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breaking news

Obamas leave Washington to begin life as private family

Legislature


President Trump: ‘America first. America first.’

12:45 p.m. -- Former President Obama and Michelle have boarded Executive One, and the helicopter has taken off from the Capitol as they officially re-enter private life. 12:35 p.m. -- In the meantime, reports our Tamar Hallerman: 12:30 p.m. -- The congratulations have begun. From our inbox, Georgia congressman Doug Collins issued this statement: 12:19 p.m. -- Trump has finished his speech...
Sheriffs want state to set minimum pay for deputies, city police

Sheriffs want state to set minimum pay for deputies, city police

Georgia sheriffs were rankled when they heard that state troopers, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and other state law enforcement officers would see 20 percent salary bump starting with their first paychecks of 2017, on the 16th. The governor’s plan to give state law enforcement officers an average increase in pay of $8,000 left sheriffs statewide asking “what about us?”...

Politicians, pundits slam Trump for Lewis comments

President-elect Donald Trump was swiftly condemned for his series of early-morning tweets Saturday maligning the Atlanta district that Rep. John Lewis represents as a “crime infested” area that is “falling apart.” The Republican was furious at Lewis after the civil rights icon told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he will skip Trump’s inauguration next week...
Some of Georgia’s top officials reaped big pay raises in past year

Some of Georgia’s top officials reaped big pay raises in past year

After Gov. Nathan Deal signed a budget last year offering 3 percent pay raises to teachers and state employees, his team made it clear it wanted the money to go mostly to rank-and-file workers, not highly paid administrators. That’s not exactly how it worked out in all cases, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the state’s Open Records Act. In the...
Big role expected for Georgia under Trump, but path is uncertain

Big role expected for Georgia under Trump, but path is uncertain

The Donald Trump era begins this week when the New York businessman goes from private citizen to the nation’s president without ever holding elected office. And what that means for Georgia remains hazy at best. What does his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act “essentially simultaneously” mean for Georgia’s health policy? Will vast rewrites of tax policy upend...
Capitol Recap: Georgia Legislature opens with liquor, pot on its plate

Capitol Recap: Georgia Legislature opens with liquor, pot on its plate

Staff writers Michelle Baruchman, Greg Bluestein, James Salzer, Aaron Gould Sheinin and Kristina Torres contributed to this article. The first week in a Georgia legislative session is one rooted in organization. There’s selection of the leadership, including the election of the House speaker and the naming of chairmen in both chambers. Then heads turn toward money, namely...

John Lewis: Donald Trump not ‘a legitimate president’

U.S. Rep. John Lewis had strong words Friday on the coming inauguration of Donald Trump as president. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd,” the Georgia Democrat was asked if he plans to forge a relationship with Trump. The civil rights veteran said Trump makes that difficult: “You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with...
Deal’s 2018 state budget proposal could be a win for autism advocates

Deal’s 2018 state budget proposal could be a win for autism advocates

Georgia autism advocates are celebrating Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to include $20.8 million to help cover autism services for children on Medicaid, part of his broader push for a record $25 billion budget in fiscal 2018. Deal unveiled the funding proposal earlier this week during his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly. Advocates had lobbied for the change...
Stockbridge passes no-smoking ban on motorists traveling with kids

Stockbridge passes no-smoking ban on motorists traveling with kids

Stockbridge has taken the unusual step of banning motorists who smoke from lighting up in the car if they have children under the age of 15 riding with them. Those caught smoking could face a fine of up to $500. The measure, which recently passed 3-2, goes into effect this week. Officials with The Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Municipal Association were unaware of other Georgia cities...
Johnny Isakson ‘disappointed’ by John Lewis’ stand against Jeff Sessions

Johnny Isakson ‘disappointed’ by John Lewis’ stand against Jeff Sessions

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he was “disappointed” in Democrats, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who testified against Senate colleague Jeff Sessions during his attorney general confirmation hearings earlier this week. The Republican said in an interview Thursday that he did not see the testimony by Lewis or Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., but that, “out of professional courtesy...
Watchdog: Georgia’s fees on electric cars highest in nation

