Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 23, 2015

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 23, 2015

The British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act on February 22, 1766.

The first Georgia state law allowing divorce was signed on February 22, 1850 by Governor George Towns.

President elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington, DC on February 23, 1861.

The Cyclorama painting of the Battle of Atlanta went on display on Edgewood Avenue on February 22, 1892.

WW2_Iwo_Jima_flag_raising

On February 23, 1945, United States Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest point on the Pacific island Iwo Jima.

This first flag-raising was photographed by Marine photographer Sgt. Louis R. Lowery. On Lowery’s way down Mt. Suribachi, he ran into AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and two other Marine photographers, PFC Bob Campbell and PFC Bill Genaust, who was shooting movies, informing them that the flag-raising they were looking for had already occurred, but encouraging them to check out the view from the top of the hill. The three men continued up the volcano.

Once atop Mt. Suribachi, Rosenthal attempted but was unable to find the soldiers involved in the first flag-raising, deciding instead to photograph the second flag-raising, which featured a much bigger and more photogenic Stars and Stripes. Lowery’s film was sent back to military headquarters for processing via ordinary army post–and took a month to arrive. Rosenthal’s film was sent by seaplane to Guam, and sent from there via radio-photo to the United States. The photograph so impressed President Roosevelt that he ordered the men pictured in it to return home for a publicity tour. Rosenthal later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, but for years was forced to deny erroneous reports that he personally staged the second flag-raising and attempted to pass it off as the original.

Although the famous photograph has long led people to believe that the flag-raising was a turning point in the fight for Iwo Jima, vicious fighting to control the island actually continued for 31 more days.

Today, the first and second flags flown atop Mt. Suribachi are held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.

On February 23, 1954, the first children in the U.S. were inoculated against polio using a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.

On February 22, 1976, a series of U.S. Postage stamps commemorating the Bicentennial was issued, featuring the state flags.

GeorgiaFlagStamp1976white

The Red Oak Creek Covered Bridge in Woodbury, Meriwether County, Georgia, was built in the 1840s and is the longest covered bridge in Georgia.

Red Oak Covered Bridge

The Meriwether County Courthouse in Greenville, Georgia, was completed in 1904, destroyed by fire in 1976, and reopened after renovation in 1980.

Meriwether CourthouseDSC_4632

My friend, William McKeen, is running for Meriwether County Commission in a Special Election to be held March 17, 2015.

Under the Gold Dome Today

9:00am – 10:00am House Rules Committee – 341 cap
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Insurance & Labor – 125 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Education & Youth – 307 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Public Safety – 310 clob
1:30pm – 2:30pm House Motor Vehicles – 606 clob
1:30pm – 2:30pm Senate Public Safety Sub General Welfare – 310 clob
1:30pm – 3:30pm House Judiciary Non Civil – 132 cap
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Welch Sub of Juvenile Justice – 506 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Ethics Committee – 310 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Government Oversight – 123 cap
2:30pm – 3:00pm Senate Health & Human Services Sub – Scope of Practice – 125 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Academic Achvmnt and Curriculum Sub of Education – 515 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Reapportionment & Redistricting – 307 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs – 450 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Special Judiciary Committee – 125 cap
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Health & Human Services – 606 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Judiciary Non Civil – 307 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Transportation Committee – mezz 1

 

Senate Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 20

SB 11 – Payne City; abolish; provide for disposition of the assets, property, and legal rights (As Introduced) (SLGO(G)-26th)

SB 89 – “Digital Classroom Act”; require instructional materials and content to be in digital or electronic format after a certain date (As Introduced)
(S&T-56th)

SB 95 – Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons; provide for acceptance of funds in a separate, federally insured account at financial institution by such persons (As Introduced) (Substitute) (B&FI-27th)

House Rules Calendar for Legislative Day 20

Modified Open Rule
HB 177 Social services; school personnel required to report child abuse shall be notified by child protective agency upon receipt of report and completion of investigation; provide (JuvJ-Wilkerson-38th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 121 Elections; write-in candidacy filings to include authorization by candidate if not done by candidate; require notice (GAff-Hamilton-24th)

Structured Rule
HB 70 – State symbols; designate gray fox as official state mammal (Substitute)(SRules-Hugley-136th)

Religious Freedom Bill – Senate Bill 129

A reader passed along this email he received from Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) about his reasons for voting to table Sen. Josh McKoon’s SB 129 in Judiciary Committee.

