say is urgently needed.  All you have to do is drive to Atlanta to know that the situation is critical.

Sen. Harp might not have pleased his Republican following with one remark he made.  He joined Rep. Smyre in thanking President Obama for sending $1.6 billion in stimulus money to Georgia.  He said with the critical budget problem facing Georgia, the federal money does help. 

“I agree with Calvin.  The legislature will be going back into session in July.  The budget just approved by the legislature banks on the economy getting better. I hope it will, but I am not confident about that.  We will be making more cuts.  For instanceteachers will probably have tobe  furloughed.

“And if we have to do that, say for ten days.  I – and I hope my fellow legislators will join me – will not accept my pay as a senator for those ten days.”

That one elicited a big round of applause. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Seth Harp, (R), Sen. Ed Harbison, (D) Georgia State Senate

Sen. Harp looked over at Sen. Ed Harbison,  a Democrat,  and said the two of them work together probably better than any two lawmakers in the Senate.  He also let everyone know that he recently learned that he and Harbison served in the same unit in the Vietnam War.  More applause.

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Debbie Buckner, (D), Georgia House

And Rep.  Debbie Buckner, also a Democrat,  drew a round of applause when she said that, though some things she supported weren’t approved,  the effort that she and other lawmakers to kill the bill that would allow billboard companies to cut more trees on public property was successful.  The crowd like that one, too.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, (D), Georgia House

Rep. Carolyn Hugley was the first to point out that the state is in dire straights over the econ0my and that the cuts that will accompany the budget will cause pain for a lot of people.

When Sen. Harp confirmed he is not running for again for the seat he now holds,  but instead will run for either insurance commissioner and attorney general,  and will make an announcement next week on which one,  Rep. Hugley said, “Oh, go ahead and announce it tonight.”  Sen. Harp said he would wait.

All in all, I have to say I was impressed with the candor of the legislators at the town hall meeting.   They didn’t try to spin the truth about the state of the state or the legislative session that just ended.  The one they predict for  July will, no doubt,  will be a stem-winder.


Voters Beat the Lobbyists Again on the Billboard Bill

April 4, 2009

The bill that would give billboard companies more power to cut trees on public property didn’t make it through the House.   It had been defeated earlier in the week but the House agreed to a recall;  however, that didn’t happen.  The legislative session ended and SB 164 is dead for now.  Its proponents promise to bring it up again in the next session.

The big lesson here?  Massive numbers of voters contacting their representatives can overcome powerful, well-financed lobbyists for vested interests.  It took a tremendous effort by environmental groups to block this measure again,  but that effort paid off.

Now, we have to stay alert because the billboard industry lobbyists will not give up.  It is a pretty safe bet to say they will be back next year.  But,  folks who want to keep our highways green and beautiful have shown for two years in a row they can put up a good fight.

By all means,  please thank your representatives for being responsible enough to kill the bill for another session of the legislature.

The Billboard Bill Fails in the House, but It Could be Voted on Again

April 2, 2009

While we can feel good about the responsible way that a majority of Georgia House members voted down SB 164,  which gives billboard companies more power to cut down trees on public property,  we can’t relax yet.  The bill was defeated, but a vote to reconsider was passed so it could come up again.  Friday is the last day of the legislative session.   It would be a good idea to contact your state representative,  thank him or her for voting against the bill and urge him or her to vote no again if it does come up before the legislative session ends.

URGENT! The Billboard Bill Gets Georgia House Consideration Tomorrow

March 31, 2009

If you haven’t already contacted your state representative via telephone or email, let me urge you to do it now.  Josh McKoon, Common Cause and Republican activist,  informs me that SB 164, the one that gives billboard companies more power in cutting down trees on public property so  you can see billboards better,  is scheduled for consideration on the House floor TOMORROW.


Save Our Highway Trees by Contacting Your Georgia House Rep. and Urging a No Vote on SB 164

March 29, 2009

Let me urge you to pick up your phone and call your Georgia House rrepresentative,  or email him or her,  and say that you hope he or she will vote against SB 164, the one that gives more power to billboard companies to cut taxpayer owned trees along highway rights of way.

Ken Henson, Columbus attorney, Trees Columbis Inc. board member

Ken Henson, Columbus attorney, Trees Columbis Inc. board member

Ken Henson,  a Columbus attorney and Trees Columbus Inc. board member,  who was among those who testified at the Georgia House Transportation Committee against the bill,  says it not only give billboard companies the right to cut trees in front of billboards that already exist, but to cut them where billboard companies plan to put up a new billboard.  Though there were a lot of people who spoke against that bill, the committee sent it to the House floor witha do-pass recommendation.  That means the only way to stop it is on the House floor.  It happened last year and you can cause it to happen again.

