2019 Starts Now

This week’s Courier Herald column:

There’s a certain cadence of the calendar for those who work in the politics and policy fields in the state of Georgia. We’re all familiar with the 40 days’ rush of the Georgia General Assembly that begins in early January and, if at all possible, ends before Masters week. It’s a time of long days, even longer nights, and little rest.

There’s usually a brief lull where a lucky few are able to go over to Augusta and look at some of the prettiest azaleas in the world, or go virtually anywhere else and be left alone for a few days. Many of us are tired of being around other people by then, and of pretending to have to enjoy the company of others that really just want something from us.

It’s now been two weeks since the gavels in the Capitol signaled Sine Die. Sergio Garcia has his first ever green jacket. Easter eggs have been hidden. Most of them have been found. And thus, those that work on the 40-day session of passing laws get back to work now. Continue reading “2019 Starts Now”

John Pezold Declines Run For Re-Election

State Representative John Pezold (R-Columbus) has decided to end his tenure in the State House when his current term is up. He announced his intentions this morning via Facebook.

“Since 2013 I have had the incredible honor of representing my family, friends and neighbors in the Georgia House of Representatives. After lengthy consultation with my family and friends, it is with a grateful heart that I am announcing that I have decided to not seek reelection next year. My family has been incredibly supportive during my time in office. However, with my children growing older and my professional responsibilities increasing, the time is right to step away from public office and devote my full attention to them.

“Representing you in Atlanta has been the honor of a lifetime and a responsibility I do not take lightly. When I made the decision to run in 2012, I committed to you to advocate for open, honest, transparent, and limited government. I’m proud of my fight for those causes and will continue that fight through the end of the 2018 legislative session.”

Pezold is the second Columbus area legislator to announce that he will not seek re-election. State Senator Josh McKoon will also be stepping aside, presumably for a statewide run for an unspecified office.

It’s Not About The Yacht Owners

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The members of the Georgia General Assembly left Atlanta at the end of March with quite a few tax proposals left sitting on their desks, rather than sending them on to the Governor’s. Under consideration was a bill that would have cut the top income tax rate marginally while increasing some taxes on lower wage earners, and a bill that would have cut the taxes paid on leasing while increasing the title transfer fee on used cars to a value closer to their true market rate. Those bills died.

A bill that passed, however, eliminate sales and use tax on repairs, upgrades and retrofits of large yachts. How large? Think closer to Rodney Dangerfield’s character’s from Caddyshack Al Cervick’s yacht, and less Judge Smail’s much more economy sized boat. For repairs to be tax exempt, they must reach $500,000. That’s a lot more than a scratch on an anchor.

The press and other ritual stone throwers haven’t been terribly kind to this bill. In today’s populist fueled political environment, it seems almost tone deaf to give a tax break to the rich owners of luxury yachts. That’s the current narrative surrounding this legislation.

Let’s quickly dispel this line of thinking. This bill isn’t for the yacht owners. Continue reading “It’s Not About The Yacht Owners”

Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman

Sandy Springs City Councilman Gabriel Sterling has entered the race to become Fulton County Commission Chairman. The current Chairman, John Eaves, is running for Mayor of Atlanta. Sterling joins longtime Fulton/Atlanta politico Robb Pitts in the quest to replace Eaves.

Of note, this sets up a partisan contest for control of the Fulton County Commission. Continue reading “Gabe Sterling Enters Race For Fulton County Chairman”

Doug McKillip To Challenge Regina Quick For Athens House Seat

Former State Representative Doug McKillip is planning to take his former seat back. Our friend Tim Bryant of Athens’ WGAU tweets the following:

Quick unseated McKillip in 2012 by less than 100 votes. With a little over a year until the next votes will be counted, it will be interesting to watch if Quick has consolidated her GOP base, or if McKillip can earn at least 100 of those votes back.

Rep Bert Reeves Pulls No Punches On Senate’s Failure To Pass Adoption Bill

The following is a Facebook post from Representative Bert Reeves, (R-Marietta) and is posted with his permission.  (I’ll note that I reached out to him after reading it, he did not request it.)  Reeves was the primary sponsor of HB 159, an effort to streamline Georgia’s adoption process and update Georgia’s code and procedures for the first time in 27 years.  You can read background on the politics involved from Jim Galloway at the AJC here.

Reeves pulls no punches in the text below after a few introductory paragraphs on the session in General.  There’s apparently more to come.  In the mean time, understand that there are quite a few legislators and others under the gold dome that aren’t terribly happy that some decided to play 2018 politics early, using foster children as pawns in their game of ambition.

Post Legislative Session Recap (Take 1, with more to come…)

Facebook friends, I’ve taken a few days to cool down and let the dust settle before writing this. Many of you have called, texted, emailed, and messaged, so I wanted to put this out there for now, then completely unplug myself politically and enjoy a much needed spring break with my family. I will write again, probably sometime next week, with many more details and on some things that I believe need to be said, regarding my adoption bill and how and why it died around 1 AM on Day 40. Continue reading “Rep Bert Reeves Pulls No Punches On Senate’s Failure To Pass Adoption Bill”

Senate agrees to House sub for cannabis without THC rollback

The Georgia Senate has agreed to the House substitute of this year’s cannabis oil expansion with less than 12 hours remaining in the 2017 legislative session.

