Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 16, 2017


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 16, 2017

James Madison, drafter of the Constitution and fourth President of the United States, was born on March 16, 1751.

The United States Military Academy was established at West Point, New York on March 16, 1802.

On March 16, 1861, delegates in Savannah unanimously ratified the Confederate Constitution and voted to have a new state constitution drafted.

On March 16, 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter won the Illinois Democratic Primary. His spiritual successor President Barack Obama, from Illinois, would visit Carter’s home state of Georgia on March 16, 2012.

Former professional football player Warrick Dunn personally delivered the keys to a Habitat for Humanity house in Gwinnett County to the new homeowner.

Gwinnett Habitat Executive Director Brent Bohanan said 239 volunteers worked on the house for more than 1,300 hours. It’s the 132nd home built by Gwinnett Habitat, but it was originally built in 1992 as Habitat’s fifth home in Gwinnett. Bohanan said the first homeowner paid it off and moved on, but sold it back to Habitat.

“We’re just so excited to be able to recycle one of our homes and pass it on to Lula and her famly,” said Bohanan, who prayed during the ceremony and cited Psalm 127:1. “We hope that this home will be a great place that you can make a lot of memories together.”

“That tells you when people have a will to not just sit on their butts, but to go out and sometimes you’ve got to make things happen, even when you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Dunn, who played 12 seasons in the NFL, six with the Atlanta Falcons and six with Tampa Bay. “I think she’s an example that no matter what background, no matter the situation, you may not succeed, but try again.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections


8:00 AM House Reeves Sub Jud’y Non-Civil 515 CLOB

8:00 AM House Nat’l Res Special Ad Hoc 606 CLOB




12:30 PM Setzler Subcommittee of Judiciary Non-Civil 606 CLOB









3:00 PM FINANCE – Income Tax Subcommittee MEZZ 1




HB 1 – Georgia Space Flight Act; enact (Substitute) (S&T-14th) Spencer-180th

HB 276 – The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act; enact (I&L-53rd) Knight-130th

HB 49 – Livestock dealers and auctions; license and surety requirements; update (AG&CA-7th) Pirkle-155th

HB 75 – Social services; certain records from disclosure; exclude (JUDY-23rd) Willard-51st

HB 143 – Financial institutions; provide for definitions; provisions (B&FI-18th) Williamson-115th

HB 268 – Elections; time period for certification of election officials; provide (Substitute) (ETHICS-11th) Fleming-121st


Modified Open Rule

SB 109 – “Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact” (“REPLICA”); provide for the enactment (H&HS-Cooper-43rd) Williams-27th

SB 173 – Captive Insurance Companies; provisions; extensively revise (Ins-Shaw-176th) Jones-25th

SR 152 – Joint Study Committee on Stream Buffers in Georgia; create (NR&E-Smith-70th) Ginn-47th

SR 224 – Joint Study Committee on Storm-Water Management Fees; create (NR&E-Williams-119th) Ginn-47th

Modified Structured Rule

SB 103 – “The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act”; pharmacy benefits managers; Commissioner of Insurance to promulgate certain rules and regulations; authorize (Ins-Knight-130th) Mullis-53rd

SB 169 – Specialty License Plate; honoring law enforcement; establish (MotV-Pirkle-155th) Kirk-13th

SB 201 – Labor and Industrial Relations; employees to use sick leave for the care of immediate family members; allow (Substitute)(I&L-Strickland-111th) Miller-49th

Legislation & Local Issues

Governor Nathan Deal continues to press the case that Georgia should not be treated worse under GOP healthcare plans than states that took Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

Deal said he’s not certain yet that the package backed by congressional Republicans and the White House will do that. But he wants states that didn’t expand, like Georgia, to be considered as the proposal moves toward a House vote, not just states that ultimately accepted broader Medicaid coverage offered under former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

“What we’re finding out is what I knew along: When you give somebody something for nothing, it’s going to be very difficult to take it away,” Deal said. “And that’s what is happening in those states that expanded their Medicaid rolls.”

