Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Kidd Stays in the Picture

Baldwin County's Caucus of One, State Rep. Rusty Kidd, is pulling down some headlines for legislation he's writing up at the Capitol.
Most of it is legislation to benefit local institutions, longstanding local initiatives and non-profit organizations across the state. He's even using his experience as a Gold Dome Lobbyist to weigh in on the ethics debate that has colored the last several sessions in Atlanta.
It can be hard for a minority party legislator to see anything they write make it into law, it's even harder if you don't have any team members there to push things along. And sometimes things like this can happen. But despite all that, I commend Kidd for taking his community's concerns to Atlanta and fighting the un-ending battle.
Hats off to you sir.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Shocker? Really?

I can't discern whether this above missive is intentionally ironic or not. But, in my opinion, it was only a matter of time before before some legislator got pulled into court over the way banks have operated in Georgia.
Georgia leads the nation in bank failures since mid-2008. Integrity was the first of 52 banks to fail during that time. Since its collapse, two former bank officers have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges.

The suit is the first of an expected wave of litigation and civil penalties by the FDIC against insiders of failed Georgia banks, as the agency tries to recoup losses to its insurance fund.

Read more of the AJC story the above quote is taken from here. And, as you might imagine, this pending civil suit will do nothing to change business as usual under the Gold Dome.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Families in East Georgia increasingly nervous about transition of consumers to community settings

Families of people being served on the Gracewood Campus of East Central Regional Hospital are growing nervous about the state's plan to move developmentally disabled consumers into community settings, in accordance with the settlement agreement between the US Department of Justice and Georgia over the care and the setting in which care takes place inside the state's mental health system.
[Dale Beasley, whose daughter has been at Gracewood for 40 years,]said she struggled with the decision to put her daughter in an institution, and the only appropriate place for her daughter is at Gracewood.
“If my daughter could stay in a community setting, why would I have ever let her go to a state institution?” she said.

Read this story from the Augusta Chronicle here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Its like Deja Vu all over again...and again...and again...and again...and again...and again...and again

The Rome News-Tribune is reporting that Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital will stop admitting mental health consumers April 1 and close its doors sometime around June 30.
Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital will not close until all necessary services are in place to absorb the patients into the community.

That's the promise made to the legislature's joint appropriations committee this morning by Dr. Frank Shelp, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

He was noncommittal when asked if that means the proposed June 30 closing date of the hospital might be pushed back, reiterating that it's important to set deadlines.

"We have dates as targets," he said. "But we're not under any compulsion to close the Rome hospital prior to having those other services up and running," he said.
Just like in Milledgeville, the announcement came early in the legislative session and the community's legislative delegation can do little more than pepper the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities with questions during budget hearings at the Capitol.

The announcement of the closing of NGRH is the latest news about the fundamental changes taking place in Georgia's mental health system as a result of the settlement agreement between the State of Georgia and the US Department of Justice concerning the care of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the state's network of regional mental health facilities and the state's failure to meet the standards for serving consumers in the most integrated community setting possible, per the Olmstead v. L.C. decision, which originated in Georgia.

This Justice Department press release is a pretty succinct summary of what's going to happen in the next several years.
Under today’s agreement, over the next five years, Georgia will increase its assertive community treatment, intensive case management, case management, supported housing and supported employment programs to serve 9,000 individuals with mental illness in community settings. The agreement will also increase community crisis services to respond to and serve individuals in a mental health crisis without admission to a state hospital, including crisis services centers, crisis stabilization programs, mobile crisis and crisis apartments; create at least 1,000 Medicaid waivers to transition all individuals with developmental disabilities from the state hospitals to community settings; and increase crisis, respite, family and housing support services to serve individuals with developmental disabilities in community settings.
Central State Hospital was the first, and Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital won't be the last. But in a strange note that spooked me when I first read it, the News-Tribune writes:
[Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Spokesman Tom] Wilson said 54 of the current patients have been admitted to the mental health ward, and 73 patients admitted by a court. They will have to be moved to state hospitals in Milledgeville or Atlanta.
Then I remember that the Payton Cook Building just opened a few years ago.

But Rome will not have a new forensics unit to save any state jobs as Georgia moves non-criminals living with mental illness and developmental disabilities into non-profit and for-profit private mental healthcare providers. Again, from the News-Tribune:
The state-run mental health hospital has about 180 patients and 764 employees, according to Tom Wilson, spokesman for the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.
Though it should be noted that DBHDD will be creating a lot of these community care settings, and that will create job opportunities for some of the employees who will be affected by the closings.

