Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 5, 2019


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 5, 2019

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 Daniels 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.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp toured storm damaged areas yesterday, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After viewing storm damage of Harris and Talbot counties by helicopter Monday morning, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp did an on-the-ground tour of the damage caused by a tornado in Talbotton and declared a state of emergency for Harris, Talbot and Grady counties.

At the press conference in Talbotton, Kemp said, “The response from the local community from their neighbors down here has been fantastic — everyone pulling together.”

Leigh Ann Erenheim, director of the Talbot County Emergency Management Agency, said on Monday morning there were no reported fatalities for the county and seven injuries associated with the tornado.

“I do consider us very blessed with what we have, unlike Alabama and the things that happened to them, so I consider that the Lord had his hand on us, watching out for us,” Erenheim said.

Under the Gold Dome Today










10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION(LD 27) House Chamber



1:00 PM HOUSE Judiciary Non – Civil Subcommittee 415 CLOB














SB 92 – Professional Licensing Boards; refuse to issue a license; borrower in default under an educational loan issued through the Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation; prohibit (Substitute) (H ED-21st)
SB 207 – Georgia Board for Physician Workforce; change name; board’s membership; revise (H&HS-11th)
SB 56 – “Consumer Coverage and Protection for Out-of Network Medical Care Act” (Substitute) (I&L-52nd)
SB 173 – “Georgia Educational Scholarship Act” (Substitute) (FIN-27th)
SB 95 – Local Government; terms for contracts for utility services; change (Substitute) (RI&U-29th)
SB 104 – Resuscitation; parental requirement for consent; revise (Substitute) (JUDY-54th)
SB 122 – Motor Vehicle Franchise Practices; protection of certain consumer data in motor vehicle sales or lease transactions; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-18th)
SB 29 – Waiver of Immunity for Motor Vehicle Claims; definition to clarify sheriff, deputy sheriff, other agent, servant, or employee of sheriff’s office; include (Substitute) (SJUDY-22nd)
SB 135 – Workers’ Compensation; certain provisions; change (JUDY-20th)
SB 77 – State Flag, Seal, and other Symbols; additional protections for government statues; provide (Substitute) (GvtO-53rd)
SB 144 – Taxes on Tobacco Products; issuance of special event tobacco permits; authorizing off-premise sales of certain tobacco products; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-24th)
SB 146 – Alcoholic Beverages; retail package liquor stores conduct tasting events; samples of alcoholic beverages may be served; provide (Substitute) (RI&U-47th)
SB 9 – Invasion of Privacy; sexual extortion; prohibit; definitions; elements of the crime; provide (Substitute) (JUDY-22nd)
SB 161 – Education; weighted scores for certain coursework for purposes of determining HOPE scholarship and Zell Miller scholarship eligibility; provide (Substitute) (H ED-37th)
SB 175 – Teachers Retirement System of Georgia; certain public employers to make employer and employee contributions; require (RET-8th)
SB 176 – Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia; certain public employers; make employer and employee contribution on behalf of retired members; require (Substitute) (RET-8th)
SB 183 – Revenue and Taxation; each person that files FORM 1099-K with the Internal Revenue Service shall also file electronically to the state revenue commissioner on or before federal deadline; provide (FIN-52nd)
SB 184 – State Employees’ Health Insurance Plan; services covered and furnished by a federally qualified health center are reimbursed at no less than the Medicare maximum; provide (Substitute) (H&HS-13th)
SB 188 – Reinsurance of Risks; adequate regulation of reinsurers; incorporation of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reinsurance model into the Georgia Insurance Code; provide (I&L-20th)
SB 109 – Advanced Practice Registered Nurse; delegation by a physician; order radiographic imaging tests in non-life-threatening situations; authorize (Substitute) (H&HS-20th)
SB 192 – Captive Insurance Companies; definitions; use of a registered agent to receive service of process; letters of credit; provide (I&L-25th)
SB 202 – Title Insurance; lender’s security interest; personal property taken by the lender as collateral for a commercial loan; allow (I&L-3rd)
SB 208 – Drivers Licenses; implied consent notices; revise (PUB SAF-29th)
HR 182 – Property; granting of non-exclusive easements; authorize (Substitute) (SI&P-15th) Greene-151st