Watchdog: Georgia’s fees on electric cars highest in nation

Electric vehicle purchases in Georgia have plummeted since the General Assembly revoked a $5,000 income tax credit in 2015 for buying one. Along with revoking the tax credit, lawmakers also slapped a $200 registration fee on the cars to make up for gas tax owners of those vehicles don’t pay. The result has been a 90 percent drop from pre-2015 levels, which some lawmakers...
Tax-credit plan for struggling rural Georgia hospitals needs doctoring

Tax-credit plan for struggling rural Georgia hospitals needs doctoring

A highly touted tax credit program designed to save rural hospitals has thus far been a major disappointment, and now state lawmakers are scrambling for a fix. Deemed a “lifeline” for struggling rural hospitals, the tax credit program went live Jan. 3, but thus far, donors have applied for less than 2 percent of the available credits. State Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, who sponsored legislation...
Bill would give voters say on growing, selling medical pot in Georgia

Bill would give voters say on growing, selling medical pot in Georgia

Georgia voters could decide whether medical marijuana could be grown and sold in-state under legislation filed Thursday in the state House that clashes with a competing bill in the Senate. House Resolution 36 is a long shot, but it offers a glimpse of what advocates say is the best solution for hurdles faced by hundreds of families legally allowed to possess a limited form of medical marijuana in...
Plan to grow, sell medical marijuana filed in the Georgia Legislature

Plan to grow, sell medical marijuana filed in the Georgia Legislature

Georgia voters would decide whether medical marijuana could be grown and sold in-state, under legislation filed Thursday in the state House. House Resolution 36 is a long shot, but offers a glimpse of what advocates say is the best solution for hurdles faced by hundreds of families already legally allowed to possess a limited form of medical marijuana in Georgia. Under a 2015 law, patients and, in...
‘Mimosa mandate’ seeks Sunday morning cocktails in Georgia restaurants

‘Mimosa mandate’ seeks Sunday morning cocktails in Georgia restaurants

A bill that would allow Georgia restaurants to serve morning cocktails on Sundays has been filed in the state Senate, backed by a powerful GOP senator who is calling it her “mimosa mandate.” Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, does not drink, but she said Senate Bill 17 is meant to correct what she considers a fairness issue: While privately...
‘Mimosa mandate’ would allow Sunday morning cocktails in Ga. restaurants

‘Mimosa mandate’ would allow Sunday morning cocktails in Ga. restaurants

A bill allowing Georgia restaurants to serve morning cocktails on Sundays has been filed in the state Senate, backed by a powerful GOP senator who is calling it her “mimosa mandate.” Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, does not drink, but said Senate Bill 17 is meant to correct what she considers a fairness issue: While privately owned restaurants...
House bill seeks transparency from state pardons board

House bill seeks transparency from state pardons board

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles would be required to hold public hearings before granting pardons or commuting a death sentence under legislation introduced in the state House. House Bill 34, from state Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, would impose even greater transparency on the board by declaring all reports, files, records and other information related to the supervision of probationers and...
Bill would impose greater transparency on state parole board

Bill would impose greater transparency on state parole board

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles would be required to hold public hearings before granting pardons or commuting a death sentence under legislation introduced in the state House.  House Bill 34, from Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, would impose even greater transparency on the board by declaring all reports, files, records and other information related to the supervision of probationers and...
Here’s why electric car sales are plummeting in Georgia

Here’s why electric car sales are plummeting in Georgia

As AJC Watchdog, I’ll be writing about public officials, good governance and the way your tax dollars are spent. Help me out. What needs exposing in your community? Contact me at cjoyner@ajc.com. Here’s a fact maybe not generally appreciated by commuters gazing at Atlanta’s smudgy, smoggy skyline: Georgia has the second most electric vehicles in the nation. Here’s another fact...
Deal seeks raises for Georgia teachers, state police, caseworkers

Deal seeks raises for Georgia teachers, state police, caseworkers

Staff writers Michelle Baruchman and Greg Bluestein contributed to this article. Gov. Nathan Deal asked lawmakers Wednesday to approve a record $25 billion state budget that includes pay raises for teachers and state employees and would fund a few expensive construction projects he’s long supported. Deal’s spending plan for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, would provide 2 percent pay...
Limited medical marijuana bill hits Senate as others push cultivation