I share all this because it should be a warning the entire State of Georgia, especially those in the mental health system, those with family in the system and employees of the system: Don't think this is just something happening at some other hospital, in some other part of the state. The Federal Government and the State of Georgia are revolutionizing the delivery of mental health services--for better or for worse. We simply don't know yet.

And residents of Augusta, Columbus, Decatur, Savannah and Thomasville should heed these words state Rep. Rusty Kidd uttered roughly nine months ago:
Kidd said it is clear from legislators’ reactions that people from different parts of the state outside of the Middle Georgia region are not hearing about the closing of Central State and the fate of employees there.

“I hope [legislators and DBHDD officials] hear this and take it to heart, so that they will be more sensitive to employees — all employees not just new or long-time employees — now and in the future,” he said. “Everyone needs to be aware that these are people who have had jobs there for a long time, and to lose a job is very serious. [The legislature and state government] need to help them transition into new jobs.”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Public Imagination

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, I'd like to share this On the Media story about the "I Have A Dream" speech and how it exists in the American consciousness.

Georgia House Committee Assignments Posted

The Post Title is a link to the committee assignments by legislator.
State Rep. Rusty Kidd is assigned to Governmental Affairs, Health and Human Services, Science and Technology and State Institutions and Property.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chief Blue to Roswell?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Milledgeville Police Chief Woodrow Blue made the short list for Roswell's top cop job. Link to the AJC article in post title. The Union-Recorder has a front page story in today's paper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

State of the State

Click the post title to link to Georgia Public Broadcasting coverage of today's address.
You can see the proposed budgets(AFY2011 and FY2012) at the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget.

In other legislative news:
Political Insider has your list of Senate Committee Assignments. State Senator Johnny Grant is now chairing Public Safety and Vice Chair in Higher Education. As of this writing, it does not appear that the House has named, or the webmasters have updated, the House committee assignments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In case you ever wondered what Daniel McDonald was up to between May and December of 2010:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Newsflash: Georgians must assume responsibility for themselves and their families.

Governor Nathan Deal sat the state down and gave it a talking to during his inaugural address today.
Whether it was the subject of crime, education, transportation, the water crisis or healthcare reform, Deal pushed a paternal tone that conveyed a message of 'I've been a longtime gone, and look what you've done to my great state' in his first message to Georgia as its 82nd Governor.
One of the other core responsibilities of State government is the education of our children. This is an undertaking that has been the primary focus of several of my predecessors in this office. Despite their best efforts and that of dedicated teachers and educators all across our state, our public education system in grades K through 12 has failed to make the progress we need...

This failure is a stain on our efforts to recruit businesses to our State and is a contributing factor in the frightening crime statistics previously mentioned. High dropout rates and low graduation percentages are incompatible with the future I envision for Georgia.
Betraying little about the way he intends to tackle some of the large problems he identified in his almost 20-minute speech, Deal said enough to sketch a vision of limited government and personal responsibility helping Georgia find a way out of the hard times it faces today.
As some pointed out earlier, Deal outlined a somewhat progressive direction in handling the state's overcrowded corrections system, advocating for day reporting centers, drug-, DUI- and Mental Health-courts. But don't think the new Governor's going to be soft on crime, he's asking the entire state to get his back as he works to break the cycle of crime that threatens the security of all Georgians.
Education was next on deck, and even though Deal said Georgia's education system is failing the state's economic development efforts, he said the entire state has got to get his back in making learning a top priority under his administration. HOPE will be passed on to future generations, but there are going to be hard decisions about who is going to get cut out of lottery-funded goodness.
Add to the list of things that are ruining Georgia's opportunities for economic development--Transportation. Driving a car anywhere in Atlanta sucks--especially today. So we need to cast aside our petty regional divisions and get behind the effort to find solutions to successfully meeting the state's challenges. Deepening the Port of Savannah may be a way to do that and bring more jobs to Georgia, so Deal says he's all about it.
And while we're talking about water, the Governor wants you to know that he's going to continue talking about it too--with Alabama and Florida. And whether that works or not, we're going to start building reservoirs and begin implementing plans for water conservation.
And even though that might be something that requires federal oversight or assistance, the former Congressman wants you to know that he does not welcome the federal government's assistance in delivering healthcare to its people.
As Governor, I will resist the efforts of the Federal Government to mandate its solutions on our people, our businesses and our State government.
You can hear the many people in the state Capitol who have the Governor's back on this in the audio of Monday's address.
Despite all the things mentioned above, Deal used the final portion of his inaugural address to say that his administration will be measuring success by job creation. And as with many of these challenges, the best way to move forward is through limited government and personal responsibility.