Modified Open Rule
HB 239 – Georgia Business Court; establish (Substitute)(Judy-Efstration-104th)
HB 253 – Professions and businesses; occupational therapists; update and revise various provisions (Substitute)(RegI-Hawkins-27th)
HB 456 – Local government; elect an annual report in lieu of a biennial audit; increase expenditure amount (B&FAO-Tankersley-160th)

Modified Structured Rule
HB 227 – Insurance; discrimination against victims of family violence to include victims of sexual assault; expand prohibitions (Substitute)(Ins-Frye-118th)
HB 367 – Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Act; enact (Ins-Taylor-173rd)
HB 368 – Insurance; division of a domestic insurer into two or more resulting domestic insurers; provide (Substitute)(Ins-Taylor-173rd)
HB 491 – Insurance; regulation of insurance company holding systems; update (Ins-Taylor-173rd)

Structured Rule
HB 314 – Georgia Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act; enact (Substitute)(W&M-Stephens-164th)
HB 365 – Alternative ad valorem tax; motor vehicles; lower tax rate imposed (Substitute)(W&M-Blackmon-146th)


House Bill 324 by State Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Paulding) would allow regulated cultivation of cannabis in Georgia, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

House Bill 324 passed out of the House Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee Friday and the Rules Committee Monday. It was sent back to the Rules Committee before coming to a vote, according to Georgia’s Hope, an organization advocating for medical cannabis oil in Georgia.

In the Rules Committee, “it will hopefully be amended and go back to the floor tomorrow,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post.

The bill, known as the Georgia’s Hope Act, allows up to 10 licenses to be issued to companies that would cultivate marijuana and use it to produce a medical oil that contains up to 5 percent THC, as well as other components of marijuana, including CBD.

The bill allows for up to 60 dispensaries around the state, which would be able to sell the oil to Georgians who hold a medical card issued by the state. Currently, about 8,000 Georgians have the cards, but there is no legal way to obtain the oil, which has been legal for several years.

Additionally, some powerful organizations are lobbying hard against the bill, Wooton said. That includes the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

Thursday is “Crossover Day,” and bills must pass either the House or Senate by Crossover Day to have a chance to become law during the current session. However, wording from bills that don’t make it, sometimes is added onto other bills that have passed.

Senate Bill 221 by State Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) is unlikely to advance this session, according to The Brunswick News.

State Sen. Marty Harbin, R- Tyrone, submitted Senate Bill 221 on Wednesday. By the time it came around to a hearing Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the meeting — scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. — was already creeping into the afternoon with nearly two hours spent on other legislation.

“For three years or more, we have been dealing with the issue, and my presentation this morning — or this afternoon, as you would tell me — is probably 20-25 minutes to really deal with the comparison of the federal law versus the state law of RFRA,” Harbin said.

Committee Chairman Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, told Harbin there was still a substantial audience at the hearing, but Harbin said a number of people had already left, and that he would like to work to see if there was another opportunity to present the bill.

“I can’t tell you — as Indiana Jones said, ‘I’m making it up as I go,’” Harbin said. “I’m going to find a way, if I can, to try to make it happen.”

From the AJC:

“I’m going to find a way if I can and try to make it happen,” said state Sen. Marty Harbin, a Republican from Tyrone who introduced Senate Bill 221. “I believe in miracles, sir, and that’s what I’m going to try to do” to get the bill passed.

Harbin acknowledged that it might take until next year for the bill to move through the legislative process, but he said he hoped the bill can at least pass the state Senate this year.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has said he would sign a religious rights bill only if it’s a “mirror image” of a federal religious freedom law passed in 1993.

SB 221 includes the same language as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but it also adds a provision that would allow plaintiffs who win lawsuits against the government to recover their legal costs in religious cases.

The Georgia DOT Board opposes House Bill 511 by State Rep. Kevin Tanner, according to the AJC.

HB 511 would generate tens of millions of dollars for transit by replacing the state sales tax on rides for hire with a 50-cent flat fee for taxi, limousine and ride-hailing rides and a 25-cent fee for shared rides. It also would divide Georgia outside of metro Atlanta into eight zones for the purposes of transit funding and planning.

