Author: Buzz Brockway

Former Chair of the Gwinnett County Republican Party, State Representative for Georgia House District 102 (Lawrenceville).

RIP: Representative Harry Geisinger

More sad news from the General Assembly today as Rep. Harry Geisinger has passed away at the age of 81. Geisinger was one of those Republican Pioneers who served in the House when Republicans were almost as rare as a comet. Geisinger, along with people like Paul Coverdell, John Linder, and many others worked hard to make the GOP appealing to more Georgians. As Jim Galloway notes:

Geisinger was a member of the inner corps of Republicans of the post-Goldwater period in Georgia, and was first elected to the House in 1968. He attempted a run in a multi-candidate Republican primary for governor in 1974, but was defeated – “Machine Gun” Ronnie Thompson, the mayor of Macon, was the GOP nominee that year. He lost to Democrat George Busbee.

Geisinger won re-election to the House in 2004, where he became an advocate for pari-mutuel wagering and the horse-racing industry.

It was an honor to get to know Rep. Geisinger and to serve with him in the Legislature. He will be missed.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Pat and their family and friends.

Why Haven’t Riots Happened In The Deep South?

UPDATE: I should have given the post the title “Why Haven’t Riots Happened In The Deep South In The Post Ferguson Era?” I’m not saying riots have never happened in the Deep South, I was referring to the recent number of incidents we’ve seen around the Country.

Watching the events in Baltimore has been discouraging. Thankfully it seems that the rioting and looting have lessened and hopefully now the folks in Baltimore can come back together and work on fixing the issues they face.

Yesterday during Peach Pundit Radio on WGST, Sully, Mike and I talked about Baltimore and some of the larger issues we’ve seen in American recently. One thing I pointed out is that we in the Deep South haven’t seen the type of demonstrations and rioting that we’ve seen in places like Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD. Why is that? Have we just been lucky or are we doing something different than those communities?

We’ve certainly had incidents that could have sparked mass demonstrations and rioting like those mentioned above. In Savannah an Officer shot and killed a man already in custody. Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Julie Tolbert immediately called in the GBI to investigate the incident. Also responding promptly was Mayor Edna Branch Jackson who met with the family and spoke to community groups, in private and in public:

Speaking to people congregating in West Savannah, the mayor said: “This will be cleared up. This will be cleared up. We don’t need anything to happen. And we are going, we are going to keep the family and the community informed of everything that is going on. Now, does that sound fair?” Tolbert told those gathered that the investigation is “going to take time.” In the meantime, “What we are asking you to do is not jump to conclusions, not make rash decisions, not … do something that will cause you problems.”

In North Charleston, SC, an Officer shot to death a man attempting to flee. After video evidence of the shooting surfaced, the Officer was quickly arrested and charged with murder.

I think the key point of these two tragic incidents was that local officials acted promptly to address the situation. I’m not sure that happened in Ferguson and Baltimore. Officials throughout Georgia should look to how their counterparts in Savannah and North Charleston reacted.

Another item worth noting is a point made by Congressman John Lewis in the early days of the Ferguson trouble:

“We have to get police officers, locally-elected officials to respect the dignity and the words of every human being. It’s a shame and a disgrace that in a city that is almost 70 percent African American to have only three African American police officers.

Ferguson is not in the American South. But we’re doing much better in the small towns and cities in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi.

I agree with the Congressman on this point.

Of course, we need to take a look at our laws and how we enforce them. Every encounter a citizen has with the Police can become dangerous for the Officer and the citizen. We need to do all we can to make sure the people of Georgia are safe and secure and law enforcement are doing all they can to avoid potential lethal situations. Every Law Enforcement Official I’ve met spends hours each month in training to avoid having to use lethal force and how to diffuse tense situation. We need to make sure they have what they need to make their training a reality, always.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject. A violent reaction to an officer involved shooting is certainly possible here in Georgia. Let’s think and talk about this now so we can avoid a riot and the tragic death that may spark it.

Rubio To Speak At Georgia Republican Convention

Received via press release:

(Atlanta, GA) – Florida senator and 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio will speak at the 2015 Georgia Republican Party Convention in Athens.

Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio was elected to the United States Senate in 2010. He serves on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Committee on Foreign Relations, Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Rubio announced his candidacy for president on April 13, 2015 at the Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida.

Senator Rubio is scheduled to speak on Friday, May 15, at approximately 3PM in the Athena Ballroom.

