Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 11, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 11, 2015

On February 11, 1733, the first military formation in Georgia was held, as male colonists assembled with their muskets.

On February 11, 1776, Georgia Royal Governor Sir James Wright escaped from house arrest in Savannah to a waiting British warship HMS Scarborough.

Burt Reynolds was born on February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, though some accounts say Waycross, Georgia. Beginning with Deliverance, filmed along the Chattooga River in North Georgia in 1972, Georgia rose to number three in the nation for film production while Reynolds’s star rose to prominence. Other Reynolds movies filmed in Georgia include The Longest Yard, Gator, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, and Sharkey’s Machine.

Under the Gold Dome Today

The current Adjournment Resolution, which sets the legislative schedule going forward, has the last day of Session scheduled for April 2, 2015. this week, the General Assembly is in Session today and tomorrow with no floor session planned for Friday.

8:00am – 9:00am House Insurance Committee – 606 CLOB
9:00am – 10:00am HOUSE – Rules – 341 CAP
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Upon Adjourment – 450 CAP
12:00pm – 1:30pm HOUSE – Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil – 132 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm House – Special Rules Committee – 515 CLOB
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate – INSURANCE AND LABOR – 125 CAP
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate – EDUCATION AND YOUTH – 307 CLOB
1:00pm – 3:00pm HOUSE – Appropriations Economic Development Subcommittee – 606 CLOB
1:00pm – 3:00pm HOUSE – JOINT EDUCATION- Hearing on Recovery Districts – 506 CLOB
1:30pm – 2:00pm HOUSE – State Properties Committee – 403 CAP
1:30pm – 2:30pm HOUSE – Public Finance Subcommittee of Ways & Means – 133 CAP
2:00pm – 3:00pm HOUSE – CODE REVISION – 415 CLOB
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate – FINANCE – MEZZ 1
2:00pm – 3:00pm HOUSE – STATE PROPERTIES – 403 CAP
2:00pm – 4:00pm HOUSE – Appropriations Health Subcommittee – 341 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate – JUDICIARY NON-CIVIL – 307 CLOB
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate – STATE INSTITUTIONS AND PROPERTY – 123 CAP
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate – TRANSPORTATION – 450 CAP
3:00pm – 5:00pm HOUSE – Education Committee – 606 CLOB

The Senate is scheduled to hear House Bill 75, the Supplemental Budget, also called the “Little Budget,” which makes mid-year corrections to the budget for the current Fiscal Year, which was passed in 2014 and runs through June 30, 2015.

The House Rules Committee has set the following bills for possible floor debate today:

Open Rule

HB 86 – Social services; provide for transfer of the Division of Aging Services to the Georgia Adult and Aging Services Agency; provisions (Substitute)(HumR-Benton-31st)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 47 – Prescription drugs; certain refills of topical ophthalmic products under certain conditions; authorize (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

HB 62 – Special needs students; waive certain qualifications for students whose parent is an active duty military service member stationed in Georgia within the previous year; provide (Ed-Tanner-9th)

In the 1:00 PM Joint House-Senate Education Committee meeting (Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 506), Governor Deal’s proposal for a Constitutional Amendment to create a statewide Recovery School District receives its first airing, in the form of a panel discussion.

Jeff Silavent of the Gainesville Times has a nice “Day at the Capitol” video.

There are more busts of famous lawmakers all around, history written in the lines of their sculpting.

But your attention is taken by a commotion down the hall, where students from Georgia State University are gathered.

A young woman then strolls by in a doctor’s white coat. She’s here with others supporting women’s heart health.

The Capitol truly belongs to everyone. It’s where state leaders conduct the people’s business, and where the people come to make their business known.

A day spent behind the scenes here reveals that access is not limited to those in the know.

There are plenty of lobbyists, of course, and they come knocking. They’re conspicuous wearing the required identification, but each declines to discuss their interests here.

They email and text lawmakers, and like a herd at a watering hole, they gather outside the House and Senate chambers, taking phone calls and stopping lawmakers as they pass by.

But just around the corner a line of students gather, some grade-schoolers, others waiting to speak with officials about their university programs.

Apparently the two-headed calf and snake were not on his tour.

Yesterday, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 3 (Unterman) by a 43-10 vote and sent it to the State House. Nay votes ran from the right with Sen. Mike Crane and Sen. Josh McKoon opposing, to the left with Sen. Vincent Fort and Sen. Curt Thompson also mashing the red button. The bill allows parents the ability to grant limited power-of-attorney for up to a year or longer in cases where the parent(s) is on active military duty. Senator Unterman said the law is intended to allow parents greater flexibility in providing for care of their children and extends an earlier bill that allowed grandparents to be granted temporary custody.

