Category: Legislative Pr0n

SB 63: Time To Let Folks Buy Beer Directly From Craft Breweries

Georgia likes craft beer, and Georgia is experiencing a boom in craft breweries. It’s a similar experience Chattanooga (and frankly, a lot of other states in the South) has…except, in Georgia, you can’t buy beer directly from the brewery. That means, going to your favorite beer store and hoping that they actually carry the malty adult beverage that you wish to enjoy.

Jon did an article outlining that beer brewing is a big business in our great state, but the three tier system (brewery, distributor, and retailer) makes it difficult for small batch craft breweries to get off the ground. There’s got to be a better way! Creative Loafing highlighted the issue and noted the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild set off to encourage the General Assembly change the law GABeerJobs.com. Last week, a bill finally dropped in the Senate hopper: SB 63 — the “Beer Jobs Bill”, as it was named by the Guild.

It’s an untapped market, so to speak. Georgia is surrounded by states that allow visitors to buy brewed beer on-premises of the brewery. It’s time that Georgia catch up with our neighbors and remove the restraints from these small business owners.

Bonus: Editor-Emeritus Erick Erickson did an interview with Senator Hunter Hill on SB 63 last night.

Senate Committee Hearing On SB 44 Today At 3p–UPDATE: Meeting Not Being Held Due To No Agenda

::UPDATE::

The Senate Higher Education Committee will not have a meeting this afternoon. According to Sen. Fran Millar, the committee would normally meet at 3 PM on Thursdays, however there never was an agenda sent out 24 hours prior to the meeting time as required, and ultimately, the meeting was canceled.

Millar says that his committee will hold a hearing on SB 44 at some point during the current session. He does not, however, think the bill will get a pass recommendation, due to the fact that the matter is in litigation. Our post was based on a press release from Asian Americans Advancing Justice received early this morning. We regret the error, and blame others.
Read more

Proposals To Lower Age Requirement To Serve In Georgia General Assembly

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, the Georgia General Assembly begins its 2015 session today. Two pieces of legislation will be filed in order to lower the age requirement to serve in Georgia’s legislative body: Senate from 25 to 21, House: from 21 to 18.

Senator Josh McKoon describes his bill at a Capitol press conference this morning, accompanied by members of Young Georgians in Government.
Senator Josh McKoon describes his bill at a Capitol press conference this morning,
accompanied by members of Young Georgians in Government. Photo: Jon Richards

The proposals are being filed in their respective chambers by Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) and Representative Ben Harbin (R-Evans). The bills are inspired by news from around the nation of younger folks winning elections. From the AJC:

“Twenty-one is the age of majority — we’ve asked them to serve in the military, we’ve asked them to serve on juries…I don’t think there’s any reason to throw up artificial barriers,” McKoon said. “I think this is common sense.”

I believe it’s a fair proposal and hopefully will make it to the floor for debate. You see more and more Millennials participating in party politics, but may not be able to run for public office due to age restrictions. I’d be interested to see how many 18 to 21 year olds will toss their hats into the ring if this passes.

If the proposals do make it through the legislative process, the changes would be a constitutional amendment to be voted on by Georgia voters.

Representative Allen Peake Named To Medical Marijuana Study Panel

From today’s Peach Pundit Daily (if you haven’t signed up yet, you really should) Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) has been named to the study panel investigating medical marijuana:

State Rep. Allen Peake Pushes Dope Just kidding. Allen Peake, the State Representative from Macon, will co-chair a study committee to figure out how to legalize medical cannabis in Georgia. “He envisions holding three to five hearings across the state and inviting testimony from law enforcement, the medical community, sufferers from various diseases and Georgians who have gone to Colorado to seek medical cannabis.” Also “State Sen. Renee Unterman from Buford, a fellow Republican and chairwoman of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, will work with Peake on leading the 10-member study committee.” Oh, so it’s a “joint” study commitee? Those 3-5 meetings will all commence at 4:20.

Other House members who will be on the panel include Reps. Rick Golick (R-Smyrna) Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) and Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta). Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has yet to release the names of the Senate members of this joint study committee (pun partially intended).

