Archive for the ‘Georgia Legislature’ Category

Jeff Mullis moves into his new quarters — as Senate Rules chairman, we think

At 4:40 p.m. Monday, Jeff Mullis was slouched in a red chair outside chambers, in conversation with yours truly, when an aide brushed by to let him know that the letter containing his Senate leadership assignment had been sent out.

“What’s it say?” the senator from Chickamauga asked, pretending that his appointment as chairman of Senate Rules Committee wasn’t the most badly kept secret in the state Capitol.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis totes his object d'art to his new offices.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis totes his object d’art to his new offices.

With a reporter present, the aide refused to bite, and said the sealed news was waiting for him in his basement office. The committee assignments had been due out at 3 p.m., but had been delayed due to some last-minute tweaks – made to account for angry floor speeches from former Senate president pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan.

Both had expressed disappointment that their fellow senators, by adopting a new set of chamber rules, this morning returned much of Lt. Gov. …

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Chip Pearson withdraws from state GOP chairmanship race

The race to replace Sue Everhart as chairman of the state GOP may be over before it really got started.

On Sunday afternoon, former state senator Chip Pearson of Dawsonville – the first announced candidate in the contest – has pulled out of the contest. That leaves B.J. VanGundy, now second vice-president in the GOP hierarchy, as the only active candidate.

VanGundy was a top Newt Gingrich operative in Georgia during the presidential primary, and was recently nominated by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to the state’s newly re-authorized charter school commission.

In withdrawing from the race, Pearson cited the press of other interests. A few paragraphs from a note he sent to supporters on Sunday afternoon:

It has been my hope to lead that charge here in Georgia and help take the Georgia GOP to the next level in the process. In fact, many of you had helped us start the preliminary framework for a new party model this last fall. I believe the plan we sketched out is sound, prudent, …

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Gov. Nathan Deal’s solution to the ‘hospital bed tax’ debate

Want your free copy of Gov. Nathan Deal’s solution to the debate over renewing “hospital bed tax”/Medicaid assessment fee? Just click here.

Here’s a summary from my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin, gleaned from last night’s Wild Hog Supper:

Gov. Nathan Deal believes he has found a possible solution to one of this year’s thorniest legislative issues: how to keep hospitals that rely on Medicaid solvent while allowing legislators to avoid voting on what some see as a tax increase, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Deal’s floor leaders in the House and Senate will introduce legislation today that switches the responsibility for levying the fee from the Legislature to the Department of Community Health. The move to levy a provider fee would replace the so-called bed tax on hospitals.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Those new Senate rules: $100 gift cap, but private citizens remain barred from filing ethics complaints

We’ve got a copy of the new Senate rules about to be approved by the chamber. Click here for your copy, or browse through it here:

From a quick reading:

The same rules that put a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers include a large loophole for travel, and also shrinks the list of those who may file complaints alleging violations to the Senate Ethics Committee – dropping “volunteers” from the list.

Complaints may only be brought by “a Senator or Senate staff, aides, or interns.” I.e., those who receive a paycheck from the chamber.

You’ll recall that the recent complaint against Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour was originally filed with the state ethics commission by a junior majoring in political science at Georgia Gwinnett College, who compared Balfour’s mileage claims and found lobbyists reported buying Balfour meals on the same dates in August in New Orleans and San Antonio.

The state ethics commission referred the complaint to Senate Ethics …

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Why the Atlanta stadium debate remains alive: Location, location, location

The latest Journal-Constitution poll now measures opposition to a new, $1 billion version of the Georgia Dome – and a new home for the Atlanta Falcons, its chief tenant – at 72 percent of all Georgians.

That level of unpopularity shouldn’t shock you. But you might be surprised by the fact that, despite an approval rating only slightly better than that of Congress, the issue will be very much alive when the Legislature opens this week.

State lawmakers will be asked to approve $300 million in public funding, through a hotel-motel tax on visitors to Atlanta. Mayor Kasim Reed remains confident of success. Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston are less so, but neither has closed the door on the project.