You can obtain a ticket to the GOP convention here. Purchasing a “guest” ticket will allow you access to the venue to hear speeches from folks like Rubio. Other 2016 GOP contenders are scheduled to appear as well.

Rubio surged to the top of the early GOP Presidential heap in a Fox News poll released last week:

Announcing your candidacy helps your poll numbers. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio receives a five percentage-point bump after his April 13 announcement and has the backing of 13 percent in the race for the Republican nomination — just a touch over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who gets 12 percent among self-identified GOP primary voters. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul comes in at 10 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee earn 9 percent each and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gets 8 percent.

And some observers think Rubio might actually win:

Marco Rubio stands alone as the candidate best prepared to articulate a conservative message in a way that will inspire and actually teach people who aren’t already conservative that conservatism is the best philosophy to help them achieve the American Dream—that there is, as Arthur Brooks has famously argued, a moral case for capitalism.

As a cosmopolitan conservative, Rubio also has the potential to appeal to people—urbanites, Millennials, etc.—who might not even know they have deep-seated conservative instincts. These people reflexively reject conservatism because they don’t think of it as a philosophy, but rather as a manifestation of cultural signaling. They can’t imagine belonging to a Southern party that looks and sounds like, say, George W. Bush.

I said on Facebook recently that my first choice right now is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, but I’m impressed with Rubio. In fact, a Jindal/Rubio ticket would be pretty strong and would get me fired up. What do y’all think?

How Can We Fund MARTA Rail Expansion In Metro Atlanta? I Have An Idea.

MARTAaudit092512 CC1In the waning days if the 2015 Legislative Session, I introduced a couple of bills meant to be discussed during the off season and taken up during the 2016 Session. I will be writing a few posts about them and would like feedback from the Peach Pundit community. The first one I’ll talk about is an idea I have to provide more funding to MARTA for the purpose of expanding their rail system.

HR830 is a Constitutional amendment that would allow for the creation, via Legislation, of a transit community improvement district (TCID). The funds generated by the TCID would be used to expand MARTA’s rail service. The TCID would be located along the path of existing rail lines and could be expanded to include new rail lines as they are constructed. The ballot question would read as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as provide for the creation of transit community improvement districts in which property, with the consent of the owners thereof, may be subject to taxes, fees, and assessments for the purpose of providing extensions of existing transit rail infrastructure, including rail lines, terminals, rail cars, and other associated capital expenditures?”

Over the next few months, I plan to meet with various stakeholders to get their feedback and input on this. That feedback will help craft the enabling legislation which I will introduce next session. One key component of the enabling legislation will be that MARTA’s rail could only be expanded as funds become available. In other words, MARTA won’t be accumulating tons of debt based on future revenue from the TCID.

So why allow for the creation of a TCID? Funding for transit, especially expansion of rail, has been a vexing question for a number of years. In the wake of the failure of the TSPLOST measure in 2010, it became clear to me that the discussion of funding transit needed to be separated from the discussion about funding roads and bridges. The debate over this year’s transportation funding bill further cemented my thinking. The interests of pro-transit people and pro-roads and bridges people are at odds. You can argue they shouldn’t be but the reality is they are. I can also assure you that the desire to take up the subject of funding transportation will not be very high on next year’s Legislative priority list. So, pro-transit folks disappointed with HB170 will have to stay disappointed unless a different funding mechanism can be found (like HR830).

CID’s have become popular, especially in the Metro area, as a way to make improvements in a specific area. Here in Gwinnett they are making tangible improvements to areas around Jimmy Carter Blvd for example. The Jimmy Carter Blvd bridge over I-85 was converted to a diverging diamond interchange and traffic has improved. Why not use that concept to help fund expansion of MARTA’s rail lines in areas where there is a need and desire for this service? It would avoid an annual transit vs. roads fight in the State budget and provide a steady, and increasing as MARTA grows, source of revenue.

What do y’all think of my idea?

RIP: Former Rep. Jay Shaw

Former State Representative Jay Shaw passed away this morning. I have the pleasure of serving with his son Rep. Jason Shaw, who was elected to his father’s seat when the elder Shaw retired from the Legislature in 2010. After his retirement, Jay Shaw served on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board and was re-elected to that position earlier this year.

According to the Valdosta Times:

Shaw served as the Mayor of Lakeland for many years as well as the state representative of District 176 from 1994-2010.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shaw family.

House Majority Leader O’Neal On His Way Out?