Audio of Governor Deal's Inaugural Address

Listen to the future of Georgia Politics with me, via WMUM Macon and my RTR 280 DRs. Total blogger fail on on the inability to host audio files (see my sister blog @

Portion of Text from Governor's Inaugural Address

These highlights come from the We Are Politics website, click on the post title to follow the link.

Highlights of the Inaugural Address of Governor Nathan Deal:

Throughout this "Experiment in Democracy," there has been a healthy skepticism by "We the People" about the role of government which we have "ordained and established." The lingering pain of this "Great Recession" in which we are still engulfed has underscored the urgency of re-examining the role of government in our lives.

Presently, one out of every thirteen Georgia residents is under some form of correctional control. It cost about Three Million Dollars per day to operate our Department of Corrections. And yet, every day criminals continue to inflict violence on our citizens and an alarming number of perpetrators are juveniles.

Our dedicated law enforcement officers must not be targets for criminals. Anyone who harms one of them harms us all.

Breaking the culture of crime and violence is not a task for law enforcement officials alone. Parents must assume more responsibility for their children. Communities must marshal their collective wills; civic and religious organizations must use their influence to set the tone for expected behavior.

One of the other core responsibilities of State government is the education of our children. This is an undertaking that has been the primary focus of several of my predecessors in this office. Despite their best efforts and that of dedicated teachers and educators all across our state, our public education system in grades K through 12 has failed to make the progress we need.

This failure is a stain on our efforts to recruit businesses to our State and is a contributing factor in the frightening crime statistics previously mentioned. High dropout rates and low graduation percentages are incompatible with the future I envision for Georgia.

I ask the members of the General Assembly and our State School Board to work with me to restore discipline in our schools, eliminate bureaucratic nonsense, adopt fair funding mechanisms and reward quality and excellence. If we do these things, we will convey the magic of learning to our children and restore the joy of teaching to our educators.

I am dedicated to honoring the promise that has been made to our students through HOPE and will work with the General Assembly to tailor the program to the financial realities we face today. I was not elected to make easy decisions, but difficult ones. In this legislative session we will save the HOPE for future generations.

We will do our part to deepen the Savannah port in order to accommodate the larger vessels that will soon pass through the Panama Canal. But we must do more. Our rail capacity and cargo routes must be improved and expanded. We must not miss this opportunity to provide jobs for Georgians.

Highway congestion, especially in the Greater Atlanta area is a deterrent to job growth in the region. If we do not solve this problem soon, we will lose the businesses who want to expand or locate in our State.

I am dedicated to working with all elements of government to improve our transportation system and I call on all Georgians to join us. We must put aside some of the regional differences of the past and work for the common good of our State.

As Governor, I will continue to pursue negotiations with Alabama and Florida to reach a resolution of the long standing dispute over the use of water in our Federal reservoirs and our major rivers.

We will develop regional reservoirs and continue our conservation efforts. We have been blessed with abundant water resources and we must use them wisely.

As Governor, I will resist the efforts of the Federal Government to mandate its solutions on our people, our businesses and our State government.

We will do our part to provide healthcare to our most vulnerable citizens, but government cannot make or keep us healthy. The primary responsibility for good health rests with individuals and families. We can help cultivate a culture of wellness in our educational programs and offer incentives in Medicaid and the State Health Insurance Program, but it is only individuals and families that can make healthy lifestyle choices.

So today as we embark on this journey to lead our State forward, I call on all Georgians to assume responsibility for themselves and their family. I call on communities and civic and religious organizations to continue and expand their efforts to serve the needs of people in their area. State government cannot and should not be expected to provide for us what we can provide for ourselves.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snowed Over

With everything else that has happened this weekend, it was easy to miss this late Friday docu drop of the much anticipated report from the 2010 Council for Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians.
Via Political Insider:
If you have experience with the Georgia tax system, we need your help to put this document through some quick scrutiny. What would these changes mean? What are the unintended consequences?

Post your observations below – or mail them to

Many thanks. And stay warm this weekend.

Shoulda Coulda Woulda

This time last year he said it was "a daunting challenge that precedes my time as governor," now its just a problem in the rear view mirror.
Jim Galloway reports that Governor Sonny Perdue felt real bad about some things as he packed up his office in the Capitol last week.

Friday, January 7, 2011

There must be something about Georgia

Two-headed Cow 1

Frequenters of the Capitol will notice a strange resemblance between this museum piece and the calf in the video below.