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MARTA, that perennial piñata for state lawmakers, last year fended off a proposal by state Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, that would've forced the transit agency to privatize certain functions and change its governance structure. MARTA's new CEO Keith Parker at least deserved a chance to right the cash-bleeding ship. A year later, MARTA actually has a budget surplus. Still, Jacobs, who chairs the joint committee that oversees MARTA and has been singing Parker's praises, might revisit parts of the proposal.
The talk of creating a regional agency to oversee the various transit systems in metro Atlanta is no closer to becoming a reality. That is, unless you consider a plan by state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, to create an online trip planner — a bold step toward catching up with other major cities such as Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York.
Handout for the Braves
Did you think that $300 million in county funding would be enough to appease the Atlanta Braves? Think again! Team officials might try to shake loose additional cash from the state's piggy bank.
Team leaders last November shocked the city with their decision to leave Turner Field behind for Cobb County, where they plan to build a new $672 million stadium near I-285 and I-75 that would be nearly half-funded by local taxpayers. According to internal documents obtained by Atlanta magazine contributor Jim Walls through the Georgia Open Records Act, both Cobb officials and club leaders have considered upward of $60 million in state tax credits. That cash could come in the form of job, energy, or tourism incentives designed to help businesses that choose to expand or relocate within Georgia. Braves Executive Vice President Mike Plant, who talked with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce about potential Turner Field developments before inking the Cobb deal, says the same tax credits could potentially be used for the new ballpark.
Both county officials and Braves execs may also seek state funds for road projects near the new stadium. Many nearby residents and commuters have already expressed concerns over potential traffic woes that baseball games could create near the already congested junction. The governor told WABE (90.1 FM) in November that state transportation funds "could be involved," but didn't expect public investment in the foreseeable future. Still ... he's saying there's a chance.
Atlanta's wish list
Every year, City Hall lobbyists are given a list of what Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta City Councilmembers want to see accomplished at the Gold Dome. Sometimes the General Assembly throws the city a bone and a wish is granted. Most often it does not. This year, the list includes: new fees to help fund the municipal court; permission to allow air travelers to start imbibing at 5 a.m. at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; requests to clarify what the city can do with blighted property; and an oldie but a goodie asking for citizen review boards to be exempt from Open Records Act requests until after an investigation is completed.
Repeal Stand Your Ground
In 2012, Fort pushed for a revision to Georgia's Stand Your Ground law after the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Now he wants an outright repeal of the controversial self-defense law. "Essentially at this point, all you have to do is perceive that you are, or be afraid that you are, in harm's way," he says. "It amounts to, in effect, a 'shoot first and ask questions later' approach."
Civil asset forfeiture
According to some activists, Georgia's laws for civil asset forfeiture — the power given to law enforcement and public officials to seize property without a conviction — are among the nation's loosest. A bipartisan bill introduced last year with Deal's backing requires district attorneys and sheriffs across Georgia to show a higher burden of proof and increase transparency. The current proposal, civil liberties groups argue, doesn't go far enough, but it would be a step in the right direction. There's nowhere but up from here!
Now that the state has exiled the statue of Thomas Watson, a former Georgia politician who also happened to be a flaming racist and anti-Semite, across the street from the Georgia Capitol grounds, everyone has an idea of what should take its place. Why not, says state Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, a monument featuring the 10 Commandments? Or how about the proposal by state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, to erect a statue honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which would be a first at the Gold Dome? Look for grandstanding on this media-friendly issue and politicians looking to score cheap points.
I agree with Andrew.
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