Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 18, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 18, 2015

Alexander Stephens, who was born in Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, Georgia, was inaugurated as Vice President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. Stephens graduated from Franklin College, later known as the University of Georgia, and served in the Georgia legislature. Stephens opposed Georgia’s secession. One year later, Georgia’s delegation to the Confederate Congress, numbering ten members, was sworn in.

Ina Dillard was born on February 18, 1868 in Oglethorpe County Georgia. She married Richard Russell, who served on the Georgia Court of Appeals and as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Their son, Richard B. Russell, Jr., would be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, where he served as Speaker and became the youngest Governor of Georgia in the 20th Century. In 1932 he ran for United States Senate and was elected.

In 1936, Russell was elected to his first full term in the Senate over former Governor Eugene Talmadge. In 1952, Russell ran for the Democratic nomination for President and he was an early mentor for Lyndon B. Johnson, who later served as President. Russell served on the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

Russell served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee for many years. Russell was an acknowledged leader within the Senate, and especially among Southern members, and he led much of the opposition to civil rights legislation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under the Gold Dome Today

8:00am – 9:00am House Env’tal Quality Sub of Natural Resources – 506 clob
8:30am – 9:30am House Public Finance and Policy Sub of Ways & Means – 133 cap
9:00am – 10:00am House Rules – 341 cap
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm House State Planning & Community Affairs – 403 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Public Safety – 310 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Insurance & Labor – 125 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Joint Education and Youth – 606 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Tags & Titles Sub of Motor Vehicles – 515 clob
1:30pm – 3:30pm House Judiciary Non Civil – 132 cap
2:00pm – 2:30pm House Local Govt Subcommittee of Gov’tal Affairs – 406 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Income Tax Subcommtitee of Ways & Means – 133 cap
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance Committee – Mezz 1
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Retirement Committee – 515 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm House Code Revision Committee – 415 clob
2:30pm – 3:30pm House Gov’tal Affairs Committee – 406 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Judiciary Non Civil – 307 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Approp Public Saefty Sub – 341 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate State Institutions & Property Cancelled – 123 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Health & Human Services – 406 clob
3:00pm – 4:00pm House Ad Valorem Tax Sub of Ways & Means – 133 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Transportation Canceled – 450 cap
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Transportation Committee – 506 clob
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Education Committee – 606 clob
3:30pm – 4:30pm House Fleming Sub of Judiciary Civil – 132 cap
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities – 310 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate State & Local Govt Operations Cancelled – Mezz 1

This morning, all the search functions on the General Assembly website for legislation and legislators appears to be broken. For an alternative directory of state legislators, please check out our siste site,

Today the Senate will consider the following bills for Legislative Day 17:

SB 58 – ‘Georgia Leadership and Service Admission Act’ (HIGHER ED – 6th)

SB 79 – Victim Compensation; expand the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s powers and duties relative to claims (JUDY NC – 45th)

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

Open Rule

HB 104 – State Properties Code; applicability of public bidding processes for certain conveyances; clarify (SProp-Dunahoo-30th)

Modified Open Rule

HB 87 – Retirement and pensions; Code Revision Commission; revise title (Judy- Willard-51st)

HB 90 – Code Revision Commission; repeal portions of said Code, or Acts; provisions (Substitute)(Judy-Willard-51st)

HB 162 – Insurance; provide for insurance compliance self-evaluative privilege; provisions (Substitute)(Ins-Shaw-176th)

Modified Structured Rule

HB 119 – AIDS; disclosure of such information under certain circumstances; change provisions (Judy-Reeves-34th)

Committees Today

House Transportation Committee, meeting at 3 PM in Room 506 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, will discuss HB 170, the Transportation Tax Bill. Senate Regulated Industries will hear Senate Bill 63, the Craft Beer bill.

Relative to the Craft Beer Bill, the West Point City Council has endorsed the Craft Beer bill.

Senate Bill 63 would allow craft beer brewers to sell up to 144 ounces of beer per person for off-premise consumption, instead of requiring a three-tier system of sales from a brewer to consumer through a retail outlet. That opens the state to more investment from brewers, noted Mayor Drew Ferguson.

“I think Georgia is positioned well for the craft beer industry to grow,” Ferguson said.

At least one brewer has expressed interest in locating in West Point, Ferguson noted, and the bill passing into law would make West Point more viable to locate multiple brewers. Craft brewers can be a tourist attraction for the city, he said, and help diversify the local economy.

Last night, Buckhead Young Republicans passed a resolution in support of Craft Beer #liberty or something.

First Reading Today

The First Reading of a bill usually occurs on the legislative day following the day on which a new piece of legislation is “dropped in the hopper” and given a bill number. The bill is then referred to a Committee, which may or may not choose to take action on it. Each floor reading of a bill is not of the complete text, but of the title paragraphs.

Today, Senate Bill 129 by Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) will be read for the first time, though the left hasn’t waited to actually read McKoon’s bill to start attacking it. SB 129 is the latest version of the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” McKoon’s legislation bears the signatures of 28 members of the Georgia Senate, exactly half the membership of that body. Last night, McKoon discussed the bill with me, saying,

“I am pleased to introduce SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which will provide vital, common sense protections for Georgians of every faith from intrusive actions by state and local government. It is humbling to have the public endorsement of half of the State Senate on this important bill that defends religious liberty for all.”