Limited medical marijuana bill hits Senate as others push cultivation

A bill offering a small expansion to Georgia’s medical marijuana law will be introduced Thursday in the state Senate, the same day the law’s architect expects to file much broader legislation attempting to legalize growing and distributing the drug in-state for medicinal purposes. Senate Bill 16 represents an olive branch of sorts from the chamber’s conservative majority, which last...
Casinos in Georgia could be burden on local governments, study says

Casinos in Georgia could be burden on local governments, study says

Casino gambling could give state tax revenue a giant boost, but it would also generate new public safety, infrastructure and social costs for cities and counties, a study commissioned by a downtown Atlanta business group says. Central Atlanta Progress leaders on Wednesday presented the second of a two-part study on the potential effect of legalized casinos, a topic that could be fiercely debated again...
Georgia lawmaker seeks to ban “sanctuary policies” at private colleges

Georgia lawmaker seeks to ban “sanctuary policies” at private colleges

Private colleges in Georgia would be prohibited from creating “sanctuary policies” — or rules prohibiting them from cooperating with law enforcement officers on immigration enforcement and other matters — under a bill introduced Wednesday in the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature. Inspired by discussions at Emory University about creating a sanctuary on campus...
Gov. Nathan Deal calls for 2 percent teacher pay raise, big projects

Gov. Nathan Deal calls for 2 percent teacher pay raise, big projects

Gov. Nathan Deal proposed Wednesday a 2 percent pay raise for Georgia teachers and a massive building program that includes borrowing $105 million to build a new state courthouse on the site of the old archives building down the street from the Capitol. Deal revealed a record $25 billion spending plan for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, that includes more money for schools and 20 percent...
Republican wins special election runoff for Georgia Senate

Republican wins special election runoff for Georgia Senate

Republican Chuck Payne won Tuesday’s special election runoff to replace former state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, filling the final vacant seat in the Georgia Legislature. Unofficial results show Payne cruised in the contest against Debby Peppers, an attorney who ran as an independent in the race but had backing from many Democrats. The candidates had been the top vote-getters in the original...
State-owned cyberwarfare training facility planned for Georgia

State-owned cyberwarfare training facility planned for Georgia

Gov. Nathan Deal will unveil plans Wednesday for a new state-owned training center that’s designed to teach students and educators how to combat hacking and other forms of cyberwarfare, an announcement that comes as the U.S. intensifies its efforts to bolster the security of the nation’s computer systems. The Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center is to be built near the U.S. Army&rsquo...
Georgia leaders patch divide with businesses over ‘religious liberty’

Georgia leaders patch divide with businesses over ‘religious liberty’

The annual breakfast featuring business executives and the state’s most influential elected leaders had all the makings for an awkward spectacle, but instead it turned into a chance for Georgia’s political establishment to declare a clean slate after months of strained relations. The confab was organized by the Georgia Chamber and sponsored by corporate powers who were almost universally...
A new era for Georgia’s highest court

A new era for Georgia’s highest court

The Supreme Court of Georgia set some precedents Monday: a new chief justice, a newly expanded court with nine — not seven — justices and a newly renovated bench to accommodate the two additional members. Harris Hines, sworn in as chief justice on Friday, welcomed the courtroom gallery to “this historical setting and this historical session” of the state’s highest court...
Georgia Legislature returns, but governor to have spotlight this week

Georgia Legislature returns, but governor to have spotlight this week

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article. Georgia lawmakers headed back to work Monday as they began a new 40-day session in Atlanta, with the House setting a tone of independence while some members of the Senate grappled with new rules they felt made the chamber’s work less transparent. Members in both chambers were also officially sworn in, with many legislators surrounded by...
AJC poll finds division in how Georgians feel about state’s economy

AJC poll finds division in how Georgians feel about state’s economy

A new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll suggests that most people in metro Atlanta think the economy is doing well, and figures released Monday showed an uptick in sales tax collections in December, meaning Georgians spent more money during the Christmas season. But there is a flip side: Many poll respondents outside of metro Atlanta weren’t so optimistic about the economy. And income tax collections...
Georgia collections barely inch up in December, but sales taxes strong

