Legislature


Georgia might ditch those tiny license plate tags

Love ‘em or hate em’, those tiny decals Georgia requires you to stick on your license plate every year may be on their way out. The state Department of Revenue is studying whether to eliminate or reduce the stickers’ use, which is required annually (for a $20 fee) to show that a vehicle is properly registered. There’s no definitive plan in place; the agency’s report...


Georgia insurance commissioner won’t run for re-election in 2018

Georgia insurance commissioner won’t run for re-election in 2018

State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a two-term incumbent and former state lawmaker, has decided against running for another term in 2018. Hudgens served in the state House and Senate from the Athens area, rising to chairman of Senate Insurance Committee, before running in 2010 to replace longtime commissioner John Oxendine, who ran unsuccessfully for governor. Hudgens has been criticized...
Senate health care rewrite in Washington doesn’t change Georgia minds

Senate health care rewrite in Washington doesn’t change Georgia minds

Before U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a rewrite of the Republicans’ health care bill on Thursday, Georgia hospitals, patient advocates and budget hawks had strong feelings about the bill. They still do. And they haven’t changed much. For rural hospitals, the latest revision of the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare is just rearranging the deck chairs on the...
Georgia Senate leader gives $1 million to help GOP candidates like him

Georgia Senate leader gives $1 million to help GOP candidates like him

Georgia Senate President Pro-Tem David Shafer headed into 2017 as the top fundraiser in the General Assembly, despite the fact that he didn’t plan to run for re-election. It was no secret at the statehouse that the Gwinnett Republican, second in charge of the Senate, planned to run for lieutenant governor in 2018. On Monday, a Republican political action committee reported it had gotten $1.025...
Financial reports present an early test in Georgia governor race

Financial reports present an early test in Georgia governor race

The top contenders for Georgia’s wide-open race for governor faced a crucial test Monday as they reported how much money they’ve collected for their campaigns, an early gauge of their popularity in the crowded contest to succeed a term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal. The money race isn’t everything, and plenty of candidates with eye-popping financial figures have faltered (See: Jon Ossoff...
To combat shortage, new state budget gives big boost to foster parents

To combat shortage, new state budget gives big boost to foster parents

Georgia starting this month is funding the biggest increase in “per diems” for foster parents in more than a decade. Why? The state has seen a surge of children needing foster care while at the same time facing a shortage in foster care homes. The daily allowances, which help pay for kids’ basic needs, are going up by as much as $10 a day, with additional money being put toward hiring...
Earmark ban throws up hurdles for projects like Savannah port dredging

Earmark ban throws up hurdles for projects like Savannah port dredging

The letter drafted by Georgia’s lawmakers was, on its face, a routine one: The delegation wanted more federal money for dredging work at Savannah’s harbor. But look a little closer and the semantic gymnastics were apparent. Congress’ earmark ban prevented the representatives from directly asking the House Appropriations Committee for what they wanted. They instead were left with...
Justice officials also seek Georgia voter info as critics raise alarm

Justice officials also seek Georgia voter info as critics raise alarm

The U.S. Justice Department has asked Georgia to explain how it updates and tracks voter registration records as well as removes voters from its rolls who should no longer be eligible to vote. The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office confirmed it received a three-page letter from the head of the department’s voting section seeking the information as part of a national request under the...
Georgia lawmakers question data request from Trump voter fraud panel

Georgia lawmakers question data request from Trump voter fraud panel

A group of Georgia lawmakers on Thursday questioned why President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity needed to collect data on voters, saying they had heard from constituents who are afraid the information could be used against them. Leaders from the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said they planned to introduce a joint resolution for consideration during the General...
Georgia’s “religious liberty” senator joins Secretary of State race

Georgia’s “religious liberty” senator joins Secretary of State race

Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon, best-known for being one of the General Assembly’s leading proponents of “religious liberty” legislation and a champion of strengthening ethics laws, made it official Thursday that he’s running for Secretary of State in 2018. McKoon is one of several Republicans, including Reps. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, and Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek...
Utility lobbyists spend big to feed Georgia utility regulators

Utility lobbyists spend big to feed Georgia utility regulators

Georgia’s Public Service Commissioners regulate utilities, and last month, utility lobbyists made sure the elected officials were well fed at a conference at the Lake Oconee Ritz-Carlton. According to recently filed reports, eight lobbyists spent almost $7,700 on members and staff for a single dinner on June 12 at the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference. That...
To combat shortage, new state budget gives big boost to foster parents

