Sunday, December 12, 2010

Biennial Institute - Athens, GA

I will be attending the Biennial Institute hosted by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia from Sunday, December 12, 2010 until Tuesday, December 14, 2010. The event includes freshmen and incumbent Senators and Representatives and provides opportunities for education and briefings on several of the topics facing the state. I've posted the agenda below.

11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Registration
2:00 p.m.
House convenes in Mahler Auditorium
Senate convenes in Masters Hall
4:00 p.m. - Opening Plenary Session
Welcome - Michael F. Adams, President, University of Georgia
Introduction of New Legislators
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle
Speaker David Ralston
Special Guest Speaker: John Pruitt, WSB-TV Channel 2
Reception Honoring New Members
Sponsored by the Arch Foundation for the University of Georgia

7:30 a.m. - Breakfast
Speaker: Dr. Charles Bullock, UGA
8:30 a.m. - Plenary Session: Economic Outlook
Speaker: Dr. David Wyss, Chief Economist, Standard & Poor's
10:00 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. - Plenary Session:
Behavioral and Mental Health Settlement
Speaker: Josh Belinfante, Attorney, Robbins Freed
Panelists: Sen. Johnny Grant
Rep. Jay Neal
11:30 a.m. - Plenary Session: Tri-State Water Update
Speakers: Nels Peterson, Executive Counsel, Office of the Governor
Kevin Clark, Executive Director, Georgia Environmental Finance Authority
Allen Barnes, Director, Georgia Environmental Protection Division
Panelists: Rep. Lynn Smith, Chair, House Natural Resources and Environment Committee
Sen. Ross Tolleson, Chair, Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee
12:30 p.m. - Luncheon
Speaker: Erroll Davis, Chancellor, University System of Georgia
2:15 p.m. - Plenary Session: Ethics
Speakers: Doug Chalmers, President, Political Law Group, a Chalmers LLC
Stacey Kalberman, Executive Secretary, State Ethics Commission
Panelists: Rep. Joe Wilkinson, Chair, House Ethics Committee
Sen. John Crosby, Senate Ethics Committee
Dennis Dunn, Deputy Attorney General
3:45 p.m. Break
4:00 p.m. - Caucus Meetings

7:30 a.m. - Breakfast
Speaker: Chief Justice Carol Hunstein
8:30 a.m. - Plenary Session: Georgia Ports Update
Speaker: Curtis Foltz, Executive Director, Georgia Ports Authority
9:30 a.m. - Plenary Session: Health Care Reform
Speakers: David Merritt, Executive Vice President of Policy and Communications, Center for Health Transformation
Wayne Oliver, Vice President, Center for Health Transformation
10:30 a.m. Break
11:00 a.m. - Plenary Session: Report of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians
Speaker: A.D. Frazier, Chair, Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians
Panelists: Rep. Larry O'Neal, Chair, House Ways and Means Committee
Sen. Jack Hill, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee
12:30 p.m. - Luncheon
Speaker: Governor-Elect Nathan Deal
2:00 p.m.- Adjourn

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reducing congestion in Atlanta

Voluntary express toll lanes provide real relief
Originally published: December 2006, Page 5, Highway 78 CID Update

Metro Atlanta suffers today with serious traffic congestion, whose direct cost is estimated at $1.75 billion per year. The Governor’s Congestion Mitigation Task Force, on which I served, recommended a dramatic change in the focus of transportation planning by weighting a projects congestion mitigation benefit at 70 percent with a goal of substantially reducing Atlanta’s average travel time by 2030.

Recently the Georgia Public Policy Foundation (GPPF) released a study prepared by the Reason Foundation titled “Reducing Congestion in Atlanta: A Bold New Approach to Increasing Mobility”. Much of the reporting on the studies release focused on one of the proposed mega-projects – a double-decked, six lane tunnel parallel to the downtown connector through Atlanta.

Too much focus is being placed on this single project, I believe: The really BIG idea is the proposal for variable priced express toll lanes (ETL).