The Senate has also passed Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Cowsert (R-Athens), to allow the dredging of the channel at the Port of Savannah to move forward.

The bill, which now moves to the state House of Representatives, ensures that the state would indemnify the federal government for any liability that arises from the project.

The legislation is legally necessary for the state to receive loans and grants covering the $440 million federal share of the work.

Transportation Bill

Aaron Gould Sheinin writes in the AJC that the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia has voted to endorse the Transportation Bill that aims to raise $1 billion per year through change to the state’s gas tax.

“We support the bill as passed the subcommittee yesterday and will continue to work on other recommended improvements,” said Clint Mueller, the legislative director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

The support comes after a unanimous vote of ACCG’s policy board Monday night, Mueller said.

HB 170 would consolidate state and local sales taxes on motor fuel into one state excise tax of 29.2 cents per gallon. The bill would phase out almost all local sales taxes on gas, add a new annual user fee for drivers of electric vehicles and end a $5,000 tax credit for buying those zero-emission cars.

Kathleen Foody of the Associated Press discusses the changes that led the ACCG to support the bill.

The original proposal allowed cities and counties to approve up to 3 cents per gallon each in excise taxes, plus up to an additional 3 cents each by referendum. That has now been dropped from the package.

Instead, sponsoring Rep. Jay Roberts said local boards can vote to add up to 6 cents per gallon in excise taxes on top of the state’s planned 29.2 cents per gallon. Municipal officials would have to agree to spend the money on specific transportation needs, with their share determined by a formula already in use by the Georgia Department of Transportation, Roberts, an Ocilla Republican, said.

Critics being critics, the changes to the Transportation Bill have led some to criticize the proposal as a “moving target.”

House Bill 170, which would change the way Georgia funds highway projects, is a moving target.

Local officials around the state objected to the way the bill eliminates local sales taxes on motor fuels, requiring action by boards such as county commissions and city councils to make up the difference with a new excise tax.

But that was never the whole bill, and changes are being proposed this week to address some of the concerns of local governments.

Americans for Tax Reform has come out in opposition to the Transportation Bill.

Gasoline in Georgia is subjected to an excise tax of 7.5 cents per gallon, a 4% sales tax and in most places another local sales tax of 3%-4%. Under H.B. 170, this mix of taxes would be converted to a 29.2 cents per gallon tax, indexed to inflation. This is a tax increase that rises year by year.

Drivers of hybrids aren’t forgotten. The bill imposes a car tax hike on alternative fuel vehicles of between $200-$300 per year, indexed to inflation. Virginia’s 2013 transportation tax hike did this as well until Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe repealed the tax less than 6 months later.

H.B. 170 also engages in an inventive gimmick to generate $500 million in new revenue. By immediately absorbing local gasoline sales tax revenue, the state will now collect and spend money otherwise collected and spent by localities. Most localities spend this money on a bevy of non-transportation needs, like education. Absent the willpower to cut spending though, it is likely local governments will consider tax hikes in the future.

While we take no position on the state absorbing local tax revenue streams, directing gas tax revenue to transportation projects instead of unrelated spending programs like education, should be applauded.

Americans for Tax Reform opposes H.B. 170. Not only does the bill result in an immediate gas tax hike, it gives local governments free rein to raise local gas taxes in the future. The total tax on gasoline in Georgia could range as high as 53.6 cents per gallon, well above the U.S. average of 48.29 cents per gallon. If implemented, H.B. 170 could make gasoline sold in Georgia, the 9th highest taxed gasoline in the nation. Indexing the gas tax to inflation would make it worse.
“Legalize It” is not just a phrase for the cannabis supporters – hedgehog aficionados are seeking passage of legislation by State Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) that would allow the keeping as pets of African Pygmy Hedgehogs.

Last year’s bill was never given a hearing in the House Agriculture Committee. Quick said she’s confident that expert testimony will clear up any misgivings about whether the critters would make safe pets.

“If we can get a hearing, the objections from last year, we’ll be able to meet them and establish that this particular subspecies, the African pygmy hedgehog, would not reproduce in the wild,” she said.

In a state plagued by wild boars, fire ants and armadillos, environmentalists fear that pet hedgehogs could escape or get turned loose and multiply without any natural predators to contain their numbers. Quick said there’s no reason to have that concern.

Former Bibb County Schools Superintendent Romain Dallemand has filed for arbitration of his termination agreement, seeking $10 million from the school system.
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