WGST Peach Pundit radio will be live today from noon until 1pm.  Stefan Turkheimer and I will be in studio with perhaps Jon Richards if he can get away from the Capitol.  Rich Sullivan who graciously makes this time available during his show each week will be on the road in McDonough at Marco’s Pizza.  Through the magic of 20th century technology we’ll be able to include him in on the day’s conversation.

We’ll talk about the final days remaining in the Georgia General Assembly and what may (or may not get done).  And we’ll start to take a peek at next year when we’ll have a busy time already planned (casino gambling anyone?).

Listen live beginning at noon on 640 AM WGST, or you can follow along then at this link.

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Y’all all know the drill.  It’s the social event of the year season week hour.

The folks at Gordon Biersch Midtown have been taking great care of us at our last few events and we’ll be returning there next Wednesday, April 1st (Note – this is the night BEFORE Sine Die) from roughly 7:00-10:00pm.  Food and drinks are on you, and please be sure to tip your servers generously, as they’ll be serving…a lot of people like you.

Enjoy some reminiscing about the session and pontificating on what will happen in the closing hours with others affected enough to spend the time knowing what we’re talking about.  Or just have a drink or three and play some pool.  Whatever.

We look forward to seeing some of you.  Others not so much.*

*Strictly enforced.

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Having recently joined the demographic that angrily tears up the solicitations from AARP arriving in our mailboxes, and having been a Republican voter, activist, party-member and consultant for my entire adult life, I can look back on 30 years of change in the GOP with a bit more perspective than your average talk show host. What I see is not encouraging.

I see a party beset by those willing not just to let the party burn, but to set it on fire and call out people like me for not throwing gasoline on the fire they’ve started.

These attacks are far too often bitter, personal and childish, but they’ve become the raw materials in the purity industry’s outrage factory, making cheap, gutter jokes of the practical struggles of governing in the real world that everyone else has to live in, and yes, I’m talking about Erick Erickson. [click to continue…]

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Here:
– Prayers for Rep. Jay Roberts.
Herb Emory honored by the Georgia Legislature.
– Always be nice to your Uber driver.
James Brown’s statue gets a new shine, just in time for the Masters.

There:
– The devil’s in the details.
– What could go wrong? Part I.
– What could go wrong? Part II.
– What could go wrong? Part III.
Lies and lies about lies.

Random Everywhere:
– Charlie’s major, or something.
Mixed messages.
Why, of course. Did you expect anything different?

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After hours of testimony and much back and forth, an amendment offered by Representative Mike Jacobs to add anti-discrimination language passed the committee with a vote of 9-8. The bill was immediately tabled with no dissent.

While this does not end the chances of Senate Bill 129 this session, it greatly diminishes its likelihood of passage.

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Isakson on Fox News Tonight

March 26, 2015 17:15 pm

by Lawton Sack · 0 comments

Sen. Johnny Isakson will appear on Brett Baier’s Special Report on Fox News tonight sometime during the 6 p.m. hour. Isakson will discuss legislation aimed at cracking down on federal employees performing union work while on the taxpayers’ time, including at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ facilities.

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Guest post from Michael Sullivan, President & CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies in Georgia and also the Board Chair of the Georgia Transportation Alliance. 

As a rule, engineers are rational, logical, problem solvers. They see challenges, analyze options, and ultimately offer solutions designed to achieve a specific goal.   Sometimes, the solutions are evident while others require extensive research to determine the best path forward. While it may take an engineer or two to ultimately build the roads, bridges and rail lines our state needs, it does not take one to figure out the clear solution for Georgia’s transportation funding needs. 

The problem is not with our project delivery system. Georgia’s Department of Transportation is ranked among the best in the nation for delivering projects on time and within budget by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The problem is not that we don’t have a plan. The state and each of Georgia’s metropolitan planning organizations maintain long-term transportation and capital improvement plans that are updated regularly and go through stringent review processes along the way.

The problem – and the solution – is funding.  [click to continue…]

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Gov. Deal has begun warning legislators he may bring them back for a special session this summer if the legislature can’t pass what he deems and adequate transportation funding bill.

The Governor says $1 billion is needed to fund transportation projects. However, the House and Senate have, slightly different views, and a conference committee is studying HB 170, the transportation funding bill.