To combat shortage, new state budget gives big boost to foster parents

Georgia has seen a surge of children needing foster care while at the same time facing a shortage in foster care homes. So the state this month is funding the biggest increase in “per diems” for foster parents in more than a decade. The daily allowances, which help pay for kids’ basic needs, are going up by as much as $10 a day, with additional money being put toward hiring more...
Raises, tax breaks, school and medical marijuana laws take effect

Raises, tax breaks, school and medical marijuana laws take effect

Pay raises for tens of thousands of state and university employees, the latest plan to help low-performing schools, an expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program, tax breaks for giant yacht owners and funding to pay for more than $1 billion in construction projects across Georgia take effect Saturday. The start of the new year on the state government calendar Saturday brings more than...
As of Saturday, guns are legal on college campuses across Georgia

As of Saturday, guns are legal on college campuses across Georgia

Georgia as of Saturday will allow guns on any campus in the state’s public college and university system, the most high-profile of a slew of laws that become effective July 1. The stakes are high on both sides. Supporters say the new law will make campuses safer for students, faculty and staff. Opponents fear the opposite and say allowing guns on campus creates an unsafe environment. In the...
Georgia to skip sales tax-free weekend

Georgia to skip sales tax-free weekend

It’s official: there will be no tax-free weekends in Georgia this year. State lawmakers failed to pass legislation during this year’s Legislative session to provide for any 2017 tax holidays, according to the Georgia Department of Revenue, ending the state’s two tax-free weekends. Teachers, students, and their families have used the annual back-to-school tax-free weekend to save...
Georgia governor on health plan: ‘We want to be treated fairly’

Georgia governor on health plan: ‘We want to be treated fairly’

Gov. Nathan Deal took a cautious stance on the embattled Senate health bill Thursday, urging lawmakers not to “punish” Georgia and other states that didn’t expand their Medicaid program while stopping short of opposing the measure. Deal said in an interview that he was concerned about changes to the Medicaid program that could leave the states to pick up the tab. But he said he wanted...
Saturday it’s official: Guns legal on Georgia college campuses

Saturday it’s official: Guns legal on Georgia college campuses

After years of political debate, partisan pleas and protests, Georgia as of Saturday will allow guns on any campus in the state’s public college and university system. The “campus carry” legislation is the most high-profile of a slew of laws that become effective July 1. including an expansion of Georgia’s medical marijuana law and permission for the state to take over failing...
Ralston urges bold action on mass transit in Georgia

Ralston urges bold action on mass transit in Georgia

Speaker David Ralston sought bold action Thursday from a state House of Representatives commission charged with plotting Georgia’s mass transit future. The commission began its first meeting with a cheerleading speech from the speaker, who said mass transit will be critical to economic development in the future. “Over the last few years we have created a great...
New money means more GBI scientists to test rape kits for DNA

New money means more GBI scientists to test rape kits for DNA

For years, thousands of rape kits sat in storage at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation untouched and untested as the agency’s crime lab found itself short-staffed and unable to keep pace. But an influx of more than $850,000 in new funding from the state to add more scientists and lab technicians has officials hopeful the agency will eventually eliminate the rape kit backlog. The crime lab is...
Georgia saves up to $56 million booting ineligibles from health plan

Georgia saves up to $56 million booting ineligibles from health plan

The state is hoping to save up to $56 million a year by removing ineligible family members of those enrolled in the State Health Benefit Plan from the program. The state Department of Community Health, which administers Medicaid as well as the State Health Benefit Plan for teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents, announced last year that it would do an audit to determine whether there...
Torpy at Large: A Tale of Two Troublesome Tommys 

Torpy at Large: A Tale of Two Troublesome Tommys 

It has been a bad run of late for The Tommys, a couple of foot-in-the mouth Georgia pols who are being abandoned and spanked by their Republican compatriots. The Tommys — Hunter and Benton — are a public example that words do matter, even in this environment of toxic public discourse where every numbskull has an opinion and is damned sure to let you hear it. Tommy Hunter, of course, is...
Historian: Civil War debate is about ‘who controls history’

Historian: Civil War debate is about ‘who controls history’

The demotion of Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, following his decision to distribute to colleagues an article challenging that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War raises an interesting question. Why did he do it? After all, the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago. Why is a Georgia state legislator so bent out of shape about its causes? “All of this is...
Watchdog: What does the Civil War have to do with us?