Why ETLs? Virtually everyone involved in transportation planning agrees additional and new revenue sources are desperately needed, and ETLs provide new revenues without new taxation. Most agree that a cost-effective, flexible public transportation system is a key component to reducing congestion and providing a competitive economic environment. ETLs provide a virtual equivalent of a region-wide express bus network without a major investment of limited transit dollars. ETLs also preserve consumer choice, improve response times for emergency vehicles, and greatly reduce compliance costs.

The Reason Foundation study recommends deploying the previously allocated $4.5 billion for expansion of the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) network as a network of ETLs instead. A complete network of variable priced express toll lanes on the existing freeway system would provide reliable, uncongested travel for buses, vanpools, and voluntary paying vehicles. Adding separate, voluntary truck only toll (TOT) lanes, as recently suggested by the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) study, would allow trucks the option of bypassing Atlanta’s congestion in exchange for paying a toll.

Voluntary ETLs, priced to offer significant timesavings by allowing those who are willing to pay for a faster and more reliable trip, also greatly increase throughput. Variable priced ETLs operating during rush hour produce about 50 percent more functional capacity than the highly congested general-purpose lanes alongside. During the height of rush hour congestion, the study says, ETLs would operate at 1,800 vehicles per lane per hour as compared to 1,200 or less vehicles per lane per hour on the adjacent general-purpose lanes.

Metro Atlanta will continue to face considerable congestion after 2030, but implementation of ETLs, much of which could be accomplished as early as 2009, would be an immediate improvement that will pay benefits for many years to come. ETLs are not the sole solution; we must continue to advance all reasonable transportation improvements including existing system enhancements such as freeway ramp metering, improved incident response, signal timing, and intelligent transportation systems (technology). Further, public transportation, transit, pedestrian facilities, and land use decisions will continue to play an important role in improving our future transportation system.

Referenced agencies:
Georgia Public Policy Foundation
Reason Foundation

Monday, June 7, 2010

More support Harrell for House District 106

Tea Party Organizers endorse Harrell for House

Julianne Thompson, State Coordinator of Tea Party Patriots and Co-Organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party endorses Brett Harrell for State House of Representatives.

“It is my pleasure to endorse Brett Harrell for Georgia State House. Brett is the kind of conservative we need at the Gold Dome in Atlanta. He is a proven leader and will not compromise his values, as he has proven over the years. He will fight for fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets solutions in Georgia. Electing men like Brett Harrell is ethics reform in action. I am proud to endorse him.”

Debbie Dooley, Co-Organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party, also endorses Brett Harrell for Georgia House District 106.

“Brett Harrell is a great guy that understands that elected officials are actually public servants.”

Harrell "certified" Pro-Life by GRTL

I have been answering a number of questionnaires from various organizations interested in the positions of those running for office. I just received a letter in return from Georgia Right to Life stating I have been "certified Pro-Life" for this election. While I sincerely appreciate the "seal of approval" from GRTL, all should know I've held that conviction personally for all of my adult life and most certainly not related to any election.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

National Day of Prayer

Below are the remarks I made in 2000 on the occasion of a National Day of Prayer event co-hosted by Catholics and Baptists:

Pray 2K: America’s Hope for the New Millennium

The following remarks were delivered by Snellville Mayor Brett Harrell at an ecumenical prayer breakfast co-hosted by St. Oliver’s Catholic Church and First Baptist Church of Grayson in celebration of the “National Day of Prayer” May 4, 2000.

Good morning.

I am deeply honored and appreciative to be with you this morning. Today we recognize nationally what ought to be a daily observance – prayer.

Pray 2K: America’s Hope for the New Millennium is a fitting theme in this year of renewal. To begin, I’m going to share with you a prayer of renewal. It is a strongly worded prayer, but a prayer appropriate for our time.

Minister Joe Wright opened the new session of the Kansas Senate with these words:
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance.
We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good”, but that is exactly what we have done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that.
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism;
We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism;
We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle;
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery;
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare;
We have killed our unborn and called it choice;
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable;
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem;
We have abused power and called it politics;
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition;
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression;
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will, to open ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

His prayer is a prayer of renewal, a prayer of focus.

The United States is the only nation with a recognized National Day of Prayer. The First Continental Congress in 1775 called for a National Day of Prayer.