Georgia collections barely inch up in December, but sales taxes strong

State tax collections barely inched up in December as sales numbers improved but corporate income taxes plummeted, Gov. Nathan Deal reported Monday Overall collections were up just 0.7 percent in December, or $15 million for the month. For the first six months of the fiscal year, collections are up 4 percent, which is enough to fund the $23.7 billion state budget lawmakers approved last winter. Net...
AJC poll: Don’t allow guns on Georgia’s college campuses

AJC poll: Don’t allow guns on Georgia’s college campuses

Georgia voters continue to oppose efforts to legalize guns on the state’s college campuses, a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows. More than half of voters — 54 percent — said they do not want state lawmakers to pursue the issue again this year, after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill last year that would have allowed anyone 21 or older with a license to carry a concealed...
Big elections will help define this legislative session

Big elections will help define this legislative session

It’s not an election year, but it might feel like one at the legislative session that starts Monday. And that could add an extra dose of intrigue during the 40-day session. Yes, President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t even taken office, and more than a dozen recently elected lawmakers are ready to be sworn in. But it seems like the politicking has barely let up since November’s vote...
AJC poll: Expand medical marijuana in GA but not for recreational use

AJC poll: Expand medical marijuana in GA but not for recreational use

Georgia’s limited medical marijuana law should be expanded to allow growers to harvest and distribute it in-state, a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls has found, although there is not support to allow the drug’s recreational use. The poll shows 71 percent of the state’s voters continue to be comfortable with an in-state cultivation model, with strict controls on who...
AJC poll: Voters don’t favor return of religious liberty, gun bills

AJC poll: Voters don’t favor return of religious liberty, gun bills

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article. With Georgia lawmakers set to return to Atlanta on Monday, the state’s voters are wary of a repeat of 2016 legislative battles over religious liberty and gun bills, a new poll for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. The poll, conducted last week, found voters content to let Gov. Nathan Deal’s vetoes of both bills stand amid hopes...
The Navigator will help you get around the Legislature

The Navigator will help you get around the Legislature

How well do you know your legislators? Who gives them campaign contributions? Do you know how much? Maybe you would like to know how good they are at turning bills into law. This is the third year that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be providing that kind of information, and more, on the Georgia Legislative Navigator at http://legislativenavigator.myajc.com/. The Navigator serves several...
Meet the AJC’s legislative team

Meet the AJC’s legislative team

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will have the largest group of journalists at the Capitol during the 2017 legislative session, providing expertise that can’t be found anywhere else. Here’s a look at the team: Bob Andres joined the AJC in 1998. He has held photography and photo editing positions in California, Florida and Georgia. He will produce photos and videos from the Capitol during...
Casino supporters gear up for push in Georgia with new Legislature

Casino supporters gear up for push in Georgia with new Legislature

Brandon Beach has a simple question: What would Georgia leaders say if a company wanted to invest more than $1 billion on a new business, give 5,000 people jobs and not ask for a dime of public money to help? “We’d be rolling out the red carpet,” said Beach, a Republican state senator from Alpharetta. The only hiccup in Beach’s scenario is the hypothetical company in question...
Deal to maintain focus on failing schools plan for 2017

Deal to maintain focus on failing schools plan for 2017

Staff writer Aaron Gould Sheinin contributed to this article. Gov. Nathan Deal plans to put all his political might behind a measure that would give the state more power to intervene in persistently struggling schools, saying in an interview Friday that he is unlikely to push a more sweeping plan to overhaul the school funding formula until it passes. Declaring himself undeterred by the November...
Key players during the legislative session

Key players during the legislative session

GOVERNOR Nathan Deal: The governor enters the third year of his second term and will set the agenda again in 2017, although his influence may be a little diminished by the fact that he is nearing the end of his tenure and his signature Opportunity School District, a proposed constitutional amendment, got hammered at the polls in November. However, he still has the power to veto legislation and legislative...