Two Georgias: enough already

  The “infinite monkey theorem” holds that, given an infinite amount of time, a chimpanzee hitting random keys at a keyboard will almost surely produce a literary text.  Think Shakespeare’s sonnets or “King Lear,” for example. While the Georgia Legislature doesn’t have an infinite timeline, it only has a constitutionally prescribed 40 days to work its magic. And it has adeptly juggled some rather random legislation. They’ve debated and passed legislation making it a crime to film a nonconsenting person’s private parts; taxed internet sales, ride sharing (such as Uber and Lyft), and fantasy sports websites; and raised taxes on used car sales. At least what’s between the taxpayers’ pockets is safe even while the government picks them. And then there’s the Senate bill that makes it easier for those with prior mental health or substance abuse problems to buy a gun.  Another bill would allow this person, properly permitted, of course, to carry that concealed weapon on public college campuses. That these campuses are comprised of hundreds if not thousands of students obviously addresses the security concerns.  You know, “safety in numbers” and all that jazz. That’s not to imply that the General Assembly hasn’t had any literary moments thus far.  Indeed it has. Legislators are seriously debating a flat tax rate on income taxes, cracking down on “sanctuary campuses”, and ending “surprise billing’ at hospitals, to name a few.  These and other important pending measurers will benefit all Georgians and represent good, solid thinking and hard work. An idea emanating from the House to address the persistent and chronic emaciation of Georgia’s non-metro counties, a Georgia Rural...

Reflections on Apples and slot machines

  When Satan– as a serpent, the most subtle creature in the Garden of Eden– preyed on man’s desire to enjoy whatever was desired, he used the forbidden fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden as bait. Think of it as a longing for things bright and shiny characterized by a desire requiring instant gratification. Instant gratification exists in many forms today but is most prevalent in the gaming industry. Slot machines, roulette wheels, Black Jack tables and, yes, scratch off tickets, all carry hope for an immediate payoff with minimal investment. And states are not immune to the urge. Nevada had a lock on state permitted casino gambling until the late 1970s but now 30 states offer some form of legalized gambling. The states that opened themselves up to casino gaming were looking to enhance their state coffers at the expense of tourists visiting these newly constructed venues. They sought revenue from “destination gambling” rather than “convenience gambling”, or the day-trippers, mostly comprised of locals. They are finding, however, that try as they might, they’re not attracting the clientele they sought: the more affluent gambler. Instead, while the gaming industry promised gambling palaces with a high roller ambience, what the states got were slot machine or other computerized game venues: downsized gaming meccas for the locals, often those who can least afford the risk, yet who visit casinos the most. And this brings problems. Counties hosting casinos experience unusually high crime, suicide, divorce, and bankruptcy rates. These social costs are not insignificant. In Clarke County, Nevada, for example, these costs approach $900 million annually, according...

Tax Man Knocking on Georgia’s Door Re Internet Sales

  If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street, If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat, If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet… State legislatures around the country, even Republican controlled ones like Georgia, are resurrecting the lyrics of “Taxman,” the 1966 Beatles hit, as they look for new ways to pick the taxpayer’s pocket. The getaway car for this latest heist? A tax on internet sales. Thus, an addition to George Harrison’s lyrics: “If you buy on line, I’ll tax that treat.” The first attempt to tax online sales, made by North Dakota, failed when the Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that the state could not collect a sales tax on orders or goods sold by Quill Corporation to North Dakotans because Quill did not have a bricks and mortar presence in the state or any other kind of “nexus”. And doing so violated the Constitution since only Congress could regulate interstate commerce. The Court allowed, however, that Congress could legislate permission to the states to collect such a tax. The brave men and women of Congress, being elected every two years, have demurred doing that for 25 years. So that leaves the states to devise a constitutional-proof scheme on their own. Take Georgia, for example. This is a state firmly in GOP hands: both legislative houses and all constitutional officers from governor to state school superintendent are Republicans. It is a conservative state. A bill to collect sales tax from online retailers, however, has been introduced and may likely pass. It is estimated...

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