Tangientally related is a letter from Georgia Republican Congressmen Barry Loudermilk, Buddy Carter, Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price, Austin Scott, and Jody Hice, addressed to the media Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and taking issue with the firing of former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran.

While we’re off on a tangent, we next bounce from the termination of a Fire Chief to the proposed termination of Georgia’s law against fireworks.

A pair of bills to legalize the sale of fireworks in Georgia ran afoul of critics Tuesday from medical and fire-safety groups, but the sponsors agreed to combine them and move forward.

The proposals, House Bill 15 and HB 110, were independently crafted to allow Georgians to sell and use explosive fireworks like surrounding states. Current state law only permits sparklers.

“People are ignoring the law, and for me, that’s an affront to the law. Nothing makes law more ineffective as a whole than when people are ignoring it without consequences,” said Rep. Scott Turner, R-Holly Springs, the author of HB 15. “If you’re not enforcing it, you’re not getting any benefit from it being on the books.”

But Rep. Sharon Cooper, a fellow Republican from Marietta, drew on her career as a nurse to oppose it because 40 percent of accident victims are under age 15.

Transportation Tax Bill

The City of Springfield, Georgia has gone on record opposing the House Bill 170 Transportation Tax.

The city of Springfield has voted to oppose Georgia House Bill 170, which would revise how the state’s transportation taxes are levied.

City Manager Brett Bennett said if the bill is enacted, Effingham County would lose $1.95 million in revenue.

At their Feb. 10 meeting, council members voted unanimously to urge the General Assembly and the local delegation to “strongly oppose” any measure that would re-allocate local sales tax funding from local governments to the state.

All of the council members present at the meeting signed the resolution. Gary Weitman was not at the meeting.

A Fiscal Note is required with any legislation expected to have a significant impact on state expenditures or revenues – Aaron Gould Sheinin of the AJC got his hands on the Fiscal Note that accompanies HB 170 and writes:

It shows the bill could generate an additional $871.1 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and $1.053.6 billion by fiscal 2020.

The bill’s sponsor, Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, said Tuesday that the fiscal note is not a surprise.

“The fiscal note is about in line with what we expected,” Roberts said. “This is still a work in progress, and we are working to stabilize and modernize transportation funding in Georgia.”

Here is the AJC Political Insider with your copy of the complete Fiscal Note, in case you suffer from insomnia.

I believe that the total in that Fiscal Note does not include the bond package that was announced as part of the larger Transportation Funding Plan that HB 170 is part of and would fund $100 million in transit needs. So there’s another $100 million out there. The way I see it, the tab for Transportation Funding this year is something like this:

HB 170 $870.1 million
Repeal EV tax credit $45 million
Bond package $100 million or more
TOTAL $1.015 billion

Darwin’s Law

House Bill 172 changes Georgia law to clarify that innertubing while drunk is not “Boating Under the Influence.”

Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, is the author of House Bill 172, which would exempt homemade or inflatable rafts from being part of the vessels that fall under the state’s strict BUI rules.

“I ran into a situation where an attorney contacted me about a young man was charged with boating under the influence when he was floating down a river on a homemade raft,” Lumsden said.

The bill defines a homemade or inflatable raft as any platform which floats on the water and can only be powered with by a person’s hands, arms, legs or feet.

Well, that’s one way to clean out the shallow end of the gene pool.

Debbie Dooley Does New York

A piece in The New Yorker interviews Georgia’s own Debbie Dooley and discusses how she single-handedly brought Georgia’s largest electric provider to bear, whipped the Koch Brothers-financed Americans for Prosperity, and passed solar legislation this year without the benefit of actually being in Georgia.

“I thought that the regulated monopoly in Georgia had far too much power,” she told me recently, describing the dominant utility company in her state. “They had begun to look out for the best interests of their stockholders instead of their utility customers.” Solar, she said, promised to give people energy autonomy. “The average person cannot build a power plant, but they can install solar panels on their rooftop, and they should be able to sell that energy to friends and neighbors if they wish.”

Dooley led a fight to persuade Georgia’s all-Republican utility commission to require Georgia Power to buy more of its energy from solar sources. A.F.P. fought back, sometimes in ways that Dooley found troubling. “They would put out completely false information,” she told me. Through mailers, mass e-mails, and Twitter, “they said that adding solar would cause disruption to the power supply and your household appliances. Electricity would be forty per cent higher! I don’t think they were really expecting me to go after what they were saying as forcefully as I did. I just ripped them to shreds over not being factual. We won that battle.”

In Georgia, thanks in part to Dooley’s efforts, the State Senate is likely to pass a bill that will make rooftop solar easier and cheaper for residents to install. (The House just passed it unanimously.) “Georgia is the new sunshine state,” Dooley told me happily. When we spoke, she was driving to the old sunshine state, Florida, which has notably limited options or incentives for solar investors. Dooley is helping lead the launch of a major ballot initiative that would amend that state’s constitution to allow individuals and businesses with solar panels to sell the power that they generate directly to their tenants or neighbors. (Current law permits only utility companies to sell electricity.)

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