I understand and appreciate the passion of this issue and would like to offer some insight into what happened in committee. I am a sponsor of Senate Bill 129, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  I serve on the Judiciary Committee to which SB 129 was assigned.

The bill’s author, Sen. Josh McKoon, chairs the committee.  The committee process is intended to perfect legislation.

On February 19th, the bill was on the committee’s agenda.  Chairman McKoon offered a late arriving substitute which I agree with.  Sen. Bill Cowsert proposed an amendment which with wording changes that I suggested would have overcome major objections to the bill.

Specifically, the amendment plus my changes would have prohibited use of the bill to justify discrimination prohibited by state law.  I wanted the amendment to be heard in committee rather than argued on the Senate floor. Therefore, when the chairman refused to allow consideration of the amendment, I voted to table the bill.  I still favor the bill and strongly believe religious liberty needs stronger protection than is currently afforded by state law. I feel confident that the bill can be brought up again quickly and that the amendment will help make final passage by the Senate and House become a reality.

Sincerely,

Jesse Stone, 23rd District

In the pages of the Atlanta Journal-Kardashian Constitution, Kyle Wingfield writes about the proposed amendment to McKoon’s bill:

On its face, the amendment seems harmless. McKoon and Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, who has pushed for the legislation in the House, have said repeatedly their bill would not permit abuse or discrimination. So why not put it in the bill if McKoon and Teasley are being sincere?

I can sympathize with that argument — but only up to a point. I also see why McKoon and Teasley would consider it wrong-headed and maybe even insulting.

For one, McKoon and Teasley have also said repeatedly for a year now that they would work with anyone to address such concerns in the bill. Before yesterday, McKoon told me, no one had asked him to add such a phrase to the bill. While there was a debate during the hearing about the timing of the amendment and whether it was allowed under committee rules, there can be no doubt that the business groups pushing for the amendment have had ample time before now to ask McKoon and Teasley to include such language.

Second, the language was overly broad and legally superfluous. It was overly broad because it included no definition of “discrimination.” As Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, pointed out during the hearing, the plain-text meaning of the amendment would leave open the possibility of rejecting discrimination against people who are late to work. If such a clause is indeed necessary, it ought to be narrowly tailored so that it clearly applies only to state laws and local ordinances regarding discrimination, to avoid creating more problems through vagueness than it solves.

That said, it’s hard to see why the language is necessary. As I have noted numerous times, the federal law on which this bill is based has been on the books for 22 years — and the legal standard it creates was in use by the U.S. Supreme Court for almost 25 years prior to that. There is plenty of case law and precedent for this standard — it’s also the law in a majority of other states — so it’s not as if Georgia would be legislating blindly here. There has been no case in which such a religious-liberty bill was successfully used in court as a defense for abuse or discrimination; people can claim whatever they want, and they already do, but that doesn’t mean courts will uphold their claims.

A rally in support of Religious Freedom will be held at the State Capitol on March 3, 2015.

Religious Freedom Rally Flyer

Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

One theme emerging from this session of the General Assembly is the repeal of the $5000 state tax credit for purchasers of electric vehicles. State Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) introduced House Bill 122 to repeal the tax credit.

Georgia’s tax credit program for low- and zero-emission vehicles has been credited with making the state a leader in electric vehicle sales. Atlanta has become one of the fastest-growing markets for electric cars in the U.S., and supporters of the tax credits say killing the program would end the state’s shift toward environmentally friendly driving.

“We would no longer be the front-runner in the sale of these alternative-fuel or electric vehicles,” said Rep. Ben Harbin, an Evans Republican who sponsored House Bill 220 to extend the program to include hybrid cars such as the Chevy Volt and lower the tax credits to $3,000 until 2018, when it would fall to $2,000 before ending.

Georgia drivers can combine the state credit with a $7,500 federal tax credit for even better deals. Leasing a Nissan Leaf for about $200 a month has been nearly cost-free for many drivers applying the credits.

Martin says the program wasn’t designed to give taxpayers free cars and has become increasingly expensive for the state.

“The tax credit is no longer an incentive. It has turned into an entitlement,” he said.

Jim Roberts, a Martinez resident who bought a $93,000 Tesla electric vehicle in May, favors ending the tax credit because he doesn’t think the state should interfere with consumer purchases. Tax credits didn’t lure him to buy the Tesla, and he doesn’t think they make or break the decision for other drivers.

“I doubt very much the tax credit is the sole reason they would buy an electric car. It might help them over the hump,” he said.

Martin’s bill died in the House Ways & Means Committee last week, according to the AJC Political Insider. Still alive and kicking, however, is the House Transportation Plan, HB 170, which also includes repeal of the state electric vehicle tax credit.

The revised transportation bill does raise $45 million by eliminating a popular $5000 tax break for electric cars. That tax break has made Georgia one of the hottest electric car markets in America.

“You were actually getting the ability to drive a car almost for free” because of the tax break, said Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), the House transportation committee chairman. “Then you have the ability to put it out on the road and run up and down the road without paying any motor fuel tax.”

Maggie Lee, writing for the Macon Telegraph, used the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit as the starting point for a discussion of how tax credits tend to become permanent features of tax policy.

Call them tax incentives, exclusions, loopholes, carve-outs or breaks, but there are nearly 200 exceptions in Georgia tax law that individuals and corporations can claim, according to the 2016 state Tax Expenditure Report. Authored by Georgia State University economists, the report estimates the value of each tax for the fiscal year that begins in July.

Some preferential treatment is spread around. Groceries and prescriptions are exempt from state sales taxes. So are lottery tickets. Everyone gets a personal exemption on state income taxes, as they do on retirement income, together worth about $1.6 billion.

Others are more narrow. Private schools need not pay taxes on many things they buy. And no sales tax is collectible on art or artifacts bought by museums.

The state breaks will add up to about $8 billion for the fiscal year that begins in July, according to the nonprofit Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, an Atlanta [liberal - editor's note] think-tank.

“Every dollar has a constituency,” said state Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, author of a bill that would repeal the EV credit. A House subcommittee last week voted down his bill.

Tax exemptions do “potentially pick winners and losers,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, a former CPA who is now vice chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. “But … fundamentally I would always rather see money in our citizens’ pockets than in the state treasury, particularly if it’s motivated by investment.”

So while government spending is debated every year in Georgia’s budget, tax preferences are not. They’re much stickier.

Martin, the lawmaker who wants to repeal the electric vehicle tax credit, said some tax exemptions are good policy. But the EV tax credit’s time is up, he said.

RepealEV Banner1

The Beer Jobs Bill

Watching the progress of the Craft Beer Jobs Bill, formally known as Senate Bill 63, is like watching a horror film – you know a grisly death is coming, but the main characters just don’t seem to understand what’s in store for them. I don’t oppose or support the beer bill. But I’ve been around long enough to understand that major changes don’t happen overnight just because an underdog industry decides to get serious about lobbying. And it would be very unusual for a bill that makes major changes to pass in its first year of being actively pushed. Maybe I’m overly cynical and the bill will pass, but I’d be surprised if it makes it to the floor of both chambers this year.

Creative Loafing attended the beer bill hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee last week.

SB 63 aims to allow brewpubs to sell up to 144 ounces of beer on-premise, per person, per day, for off-premise consumption. (Think: 2 growlers, or the equivalent of a 12 pack.) The bill would also allow for 144 ounces of on-premise sales for off-premise consumption at breweries (growlers, bottles, cans, etc.), as well as 72 ounces of on-premises consumption at breweries (the equivalent of half a dozen 12-ounce pours). Under current laws, Georgia brewpubs can sell beer in-house but not to-go, and Georgia breweries can’t sell beer to anyone except their distributor.

