Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 5, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 5, 2015

On March 5, 1735, James Oglethorpe presented a budget to the trustees of Georgia and proposed seeking an appropriation from Parliament, thus beginning the addiction of the Georgia government to Other People’s Money.

On March 5, 1869, the United States Congress refused to seat Georgia’s elected members of the House and Senate.

On March 5, 1977, President Jimmy Carter held the first “Dial-A-President” radio broadcast in which he fielded questions from radio listeners.

Ron Daniel brings you more on the Presidential Q&A from 1977.

Regardless of Carter’s policy positions and his answers to questions, “Ask President Carter” was a truly historic broadcast. Never before had the President been accessible via telephone on a live radio broadcast. And the questions presented to the President weren’t confined to one or two issues that he had been prepared to handle. One can argue that the American people were also fascinated with the concept of calling and speaking directly to Carter; nine million people called into the broadcast trying to reach him.

The President seemed to enjoy the broadcast as well, remarking: “[t]he questions that come in from people all over the country are the kind that you would never get in a press conference. The news people would never raise them, like the Ottawa Indian question. And I think it’s very good for me to understand directly from the American people what they are concerned about and questions that have never been asked of me and reported through the news media.”

Under the Gold Dome Today

Today may be the biggest yet in the General Assembly. The “Opportunity School District” bills and Sen. Josh McKoon’s Religious Liberty bill will be heard on the floor of the Senate, while the House will take up House Bill 170, the Transportation Tax Bill.

8:00am – 9:00am House Env’tal Quality Sub Nat’l Resources – 606 clob
8:00am – 9:30am House Regulated Industries Committee – 506 clob
9:00am – 10:00am House Rules Committee – 341 cap
12:00pm – 1:00pm Senate Rules Committee Upon Adjournment – 450 cap
12:00pm – 2:00pm House Reapportionment Committee – 506 clob
1:00pm – 1:30pm House State Planning & Community Affairs – 403 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Health & Human Services Committee – 450 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm House Industry & Labor Committee – 606 clob
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee – 123 cap
1:00pm – 2:00pm Senate Science & Technology Committee – 310 clob
1:30pm – 3:30pm House Intragovernmental Coordination Committee – 403 cap
2:00pm – 3:00pm House State Gov’t Admin Sub of Gov’tal Affairs – 606 clob
2:00pm – 3:00pm Senate Finance Committee – mezz1
2:00pm – 4:00pm House Transportation Committee – 506 clob
2:00pm – 4:00pm House Judiciary Civil Committee – 132 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Natural Resources & Environment – 450 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Veterans, Military, & Homeland Sec – 125 cap
3:00pm – 4:00pm Senate Higher Education Committee – 310 clob
3:00pm – 5:00pm House Ways & Means Committee – 606 clob
3:30pm – 4:30pm House Fleming Sub of Judiciary Civil – 403 cap
4:00pm – 4:30pm House Jacobs Sub of Judiciary Civil – 132 CAP (or Upon Adjournment of Full Judiciary Civil)
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Regulated Industries Committee – 310 clob
4:00pm – 5:00pm Senate Judiciary Committee – 307 clob

Senate Rules Calendar for Thursday, March 5, 2015

SR 287 – Opportunity School District; allow the General Assembly to authorize the establishment; provide for state intervention for failing schools
(As Introduced) (Substitute) (ED&Y-49th)

SB 133 – Opportunity School District; establishment; provide for definitions; supervision of public elementary and secondary schools that are failing (As Introduced) (Substitute) (ED&Y-49th)

SB 129 – “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act”; provide for the preservation of religious freedom (As Introduced) (Substitute)

SB 103 – Sales of Alcoholic Beverages on Sunday; allow for local authorization; consumption on the premises on Sundays during St. Patrick’s Day holiday period (As Introduced) (I COOP-2nd)

House Rules Calendar for Thursday, March 5, 2015

Modified Open Rule

HB 213 Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act of 1965; permanent suspension of restrictions on use of sales and use tax proceeds upon submission of an independent management audit to certain officials; provide (Substitute)(Trans-Jacobs-80th)

HB 214 Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Act of 1965; restoration of voting privileges to Commissioner of Department of Transportation until 2017; provide (Substitute)(Trans-Jacobs-80th)

HB 366 Employment of minors; issuance of employment certificates; change certain provisions (Substitute)(I&L-Strickland-111th)

HB 368 Construction; glass installations; repeal and reserve Part 5 of said article (I&L-Strickland-111th)

Modified Structured Rule

Pursuant to House Rule 33.3, debate shall be limited to no more than one hour on HB 170. Time to be allocated at the discretion of the Speaker.

HB 170 Transportation Funding Act of 2015; enact (Substitute) (Trans-Roberts-155th) (Rules Committee Substitute LC 34 4595S)
AM# 34 0676

HB 328 Adult offenders; enact reforms recommended by Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform (Substitute)(JudyNC-Efstration-104th)

HB 372 Utopian Academy for the Arts Act; enact (Ed-Coomer-14th)

HB 504 Health; vaccination against meningococcal disease of college students; revise provisions (Substitute)(H&HS-Cooper-43rd)

Structured Rule

HB 200 Income tax credit; change amount of credit for electric vehicle chargers; provisions (Substitute)(W&M-Parsons-44th)

The Transportation Tax Bill is likely to see an amendment today to roll back the excise tax rate, according to the AJC.

House Bill 170 will be voted on in the House on Thursday, but not before lawmakers first consider an amendment that would lower a proposed state excise tax on gas from 29.2 cents to 24 cents per gallon. That change could blow a $300 million hole in the bill, leaving its fiscal impact around $580 million to $800 million a year over the next six years.