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An agreement that will allow some children with autism to be covered by insurance has been reached between the chairmen of the House and Senate insurance committee. In a press conference this afternoon at the Capitol, Charlie Bethel and Richard Smith announced that Bethel’s Senate Bill 1 will be merged with House Bill 429 at an 8 AM Senate Insurance committee on Friday. SB1 will be modified in two ways: The annual limit on benefits will be reduced from $35,000 to $30,000, and a sunset provision will be added to the bill such that if the plan announced by Smith this morning is implemented, the mandate in SB1 will end.

Both chairmen expect that the combined bill will easily pass the Senate, and the modified bill should be accepted by the House, which has already approved the non0=amended version. The law would take effect this year.

The proposed .2 cent sales tax would provide benefits for all autistic children up to 18 years old. Before it goes into effect, voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment, presumably in the fall of 2016. Should the voters not approve the tax, the provisions of SB1, which mandates insurance benefits for autistic children up to age 3 would remain in effect.

Original Post:

The possibility of a way to insure or treat children with autism is still alive at the Georgia Legislature, despite several setbacks. An effort to provide insurance coverage to children up to six years old failed during the 2014 session, as the House and Senate could not agree on Rep. Allen Peake’s medical marijuana bill. This year, Peake’s House Bill 1 is awaiting Governor Deal’s signature, while Senate Bill 1, one of the Senate Majority Caucus’s priorities for the session, remains stalled in the House. The bill received a hearing on Monday and remarks by House Insurance Chair Richard Smith afterwards cast doubt on whether the bill would advance.

In a Senate committee hearing, the contents of Senate Bill 1 were substituted into House Bill 162, giving the autism measure another chance at passage. The bill, carried in the Senate by P.K. Martin of Lawrenceville, is expected to be easily passed by the full Senate. The original bill would have set up parameters for insurance companies to conduct internal evaluations in order to ensure compliance with regulations–certainly not a bill of importance enough to set up a major battle with the House.

Meanwhile, Smith has his own idea for providing autism treatment. According to Sandra Parrish of WSB Radio, it would involve voters approving a constitutional amendment authorizing a two tenths of a percent sales tax. The approximately two to three hundred million dollars the tax would raise would provide coverage for all autistic children up to the age of 18.

With four days left in the session, including today, Smith’s bill is unlikely to advance very far this year.

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I’m still het up about SB 139.

It’s easy to refer to SB 139 as “the plastic bag ban ban,” but it’s better to call it what it is, and SB 139 is – above all else – one more way for the Legislature to usurp local control, and to undermine the ability of communities from Tybee Island to Trenton to have conversations about the unique issues that impact their cities.

The Savannah Morning News nailed it when they editorialized in February:

There’s a right way and a wrong way to pass laws in Georgia that affect local communities.

The right way is to let local city councils and county commissions make that decision.

The wrong way is to have the Georgia Legislature pull rank and pass a statewide bill that negates what local communities do.

For the City of Tybee Island, this is a conversation about plastic bags and the negative economic impact these bags have on their city. For many Tybee Island residents, the issue at hand is also the harm these bags do to turtles, jellyfish, and the environment in general.

Many who oppose plastic bag bans cite concern that these bans (which typically oblige shoppers who don’t have a reusable bag to purchase a bag for a nominal fee) disproportionately impact the poor, or that they will drive businesses outside of the city limits of a bag-restrictive community. These are all valid concerns, and they merit discussion by any interested community.

For the state of Georgia, the conversation is different, and what makes this bill so outrageous has nothing to do with turtles, or jellyfish, the Pacific garbage patch, or the cleanliness of any strips of warm Atlantic sand where you might be inclined to park either your bum or your Bud.

SB 139 shatters the notion of local control, and undermines local conversations and the local leaders who should have the ability to work within their city or county to craft ordinances that are the best thing for their communities.

Senator Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) and other supporters of SB 139 cite concerns that if different cities have different rules regarding plastic bags, or any other “auxiliary container,” the result will be “regulatory mayhem.” That assertion is absolute straw man nonsense, especially when one considers the fact that Senator Harper also sponsored SB 91, which would have given local governments the autonomy and the authority to decide whether grocery stores can sell beer and wine within 100 yards of school buildings, school grounds, or a college campus.

When we look past turtles and the environment and cut to the essence of this bill, it is clear why it is not worthy of support from any lawmaker who respects local control.

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On this date in 1804, Congress ordered the removal of Indians east of the Mississippi to Louisiana.