Our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. The Declaration goes on to say in, “support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Clearly, ours is a nation born and sustained by faith and the grace of God.

Our forefathers recognized the necessity of prayer. They recognized the vital importance of prayer for our nations leaders.

One of the suggested scriptures for today is Romans 12:12 which says, “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.” That’s my job description for Mayor of Snellville.

I am rejoicing in hope for our community. Hope for a community that is safe and vibrant with churches, schools, parks and businesses – a community that is optimistic about its’ future.

I am persevering in tribulation. Remaining focused on the needs of our community through whatever trying experiences may come. I frequently rely on and find comfort in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I am devoted to prayer for personal guidance, discernment and for our community.
My prayers are most often prayers of thanksgiving. I find great strength and peace through prayer. I know you will too and I encourage you all to renew your commitment to a prayerful life.

Lastly, I ask you to pray for all our nations leaders and most especially pray for me. Pray that God will open our ears, our eyes, our minds and most importantly our hearts to His will. Pray as Joe Wright did when he said of our nations leaders, “Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will.”

Thank you and may God richly bless you and your families.

Brett Harrell

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hospital “bed tax” is bad medicine

The state of Georgia is facing the worse budget crisis in recent memory, but new taxes and tax increases will not provide long-term solutions. I oppose HB 307 and any and all efforts to pass a health provider tax or “bed-tax.” This bill raises taxes on health care providers and increases the cost of health insurance policies providing limited short-term relief without addressing the larger issue of rapidly rising health care costs and a dysfunctional federal Medicaid matching fund system.

HB 307 adds a 1.6% tax on insurance plans and hospital revenues, and creates long-term problems by further suppressing our economy and increasing healthcare and insurance costs that ultimately provide support for President Obama’s case for an unpopular government takeover of healthcare. Further, HB 307 allows a portion of the new revenues generated to flow into the General Fund and though targeted for a specific use; we know previous bills have failed to successfully target General Fund expenditures as required – i.e. fuel tax, cell phone tax, tire disposal fees.

HB 307 is promoted as a tool to bring additional federal dollars to Georgia for a Medicaid program that fund only about 84% of the true cost of care. As an administrator with the Gwinnett County Hospital System said recently, “You can’t make that up on volume.” Seeking additional federal money to fund a broken program is not the solution and taxing profitable private providers to fund bankrupt government programs is the classic example of government gone wild.

Our goal should be to encourage all Georgian’s to have health insurance coverage and to increase the number of health care providers practicing in Georgia – this bill does neither. We should oppose tax increases as well as short-term band-aids to meet the budget shortfall and embrace innovative, creative, and common-sense long-term solutions.

Join me in opposition to HB 307. I am confident the voters of Georgia will appreciate and reward candidates who govern in a fiscally sound and conservative manner.

Brett Harrell is a candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives District 106 that includes the City of Snellville and unincorporated portions of Grayson, Centerville, and Lilburn.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My home is my castle and I need a wider moat because government is scaling the walls.

Increasing burdens of taxation and dramatic expansion in regulation have become the most common tool of government to restrict, and in some cases eliminate, our Constitutional Rights to Liberty and Private Property. More recently, governments have expanded into areas of storm water and solid waste regulation and instituted fees [read taxes] as the means to restrict those rights. Most egregiously, these fees are levied via our property tax bill thus creating a situation that, at the extreme, may result in the forcible taking of one’s home and property.

Some politicians will tell you they’ve never raised taxes, yet these same politicians instituted a new “fee” system that resulted in a single-year, non-deductible 15% increase in the average Snellville property tax bill [see illustrative tax bill below]. Additionally, by including the non-deductible fee, without explanation, on the property tax bill, they have increased the possibility of the filing of thousands of incorrect income tax returns – an IRS auditor’s dream – that, although rarely, may result in significant fines and forfeitures. Further, they did so without consideration of the potential impact to your mortgage payment and escrow account.

Some of these same politicians claim to be defenders of your private property rights, yet by including these new regulatory fees on your property tax bill they have, in actuality, expanded the ability of the government to seize your home and property. Again, at the extreme, should you own your home free and clear, yet fail to make full payment – including amounts for disputed storm water and/or solid waste services – the local Tax Commissioner will consider your entire property tax bill delinquent and subject to foreclosure, forfeiture, and forcible government taking.