In all seriousness, I’m curious to see the committee’s findings. Rep. Peake’s bill was very controversial during the 2014 session, but it garnered a lot of support. Fact-based and statistically-significant findings may help move this bill forward, but I know there is still some skepticism within the medical community about the lasting effects of the treatment. I’m sure these meetings will be open for public viewing. It might get interesting.

SB 95 — Election of Non-Partisan County Chief Executives — UPDATED

Senate Bill 95 proposes the non-partisan election of county chief executives and county commissioners.  There is a lot of support from Republicans who live in Democrat-dominate counties, and there is a lot of resistance from Republican-dominate counties…of which I currently reside.  It’s a controversial bill that is getting discussed among Republican officers in the 14th Congressional District Republican Party (specific hat tip to 14th District Secretary Ed Painter), and I’m sure those same discussions are being discussed by other Republicans across the state.

Non-partisan races still need buy-in from that county’s legislative delegation in the form of local legislation, so it’s not a on-off switch if this makes it through the House and all the way to the governor’s desk.  I’ve heard it’s primarily aimed at chipping away on the few remaining Democratic strongholds…specifically counties like DeKalb and Fulton.

SB 95 passed the Senate yesterday in a 29 to 23 vote, but a motion to reconsider was made and will probably be voted upon today.

Discuss.

::UPDATE::

My bad. This affects the CEO/County Commission form of government and makes, if local legislation is adopted, the county CEO a non-partisan position.

Thanks to James Touchton for setting me straight.

HB 516 — Have We Created A Possible Ticking Time Bomb?

On Monday, the House passed House Bill 516 to allow employees of the University System of Georgia to make revocable a decision that was once irrevocable on whether to participate in the Regents Retirement Plan or the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia (TRS). The rationale, explained by House Retirement Committee Vice Chairman Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville), is to allow our university system to compete with other states that have a similar plan.

Representative Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) approached the well to voice his concern. His concern is that, although there would be no additional cost to TRS today, the potential liability for taxpayers would be $28 million per year (based on the roughly 14,000 employees at an average salary of $50,000 per year and if everyone decides to convert). That number goes upwards of close to $40 million per year if you change the average salary to $70,000 (a lot of those professors certainly make a good salary) and based on the current TRS contribution rate of 13.15%.

The bill passed with a vote of 92-70 with 10 not voting, but what seems to be interesting is who was absent from the voting:

  • Rep. Braddock
  • Rep. Coleman (chairman of Education)
  • Rep. Dempsey (member of Higher Ed.)
  • Rep. Jones (Speaker Pro Tem)
  • Rep. Meadows (chairman of Rules)
  • Rep. O’Neal (Majority Leader)
  • Rep. Peake (vice-chairman of Ways and Means)
  • Rep. Riley (floor leader for Governor Deal)
  • Rep. Waites

(Speaker Ralston also didn’t vote, but he is the House Speaker)

Reps. Coleman, Meadows, and Riley are also members of the Retirement committee. Seeing three members of the Retirement committee, as well as the Speaker Pro Tempore and majority leader and other powerful names in the House, absent, it makes one ponder why they would be out of the chamber…especially with such a close vote.

It should be mentioned that Representative Coomer, who sponsored the legislation, is also a floor leader for Governor Deal.

Senator Josh McKoon Announces Expungement Reform Study Committee Findings

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State Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) chaired a senate study committee to recommend reforms to the state’s expungement process and analyze the restriction of criminal records. Today at a press conference, he announced the findings of that committee:

It was determined by the committee that clearing an individual’s name after a wrongful conviction or restricting access to expunged criminal records can be expensive, time-consuming and tedious. In addition, the committee found that inaccuracies or omissions in criminal history records are common and may hinder an individual’s chances of obtaining gainful employment or housing.

Based on these findings, the committee presented the following recommendations to Governor Nathan Deal for consideration:

  • The State of Georgia should study the cost of upgrading all information technology systems that process, store, disseminate and restrict criminal records in Georgia.
  • Georgia should make it a priority to identity certain criminal offenses for which records will be restricted by law after a period of good behavior following the offense.
  • With limited exceptions, Georgia should consider restrictions on the use of certain questions relating to an applicant’s criminal history for housing/employment purposes.
  • With limited exceptions, the state should adopt uniform standards for all state agencies and departments regarding an applicant’s criminal history and disqualification of state employment.
  • The State of Georgia should amend the Georgia open Records Act to exclude information gathered in a suspect’s initial booking following an arrest.
  • Georgia should create a private cause of action in favor of individuals whose criminal information is obtained by third-party background check providers and inaccurately or unlawfully reported to potential employers or landlords.

Governor Nathan Deal will now work with committee members and interested stakeholders to evaluate the committee’s findings and determine whether future reform efforts are necessary.

You can read the full report sent to the Governor Nathan Deal here (PDF).

Georgia Legislators Go For A #Constitutional Option

The tenth amendment to the US Constitution has been bantered back-and-forth among a lot of conservatives as “the solution” to fix problems stemming from the federal government. The South Carolina legislature has taken the first steps to “gut Obamacare” in their state. Now Georgia is following South Carolina’s lead:

State representative Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) along with three other representatives will be holding a press conference on Monday, Dec. 16 to discuss the proposal.

“The bill’s main thrust is to prohibit state agencies, officers and employees of the state from implementing any provisions of the Affordable Care Act, leaving implementation entirely in the hands of the federal government, which lacks the resources or personnel to carry out the programs it mandates,” said Rep. Spencer in a press release.

Based on the long-standing legal principle, the anti-commandeering doctrine, the legislation is on strong legal grounds. In four major cases from 1842 to 2012, the Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government cannot “commandeer” states, requiring them to enforce or expend resources to participate in federal law or regulatory programs.

[Judge Andrew] Napolitano noted that the plan was not only legal, it would be highly effective. “If enough states do this, it will gut Obamacare because the federal government doesn’t have the resources … to go into each of the states if they start refusing.”

I’m not a constitutional expert/scholar/unicorn, nor do I claim to be. I don’t know if this will work, but perhaps it will. Not to be pessimistic, but I don’t see this as being a priority for the leadership in either chamber.

Of course, a lot members of the General Assembly read our fine blog, so it could suddenly pop up on the radar if there’s enough buzz among the Republican caucus in both chambers. It is an election year after all, and the Obamacare #failwhale will probably be on the minds of primary voters in May.  No doubt a lot of anti-incumbent candidates will harp on this while campaigning. I just hope Charlie’s liver is up for the debate on this #constitutional option as it winds its way through the whirlwind that will be the 2014 legislative session.

A Snapshot Of The DeKalb Incorporation Debate

Want to know why half of DeKalb County is thinking about incorporating as cities? Ask Bruce MacGregor.

MacGregor leads the Druid Hills Civic Association, one of the largest and most powerful homeowners’ associations in the county. His 75-year-old association has about 4000 homes — perhaps 10,000 residents — surrounding the Centers for Disease Control and Emory, with a lawyer-to-actual-human ratio roughly equivalent to a Washington D.C. suburb. Two current DeKalb County commissioners are past presidents.

And he told me he can’t seem to get the DeKalb CEO to pick up his phone. Read more

Tax Reform Bills Coming To The Forefront In The Legislature

Georgia may be on its way to some meaningful tax reform. The first glimmer of hope was in Senator Josh McKoon’s (R-Columbus) SR 8 which would cap the state income tax at 5.5% in 2016 and then reduce it by 0.5% every year until the rate is zero.

Comes now Senate President Pro-Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth) with two bills in hand. Those bills, SR 412 and SR 415, are proposing amendments to the state constitution: to limit the state sales tax rate and provide a proportional reduction of the state income tax in the event the sales tax is increased and to provide a cap on the state income tax rate, respectively.

In an article by Jim Galloway, Senator Shafer indicated that this would draw a path for our state to ween itself off of the income tax:

“This creates a path for us to move from the income tax to the sales tax,” the Senate president pro tem said this afternoon. The income tax currently accounts for about half the state’s tax revenue.
Other uses of the sales tax by local governments would be grandfathered in, but in essence, the state government would be laying primary claim to retail sales as a future funding mechanism.

This is a step in the right direction towards meaningful tax reform in our state. I look forward to see if these amendments wind up on Governor Nathan Deal’s desk and, ultimately, put on the ballot for voters to consider.

Social Media Passwords to be Protected by HB 117

Signs of the times. The fact that our personal privacy has been eroded to such a state that a bill like this is even needed is sad, indeed.

Via 11Alive:

Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) has introduced a bill that would prohibit Georgia employers from requesting their employees’ social media passwords. The law would protect those seeking a job as well as current employees.

“My emails, my Facebook and Twitter, that’s my personal space,” said Rep. Scott. “Even if they are checking for a job. I just want to make people feel a little bit more comfortable when they’re out on social media and they’re looking for jobs.”

The bill would make an exception for work accounts or employees under investigation. Rep. Scott said she expects HB 117 to pass this session.

643,193 Voters on TSplost Day, July 31. Who Were They?

There were 643,193 voters who voted in the July 31 primaries in the 10 Metro Atlanta Counties — aka the “Atlanta T-Splost Region.”  Here’s a quick review of the demographic and political composition of the voters that day.

BY POLITICAL PARTY

50.6% of voters voted in the Republican Primary

43.9% of voters voted in the Democratic Primary

5.6% voters voted a Non-Partisan ballot

BY RACE

63.2% of voters were white

29.3% of voters were black

Among White Voters

73.6% of white voters voted in the Republican Primary

20% of white voters voted in the Democratic Primary

Among Black Voters

3% of black votes voted in the Republican Primary

94.2% voted in the Democratic Primary

 

Free Tastings Could Be Possible At Georgia Distilleries

Georgia might soon allow its spirit distillers to give away free samples to visitors.  The Union Recorder has an article about House Bill 514, sponsored by Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville), would allow samples to be given to visitors.  The bill stipulates that a visitor would be allowed 1 sample of no more than 1/2 of an ounce per calendar day.

The City of Fort Oglethorpe passed a similar tastings ordinance for beer and wine sampling back in early January.  The ordinance would allow for tap beer or wine samples with a limit of no more than 3 one ounce samples per day.  There’s some consternation from one of the city councilmen, Johnnie “Red” Smith.  He’s saying that he was “set up” by his colleagues in the meeting where quorum was barely met with 3 council members present and Councilman Smith was elected to preside over the meeting where the ordinance was passed.

HB 514 has been assigned to the Regulated Industries committee in the House.  We’ll see if this goes anywhere and ruffles any feathers as Sunday Sales did during the last session.

House Bill To Earmark Fees For Specified Purposes

One would figure that when you pay a state fee for a specified purpose, the total sum of the fees collected would go towards taking care of that specified purpose.  GPB has a good example in their story about a proposed bill concerning these fees:

In 2010, Georgians paid $6.3 million in scrap tire management fees. The $1 fee paid on every new tire is meant to defray the cost of landfill cleanups.

But lawmakers didn’t use any of it for landfill cleanups that year. Instead, they redirected the fees to other budget needs as state revenues declined. That’s because the state of Georgia often collects fees but uses them for a different purpose. And it’s not required by law to only use a fee for the stated collection purpose.

Ah, we’re talking about state government after all.  So, a state fee levied to help off-set the costs of landfill cleanups isn’t really being used for that, but rather to fund other parts of government?  Makes perfect, logical sense, right?

House Bill 811, written by Rep. Jay Powell (R-171st District), would change that practice by requiring the fees to be automatically reduced proportionally each year if the fees collected were not being used for the purpose specified:

Todd Edwards with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia says it takes a less restrictive approach than past bills.

“It wouldn’t bind the legislators to put it in a fund that they couldn’t reach for other purposes. In fact, it doesn’t bind them in any way at all,” Edwards says. “It simply dictates that if you’re not spending the fees as they’re supposed to be spent, then the fees will be reduced proportionally from that point going forward.”

Initially, it will affect a handful of fees levied by the state, but legislators could add additional fees if the bill becomes law.