Laws on guns, Medicaid expansion set for Tuesday |

ATLANTA — During the most recent legislative session, state lawmakers proposed 615 pieces of legislation. Of those, 305 bills passed with Gov. Nathan Deal signing the vast majority of them into law. Some became law upon the governor’s signature, while a large number take effect on Tuesday, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

Here is a summary of some of the major bills set to take effect:

Gun bill

The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, criticized by one group as the “guns everywhere” bill, expands where licensed carriers can take their weapons and includes varying rules affecting bars, churches, schools and government buildings. Under House Bill 60, licensed carries can bring their guns into government buildings that don’t have metal detectors or security guards screening visitors. School districts are now able, if they so choose, to allow some employees to carry a firearm on school grounds under certain conditions. Lawmakers removed any mention of bars from this section of law, which means guns are permitted unless a bar owner posts a sign saying otherwise. For places of worship, the assumption is still that guns aren’t allowed but lawmakers gave religious leaders the ability to say they are OK.

Medicaid expansion

House Bill 990 limits the governor’s ability to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law, something the governor has already said he doesn’t want to do. The legislation forbids state government from changing the income eligibility rules and thereby enabling more people to join the program without legislative approval.

via Laws on guns, Medicaid expansion set for Tuesday |

Chatham County commissioners approve 2015 budget with no tax hike |

Chatham County Commissioners voted unanimously Friday in favor of a balanced $475.5 million budget, which includes a $165.6 million general fund budget that pays for maintenance and operational costs.

Initially, a general fund budget of $164.8 million had been proposed. But some county departments requested additional money that was granted by staff, totaling $831,905.

Finance Director Amy Davis said the county’s increased tax digest allowed for more “wiggle room” to grant some of the requests.

There was little discussion about the vote from commissioners, a far cry from last year when an unpopular tax hike was approved. A third and final millage rate public hearing drew only two funding requests from outside organizations.

The 2015 general fund budget is 0.5 percent larger than the amended 2014 general fund.

There will not be a property tax increase this year.

via Chatham County commissioners approve 2015 budget with no tax hike |

Contractor chips away at history on Ga. courthouse |

DARIEN, Ga. — Clay Davis has been chipping away at history on the McIntosh County Courthouse.

Davis is removing some of the stucco coating with its imbedded shells to resemble tabby to expose the original finish or, he says, as near as he can get to it.

With the outer stucco removed, Davis, the owner of Pride Works Construction, found several layers of paint and beneath that an overlay with a grid etched into it to resemble big masonry block, perhaps sandstone. In cracks through that, however, brick shows.

“I don’t know exactly when this tabby was put on,” Davis said. “They came in and tabbied over what was a beautiful facade.”

via Contractor chips away at history on Ga. courthouse |

Faith offers valuable connection for Southern Democrats | The Augusta Chronicle

ATLANTA — Jason Carter, former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, stepped into the pulpit of South Columbus United Methodist Church for a Palm Sunday sermon and offered a message of Christian responsibility to the poor, with his phone in hand.

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter (left), who recently preached a sermon for Palm Sunday, sits with his grandparents Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter.

“How many of you have the Bible (app) on your phone? I bet all of you do,” Carter said to laughs from the crowd. Worshippers listened as the Democrat running for Georgia governor read from his phone a New Testament verse about the importance of “things that are not seen.”

The technology has changed in the four decades since Jimmy Carter spoke openly about his religious beliefs while campaigning, first for Georgia governor and then president. But the broader message of a shared faith remains the same.

Religion offers a powerful connection with many in the South, considered the most religious part of the country. Some Democrats hoping to reverse Republican gains in Georgia and elsewhere are finding their faith can be a valuable way to reach voters. Religion can be a very personal matter, and candidates vary in how much they talk about their faith.

via Faith offers valuable connection for Southern Democrats | The Augusta Chronicle.

Augusta Commission discusses tax increase | The Augusta Chronicle

A 2-mill property tax increase for government operations and a new tax on manufacturers to fund law enforcement, transit and reduce blight might be on the horizon after Augusta Commission members approved the two “action items” at the end of a daylong Friday retreat.

The new tax, an excise tax on energy used in manufacturing, puts them at odds with Mayor-elect Hardie Davis, who co-authored the legislation that exempted manufacturers from paying sales tax on energy but allowed counties to replace the lost revenue with an excise tax.