On Monday, the ride-hailing company Uber issued a statement supporting the legislation.

But the State Transportation Board — which oversees the Georgia Department of Transportation — objected to provisions in the bill that would consolidate state transit operations in a single new agency, the Georgia Department of Mobility and Innovation. Those operations are currently split among six agencies, including GDOT, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health.

On Monday, the State Transportation Board approved a resolution asking lawmakers to keep transit and the SRTA under GDOT’s purview.

The Gainesville Times Editorial Board writes in opposition to state legislation that would limit local governments’ ability to zone properties.

House Bill 302, which has won initial committee approval but has yet to be considered by the full House, would restrict local governments in their ability to mandate certain “building design elements” for one or two-family residential dwellings.

If the bill is passed — and considering the considerable political clout of the governing agencies that oppose it there is no certainty that it will be — cities and counties would no longer be able to dictate that new homes have a certain size, or be made of a certain material, or fit a certain architectural design.

The bill brings to the forefront a couple of different serious philosophical questions about the role of government: How involved should any governing body be in dictating to the public what they can and can’t build; and, should local communities have the right to set their own standards above and beyond minimum building codes set by the state?

It is scary to think that a simple majority of a city council can enact building design mandates on a whim, create havoc with the local housing market and economy, and then change things again after the next election cycle when new members are elected. And yet, we firmly believe that the best government is that which is closest to home, and if local voters are willing to allow that sort of authority to their representatives, shouldn’t they have the ability to do so?

Let’s leave the authority to make community decisions at the local level, then work to make sure local decision-makers, and voters, understand the impact their actions related to home building can have.

This morning, the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee tabled HB 302.

Electric scooters may be a target for state regulation, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

One bill proposed in the General Assembly would ban users from parking the devices on sidewalks and in other places where they could obstruct pedestrians, cars and trucks.

A separate proposal would allow electric bikes capable of traveling no more than 20 mph to use bike paths, but it would ban faster ones from those paths.

The proposed state regulations are being considered as some Georgia cities and counties are attempting to reign in electric scooters and bikes.

Athens-Clarke County commissioners voted late last year to temporarily ban electric scooters.

“All this technology has come out over the last few months,” said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, a Dawsonville Republican. “This may be something we’ll need to address on a regular basis.”

The Georgia Supreme Court held unconstitutional lifetime GPS monitoring of convicted “sexually dangerous predators,” according to AccessWDUN.

The unanimous Georgia Supreme Court opinion published Monday says that violates the Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The opinion says the law amounts to warrantless searches to find evidence of possible criminal behavior after people have completed their sentences and regained their privacy rights, which is “patently unreasonable.”

Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is “all in” on working with the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“As the representative for the entire coast of Georgia, Buddy is already at the forefront of this issue,” [House GOP Leader Kevin] McCarthy said in a press release. “Buddy also serves on the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, and I am confident he will provide a knowledgeable voice to the committee.”

In a phone interview Monday, Carter said he accepts the scientific conclusion that climate change is real and that industrial activity contributes to it, though he sidestepped a question about how much humans are to blame.

“Regardless of whether it’s mostly or not, it has to be addressed,” Carter said. “We know that we’ve got to address climate change so it’s just one of those things that has to be addressed regardless of whether it is the primary reason for it or not. Everything is on the table and everything has got to be addressed.”

“You know of all the things we can do in the world, we still can’t control the weather,” he said. “And I’ve never bought into the climate change. I’m not naive enough to believe that we don’t have some impact on it, but to think that we have enough of an impact to really change what is happening naturally, I’m not one of those who has really bought into that.”

“I want to do the very best that I can and I’ve heard from constituents and this is real and this concerns them and it’s something we need to address,” he said. “It’s important to us in Coastal Georgia and I get it and I understand that. Climate change is real and the need to address it is real. So I’m all in.”

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway has endorsed the county’s MARTA Referendum, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“I’ve devoted my life to promoting the safety of Gwinnett’s families, and that’s one of many reasons I’m voting yes on the transit referendum on March 19,” Conway said. “I hope my friends and neighbors here will join me in doing the right thing for Gwinnett’s future.”

