Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 9, 2015

9
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 9, 2015

On February 8, 1751, the first session of the Georgia Provincial Parliament adjourned, having convened on January 15, 1751.

On February 9, 1825, the United States House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams as President of the United States, despite his having received fewer popular votes than Andrew Jackson. Congress voted for the President after no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in the 1824 election.

The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House.

Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Clay and Adams were both members of a loose coalition in Congress that by 1828 became known as the National Republicans, while Jackson’s supporters were later organized into the Democratic Party.

Alexander Stephens was elected Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861.

On February 9, 1926, the Atlanta Board of Education voted to prohibit teaching evolution in the Atlanta Public Schools.

On February 8, 1955, Gov. Marvin Griffin signed a resolution by the General Assembly calling on Congress to require racial segregation in the military.

On February 8, 1956, the Georgia State House adopted a resolution purporting to hold the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education null and void.

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles debuted in America on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00am – 9:00am House Approp Gen’l Gov’t – 606 CLOB
10:00am – 11:00am SENATE – Appropriations Committee – 341 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Education Acad Achieve. – 415 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Education & Youth – 307 CLOB
1:30pm – 2:30pm House Pak Sub of Judy Non-Civil – 132 CAP
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Highway Rules Sub Trans – 406 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Juvenile Justice – 506 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Govt Oversight – 123 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm House HHS – 606 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Special Judiciary – 122 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Insurance Admin/Licensing – 403 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Govt Affairs Elections Sub – 415 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Gov’t Affairs Elections – 415 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Reappt and Redistrict – 307 CLOB
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Public Safety Sub A – 515 CLOB
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Judy Jacobs Sub – 132 CAP
4:00pm – 5:00pm House Govt Affairs State Govt Admin – 415 CLOB
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Judiciary Non-Civil – 307 CLOB

The Senate may take up SB 53 relating to mental health and licensed professional counselors after tabling it last week.

House Floor Calendar

HB 57 – Electricity; financing of solar technology by retail customers for generation of electric energy to be used on and by property owned or occupied by such customers or to be fed back to the electric service provider; provide

Senator Renee Unterman’s Anti-Sex Trafficking bills, SR7 and SB8 will be heard in Senate Judiciary Non-Civil today at 4 PM.

The House Transportation Plan is likely to be restructured, as House Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla) seeks to respond to criticism of the original bill.

Lobbyists for cities, counties and local school systems have complained they could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue they now collect to a provision in the bill that would replace local option sales taxes on gasoline with a local excise tax of up to 6 cents per gallon of fuel sold.

“The way this bill is written, we’re picking winners and losers,” Georgia Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, told members of a House transportation subcommittee. “That’s not what we’re trying to do.”

Rep. Jon Burns, R-Newington, the subcommittee’s chairman, said the panel would hold at least one more meeting on the bill before deciding whether to send it to the full House Transportation Committee.

Among the criticism is this resolution passed unanimously by the Valdosta City Council and Mayor,

This Bill (HB 170) would remove all State and local sales taxes (4% State and up to 3% local) on the sale of motor fuel and would raise the State’s current 7.5¢ per gallon excise tax to 29.2¢ per gallon. The State excise tax would be adjusted annually based on the Construction Price Index and the average miles per gallon usage by vehicles registered in Georgia.

SPLOST and ESPLOST taxes currently in place will be allowed to be collected on motor fuel sales until they expire, but once expired, any new SPLOST or ESPLOST would not be collected on motor fuel sales. The collection of LOST on motor fuel sales would end once a new certificate is filed with the Department of Revenue (usually when the LOST distribution formula is renegotiated after the decennial Census).

The proposed 29.2¢ per gallon excise tax would roughly keep what consumers currently pay in combined State and local taxes (State motor fuel tax, State sales tax and local sales taxes) the same. Cities, counties and schools, however, would no longer collect approximately $500 million per year (see attachment) from local sales taxes on motor fuel sales used to fund local priorities.

In the effort not to “raise taxes” at the State level, HB 170 would create substantial funding shortfalls for cities, counties and schools, and would shift the burden to raise taxes to local elected officials.

An Glynn County education officials say their budget would be hit too.

In Glynn County, where motor fuel taxes brought in $5.3 million between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, the school system would take a big hit.

“We would lose around $2.6 million a year,’’ said Howard Mann, superintendent of county schools.

“It really puts a hurting on construction projects,’’ Mann said. “We don’t buy buses, but we use it on school buildings and technology.’’

[Brett] Cook, who is both McIntosh County manager and Darien city manager, said it would shift more than funding: It would also shift blame.

While the General Assembly could say it’s not raising taxes in changing to the excise tax, the bill would give local governments the option impose their own excise taxes to replace some of the sales taxes revenue, Cook said.

Cook said the loss of 1 cent special purpose local option sales taxes wouldn’t hurt as badly because governments can always delay or chose not to undertake capital projects. The place it would hurt across the board is in local option sales tax revenue, a 1 cent sales tax that has been on the books for decades to offset property taxes. It accounts for about a third of the general fund, he said.

“That’s funding payroll. That’s funding our basic spending,’’ he said of the sales tax. “That money would have to be replaced.”