It appears as if a rumor that has floated around the Capitol might actually be true. I little while ago I received an email addressed to the House Republican Caucus from Majority Leader Larry O’Neal. The Leader will be accepting a Judgeship of the Georgia Tax Tribunal, should the Governor offer it to him. I think it’s safe to say that by sending this email out, the Governor will be making him an offer. Leader O’Neal will make a fine Tax Tribunal Judge. I don’t know of anyone who knows Georgia’s tax code better then he does.

In my five years in the House, Larry O’Neal has been the Majority Leader. He truly cares, perhaps more than anyone else in the House, about each member of the GOP Caucus. He spent countless hours as our Leader, providing advice, raising money, hosting fundraisers, and doing what he could to insure our success as individuals and as Caucus members.

As I mentioned on WGST this past Friday, a misconception seeped out during this past session. As you will recall, during the initial House debate over HB170, the transportation funding act, O’Neal offered an amendment to lower the excise tax rate from .292 cents per gallon to .24. That amendment was defeated and somehow the rumor started that the amendment was part of some sort of rebellion. Nothing could be further from the truth, and anyone who knows Larry O’Neal knows that is false. The amendment was not a surprise move. It had been talked about in one of our Caucus meetings, and I learned later, talked about for some time in House Leadership meetings. Whether you agreed with the amendment or not, the goal behind the amendment, and the reason the Leader offered it was to try to get 91 Republicans to vote for HB170. Why 91? That is the number of votes needed to pass any bill in the House. If 91 Republicans supported the House version of the bill, it would send a strong signal of unity among the House GOP Caucus. As I said, the amendment failed, and I’m disappointed that some may have misinterpreted his actions.

It will be the House’s loss should Larry O’Neal resign at the end of the month, but I’m glad for the opportunity to have served with him. I know he will do an excellent job with the Tax Tribunal. I’m also glad for the reader’s indulgence as I in a small way set the record straight.

Below the fold is the full text of Leader O’Neal’s letter to the House GOP Caucus. Read more

Hatin’ On Delta? Not So Much.

Maria Saporta is upset. She’s upset that the Legislature removed a tax exemption airlines, like Atlanta based Delta, receive on the purchase of jet fuel.

No one company and no one executive was treated more disrespectfully during the 2015 legislative session than Delta and Anderson.
His crime?

He had the audacity to speak his mind about what he thought was in the best interest of Georgia’s economic future.

As the 2014 chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Anderson felt obligated – as have our best business leaders have over the past many decades – to speak out for inclusion.

In the 1960s, Atlanta business leaders spoke out for tolerance and acceptance of racial integration.

And in today’s environment, Anderson urged the state to be welcoming to people from all over the world by having a less restrictive immigration policy and to steer away from social legislation – the religious freedom bill – that could be seen as discriminating against gays and lesbians.
Both those positions would make Georgia more economically competitive.

And as part of his swan song as Chamber chair, Anderson told state legislators they must be willing to raise taxes to meet the transportation infrastructure needs in the state.

(Guess what, that’s what they ended up doing – but never mind the facts).

Saporta goes on to say that Rep. Earl Ehrhart should be defeated for introducing legislation to end the jet fuel tax exemption. Ehrhart’s version of the legislation didn’t pass, but Saporta stills thinks he should be defeated. She does not think however, that those who supported the legislation that actually took away Delta’s tax credit should be defeated or taken to task.

Let’s set aside hurt feelings and look at this issue in a different light.

When Delta was in bankruptcy the sales tax on jet fuel was removed in order to help them. When I came to the Legislature in 2011, we voted to renew the exemption and phase it out over three years. When the exemption expired, it was renewed and made permanent.

As you all know, this year the need for more transportation funding was moved to the top of the priority list. Many people, myself included, thought we should look at removing special tax exemptions and appropriate that money to infrastructure. To that end, I co-sponsored Rep. Chuck Martin’s bill to end the electric vehicle tax credit and Rep. Ehrhart’s bill to end the jet fuel tax exemption. I also voted against a number of new tax exemptions, such as exemptions for historic districts, zoos, amusement parks, and the building material tax credit Jessica mentioned. It doesn’t seem fair to me for the Legislature to hand out special tax credits and exemptions for some, while at the same time raising the excise tax on motor fuel. Indeed, ending the electric vehicle tax credit and the jet fuel sales tax exemption were included in the final version of the transportation funding act. I wish the bill had ended many more special exemptions the state hands out. For that and other reasons, I voted against the transportation funding bill.