The amendment was designed to appease conservative Republicans concerned that they were about to vote for a tax increase, even though the proposal also would eliminate the state’s 4 percent sales tax on gasoline. The amendment, however, also likely created opponents among those who doubt the bill has the financial heft to make much of a dent in the state’s infrastructure needs.

If the amendment is adopted, it will be over the likely objections of the business community, Democrats and others who see it as undermining a once-solid intention to “be bold” and find $1 billion to $1.5 billion in new annual funding for transportation.

“We applaud Chairman Roberts and Speaker (David) Ralston for their leadership in getting us to this point,” said Seth Millican, executive director of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, an arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. “We will remain vigilant in our push to secure at least $1 billion in new funding for critical statewide transportation needs in Georgia.”

Included in the bill currently is a provision to sunset the jet fuel tax exemption that is worth $23 million per year to an airline headquartered here.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs, the Republican behind the push, insists that conservative policy is his only motivation. “A tax exemption should not be permanent. And right now, Delta can’t make a case to have an exemption,” Ehrhart said, pointing to the airline’s $2.8 billion profit in 2014.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey represents Fayette County, a longtime residential base for Delta employees. “It would be my strong preference that [the airlines’ tax breaks] be addressed separately in its own bill,” Ramsey said. “I’m concerned this has been tacked on by a little bit of anger by statements that have been made. And I share that anger.”

Committee Notes

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a measure that proponents say would restrict “no knock” warrants, but some opponents warn it will have the opposite effect.

The legislation requires police to adopt policies and procedures for no knock warrants, including more training.

Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, says police also must demonstrate “probable cause” when seeking the warrants.

“They have to have a good idea that there’s a crime being committed, that evidence would be damaged or that their lives would be in danger. It can’t just be maybe,” says Fort.

Prosecutors don’t like that change. They say the new standard is too high because police can’t predict the future.

The bill’s original author Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro doesn’t like it either, which could hurt the bill’s chances of passing in the Senate.

The bill would also require for police departments to go before a grand jury after using a no-knock warrant. Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, says the move would ensure no-knock warrants are only granted when they’re absolutely necessary.

“It doesn’t mean there’s going to be some inquisition, but if  the grand jury hears a couple of these reports, or even one,  that makes them think ‘we have a problem in our community’ then they have the right, and they’re the right people to speak up and ‘say there’s a problem here,’” says Bethel.

Legislation is working its way through the legislature that will provided targeted raises to Superior Court Judges who receive lower county pay supplements than some Metro counties.

[T]he House passed a budget last week that gave raises to Superior Court judges getting local supplements of less than $25,000.

Because the General Assembly sets the state salaries for those judges in law, the House also has to pass a separate bill outlining the pay. The House Appropriations Committee did that Wednesday, but said the state would pay a supplement for those who currently get supplements of less than $30,000. That’s covers the judges in about half of Georgia’s judicial circuits.

The change essentially assures all Superior Court judges would make at least $150,000. And it adds judges in at least six circuits, including those representing Cherokee and Forsyth counties and a circuit partially represented by House Ways & Means Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla, the sponsor of the bill, to those that were already going  to receive extra money under the House  budget.

Yesterday, the Tags and Titles Subcommittee of House Motor Vehicles Committee tabled a bill to expand Tesla Motors’ ability to sell electric vehicles directly to consumers, likely killing it for the Session, according to the AJC.

A subcommittee of the House Motor Vehicles Committee voted Wednesday to table House Bill 393, a move representatives of dealers who opposed the bill said would allow time to try to work out an agreement with the bill’s supporters.

But the bill’s main sponsor interpreted the move differently.

“They want to kill the bill this year,” said Chuck Martin, a Republican from Alpharetta.

With the legislative session winding down, Martin said there are shrinking options to get the law changed in this, his second year attempting to do so.

“It’s a terrible statement for the free market system in Georgia,” he said.


WellStar Emory merger talks

The CEO of Wellstar spoke to legislators about the merger talks with Emory Healthcare. From the Marietta Daily Journal,

WellStar Health System’s CEO updated state lawmakers on the possible merger between his company and Emory Healthcare Wednesday, saying it was brought on by changes in the health care industry.

The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and an aging population require a redesign in how health care is delivered, said Reynold Jennings, CEO of WellStar.

“Over the next five or seven years, we’ve got to push more things out of our buildings into the patient home, into doctors’ offices, into outpatient centers where we can do it a whole lot less costly than we do” inside hospitals, Jennings said. “We need the right groups of people coming together to design tomorrow’s health care delivery system.”

The possible merger between the two health systems, announced in early February, would require the creation of a new nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that would combine Emory Healthcare and WellStar’s assets, Jennings has said.

“Fundamentally, those of us who are in health care have to figure out how to redesign how care is delivered and make it work,” he said.

Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) asked Jennings Tuesday about the effect the merger could have on independent doctors in Cobb County. Setzler said he believes industries work better when there is competition, which results in companies trying to provide better services than other firms in the industry — to the benefit of consumers.

Last month, I attended the State of the University address by Emory President James Wagner, and one of the questions from the audience was from a retired physician who had a similar question about how the potential merger will affect independent practitioners. This is likely to be an issue that gets more attention if the merger moves beyond the investigatory phase.

Savannah Harbor Expansion Project Moves Forward

A contract for the first phase of dredging the Savannah River for better access to the Port of Savannah has been awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company.

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