Deal said he still doesn’t regret refusing Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. He has argued that it was too expensive long term because the federal government committed to paying the entire cost of expansion for three years, before dropping to 90 percent starting in 2020.

Under the proposed health care bill, states would be reimbursed a fixed rate per Medicaid enrollee rather than a percentage of a state’s total expenses. The per-enrollee would be locked in, and Georgia’s current figure is among the lowest by state.

“Medicaid spending determines which state’s budget is going to be most harmed by this, and it’s going to be a state like Georgia,” [Georgia State University Professor Bill] Custer said.

Laura Harker, a policy analyst at the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said the result will be hospitals struggling to treat more people without insurance who turn to emergency rooms, particularly in rural areas that generally serve older and poorer patients.

The Georgia Hospital Association is concerned about hospitals’ ability to handle increased uninsured patients, said Earl Rogers, the organization’s president.

“Unless Georgia’s patients have access to affordable health insurance, which provides adequate reimbursement for critical services, including emergency and trauma care, diagnostic and treatment services, and preventive and specialty coverage, our hospitals will be unable to continue to meet the needs of their communities,” Rogers said.

Gov. Deal and Speaker David Ralston lauded the film tax credit for bringing jobs to Georgia.

The film and television industry in Georgia has been booming since 2008, when a tax incentive was passed by the state legislature. Entire towns have been transformed thanks to the influx of what has become a mega industry, most notably Senoia, Georgia…

The film industry created $4.2 billion in wages in 2015 with an average salary of $85,000, per the Governor. That’s not just for fancy, high-paid actors, either. Those are set creators with a construction background. It’s caterers who started food truck services for the film and television shoots. It’s the prop shops, the effects studios, and all of the ancillary pieces that sprout because of the film and television productions in the state.

The Georgia film industry has led to more prosperity for Georgians in and around television and film production. The film tourism industry is driving people from all around the world to Georgia, which leads to dollars spent in the state at restaurants and shops.

The Georgia film and television tax incentive has been a major success, according to Speaker David Ralston, and one he’ll ensure stays on the books for years to come.

“I’m excited by the success of this industry in our state,” he said. “As long as I sit in my office, there will be no bigger fan of that tax credit and this industry than I am.”

The Georgia Senate passed its version of a $49 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

The Senate largely agreed with recommendations from Gov. Nathan Deal, but did make some changes to a version of the budget approved last month by the House. Wednesday’s unanimous Senate vote sets up negotiations with the House to hash out differences in the two proposals.

Big-ticket items have been uncontroversial this year, including a 19 percent raise for state employees who oversee child welfare cases and the continuation of 20 percent raises for state law enforcement, including those with the Georgia State Patrol and Bureau of Investigation.

State Sen. Jack Hill, who chairs the chamber’s budget-writing committee, said the salary increases are targeted to agencies that struggle to keep employees in “critical career fields.” The salary increases for child welfare, for instance, are “so critical to the protection of children,” Hill said.

Among the Senate’s budget changes is $485,000 to provide live video streaming of its committee meetings.

“That’s an initiative that was studied by the leadership and we made a decision to move ahead,” said Hill, R-Reidsville. “We’ll have it implemented by session next year.”

The Senate Education Committee heard House Bill 338 by Rep. Kevin Tanner, the “failing school turnaround” bill.

The legislative proposal to improve Georgia’s lowest-performing schools got another hearing and some amendments Wednesday, but did not advance through the Senate.

The Senate amended the bill, reducing the qualifications for the new position of “Chief Turnaround Officer” — advanced degrees and 10 years in K-12 education are no longer required — and extending by another year the amount of time that targeted schools would have to show signs of improvement.

One big requested amendment was not in there: Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods, elected by voters statewide, had asked to be in charge of the turnaround program. He’s argued that he and his Department of Education have improved some of the state’s lowest-performing schools during his two years in office, but in this latest version of the bill the turnaround chief still would report to the state Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor.