Senate Bill 16, sponsored by State Senator Ben Watson & State Representative Allen Peake, expands the list of conditions eligible for cannabis oil, a substance derived from marijuana that is not smokeable. In addition to end stage cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell in end stages, all of which are permitted under current law, the bill added the following conditions:

  • Tourette’s syndrome, if severe
  • Autism spectrum disorder if a person is at least 18 years of age
  • Autism spectrum disorder if autism is severe and person is under 18
  • Epidermolysis bullosa
  • Alzheimer’s disease, severe and end stage
  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, severe or end stage
  • peripheral neuropathy, severe or end stage
  • certain instances of hospice care

Continue reading “Senate agrees to House sub for cannabis without THC rollback”

HB 234: Drivers, Don’t Run Over People; Pedestrians and Bicyclists, Don’t Press That Button Unless You Mean It

I believe the title of my post, though lengthy, sums up the proposed effects of HB 234.  Basically, if you’re a driver and you see a flashing crosswalk sign, as pictured above from the Federal Highway Administration site about those signs officially called “Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB)”, you need to stop and let the pedestrian or bicyclist cross the road.

There’s also a provision of the bill that tells pedestrians and bicyclists to not push it unless they really intend to cross:

No pedestrian or bicycle rider shall manually activate or intentionally cause to be activated a rapid-flash beacon or similar device at a crosswalk unless such pedestrian or bicycle rider intends to cross such roadway.

So, I guess you would get a ticket if you pressed the button, watched the cars stop, and laughed maniacally as you walked away from those 15 or 30 seconds of inconveniencing people on a busy thoroughfare.

In all seriousness, I’m not sure how rampant of a problem balking at a crosswalk is, but it looks like this updating OCGA to codify that drivers do in fact need to stop at crosswalks with RRFBs when they’re activated and that people using RRFBs don’t activate them unless they really are going to cross.

Out Of State Professors Duel Over Georgia’s Adoption Bill

On Monday, Stefan posted a guest editorial from our former Contributor, Dr. Anthony Kreis. Yesterday I received a rebuttal piece from Dr. Robin Fretwell Wilson. Dr Wilson is the Roger and Stephany Joslin Professor of Law and the director of the Program in Family Law and Policy and The Fairness For All Initiative at the University of Illinois College of Law. More notably for the context here, she’s also a professor for which Dr. Kreis once served as a research assistant. According to her biography, Wilson recently worked with Utah state lawmakers to pass nondiscrimination legislation that balances LGBT rights and religious liberty. I offer this piece as part of our commitment to presenting opposing viewpoints, and to ensure that all corners of the Illinois academic legal community are able to weigh in on how Georgia makes our laws.

HB 159: The Hard Questions Facing Georgia on Adoption
by Robin Fretwell Wilson

Controversy swirls again around Georgia and “religious liberty”, now over HB 159, which would allow adoption agencies to make placements based on “mission.”

The bill does not mention religion but has become controversial for allowing agencies to refuse placements with LGBT couples if they “have a religious objection.”

What would the bill actually do?

If the state cannot place a child with one agency, it must immediately “refer … to another child-placing agency.” This might occur for neutral reasons, i.e. an agency may not place special-needs children because those placements require special skill.

The real debate is around which families agencies place with. If HB 159 becomes law, the state could not “take any adverse action against” agencies that follow their “missions.”

Patently, HB 159 is not a religious-liberty protection. This prohibition binds the state even if an agency acts for secular reasons—like being anti-gay. The Georgia legislature should dial this back. Continue reading “Out Of State Professors Duel Over Georgia’s Adoption Bill”

It’s Time To Tax Internet Sales

This week’s Courier Herald column:

JCPenney, once among the nation’s largest and proudest retailers, announced last week that it would be closing an additional 138 stores nationwide. Five Georgia stores, including those in Dublin, Macon, Milledgeville, Thomasville, and Tifton will be shuttered.

While JCPenney has had recent struggles trying to define its brand and marketing mix, it is not an outlier in the retail landscape. Macy’s announced in January that it is closing 68 stores nationwide including their Athens location in Georgia Square Mall. Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and K-Mart stores, is also planning on 150 store closures this year, including Georgia locations in Columbus, Cornelia, Kingsland, and Savannah.

The trend against many established big box retailers is strong, and appears to be growing. There are also signs that it’s not just department stores experiencing capacity issues. A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution report suggests that the metro area may have too many grocery stores.

While some of the closures are due to newer, smaller, and more nimble competitors entering the market, it’s now also easy to see a broad shift from large brick and mortar retailers to internet sales channels. The days of the internet being a new fragile frontier of commerce are over. Continue reading “It’s Time To Tax Internet Sales”