Conway’s endorsement comes on the heels of a plea from former Gov. Nathan Deal to voters for a vote in favor of adoption of the plan. State Sen. Brandon Beach, who is chairman of the Georgia Senate’s Transportation Committee, also encouraged voters to cast ‘Yes’ votes during a transit forum in Peachtree Corners on Monday.

But Conway’s endorsement stands out among those others because he is from Gwinnett, has been the county’s sheriff for more than 20 years and is a high profile Republican — which means his endorsement may hold some sway with conservative voters who have not traditionally embraced transit.

“The much-needed transit expansion will take thousands of vehicles off our roads every day, which will lead to fewer wrecks, fewer traffic jams and fewer fatalities,” said Conway. “Studies clearly show that an increase in transit ridership increases road safety.

Dalton City Council voted to require a license for outdoor donation boxes, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

“The city of Dalton always has and will continue to support the generosity of its citizens giving to others,” said council member Annalee Harlan. “But these (boxes) should not be used as a space to dispose of household items.”

To receive a license, an organization must provide the city with information on how to contact the organization, and detail how and how often items will be removed from the bins and how many times the boxes will be checked for “general cleanliness, graffiti and litter or other rubbish.” The donation boxes can only be placed in commercially-zoned areas, and can’t be put on empty or abandoned properties. The property owner must certify that permission has been granted to place the box there.

The license fee will be based on what city officials believe it will cost to process the paperwork and City Administrator Jason Parker said that will probably be $25.

Those who violate the law can be fined up to $1,000 and will have their license suspended for up to 60 days. A second violation within a year will bring license suspension of up to 180 days, and three strikes within five years can cause a violator to lose its license for up to five years.

Augusta’s Planning Commission voted against an expansion of a drug treatment center, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Hale House Foundation’s plan to open a drug treatment center in the Green Meadows subdivision found support from Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who said he needed similar services 30 years ago, but the city’s planning commission voted Monday to deny the application.

Supporters and opponents of the proposal filled nearly half the seats in the Augusta Commission chamber at a hearing on an application by Hale House for a special exception to open the center.

Lenn Wood was sworn in as Sheriff of Coweta County, according to the Newnan Times-Herald.

Floyd County will study its space needs in advance of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax coming online, according to the Rome News Tribune.

County Manager Jamie McCord has been reviewing proposals from consultants who want to lay out the best use of the space going into the future. He said Monday that he hopes to have a recommendation for the County Commission at its March 12 meeting.

An $8 million agricultural center is a cornerstone of the 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package. There’s also $2,450,000 for a new public works building at the Black’s Bluff Road complex and $5 million for renovations at the Historic County Courthouse.

The county’s projecting revenue of just over $8.2 million a year, but officials could opt to do some projects earlier by issuing SPLOST-backed bonds. The comprehensive space utilization study could help them decide.

“This will give us a perspective on how we prioritize our renovations and new facilities … as well as plan for future expansions, specifically in the Judicial Building,” McCord said.

The City of Marietta may consider allowing open alcohol containers on the downtown square, according to the AJC.

Some Marietta Square business owners would like for the City Council to reexamine the idea. If it passed, it would be the fifth city in Cobb County to have an open container ordinance. Smyrna, Acworth and Kennesaw have open container ordinances, and the Powder Springs City Council is poised to approve its own version.

Open-container districts, also referred to by some cities as entertainment districts, allow patrons to carry out open alcoholic drinks from restaurants operating with a designated area.

Marietta City Council member Cheryl Richardson, a member of the council’s Judicial Legislative Committee that reviewed and rejected the proposal in July 2018, said she isn’t surprised the issue is back in the spotlight, as other cities have made the move to allow residents to sip alcoholic beverages while taking in the sights.

“It would just make sense that it would come back up in Marietta,” Richardson said.

“I think we need to listen to what people want,” she said. “We don’t necessarily need to say ‘no.’”

Richardson said the proposal could come back before the council committee as early as its March 26 meeting. If it gets the blessing of its members, the ordinance will go before the entire City Council at its April 10 meeting.

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