Saporta also complains that the tax on jet fuel will not be spent on transportation. True, jet fuel sales taxes are not put into a dedicated fund like excise taxes on motor fuel, but the state spends other money on airport maintenance which after three years, as specified in the transportation fund act bill, can be then used for transportation through the appropriations process.

I didn’t take it personally when Anderson (joined by other CEO’s and Chambers of Commerce) said that folks like me who support the religious freedom bills were promoting bigoty. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if he thinks that about me he is wrong.

Delta is universally recognized as a valuable company to Georgia. Removing a special sales tax exemption it enjoys is not a slap in the face, nor should it be perceived as one.

Anti-Human Trafficking Film To Play In Atlanta For 1 Week.

Yesterday we received a press release informing us that a movie dealing with the topic of human trafficking will appear in the Atlanta area for a one week limited run. From the release:

Just in time for human trafficking awareness month, the film is now going to play in Studio Movie Grill theaters and will be playing at the Studio Movie Grills at Holcomb Bridge starting on January 30th for one week. The proceeds from the showings in Studio Movie Grill will benefit Traffick911. Tickets are $10.

Studio Movie Grill – Holcomb Bridge
2800 Holcomb Bridge Rd.
Alpharetta, GA 30022

Here’s a little bit about the movie:

Feature film synopsis: After sneaking to a party with her friends, sixteen-year-old Amber Stevens goes missing. Forced into the world of Sex trafficking, her family and community fight to get her back. Inspired by actual events. So much can happen in 8 DAYS.

All proceeds from the film go to anti-trafficking organizations to build safe homes for the victims of this crime. See more at www.findamber.com, www.8daysfilm.org; Facebook: www.facebook.com/8daysfilm; Twitter and Instagram: @8daysfilm

And the trailer:

Bush, Paul, and “Other” Lead Presidential Preference Question.

After two days of survey taking, Jeb Bush garnered 13% of survey takers votes for the Presidency in 2016, Rand Paul 12%, Other 11% and Scott Walker 10%. Among Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton was preferred by 8% of survey takers and Elizabeth Warren by 4%. My preferred candidate Bobby Jindal also received 4% support.

If you haven’t taken the survey, feel free to do so by clicking on this link. The poll closes tomorrow at noon and I’ll post the full results shortly thereafter.

presidential preference day 2

There Shall Be Runoffs

In case you missed it, there were two special elections today. You can see the full results for both races here.

In state House district 50 (to replace Lynn Riley), we’ll have a runoff between Kelly Stewart who pulled in 44.06% of the vote compared to Bradford Raffensperger’s 41.89%.

In state House district 120 (to replace Mickey Channell), we’ll have a runoff between Trey Rhodes who pulled in 29.47% of the vote compared to Jesse Copelan’s 25.51%. Third place finisher Jesse Johnson earned 24.77%, a mere 41 votes behind Copelan, so I suppose Johnson could ask for a recount.

Survey Result Thus Far: How To Pay For Transportation Needs

We’ve had a little over 24 hours worth of answers to my Legislative survey and I thought I’d share the data collected on one of the questions. Question 4 throws out some options for generating revenue needed to fund transportation needs. As you are all aware, a study committee has issued a report identifying the need and offering some suggestions as to where the money could come from. I wrote this question and sent it to my constituents before the report came out so some of the choices I identified may not be in the study committee’s report. Nevertheless, I think the results thus far are worthy of discussion so please do so in the comments.

If you haven’t taken the survey, feel free to do so by clicking on this link.

question4day1

Scholarship Cap Met In 1 Day, Poll Shows Support For Raising It, Expanding School Choice In Georgia.

As many of you are aware, Georgia has a program where people and companies can receive a tax credit when they donate money to entities called Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs). These SSOs provide scholarships to students to attend private schools. The program is popular among parents and donors but is capped currently at $58 million per year. Last year the cap was met in about 11 days. This year the cap was met on January 1st.

The Georgia Department of Revenue has announced that the program hit its $58 million cap for the year on Jan. 1., about three weeks earlier than the money ran out last year.

The General Assembly created the program in 2008 to give Georgia parents who can’t afford private school on their own an alternative other than sending their kids to a public school in a state beset with low test scores and a high dropout rate.

Under the law, individuals who contribute to the scholarships program receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of up to $1,000, and married couples filing jointly get up to $2,500.