State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) kicked off the hearing by walking through the bill’s language and answering questions from Regulated Industries Committee members. “As legislators, we often get blamed as being for big business,” he began. “We rely on lobbyists a lot to help us understand the facts of the industry, and many times, it’s the largest businesses that are able to afford lobbyists. But that’s not our intention. Our intention is to help all Georgians. I know I’m not alone in wanting to help small business, and this bill does just that.”

State Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) said he thought 72 ounces is too many, though he has no problem with consumers leaving the property with 144 ounces to-go. “I think this could lead to more drinking and driving,” he said, suggesting that the on-premise amount stay at the current limit of 32 ounces.

On the distributor side, Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association president (and Eagle Rock Distributing Co. CEO) Steve Economos and assistant director Martin Smith were first up. Economos chose to focus on “the positives of this industry,” noting that “craft breweries are opening at an accelerated rate” under the current system. But he also noted, when asked by State Sen. Steve Henson (D-Tucker), that the passing of SB 63 would not cost Eagle Rock jobs or hurt Eagle Rock’s sales volume to retailers.

Smith argued similarly, noting that under the current system, Georgia has grown from 14 to 40 craft breweries in the last 5 years. “If you want to be specific about these other states,” Smith said, pointing out that Georgia makes more beer than most of its neighbors, “it’s not just that states that touch us have different rules. They should be looking at us and saying, ‘Why aren’t we more like Georgia?’”

Michelle Wirth of WABE notes that the Committee didn’t vote on the bill, and that with Crossover Day approaching, it has less than a month to pass the Senate if it’s to become law this year.

The Savannah Morning News opines that Georgia should pass the craft beer jobs bill.

It’s time that state lawmakers changed this convoluted set-up, which dates back to the end of Prohibition in 1933. Back then, it made sense. It protected consumers from beer barons who used to enjoy virtual monopolies. Today, however, those rules have become stale. Times have changed.

So should state law — with an eye on creating jobs and boosting state and local economies.

One thing that appears true, however, is that relaxing Georgia’s laws to allow for more direct sales would likely create jobs. Consider South Carolina. After lawmakers there passed a law that allowed limited to-go-sales, 12 new breweries opened in the Palmetto State, more than doubling the number of in-state breweries there to 20. According to the S.C. Brewers Guild, the economic impact of the dozen new breweries is $13.7 million. That’s a heady number.

A similar measure to reform Georgia’s beer laws fell flat last year. Let’s hope lawmakers get over the hump this session and find a compromise, one that would enable Georgia to tap the same economic potential as neighboring states. And, as the saying goes, the customer is always right.

Senator Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) has waded into the internet with an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit.com about the beer bill:

Hi /r/ATLBeer folks,

Thank you for your support of SB 63. I’m here to answer any questions you have about the bill, the process, or anything else. While this isn’t the only thing I am working on, I know many of you care very much about this issue and I am confident that we will pass a version of this bill.

I’ll answer questions throughout the day.

This is a great way for legislators to interact with the public, and I hope more elected officials will consider new ways of discussing politics with their constituents.

Coleman Wood has looked at donations by a group involved in the beer bill fight, at the website cheers-yall.com.

Other Legislation

House Bill 356 by State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would allow boat owners to get a title for their watercraft.

When asked Friday about the reason for the measure, he pulled a copy of his county tax bill from his wallet to show that he’s still being charged for boats he’s disposed of years ago. All are lumped together with the vessels he still owns, with nothing itemized, leaving a total that’s hard to unscramble.

“I sold them, but I’m still getting billed for them,” he said.

Banks prefer holding a title to a boat for large loans, especially for large loans, but Georgia is one of the few states not issuing titles to watercraft,

The title mechanism also allows the Department of Natural Resources to track boats as they are bought and sold. It’s also a way to safeguard against attempts to sell stolen boats.

 

 

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