The House considered 40 bills and resolutions last week, as we closed in on what is known as "Crossover Day." Crossover Day is legislative day 30, and is the last day a bill or resolution can pass from its home chamber to the other chamber of the General Assembly. With hundreds of pieces of legislation now in the system, the competition to get bills across before the deadline makes for a frenzied atmosphere.
Far and away, the most important measures we considered were HB 142 and HB 143. These bills comprise Speaker Ralston’s ethics package. They have been offered in response to the clear mandate from the voters last summer, expressed in the primary election referendum about lobbyist gift caps that was passed by a lopsided majority. HB 142 is the primary bill, and includes the most direct answer to the referendum. To the point: the referendum proposes a $100 cap on direct gifts from lobbyists to individual elected officials – the bill bans such gifts altogether. This would eliminate lobbyists taking individual officials out to dinner, as well as paying for tickets to sports events and for other entertainment/recreation. The other place the bill substantively constrains spending is by ruling out the payment of airfare by lobbyists. It would still allow payment for other travel expenses.
The bill makes significant changes in two other areas. First, it gives rule-making power back to the campaign finance commission. It also defines who is a “lobbyist,” and requires that such folks register (for a $25 fee, down from $300), and that they must wear an ID card if working on Capitol grounds or other state buildings. Basically, anyone who advocates on someone else’s behalf (paid or unpaid) is a lobbyist. Anyone who is expressing his or her own personal views, unpaid, for five or fewer days per year is not considered one.
Gov. Nathan Deal announced last week that he will not accept the expansion of Medicaid provided by the Affordable Care Act. At least six other Republican governors, including Florida’s Rick Scott, have made the opposite
decision for their states.
Medicaid provides healthcare coverage for some, but not nearly all, of the poor. Currently, poor children and pregnant women are covered, but most adults don’t qualify. One group of adults that does benefit is the elderly poor; a large percentage of nursing home care is provided through Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all Americans, regardless of age and parental status, will qualify for coverage if they are poor (making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line) and if their states opt in to the program. The federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years and at least 90 percent of the costs thereafter (currently, the states pay 50-75 percent of Medicaid costs).
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 22 percent of Georgians currently have no health insurance – the seventh highest rate in the nation. Medicaid expansion under the ACA would provide coverage for 620,000 of those Georgians.
The consequences of Gov. Deal’s decision are enormous and not just for the uninsured. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia hospitals lose an estimated $1.5 billion every year caring for the poor and uninsured. The rest of us pay for that care – an estimated $1,000 per year more in premiums to make up for hospital losses.
I’m sure you have heard the many claims of the effects of sequestration such as three-hour waits at airport security, prisoners released from jails, airport control towers closed, federal meat inspectors pulled from processing plants, school children going hungry, border patrols cut, teachers laid off, and the list goes on and on.
Several actions have happened even before sequestration. Illegal immigrants were released from jail, 800,000 civilian defense workers face furloughs and the aircraft carrier, USS Harry Truman, has been held in port in Virginia rather than deployed to the Persian Gulf. The Harry Truman joins five other U.S. aircraft carriers that, for some reason, have been in port for months all lined up in a row similar to Battle Ship Row at Pearl Harbor.
One thing you may not have heard about sequestration is that it only amounts to an $85 billion cut in the $3.35 trillion federal budget this year. The cut amounts to a little over 2 cents on every dollar spent. Another thing you may not have heard is that even with the $85 billion cut, the 2013 federal budget is higher than the 2012 budget.
To put this in perspective, sequestration is equivalent to a family receiving a nice raise in wages but must cut spending after the raise by 2 percent. If the family decided that they must cancel their charitable contributions, turn off their air conditioning, put their car up on blocks and cancel Christmas to save 2 cents on the dollar, you would have to say they overreacted. But that is exactly what the administration is doing with their blustering and threats over sequestration.
Parental responsibilities and authority have well understood boundaries even though no formal written contract exists between parent and child. It is wholly non-controversial that any parent exceeding such boundaries should have their authority curtailed if not entirely rescinded. It is then a rather curious circumstance that when government, whose duties and authorities are clearly articulated in written forms (constitutions, charters, etc.), exceeds its legitimate authority it is considered nearly an act of treason to merely point out that its actions fall outside the scope of its authority.
Representative democracy (e.g. a republican form of government) is relatively insensitive to the will of the people insofar as the representatives are not obligated to act in every circumstance as would the people. This can be beneficial in tempering a mob mentality toward governance (tyranny of the majority), however that benefit can easily become a liability when rent-seeking special interests co-opt and corrupt the system (tyranny of the minority).
I admit it. I’m chemically dependent; I can’t imagine life without sodium bicarbonate– in layman’s terms, baking soda, or soda, for these purposes. As of late, soda is basking in a Heloise comeback. Internet and magazine articles site its economical widespread benefits as often as they use the word eco-friendly, with good reason. It’s an all-in-one, magic-miracle, powder used in health, home, cooking, pest control, and cleaning applications; a product that will save you money, a lot of money, when you look at all the products it replaces.
I requested my hairstylist treat my hair for product build-up. She put a dollop of clarifying shampoo in her hand and retreated to the backroom to add a little baking soda to it. Sure enough, my hair shines like a 2013 copper penny; if need be, I use it as a dry shampoo. A good dusting freshens our little Biscuit dog, as well as the carpet she rolls around on playing with her hedgehog. I use it religiously on grease spotted fabrics. Before treating the fabric with spot remover, I generously dust the spot with baking soda, let it sit to absorb the oil, vacuum off, and continue treatment. The same treatment can be used for pet mishaps. These few examples are but powder particles in the endless list of soda uses. Let’s take a look at a day in the life of HCO3 dependency.
Well good grief, here it is March already. As I drove through Madison I saw forsythia in full bloom, flowering almond trees nearly finished, and daffodils in total glory. But why am I so surprised; the weather has been going through four different seasons in the same month. While all of these early bloomers are presenting themselves and we are getting excited about putting out our seeds and seedlings, let’s take time to enjoy what nature is giving us at its natural time.
Lenten roses– yes, they tend to tuck their pretty flower heads under the leaves but they don’t need to shout their names to be winners in your garden. Drought resistance, deer-resistant, and evergreen, what else do they need to do to be part of your shade garden. And they can even take a good amount of sun if you keep them watered. The species don’t need to be touted any more than that, but let me tell you about some of the new cultivars that are strutting their stuff: the Gold Series. Wow… they have big, beautiful flowers that actually hold themselves up above the leaves, and they come in different colors. And if you don’t have a daphne odora you need to get one. This incredibly fragrant plant has a reputation of being difficult to grow, but I know someone who has several bushes growing in near neglect and whacked back every spring, yet they produce flowers that you can smell from yards away. And I swear that I smelled a winter honeysuckle in the parking lot where the new Goodwill store is located.