Watchdog: What does the Civil War have to do with us?

When House Speaker David Ralston punished fellow Republican Rep. Tommy Benton last week, stripping him of his committee chairmanship and removing him from a study committee on civics education, it came after nearly two years of provocative political acts. But it was the distribution to his House colleagues of an article from the magazine “Confederate Veteran” that triggered Ralston&rsquo...
Voter turnout made Georgia’s 6th District runoff look like a midterm election

Voter turnout made Georgia’s 6th District runoff look like a midterm election

Sixth District voters turned out in unprecedented numbers Tuesday for their runoff, but it takes a step back to appreciate by just how much. We already knew that while typical turnout during off-year special elections is notoriously low, Georgia’s 6th District special election on April 18 (which decided who was in Tuesday’s runoff) topped 37 percent — nearly 194,000 people voted...
Torpy at Large: Georgia officials excel at suppressing public info 

Torpy at Large: Georgia officials excel at suppressing public info 

It’s a proud moment to see the state of Georgia finally get the recognition it so richly deserves. From the rural hills up north to the gritty urban streets of Atlanta, there’s one thing politicians have in common — they don’t like your nose in their business. And so the national organization Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) last week nominated two Georgians for its...
Most 6th District polls closing: This expert says one candidate might be hurt more if rain dampens turnout

Most 6th District polls closing: This expert says one candidate might be hurt more if rain dampens turnout

UPDATE: Polls are closing across the 6th District. Any voter in line by 7 p.m. is allowed to cast a ballot. Two polling locations in DeKalb County will remain open until 7:30 p.m., after officials received permission from a judge to extend voting time because of problems this morning with checking voters in. They are the only two locations in the 6th District that have extended time to vote....
Benton says he still doesn’t want his name on MLK monument at Capitol

Benton says he still doesn’t want his name on MLK monument at Capitol

Despite calls from a legacy civil rights organization to reverse course, embattled state Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) said he still won’t allow his name to be added to part of a monument to Martin Luther King Jr. The monument and a plaque naming the legislators who helped get the statue on Capitol grounds is scheduled to be unveiled in August. A clay model of the statue depicts King...
Kennesaw State to hold ‘campus carry’ info sessions before law’s start

Kennesaw State to hold ‘campus carry’ info sessions before law’s start

Kennesaw State University legal affairs staff and police officers will answer questions of faculty, students and staff Thursday and outline the statewide “campus carry” gun measure set to begin July 1. The school will hold information sessions on both KSU campuses about how the law, which allows people with permits to carry concealed weapons on the grounds of public institutions...
Georgia ethics panel finally ending years-long backlog of cases

Georgia ethics panel finally ending years-long backlog of cases

Three years ago the state agency in charge of policing the ethics of Georgia politicians and lobbyists was a mess, with few staffers and a backlog of more than 150 cases, some dating to before the Great Recession. This past week the agency’s executive secretary, Stefan Ritter, told the ethics commission that the backlog had mostly been eliminated. There are still a few back cases the state...
Georgia ethics panel trying again to collect millions in late fees

Georgia ethics panel trying again to collect millions in late fees

The state ethics commission is trying to address what it sees as a long-running problem: getting local elections officials to pay the fees they owe when they don’t file reports — such as campaign disclosures — on time. Or at all. It’s not a small amount of money the agency is after. Officials said in 2015 that the state is owed between $2.5 million and $3 million in late fees...
Controversial Ga. lawmaker punished for Civil War mailer

Controversial Ga. lawmaker punished for Civil War mailer

A controversial member of the Georgia House of Representatives has lost his position in leadership and his place on a civics education study committee after sending colleagues an article challenging slavery as the root cause of the Civil War. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, announced Friday that Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, would no longer chair the House Human Relations and Aging Committee...
Fulton assessors say there’s nothing they can do about increased values

Fulton assessors say there’s nothing they can do about increased values

Thousands of Fulton County residents frustrated by high property assessments heard bad news from the Board of Assessors Thursday. “I wanted to be clear: we do not have the authority to rescind tax notices,” said Brandi Hunter, vice chair of the Board of Assessors. Instead, Hunter said, Fulton County residents who feel their property values are in error should file individual...
Georgia a high-tax state for beer-, wine-drinkers, group says