That’s why we need to build a wider moat around our castles. While I favor a wholesale and comprehensive review of all taxes in Georgia, in the meantime, I propose that property taxes and only property taxes be included on my property tax bill. Radical, I know, but, if government is to attempt to storm my castle, at least attack during the light of day, rather than tunneling under in the cover of darkness by attaching non-tax fees to my tax bill.

Click to view a 2009 Snellville Property Tax bill

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Less Talk, More Action Leadership Team

Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) candidate for State Representative, District 106 announced today the initial members of his “Less Talk, More Action Leadership Team”. The list of supporters, volunteers, endorsers, and contributors includes over 100 community leaders and elected officials from all over House District 106, Gwinnett County and Georgia.

Harrell said, “I am gratified and honored to have the support of so many respected elected officials and community leaders from across HD 106, Gwinnett County and Georgia who have joined in support of my candidacy. It is a clear statement of the growing strength and momentum for our effort to continue providing solid, conservative leadership at the state Capitol. This early support also demonstrates that people trust my proven conservative record of cutting taxes and spending and reducing the size of government and that they also trust my ability to deliver at the State Capitol. These supporters are ready to stop the talk and political spin of those simply seeking power. They want a leader who will actually deliver. That is why I am running and that is why we are asking you to join in support too. ”

Harrell served as mayor of Snellville from 2000 until 2003. During his tenure he cut property taxes every year and reduced the overall burden of government by 52 percent while expanding the police force, preserving over 100 acres of permanent green space, and establishing the vision that led to a new Recycling Center, Senior Center, and City Hall.

Most recently, Harrell served as the executive director of the Evermore Community Improvement District (CID) where he managed the day-to-day operations of a self-taxing business district comprised of 469 commercial property owners and 1,585 businesses providing over 16,000 jobs. While managing the CID, Harrell successfully advanced over $130 million in projects including vital transportation improvements like the Hwy. 78 improvements.

District 106 includes the City of Snellville and parts of unincorporated Grayson and Lilburn in Gwinnett County.

Harrell for House Less Talk, More Action Leadership Team:

Our leadership team consists of supporters, volunteers, endorsers, and contributors.

Joe Allen, Executive Director, Gwinnett Place CID

State Representative Stephen Allison

Former Council Member Joe and Sydney Anderson, Snellville

Commissioner Mike and Tegwen Beaudreau

Mayor Pro Tem Barbara and Greg Bender, Snellville

Valerie Blalock, Former Evermore CID Executive Assistant

Ken Bleakly

Ossie Brewer

Don Britt

Former Mayor Stacey Britt, Grayson

Former GOP Chair Buzz Brockway

Council Member Jace Brooks, Suwanee

Ruth and Bob Bruhns

Former State Representative Don Butler

State Representative Charlice Byrd

Former City Attorney Mike and Lynda Byrne, Snellville

Former State Representative Eugene Callaway

Gwinnett Y.R. Chair Rich Carithers

Carla Carraway

Brad and Michelle Carver

State Representative David and Ann Casas

State Representative Mike Coan

Michelle Couch, Blitz Communications

Ann and Len Coverdale

State Representative Clay Cox

Cathryn Creasy

Becky and Gary Custar, Evermore CID Board Member

Brian Donegan, Founder, Can-Do Conservatives

Brandon Doty

Rich Edinger, P.E.

Council Member Steve Edwards, Sugar Hill

Dave Emanuel

Jim Estlund, Plaza Security

State Representative Melvin and Geri Everson

Mary Fergus

Former Council Member John Ferrara, Loganville

Commissioner Tim Fleming, Newton

Council Member Dan Foster, Suwanee

Gordon Getty

Joe Gilkey

Jackie Ginn

Alice Green

Dr. James Haddad

Bob Hamilton, CPA

Diane Harrell

Vivian and Bobby Harrell, RPh

Sharon and Marvin Harris

Council Member Katie Hart-Smith, Lawrenceville

Jonathan Hawkins

State Representative Billy Horne

State Representative Mike Jacobs

Mayor Bucky Johnson, Norcross

Gaye and Gerald Johnson

Terri Jondahl

Lawrence Kaiser, P.E.