Businesses can receive credits of up to 75 percent of their state income tax liability.

Many people, myself included, think the cap should be raised, significantly. In fact, a new poll released today by American Federation for Children shows strong bi-partisan support for raising the cap and, despite a law suit filed by opponents of the program, strong support for the program itself. According to the poll, 65% of respondents support the program compared to 26% who oppose. In addition, 64% support raising the program’s cap, while 28% oppose. Given that strong support, I’m not sure why the program is still deemed “controversial.”

Other items from the AFP poll:

– Sixty-three percent (63%) favor the Georgia Opportunity Scholarship Program, which would allow
parents to use the money the state has set aside for their child’s education to send them to the public,
private or church-run school of their choice. Three in ten (31%) oppose this program.

– Greater than eight in ten (82%) believe that state-funded educational scholarships should be given in at
least some capacity. The majority (55%) says that all children should have access to these scholarships,
regardless of what school district they are assigned. Eleven percent (11%) believes only low income
students should have access, while 16% say only children in failing public schools should have access.
Just 14% of Georgians believe that scholarships should not be provided at all.

– Voters favor public charter schools by a greater than two to one margin, 66% to 24%.

– Support for public charter schools increases to 72% after hearing that they are independent public
schools that are free to be more innovative and are held more accountable for student achievement.

Discuss all this in the comments.

2015 Legislative Survey

Last week I emailed the following survey about the upcoming Legislative Session to my constituents. I received a lot of valuable feedback from them about the issues I raised in the survey.

I thought I’d now open it up to everyone here on Peach Pundit. If you’d like to take the short 12 question survey, click here.

Throughout the week I’ll post some of the preliminary results, then post the final results on Friday.

Will Protecting Religious Freedom Damage Georgia’s Reputation? Two Opposing Views

Two days ago a letter was sent to all 180 state Representatives (and presumably all 56 Senators) from Trey Childress of a group called Competitive Georgia. According to the Political Insider, the group is “a coalition of mostly business interests “united against discrimination.”” And as you will see below, Childress warns that passing a bill taken from a federal law which has been on the books since the Clinton years will damage Georgia’s reputation and ruin it’s businesses. The full text of the letter I received is below the fold, as is a response from the House sponsor of the bill Rep. Sam Teasley.

Add your comments in the comment section. Read more

Sen. Unterman To Prefile “Safe Harbor” Legislation.

Received via press release:

Sen. Renee Unterman (R – Buford) will officially pre-file legislation in the Georgia Senate to further the protection of child victims on the morning of Thursday, December 11. The “safe harbor” legislation will address inconsistencies in the prosecution of human trafficking cases at the state level, impose harsher punishments on those convicted of this terrible crime, and create a funding mechanism to provide for the care and rehabilitation of child sex trafficking victims.

“It has been a long four-year journey of advocacy, education, and sincere determination explaining to Georgia citizens exactly what is happening to vulnerable children in the child sex trafficking trade. House Bill 200, authored by former state Rep. Ed Lindsey, was a historic change to Georgia law that punishes criminals who prey on children by selling them for profit in the sex trade. This bill increased criminal penalties with prison terms and fines, as well as allowed confiscation of assets and affirmative defense,” said Sen. Unterman.

Current state law fails to recognize that victims are not ready or conditioned to not identify their traffickers. This leads to a problematic situation where human trafficking victims are punished because prosecuting attorneys do not realize the depth of the case. The legislation proposed by Sen. Unterman would offer immunity to minors who are forced into human trafficking, as well as proper medical treatment, counseling, and other assistance programs for victims. The legislation will add requirements that are compatible with HB 200.

A Candle Light Vigil will be held tonight in honor of victims of human trafficking:

Sen. Unterman will host a press conference and candlelight vigil at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow evening at North Avenue Presbyterian Church (607 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta) in support of the legislation. The event is being held with the assistance of several advocacy groups, including Street Grace, Wellspring Living, youthSpark and Georgia Cares.

The agenda for the press conference and candlelight vigil is as follows:

7:00 p.m. Opening Remarks and Prayer, Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer
7:10 p.m. Legislation Announcement and Explanation, Sen. Renee Unterman
7:30 p.m Supporting Remarks from Legislative Colleague, TBD
7:45 p.m. Moment of Silence, Sen. Renee Unterman
7:50 p.m. Remarks and Prayer, Rabbi David Spinrad
8:00 p.m. Closing Remarks, Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer