- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


Jan. 4

The News of Brunswick on the state’s school funding model:

Now that Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District amendment has been voted down, it looks like Deal will again be focusing his attention on changing the state’s school funding model, something he did after winning a second term in 2014.

For frame of reference, the current Quality Basic Education funding model went into effect in 1985, more than 30 years ago. A lot has happened since then, especially in the world of public education, yet Georgia’s school districts continue to get money from the state through a convoluted and antiquated funding formula.

Deal’s Education Reform Commission near the end of 2015 made two recommendations on updating the state’s public school funding.

The first was to develop a student-based formula that considers the different characteristics of the students within the individual districts and gives additional weight for student populations that tend to cost more. That means more money from the state to fund career and technical education or students with disabilities, for example. The rationale is that “students in both populations have particular needs, including specialized staff and equipment, which should be funded accordingly,” the commission’s report said.

The second recommendation is to permanently add $258 million to the current public education budget beginning in the fiscal year 2018 and additional $209 million as money is available.

The goals seem to be to throw more money at education and to allow the local districts more flexibility in how they use it. The commission acknowledged in the report that “more money does not guarantee more learning,” but also states that the plan will give “districts the financial confidence and ability to better achieve their educational goals for students and improve day-to-day learning experiences in the classrooms.”

We hope more local control of how state education dollars are spent becomes a reality as Deal pursues his plan. Our local leaders know where money should be spent to improve schools better than bureaucrats in Atlanta. But after Deal spent 2016 pushing for the aforementioned Opportunity School District amendment - which would have allowed the state to take over what it deemed to be failing schools - questions must be raised about how committed he truly is to allowing local school boards and officials to guide their districts as they deem necessary.

If the new school-funding plan is too constrictive on how local districts spend the money they are getting, it is a plan that will lead to more of the same.




Jan. 1

The Rome News-Tribune on whether Georgia should support the “popular vote compact” or the electoral college system:

There’s been a lot of talk about moving to a popular vote for electing the president of the United States in the wake of Republican Donald Trump’s winning a solid electoral vote majority but losing the popular vote plurality to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump received 304 electoral votes and nearly 63 million popular votes versus Clinton’s 227 electoral votes and nearly 66 million popular votes. To be precise, there was a difference of 2,865,075 votes in Clinton’s favor, according to the respected David Liep’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Clinton took 48.04 percent of the popular vote to Trump’s 45.95 percent. Neither had a majority since other candidates garnered the balance of the votes.

Of course, this isn’t the first time in our history that a president was elected without receiving a plurality of the votes - the most recent being George W. Bush’s election in 2000 with a half-million votes less than Al Gore. Previous winners in this category were John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison.

And the move to elect the president by popular vote is not new.

For years, attempts have been made to do this through proposals in Congress to amend the federal Constitution. These efforts have been consolidated in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact which would base a state’s electoral votes on the national popular vote.

In Georgia, Republican and Democratic leaders of the General Assembly introduced legislation in the 2016 session to make this state a member of the popular vote compact. Sponsoring the bill in the House was Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, with House minority leader Rep. Stacy Abrams, D-Atlanta, signing on as No. 2 sponsor.

In the Senate, president pro tem David Shafer, R-Duluth, introduced the legislation, with minority leader Sen. Steve Henson, D-Tucker, the second sponsor.

Ehrhart’s bill got out of committee but was not called up for a vote on the floor, while the Senate bill did not even get out of committee.

That tells the story of underwhelming support for the popular vote effort - especially in view of Republican Trump’s victory without a plurality of the popular vote nationally and his winning Georgia with 51 percent, racking up huge majorities of 70 percent and more in some Republican counties. On that point, 11th District Republicans recently passed a resolution opposing the popular vote proposal, declaring that it “undermines the doctrine of federalism.”

The popular vote compact has managed to attract support from only 10 Democratic states and the District of Columbia with 165 electoral votes. These states include the first and third largest states, California and New York, plus Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington - all outside the South where state rights have historically been a priority in keeping with the Tenth Amendment.

In Rome and Floyd County, Republican lawmakers don’t expect the popular vote initiative will be resurrected in the 2017 legislative session.

As state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler of Rome put it: “Due to the circumstances of this election, I think people would be less likely to look at that now.”

Rep. Eddie Lumsden of Armuchee zeroed in on the foundational reason for the electoral college, saying he thinks “the framers of the Constitution didn’t trust a direct democracy. We are a democratic republic.”

And Rep. Katie Dempsey of Rome, while noting her constituents were about evenly divided on the issue, observed: “Right now I feel we need to abide by the Constitution as written.”

That is the proper approach, in our view.

The founders of our republic ingeniously devised the electoral college for a number of reasons and prominent among them was the concept of federalism, the sharing of powers between the national government and the states which preceded that government.

As the Constitution provides in Article X of the Bill of Rights: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The electoral college, which opponents see as outmoded and unfair, preserves a vital feature of federalism and in the process prevents the most heavily populated states from controlling presidential elections. And that’s as it should be.




Dec. 28

The Newnan Times-Herald on Georgia’s movie tax incentives:

Georgia’s basket of incentives for the production of movies here has come under attack by liberals and conservatives, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider its impact.

Among the critics are the conservative Americans for Prosperity which argues against industry-specific incentives, favoring across-the-board tax cuts instead. On the other end of the political spectrum is the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute which opposes any reduction in taxes, even for job creation, arguing the forgone taxes should rather go toward added spending on social services.

Generally, we agree with the conservative argument. Broad-based tax reductions are among the best ways to stimulate the economy, and that argument would have held the day a dozen years ago when a handful of states were competing against each other to lure movie makers.

What has changed is that other states have whittled down or completely eliminated their incentives, and Georgia has risen to become the No. 3 location for movie and television production behind California and New York. Several studies showed that during that competition the various state incentives were not paying for themselves, that is to say the lost tax revenue wasn’t recovered in the form of economic activity.

Now that the competition has fallen away, Georgia’s industry is vibrant and growing, as we can see in Senoia, Fayetteville, Union City and the former Fort McPherson site, where giant sound stages have sprung up. While the new circumstances are too recent for scholars to have analyzed, we know from our own observations that Georgia’s incentives are effective. We see the tourists, we detour around the filming locations and we know people who are making a living serving the industry.

So, we’re glad to see our newest members of the local legislative delegation committed to keeping the incentives now that we have them, and we hope they will be persuasive in turning away attempts by others to repeal them.

One reason we generally oppose targeted incentives is because government’s aim is usually so bad that the wrong industries often get the goodies while those with greater promise are ignored. But in this case, through luck or shrewdness, the incentives wound up hitting the mark.



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