Such a situation is sure to breed cynicism. Politicians doing the bidding of billionaire Falcons-owner Arthur Blank, one jaded voice in your head is saying. Another directs your attention to the much-vaunted friendship between the mayor of Atlanta and the …

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Your daily jolt: Gingrey open to limits on mag clips, says Todd Akin was ‘partly right’

Schmoozing with constituents in Smyrna on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, had already made news when he said that he was open to some new restrictions on firearms. From the first five paragraphs written by Jon Gillooly of the Marietta Daily Journal:

“There are some problems, and maybe these huge magazines even for someone who says, ‘look, I just use an AR-15 for target practice,’ but do you really need to be standing there shooting at a silhouette a shot a second or even quicker with that kind of weapon? For what purpose?” Gingrey asked. “I would be willing to listen to the possibility of the capacity of a magazine.”

Gingrey, who took the time to praise Adventure Outdoors owner Jay Wallace as the gold standard for running a responsible gun retail business, said he is also open to revisions of the so-called gun show loophole.

But then the Marietta congressman decided to wax eloquent on the most egregious Republican misstep of 2012 – the concept of …

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Your daily jolt: Nathan Deal wants to stay out of gun debate

Gov. Nathan Deal’s sit-down with Lori Geary of Channel 2 Action News on Wednesday was primarily intended to spread the news that the state’s economic woes had eased enough to boost HOPE scholarships by 3 percent and add 10 days to the pre-kindergarten schedule.

But Geary was also able to sneak in a question about gun legislation – which has become a hot topic for governor’s elsewhere. Said Deal:

”It is a time that is fraught with emotions on both sides of the issue. I’ve heard of proposed legislation, but none of that is part of my agenda.”

Don’t consider that declaration of neutrality to be a green light for the handful of bills already filed in the House, in anticipation of the new session of the Legislature that begins Monday. Several have been filed by incoming freshman Charles Gregory, R-Kennesaw, who has proposed removing state bans on (permitted) concealed weapons in churches and on public university campuses.

The governor’s statement could very well …

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Georgia PSC reignites the debate over ‘free’ cell phones

Last fall, as the presidential contest reached a fever pitch, a video raced across the Internet, featuring an African-American woman in Cleveland who praised President Barack Obama for giving her a free cell phone.

“Everybody in Cleveland — low minorities — got Obama phones,” she said.

Critics decried the clip as racist. Politifact awarded its vaunted “Pants on Fire” rating to Republican claims that the president was attempting to buy votes with cell phones.

Even so, tea party forces built a campaign around the video in an unsuccessful attempt to counter criticism Mitt Romney had endured for declaring — in a video captured by the left — that 47 percent of Americans were too dependent on government handouts to vote Republican.

The phone furor died quickly after Nov. 6. But we in Georgia are about to revive it. With a vengeance.

The state Public Service Commission this morning will hold a public hearing on new rules to require recipients of subsidized cell phone …

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GPB rethinks shifting ‘Lawmakers’ to twice-a-week schedule

Days after announcing a dramatic shift in its 42-year coverage of the state Legislature, Georgia Public Broadcasting officials this morning said they’re backing away from a decision to make “Prime Time Lawmakers” a twice-a-week program.

Nancy Zintak, spokeswoman for GPB, said the change has been delayed for at least a year, to allow time to move viewers to other platforms intended to fill the void.

After a first rehearsal on Tuesday, Zintak said, executives decided that the state public affairs network was moving too quickly. “We realized that, if we do this cold, we may not get the viewership we currently have,” she said.

Last year, the program averaged an estimated viewership of 11,500 Atlanta households, or 17,500 statewide.

GPB is funded through the state budget. Zintak said there was “absolutely” no pushback from the state Capitol on the change. “Prime Time Lawmakers” is geared to coverage of the annual 40-day session of the Legislature. This year’s …

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Your daily jolt: Brandon Beach to replace Chip Rogers in Senate

Two months and change after a harsh defeat at the hands of Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock, north Fulton chamber executive Brandon Beach on Tuesday took Rogers’ seat, putting a quick end to a lightning fast campaign.

Results in two other contests — even though one remains unfinished — guarantee Republicans 38 seats in the 56-member Senate. That’s an official super-majority, though it won’t be achieved until one runoff, for the District 11 seat in south Georgia, is held on Feb. 5.

In the hottest contest of the evening, Beach beat former state Rep. Sean Jerguson, R-Holly Springs, a gun shop owner, with nearly 58 percent of all ballots cast in a special election that followed Rogers’ December decision to take a job with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Beach apparently benefitted from a 2012 campaign that never really ended. One edge: a 3-to-1 ratio in advanced, in-person ballots that were cast, according to the secretary of state’s website. Beach narrowly beat …

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