Davis, who attended the retreat, questioned the wisdom of imposing the tax, up to 2 percent of the 6 percent exempted by the state, a move already taken by Columbia County.

“Does it make us as competitive as a city?” he asked. “Are we being revenue-neutral by doing it?”

via Augusta Commission discusses tax increase | The Augusta Chronicle.

Hall votes to not hike taxes, give staff a 3 percent raise |

The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday night to approve a $90.268 million budget for the 2015 fiscal year that includes a full rollback of the property tax rate.

Commissioner Craig Lutz cast the lone dissent on the budget, though he did vote to set the tax rate at 5.989 mills.

A mill represents $1 for each $1,000 of property value, which is assessed at 40 percent in the county.

“It’s been an interesting process to put this budget together, to come up with a revenue-neutral, no-tax-increase type budget,” said Chairman Richard Mecum.

via Hall votes to not hike taxes, give staff a 3 percent raise.

Voter ID laws still a source of controversy |

During the May 20 primary, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office received about 100 complaints alleging voter fraud and other election mishaps.

Of this number, only about 25 percent were actively investigated, said Jared Thomas, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

For those individuals convinced voter fraud is a scourge that warrants strict identification laws, the lack of voter fraud investigations and prosecutions could be seen as evidence in their favor.

But the same appears true for opponents of voter identification laws.

via Voter ID laws still a source of controversy.

Input sought on possible tax ‘increase’ in Gwinnett | Gwinnett Daily Post

Gwinnett officials have advertised the possibility of a tax increase, although, at most, commissioners say the property tax millage rate will stay the same in 2014.

Commissioners will vote on the rate at a July 15 meeting. While a “consensus” has yet to be reached on the rate, officials have scheduled public hearings and met other requirements to allow the tax rate to remain at a total of 13.75 mils for residents of unincorporated Gwinnett.

Because property values have increased this year in an improved economy, a static rate could mean an increase in an individual’s tax bill, so the state Taxpayer Bill of Rights requires the county to meet the requirements of a tax increase even though the tax rate will not go up. School board members also fulfilled those requirements, voting Thursday to adopt the same rate as 2013.

Two commissioners — Lynette Howard and John Heard — said earlier this month they would prefer the rate remain the same, while another, Tommy Hunter, said he wanted to see the rate “rolled back,” which would reduce the rate to the proportion of the value increases so, on average, people would pay about the same amount in taxes.

“We’ve still got some work to do among ourselves as to what we actually adopt,” said Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who declined to say which option she would prefer. “Part of my responsibility is to pull the group together to a consensus.”

via Input sought on possible tax ‘increase’ in Gwinnett | Gwinnett Daily Post. | Sadie’s Place undergoes $400K in renovations

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — One of the largest no-kill animal rescue shelters in the state has underwent a $400,000 renovation and has now reopened to the public.

Furkids, Sadie’s Place, 1520 Union Hill Road, which was formerly known as SmallDog Rescue, kick started the improvements with a $100,000 matching donation from Choate Construction.

In January, the staff, along with dozens of volunteers, began a fundraising effort that resulted in the $400,000 renovation.

via | Sadie’s Place undergoes $400K in renovations.

The Marietta Daily Journal – Discussion of the fate of billboards on I 75 continues

Wednesday night, four billboard companies pleaded with the City Council’s judicial legislative committee to save their billboards from demolition.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said it will demolish billboards in the way of two new lanes it plans to construct on the west side of Interstate 75 for the managed lanes project sponsored by Governor Nathan Deal. The project is set to break ground in September in Cobb County, said Natalie Dale, the media and government liaison for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Representatives from the advertising companies appeared before the council for a second time to ask the council to change the city’s sign ordinance, but a decision was pushed back another month. For a second time, Councilman Philip Goldstein, who chairs the committee, turned down serious discussion of the companies’ proposal Wednesday night and sent them away to gather more information about how the 12 signs would be affected.

“(The billboard companies) are seeking to revise the ordinance to be able to make some changes (to the billboards) without having to go through a variance request (with the city),” said Rusty Roth, the city’s zoning manager.

Demolishing the billboards would create an extra cost for the Georgia Department of Transportation and the companies, Roth said. So the companies offered to funnel the money they would save back into the city if it passes their proposal.

via The Marietta Daily Journal – Discussion of the fate of billboards on I 75 continues.