Bring on the Study Committees

It’s been a big week for naming study committees. In addition to the committee assignments reported by GeorgiaPol yesterday, Speaker Ralston has named members to three more and has also appointed members to a new state commission.

Most notable is the House Study Committee on Regional Transit Solutions authorized by HR 1605. The Committee will consider whether metro Atlanta is better off using a regional transit plan rather than the current county-by-county approach to combat its horrendous traffic congestion. Some progress was made on this issue last session. Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) ran into opposition with his $8 billion proposal that offered MARTA expansion to Fulton and DeKalb counties. A compromise was reached later on when the General Assembly passed a $2.5 billion plan that allowed MARTA expansion, but limited it to the City of Atlanta and Fulton County. The House Study Committee will likely consider a more comprehensive plan that includes surrounding counties, including DeKalb and Gwinnett.

House-WellHere are the members of the committee:

  • Rep. Christian Coomer – Chair (R-Cartersville)
  • Rep. Chuck Martin – Vice Chair (R-Alpharetta)
  • Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta)
  • Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula)
  • Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro)
  • Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus)
  • Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody)

The House Study Committee on Professional Employer Organizations is authorized by HR 1341. It will be chaired by Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith and, low and behold, its focus will be insurance. Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) allow companies to outsource employee management through a process known as co-employment. This means that PEOs hire a firm’s workers and provide them with benefits (including insurance plans) instead of the firm doing so itself. It’s cheaper for businesses that way. The state of Georgia currently does not regulate PEOs even though they are providing insurance. This Committee will take another look at PEOs and decide if they are worthy of state regulation.

Here are the members of the committee:

  • Rep. Richard Smith – Chair (R-Columbus)
  • Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, Jr. (R-Thomaston)
  • Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge)
  • Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland)
  • Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville)

The House Study Committee on Services to the Blind and the Visually Impaired is authorized by HR 979. The committee might focus on government inefficiency in providing services for the blind as the authorizing resolution reads:

“[T]he rehabilitation services and other service programs are spread across a variety of agency programs and geographic locations throughout the state and the blind and visually impaired public may lack significant awareness of said services and programs.”

Here are the members of the committee:

  • Rep. Penny Houston – Chair (R-Nashville)
  • Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs)
  • Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville)
  • Rep. Jan Tankersley (R-Brooklet)

Finally, Speaker Ralston has named three members of the House to the State Commission on Petroleum Pipelines.

Here are the members:

  • Rep. Bill Hitchens – Co-Chair (R-Rincon)
  • Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem)
  • Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway)

These three representatives will be joined by three state senators, the Director of the Environmental Protection Department (or his designee), the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs (or her designee), and five appointees by Governor Deal who will represent the interests of the petroleum industry, local governments, business, agriculture, and conservation in some shape or form.

The Commission was authorized by HB 1036. Its primary purpose is to study whether “the exercise of eminent domain by pipeline companies is carried out in a prudent and responsible manner consistent with this state’s essential public interest in establishing minimum standards for land use in order to protect and preserve its natural resources, environment, and vital areas.”

Eminent domain powers for pipeline companies will be suspended until June 30, 2017. This should give the Commission enough time to issue a report and for the General Assembly to act on its recommendations during the next legislative session.

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