Dade County in Northwest Georgia would be hit particularly hard,

Losing sales tax on motor fuel would cost Dade’s government control of about $2.7 million. That represents about 41 percent of the county’s sales tax revenue, much of it currently going to projects other than transportation.

Only Butts County (53 percent) and Dooly County (41 percent) would lose control of a larger chunk of their annual revenue, according to the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

“If the bill passes the way it’s written right now,” Dade County Commissioner Robert Goff said, “it would probably be the hardest thing to hit Dade County in a long time.”

Longtime Capitol observer Tom Crawford characterizes it thusly,

Most importantly, HB 170 would result in a transfer to the state treasury of more than $500 million in revenues that now flow to local governments each year through their sales taxes on gasoline.

That revenue shift would require city governments, county commissions and school boards that depend on the local motor fuel sales tax as a revenue source to raise other taxes to make up for the loss of money.

As one city official observed, “This is a tax grab.” That is true; the state would grab $500 million in tax revenues each year from local governments, who then would be under pressure to vote for politically unpopular tax increases to make up for the loss.

Progressives complain that not enough long-term funding for transit is included in the House Transportation Plan. From WABE,

“One hundred million dollars, one-time, across the entire state is, of course, better than nothing, but it’s not a game changer,” said Biola, who heads the advocacy group Citizens for Progressive Transit.

He says a better idea would be to allow any county in the state to raise its local sales tax to join MARTA.

“You need to have a long-term source of operating money, especially if you’re trying to build train lines.”

House Transportation Chair and bill sponsor Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, says he’s open to dedicating a regular stream of funding to transit. But he notes any effort to set aside state money requires a constitutional amendment and referendum. If voters approved, Roberts says he’d still be worried about “tying the hands” of future lawmakers tasked with passing a balanced budget.

State Rep. John Pezold (R-McRiberty) has introduced House Bill 58 to reduce the number of signatures required for third parties to get a candidate on the ballot. Pezold spoke to Atlanta Progressive News about the bill,

“Nowadays, people are somewhat jaded with the two party system,” Rep. Pezold, 35, a fairly new House Representative elected in 2012, told Atlanta Progressive News.

“Look, I’m a proud lifelong Republican, but I think in a lot of enclaves there are people on the left and people on the right who are tired of voting for the less of two evils,” Pezold said.

But Chairman Ed Rynders (R-Albany) does not believe there is a need for ballot access for minor parties and independents.

“Where’s the evidence that the majority of people would elect you?  That’s kind of the elephant in the room,” Rynders told APN, saying he has not yet decided whether to hold a hearing on the bill.

State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) writes of his effort to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining Georgia driver’s licenses.

The state of Georgia is issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.

After years of explaining this fact to astonished Georgians all over the state, I have still not grown accustomed to the shock and outrage they so vocally express. “But Georgia is governed by Republicans! – what is this, California?” is the most common reply that is printable here. They seem to become even angrier when someone correctly points out that illegal aliens cannot obtain a driver’s license in Mexico.

Under current – but pre-Obama – state law those last two documents make an illegal alien as eligible for a driver’s license in Georgia as a foreign businessman on a visa, a Legal Permanent Resident immigrant or a Georgia-born youth on his sixteenth birthday.

As a security measure, and to protect our jobs, I have introduced legislation – Senate Bill 6 – that will alter state law to end the practice of rewarding any illegal aliens with a Georgia driver’s license.

I hope you will ask your own state senator to co-sponsor Senate Bill 6.

Speaking of Sen. McKoon, do you remember that game you played as a child, where the first kid would whisper something to the second, who then passed it on, and by the time it got back where it started, the words were completely different? That’s what’s happening with Sen. McKoon’s Religious Freedom Act. First, Better Georgia and Macon District Attorney David Cooke willfully lied about the bill, and by the time a Texas paper writes about it, the bill goes even further to “limit gay rights.”

Legislation by State Senator Jeff Mullis would grant extra protection to police canines by making killing an on-duty police dog chargeable as second-degree murder.

Now, someone who injures or kills a police K-9 like Tanja faces one to five years in prison. If Mullis’ bill is passed, the punishment would rise 10-30 years in prison, the same as accidentally killing a child being disciplined.

Mullis crafted the legislation, named “Tanja’s Law,” after a man shot a Walker County K-9 last June. Mullis met with the 2-year-old Dutch shepherd’s handler, Deputy Donnie Brown, and felt the killer’s punishment wasn’t substantial enough.

Mullis’ bill comes with other provisions. Physically harming a police dog could draw up to a year in prison. Deliberately injuring a K-9 could mean 10-20 years behind bars. Should the dog die, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation will be required to perform an autopsy.

State Rep. Alex Atwood (R-Saint Simons) has worked with law enforcement to bring House Bill 233 the Georgia Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act, which reforms civil forfeiture laws. From the Athens Banner-Herald,

Since the last session, Atwood, a lawyer, ex-judge and former federal drug agent, has had extensive meetings with the associations for the sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors to craft a compromise they can all support.

Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, agreed.

“I think it’s going to have a good chance of passing,” he said. “It strengthens our current law.”