State Representative Jerry Keen, Majority Leader

Michele and Michael Leach

Brenda and Harold Lee

Bruce LeVell, Gwinnett Village CID Board Member

Vickie and Dennis Malone

Laurie McClain, CPA

Council Member Kevin McOmber, Suwanee

Linda and Marty Merkler

Steven Miles

Joan Miller

Former City Attorney Thomas Mitchell, Snellville

Gail Moore, Tri-City Times

Bartow Morgan

Council Member Craig Newton, Norcross

Melisa and Jimmy Norton, Chair, Snellville DDA and CID Board Member

Mayor Jerry and Roxann Oberholtzer, Snellville

Chairman Sam Olens, Cobb County

Dr. Prahlad Pant

Vipul Patel

Marcy Pharris

Mayor Gary Pirkle, Sugar Hill

Leo & Zart Portnell

State Representative Tom Rice

Harry Rice

Jon Richards

Joyce and Dean Robinson, Former Evermore CID Board Member

Former GOP Chair Mike Royal

Rockie and Thomas Sapp, Former Evermore CID Executive Assistant

Regina and Sid Sartor

Former Council Member Kurt and Gretchen Schulz Snellville

Dr. Jane Scott and Quincy Jones

Fred Sealy

Nancy Sellers

Diann and Ken Shiver, Former Evermore CID Chairman

Council Member Tammy Shumate, Grayson

Greg Shumate

Ajay Singadia

Former Council Member Mike Smith, Snellville

Captain Jeff Smith, Lawrenceville Police Department

John D. Stephens

Tom and Lynn Studer

Marilyn Swinney

Former City Manager Jeff Timler, Snellville

State Representative Len Walker

Former Council Member James Walters, Snellville

Chuck Warbington, Executive Director, Gwinnett Village CID

Council Member Tod Warner, Snellville

Former Mayor Lillian Webb, Norcross

James Whitaker, CPA

Council Member Allison Wilkerson-Rooks, Grayson

Former Mayor Doug Wilkerson, Grayson

State Representative Wendell Willard, Chair, House Judiciary

State Representative Mark Williams

Yvonne Williams, Executive Director, Perimeter CID

Mark Williams, Chair, Gwinnett Place CID

Doris Wilmer P.E.

Council Member Tom and Carol Witts, Snellville

Faye and Larry Woodruff, RPh

Sunday, January 31, 2010

State Rep Melvin Everson endorses Brett Harrell for House

Incumbent District 106 State Representative and candidate for Labor Commissioner Melvin Everson announces his endorsement of Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) saying,

“I am proud to endorse Brett Harrell for State House. When I made the decision to run for Labor Commissioner, I wanted to ensure that I left District 106 with a Representative we could be proud of. That is why I called Brett Harrell. I served on the Snellville City Council while Brett was Mayor. As Mayor, Brett didn’t just sit around and talk about the problems; he delivered. I saw it firsthand. He cut taxes for 5 consecutive years, and reduced the overall burden of government by 52%. That’s the kind of leader we need in the State House.”

“It is an honor to have the support of a fine leader like Melvin Everson. Melvin has done a great job representing the people of HD 106, and I look forward to continuing his good work in the State House. We need less talk and more action in Atlanta, and that is exactly what I will provide if fortunate enough to serve the people of this district.” said Harrell.

Harrell served as mayor of Snellville from 2000 until 2003. During his tenure he cut property taxes every year and reduced the overall burden of government by 52 percent while expanding the police force, preserving over 100 acres of permanent green space, and establishing the vision that led to a new Recycling Center, Senior Center, and City Hall.

Most recently, Harrell served as the executive director of the Evermore Community Improvement District (CID), where he managed the day-to-day operations of a self-taxing business district comprised of 469 commercial property owners and 1,585 businesses providing over 16,000 jobs. While managing the CID, Harrell successfully advanced over $130 million in projects, including vital transportation improvements like the Hwy. 78 improvements.

District 106 includes the City of Snellville and parts of unincorporated Grayson and Lilburn in Gwinnett County.