Georgia General Assembly Week in Review: March 4 – March 8

March 8, 2013

Pardon Our Dust

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Sec. of State Brian Kemp Could Lose 2 Boards
The Georgia Board of Pharmacy and the Georgia Board of Dentistry could very soon come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Community Health, which has overseen the Composite Medical Board that regulates physicians for the last 13 years. Currently, the two professional boards are under the supervision of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has attempted to maintain control of the boards.. House Bill 132, which provides that the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy and the Georgia Board of Dentistry are transferred from being administratively attached from the Secretary of State to the Department of Community Health, passed the Georgia House on Thursday with a 112-46 vote. Rep. Lee Hawkins claimed that Kemp’s office could not keep up the sheer volume of callers, but Secretary of State Kemp explained that the Professional Licensing Division of his office has experienced a 30% reduction in staff since 2008. Sec. of State Kemp portrayed the shift as an expansion of government. He said, “HB 132 clearly and statutorily creates a new attached government agency that would require a new executive director, licensing personnel, administrative staff, physical offices and (information technology) infrastructure…and would negatively impact hundreds of thousands of Georgia professional-license holders in its current form.”
Ban on Airport Property Tax Passes House
House Bill 399, which would bar Clayton County from collecting property taxes from business who hold leases at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, passed the Georgia House of Representatives on Thursday with a 111-56 vote. Many members of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation rigorously opposed the bill, arguing would significantly reduce Clayton County’s revenues.
Senate Passes Resolution Legalizing Fireworks
On Monday, the Georgia Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of Senate Resolution 378, which would allow voters in Georgia to legalize the sale of fireworks on next year’s election ballots. Senator Mullis, the main sponsor of the resolution, explained that Georgians typically drive to Alabama, Tennessee, or South Carolina to purchase fireworks and the loss of revenue for the state of Georgia is estimated in the millions. Senator Mullis has proposed the legalization of all fireworks in Georgia and explained that the revenues from these transactions would be used to pay for trauma care and firefighting services. Opponents of the resolution argue that legalizing fireworks would only increase injuries, such as amputations and lose of senses, among Georgia’s youth. The resolution now requires a two-thirds majority in the state House before the fireworks question can go on the ballot for voters.
Deal Reached on New Falcons Stadium
Atlanta’s Mayor, Kasim Reed, and Falcons Owner, Arthur Blank, have agreed to financing terms for a new $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium to replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome and keep the team’s home games in the city’s downtown, the two men said Thursday at a press conference. Mayor Kasim Reed said the city would provide $200 million of construction costs through bonds backed by the city’s hotel-motel tax. The Falcons franchise, owned by Home Depot co-founder Blank, would provide $800 million and be responsible for construction cost overruns.
Lawmakers Approve Midyear Budget
The Georgia House and Senate approved a $19.3 billion midyear budget Tuesday that will send an extra $167 million to local school districts, mostly for costs of increased student enrollment. Besides the extra money for local school districts, the midyear spending plan fills a hole of more than $200 million in the state’s health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled. House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, told colleagues that sluggish state tax collections required more spending cuts this year in some areas of the budget. “It looks like things are looking a little better, but at the same time, revenues are not where they need to be,” he said. The midyear budget, which runs through June 30, does not include any cuts tied to new federal spending reductions, which could top $150 million. The budget now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. 
Gun Bill Passes Georgia House
House Bill 512, the Safe Carry Protection Act, makes it legal for gun owners to carry their licensed weapons at certain locations where once prohibited in the state, such as onto college campuses, to church and bars, as well as outside of (and within) airports in the state. Some restrictions, such as carrying the weapon to – or beyond – an airport security checkpoint, would remain. Representatives from the University System of Georgia argue it would increase risks for the police, faculty and students to have more armed persons  on campus, rather than help students and faculty members better protect themselves from college crime by being armed themselves. House Republicans voted 117-56 to approve legislation expanding the places where people can carry guns. The legislation now heads to the state Senate. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper.
Further Reading
Bill strips two boards from Kemp’s office
Airport property tax ban passes in the House
Ga. Senate passes plan that could make all fireworks legal
City of Atlanta and Atlanta Falcons reach deal on new football stadium
Mid-year budget clears Georgia Senate
Georgia’s HB 512 gun bill: What is it and who sponsored it?