Both men agree that the 111-page bill standardizes procedures, provides better reporting about seized assets, establishes penalties for abuse and systematizes safeguards for property owners.

“It reduces the likelihood that procedural pitfalls deprive a person of their rightful assets,” said Atwood, who notes that, despite a few highly reported examples, most seizures are aboveboard.

Last week in an address to the General Assembly, Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson opined that rural Georgians face a shortage of lawyers.

“Too many hard-working Georgians believe that justice is out of their reach, either because it’s too expensive or because of where they live,” state Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson told the state Legislature in an annual address Wednesday.

“As I said last year, our judges continue to see a growing number of people coming to court with no lawyer and trying to represent themselves, particularly in divorce and other domestic relations cases,” Thompson said.

Six counties have no practicing attorneys, and another 64 have fewer than 15, according to the State Bar of Georgia.

As an example, domestic abuse survivors often first appear in court without an attorney, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. That’s because one of the first steps to escape is a temporary restraining order. That’s a civil process, not a criminal process, so no one is guaranteed a state-appointed attorney.

“No one wants to live in a county where their rights are not protected,” said [Bar President Patrise] Perkins-Hooker, so she’s pushing an upcoming bill that would provide some college loan payment assistance to attorneys who are based for at least five years in an underserved community.

The bill is expected to be filed soon by state Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island.

Georgia already does something similar with doctors.

Three separate bill in the State House aim to change the generous $5000 tax credit for purchasers of electric vehicles, according to the Associate Press,

Each bill before Georgia lawmakers would make significant changes to the write-offs that have been credited with lifting the state to No. 2 in electric vehicle sales, trailing only California in the 2014 tracking by industry analysts at IHS Automotive.

The amount of low or zero-emission vehicle credits paid out by the state exploded from about $310,000 in 2011 to about $15.4 million in 2013. Figures for 2014 returns aren’t available yet.

Electric vehicles are particularly popular in metro Atlanta, where electric vehicle owners can use highway lanes off-limits to solo drivers in a traditional car and a Nissan dealerships runs regular radio ads claiming best in the nation sales of the plug-in Leaf.

Rep. Chuck Martin, a Republican from Alpharetta, wants to end the credits in July. Martin said the incentive has become “an entitlement” and prevents car companies with hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles from competing in Georgia. He worries a multi-year decrease of the credit will create a rush to buy and inspire a fight when it is scheduled to end.

[Electric vehicle] supporters concede that the $5,000 figure is too generous. A compromise bill, developed by a coalition of manufacturers, utilities and environmental groups, instead would gradually lower the amount of credit available while expanding the type of cars eligible and end it altogether in 2020. Rep. Ben Harbin, an Evans Republican, is sponsoring that bill. He credits Martin with starting a conversation about the write-offs.

Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Grady Smith proposes requiring pre-approval for reimbursable travel by his fellow Commissioners.

Smith is asking that any out-of-state trips by Augusta Com­mission members receive commission approval first.

“The budget is very tight this year,” Smith said in a Monday committee request.

Requiring a commission OK “will not only help to reduce travel expenses, but will also help to ensure adequate (but not excessive) commission representation at appropriate out-of-state events,” he said.

Energy

Wind turbines will sprout off the coast of Skidaway Island near Savannah under a test by Georgia Power.

The demonstration project calls for up to four turbines, three of them less than 100 feet high at the hub and a fourth about 140 feet at the hub to test higher altitude winds. There will also be a meteorological tower.

The siting of the project at Georgia Power’s preferred coastal site at the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography depends on approval by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, which will hear about the project at an upcoming board meeting.

“We anticipate that it will be on the agenda for introduction and review on Feb. 11. However, it will not be voted on in this session,” said Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft.

The idea of a wind demonstration project, though not a specific site, was approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission as part of the utility’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan.

Georgia Power, which is joining forces with Georgia Southern University to study the environmental effect of the turbines, expects to build the turbines before July and remove them in about two years. One year of data collection, evaluation and reporting is anticipated.

The turbines are about 10 kilowatts each, big enough to power a typical home.

A new pipeline is expected to supply gas, diesel, and ethanol from the Gulf Coast to Savannah.

The parent company of Elba Island’s liquefied natural gas facility is planning a new 360-mile pipeline that will parallel the Savannah River and bring gas, diesel and ethanol from Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina to Savannah and Jacksonville, among other destinations.

Kinder Morgan’s new Palmetto Pipeline will hook up with existing pipelines to move 167,000 barrels a day of refined petroleum products from Baton Rouge, La.; Collins and Pascagoula, Miss.; and Belton, S.C., to North Augusta, S.C.; Savannah; and Jacksonville.

“First, it will promote competition within these markets, which could serve to decrease prices to consumers, because it will provide these markets with their first major pipeline source of refined petroleum products. Currently, these markets are only supplied with refined petroleum products via truck or marine transportation,” [said a Kinder Morgan spokesperson].

“Second, it will help ensure that the supply needs of the markets are continuously served during inclement weather conditions (e.g., hurricanes, tornados, lightning storms), because unlike marine transportation vessels, the pipeline will not be directly affected by such events,” the filing states.

 

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