Among the most significant changes in the bill is the addition of time for schools to improve. Under the House version, districts had two years to show gains or face loss of control of their schools, which could be turned over to private, nonprofit operators or converted to charter schools. The Senate amended that to three years.

Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, the bill’s author, said he consented to the changes though some lawmakers think even two years is too many. “There’s a lot of different opinions on that,” he said at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Education and Youth Committee. “I think we’ve struck a balance.”

When you see a tax bill hearing filled to overflowing with lobbyists, you know there’s a lot of money at stake. That was the case for yesterday’s Senate Finance Committee, which heard House Bill 340 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire). The legislation addresses how to value used cars for taxation. James Salzer of the AJC sat through the standing-room only meeting to bring this account:

Used-car dealers see it as a $200 million tax hike for their customers, most of whom can’t afford to buy a new car. New-car dealers view it as fixing a loophole that currently allows used-car dealers to get an unfair competitive advantage on taxes and to sometimes scam the system.

Who wins one of the General Assembly’s hottest business battles — over how cars are taxed — probably won’t be decided until the final days of the General Assembly’s session. But the outcome of House Bill 340 is a classic case of how changing tax laws can produce big-money winners and losers.

State estimates say that by fiscal 2019 — the first full year the law would be in effect — the proposed changes in how used cars are taxed could mean an extra $237 million in title fee payments. That could rise to $268 million by 2022.

Another part of the legislation would lower the bill on the same tax to those who lease cars, cutting their tab by up to $74 million in 2019, a number that could grow up to $106 million by 2022.

It’s a very technical issue, but worth reading about if you’re interested in tax policy. Because who isn’t interested in tax policy.

House Bill 546 by State Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), creating the Sugar Hill Building Authority, passed the State House and is headed to the Senate.

House Bill 572 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would address issues in the Chatham Recorder’s Court.

Senate Bill 283 by Sen. John F. Kennedy (R-Macon) would merge the Municipal Court of Macon-Bibb County into the Bibb County State Court.

Dalton Board of Education members will consider flex-scheduling for high school students.

The Tifton-Tift County Board of Education hosted a tour to better understand local poverty.

“The Community Poverty Tours are a way we can expose our staff members and local community leaders to what is happening in Tift County. We include local law enforcement officials to learn about crime they see each day as well as signs to watch for so we can prevent our students from becoming involved. We also have cases from our social workers we discuss that show real-life situations our students have faced.” [said director of communications Stacey Beckham].

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commissioners are considering changes to streamline appointments to boards and commissions.

Savannah is considering selling several pieces of city-owned real estate in hopes of returning them to the property tax rolls.

Inmate work details in the cities of Temple and Villa Rica will be discontinued due to insufficient staffing.

Campaigns & Elections

Elections officials rejected calls to use time machines to return to 1998 paper ballots in elections this month.

Voters will continue to use electronic voting machines during upcoming elections, said Candice Broce, spokesperson for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The use of paper ballots is reserved as a backup system in case there is a problem with the voting machines, she said.

Cobb voters will also use the voting machines in next week’s special elections for the 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax for education and the vacant Marietta school board Ward 6 seat, said Janine Eveler, director of Cobb elections.

Georgia Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson launched his campaign for the Senate District 29 seat being vacated by Sen. Josh McKoon.

A year before qualifying and more than 14 months prior to the primary election, retired Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office major and Georgia Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson filed his intent to seek the District 29 seat.

Robertson will run as a Republican.

“There is no one in the House or the Senate that has the law enforcement background that I would bring to this job,” said Robertson, a 2010 graduate of the FBI National Academy in Virginia and the former Columbus Homeland Security director under former Mayor Jim Wetherington. “The Legislature often deals with issues such as criminal justice reform and I would bring subject-matter expertise to those discussions.”

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said last month he would consider a run for the Senate, but recently announced he would seek re-election as mayor. Columbus attorneys Mark Post and Ted Morgan both indicated a month ago they were interested in the seat McKoon was vacating. Robertson is the only one to file the paperwork with the Secretary of State.


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