Peaches

Jimmy Carter

Sweet Tea

Liberty Drum

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Georgia legislators have toyed around with the idea of allowing horse racing at a new small scale race track. We’ve seen ideas floated to revive Underground Atlanta (since sold to a SC developer) to be a “casino” with video games of chance operated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Today, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers has dropped bills  that would pave the way for Georgia to aim higher and assert itself into the major leagues of casino gambling. Supporters of HR 807 and HB 677 tout a potential payoff of 10,000 construction jobs, 10,000 permanent jobs, and – perhaps most importantly – $250 Million dollars added to HOPE’s dwindling coffers every year.

The initial plan would divide the state into five zones, offering up to six licenses that would be awarded by competitive bid. The Atlanta casino (Zone 1) would require a minimum of $1 Billion investment in facilities. Backers make it clear it would be a world class destination facility, pointing to a similar casino/hotel/entertainment complex under construction adjacent to the National Harbor convention center in Maryland, just outside Washington DC, as the model.

There’s a bit more than a wink and a nod to the site where the Georgia Dome currently sits. The GWCC has noted recently that they would like to see a large hotel on that parcel with as many as 800-1200 rooms. It’s clear a Destination Casino on site would give the State owned convention center a leg up on national competitors, as well as fully anchor the Dome/Phillips/Centennial Park area as Downtown Atlanta’s entertainment district.

A secondary casino would be allowed in zone one (which includes not only most of metro Atlanta but all of North Georgia, but the secondary casino would be limited in size to no more than 2,000 total gaming positions

The other four zones would require casinos with a minimum of $200M in facility investment. At the top of likely locations in Zone 2, which includes Chatham and 15 neighboring counties, is Savannah’s Hutcheson Island. Savannah has recently been conducting feasibility studies noting that additional hotel capacity is needed to lure larger conventions, as the downtown/River Street area hotels are generally able to remain at or near capacity with a strong year round tourist draw. [click to continue…]

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Good news, Georgia concealed carry permits are now honored in Ohio. Interesting fact, you can legally now drive from Ohio to Florida if traveling on I-75 with your Georgia concealed carry. With family from Ohio and Florida, this is actually something I had looked into before.

Here’s the information from the Georgia Department of Law:

Attorney General Sam Olens announced today an addition to Georgia’s program of reciprocal recognition to firearms permit holders from other states. Legislation initially passed in 1996 allows Georgia to grant this privilege to citizens of states which recognize Georgia firearms permits. 

The State of Ohio has determined that it will honor Georgia firearms permits. Therefore, effective immediately, Georgia recognizes firearms permits issued by Ohio.

With this revision, Georgia now reciprocates in recognizing firearms licenses with the following states:< Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Also, South Carolina is still the only neighboring state that does not honor our carry permit.

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The House this morning formally moved to disagree with the Senate-passed version of House Bill 170, and Speaker David Ralston appointed Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), Representative Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), and Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) as the House representativers to the conference committee.

Things weren’t as smooth in the Senate, however. Senator Bill Heath, citing Senate Rule 2-8.2, moved that the language removing the jet fuel tax exemption currently enjoyed by Delta and other airlines be kept in any bill produced by the conference committee. Most senators appeared to be unfamiliar with Rule 2-8.2, which essentially says that if the committee does not return a bill containing the Senate’s instructions, the conference bill will be rejected.

Heath’s position was that if consumers’ taxes were to be increased as a result of HB 170, then Delta should no longer be able to enjoy a tax break it received when it was nearly bankrupt several years ago. Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) took to the well, calling the action unprecedented, and asked for a no vote. Transportation Chair Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) also spoke against using the rule on the transportation bill. And Senator Unterman (R-Buford) also spoke from the well, concerned that if the rule were employed in this case, it would certainly be used for other bills, which could cause havoc.

In the end, Senator Heath’s motion failed on a hand vote. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle appointed Williams, Gooch, and President Pro-Tem David Shafer (R-Duluth).

It isn’t known at this time when the committee will begin its negotiations.

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Congratulations to Mercer, Emory, Columbus State, Georgia Regents, West Georgia, Emory and Dalton State (who is in the NAIA D. 1 final) for qualifying for post-season collegiate basketball tournaments.

Zodiaccupuncture by Aesop Rock.

  1. Keeping with a theme… GSU’s newspaper The Signal did better in it’s tournament than the Panthers. 
  2. The 2016 GOP POTUS Primary could have an early stop in Athens. 
  3. Mayor Reed leads delegation to Israel. 
  4. Inside the latest movie studio in Georgia. 
  5. The APS cheating trial needs to go on just a little bit longer. 
  6. Is Brian Kemp’s SEC Primary in danger? 

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