Major league baseball will be taking a midseason break for the All Star game, so we’ll take our own midseason break and catch up on developments in some of the stories highlighted in earlier columns.
Construction is proceeding on a new football stadium for Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank that will be partly financed with $200 million from Atlanta’s pot of hotel-motel tax revenues.
Common Cause Georgia is fighting that questionable use of the taxpayers’ money by launching a petition drive to put the issue on this fall’s city election ballot.
There has been a controversy down in Jekyll Island over the revision of a master plan for the island’s development. The Jekyll Island Authority wants to count marshland as part of the island’s acreage, which would allow expanded commercial development. Environmentalists are adamantly opposed.
Attorney General Sam Olens offered an opinion that marshland can indeed be counted as “land” for the purposes of allowing more commercial development.
The Georgia Democratic Party recently found itself in an awkward position when chairman Mike Berlon resigned and an election was called to select his replacement. The party’s charter requires that the chairman and first vice chairman be of different sexes and racial backgrounds, which meant that only white males could qualify to run for chairman in the special election.
For a party that has often criticized Republicans for their lack of diversity, it was ironic to be holding a “whites-only” election.
Democratic Party officials have since modified their position and are allowing anyone, regardless of race or gender, to run in that Aug. 31 election.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly debated the issue of extending a provider fee paid into the Medicaid program by hospitals – a fee known more widely as the “bed tax.”
There was a general agreement among Gov. Nathan Deal and the legislative leadership that the bed tax should be extended so that the Medicaid program did not go broke. Legislators did not want to go on record, however, as voting for any kind of tax, even one as badly needed as the Medicaid bed tax.
The Legislature thus passed a bill that transferred the authority for levying and collecting this Medicaid tax over to the state Board of Community Health – an executive branch agency whose members are appointed by the governor.
The Georgia constitution is very clear on this issue. It requires all bills raising taxes to originate in the state House of Representatives and it places the authority for raising or lowering taxes in the legislative branch.
This Medicaid tax bill originated in the Senate and transfers taxing authority over to the executive branch, which would seem to be a clear violation of the separation of powers spelled out in the state Constitution.
The state Board of Community Health subsequently voted to impose this new incarnation of the Medicaid bed tax, which took effect on July 1.
(Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com that reports on government and politics in Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)