I am not against billboards,  but I don’t think they are more important then trees that beautify our highways and add to our oxygen supply.  A recent survey shows that a majority of Georgians oppose cutting of trees on public property to make it easier to read to a billboard.  Still,  billboard industry lobbyists in the Gerogia State Capitol can have more influence than such polls that tell state legislators what the people of Georgia want.  The only way to overcome the power of the well funded vested interest lobbyists is by massive input from voters.  So, please let your legislator know that you want him or her to vote against SB 164.

How SB 164 Gives Billboard Companies More Power to Cut Publically Owned Trees

March 14, 2009

“Either you are unaware or you are deliberately trying to mislead your readers. Billboard companies have the right to cut these trees now,” Anna McLendon wrote in a comment on my post about the latest effort by billboard companies to obtain the right to cut trees on state and local governmental highway rights of way.  She is partially right, certainly, though, not about my deliberately misleading my readers.  I don’t do that.  The  unaware part is the part that’s partially right.  I didn’t know as much about the present law or the one that just passed the Senate as I should have.  She is wrong, however, in that the billboard companies now have the “right” to cut those trees.

In order to correct my shortcoming in understand the two laws,  I called former Columbus mayor and advertising executive Bob Hydrick, who is on the board of    Trees Columbus Inc.  Bob explained it this way:  “What the billboard people have now is the ‘privilege,’  not the ‘right’ to cut trees on public rights of way.  They have to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation commissioner.  If their request meets certain criteria,  he can grant permission to cut the trees,  but he can also deny their request.  The new law, the one passed by the Senate and is now in the House,  gives them the ‘right’ rather than the ‘privilege.’  They won’t have to get a permit from DOT any more.”

Now,  when a billboard company wants to put up a new billboard,  it has to wait five years before it can get a permit to cut vegitation on public property.  Being on private property,  it can put up the billboard,  but it can’t cut trees on public property for five years.  The new law ends that prohibition, also.

Also, Bob told me,  now, they simply cannot cut trees that were planted as part of beautification projects.  The DOT commissioner doesn’t have the authority to give a permit for that.  Under the new law,  that would also change.  They would have the right to cut trees planted as part of beautification projects.   There is a suit against the DOT pending on this one,  filed by  Trees Columbus, Inc., the Gateway Foundation, and the City of Columbus,  concerning the attempted cutting of trees planted as part of beautification projects on I-185 inside the Columbus City Limits.

I hope that clarifies what the Billboard industry is trying to accomplish with the new law, SB 164,  which passed in the Senate and is now in the Georgia House.  You can read the bill by going to this Georgia Senate link.  I haven’t changed my mind about how I feel about the law.  I don’t want beautification projects on public property destroyed to make it easier to see billboards.   I hope you will let your representative in the House know that you do not favor SB 164,  which expands the billboard industry’s power to cut down trees owned by taxpayers.

You can read MS McLendon’s complete comment, as well as those by others, by going to my previous post on the issue, “I Think I Shall Never See a Billboard as Lovely as a Tree.”

It’s up to the Georgia House to Stop Georgia Power’s End Run on Nuclear Reactor Construction

February 15, 2009

  It’s up to the Georgia House to stop Georgia Power’s end run around the state public service commission.  Instead of going the normal route through the commission, Georgia Power wants the legislature to pass a bill requiring rate payers to start paying in advance for two new reactors at Plant Votgle.


Plant Votgle, Courtesy: NRC

Georgia Power got what it wanted in the Georgia Senate Wednesday and now the measure goes to the House.   Let’s hope it is not rushed . This multi-billion dollar deal needs close examination.  

Aalborg, Denmark.

Aalborg, Denmark.

Why all this emphasis on nuclear when wind power costs half as much?  I heard a Georgia Power executive say that wind power is a dubious proposition for Georgia.  Still, Georgia Power has exclusivbe rights to build wind turbines off the Georgia coast, but they haven’t made any move to build any.  Maybe that needs to be changed.  T. Boon Pickens may love the idea of building those turbines.

Then, there is solar.  Georgia Power isn’t keen on that, either, saying the state doesn’t get that much sunlight.  Yeah. Right.   I remember years ago hearing one GP executive jokingly say, “You can’t put a meter on the sun.”

It’s all about money.  Ours. They want it.  Disclosure: the only stock I own is a little Southern Company (I’m mainly a bond investor) so you would have to ask why I would be cautious about Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power making moves to make more money.  Maybe it’s because I pay one heck of a lot more for electricity than I make from Southern Company dividends.  Besides,  there is the common good to consider.   It’s about time we started thinking about that.