Georgia a high-tax state for beer-, wine-drinkers, group says

Many parts of the South, including Georgia, are not exactly tax-friendly to wine drinkers, according to a new state-by-state listing by the Tax Foundation. The foundation, a Washington D.C. tax think tank, regularly releases U.S. maps detailing various types of state taxes. On Thursday, it released one on state wine excise taxes, which made much of the South look like a regular Taxachusetts. As of...
Georgia ethics panel clears up years-long backlog of cases

Georgia ethics panel clears up years-long backlog of cases

Three years ago the state agency in charge of policing the ethics of Georgia politicians and lobbyists was a mess, with few staffers and a backlog of more than 150 cases, some dating to before the Great Recession. This past week the agency’s executive secretary, Stefan Ritter, told the ethics commission that the backlog had essentially been eliminated. There are still a few back cases the state...
‘Broadband deserts’ hinder growth in rural Georgia

‘Broadband deserts’ hinder growth in rural Georgia

When bells ring at the end of the day in schools across rural Georgia, the local fast-food joints know what to expect. Gobs of students descend on the McDonald’s, Burger Kings and Wendy’s in small towns across the state. But it’s not a Big Mac, Whopper or Frosty many of the kids are after. It’s Wi-Fi. Sixteen percent of Georgians do not have high-speed internet access, and...
Gov. Deal appoints former campaign ethics lawyer to state job

Gov. Deal appoints former campaign ethics lawyer to state job

A lawyer and lobbyist who was part of the team that defended Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign against ethics charges during his first term in office was named Friday to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation by the governor. Benjamin Vinson, a partner in the mega-law firm Dentons, will take the $150,000 a year post July 1. Vinson served as majority caucus counsel in the Georgia House of Representatives...
Why was controversial Georgia lawmaker named to civics committee?

Why was controversial Georgia lawmaker named to civics committee?

Over the past two years, State Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, called African-American slaves “property” and fostered legislation requiring the state to recognize Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Confederate Memorial Day and Confederate History Month. He also said the Ku Klux Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” he said. &ldquo...
Watchdog: Benton appointment demeans Georgia House

Watchdog: Benton appointment demeans Georgia House

When House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, considered Rep. Tommy Benton for a seat on a civics education study committee, he apparently saw nothing other than a retired middle school history teacher. That, in itself, says something about the political culture of the Georgia House. For the better part of two years, Benton, R-Jefferson, has made a name for himself with his remarks about the Ku...

Georgia 6th: Special interests dump cash in race ahead of debate

As Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel prepare for their first debate tonight on WSB-TV, special interest groups opened the spigots again on Tuesday. Republican and Democratic groups reported spending at least $1.3 million on the race Tuesday. Gabriel Debenedetti, a national political reporter for Politico, first announced the cash dump on Twitter: The crazy amount of $ in this race (more than any...
Officials need extra $400 million for Georgia teacher pension system

Officials need extra $400 million for Georgia teacher pension system

Taxpayers may have to chip in an extra $400 million next year to ensure the financial security of the state’s massive teacher and university employee pension system. That’s on top of the extra $223 million the state put into the system this year. The extra money will likely eat up a sizable chunk of new revenue the state expects to take in next year. Teachers say the money is worth it...
Ga. lawmaker who made controversial Klan remarks named to civics panel

Ga. lawmaker who made controversial Klan remarks named to civics panel

A Georgia state representative who said the Ku Klux Klan “made a lot of people straighten up” and tried to force the state to formally recognize Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day as official holidays has been named to a study committee on civics education. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, made the announcement in a press release Friday appointing Rep...
Atlanta cannot annex South Fulton neighborhoods, court rules

Atlanta cannot annex South Fulton neighborhoods, court rules

The state supreme court nixed Atlanta’s expansion efforts Monday when justices decided that five neighborhoods the city attempted to annex instead will remain part of the new city of South Fulton. Residents voted to form the city in November, but there was contention about its borders even before the vote was held. Atlanta tried to annex the five neighborhoods last summer, in the weeks...
State of Georgia sees strong tax collections in May, surplus likely

State of Georgia sees strong tax collections in May, surplus likely

The state of Georgia saw a big bump up in tax collections in May, signalling that the government will likely end the fiscal year on June 30 with a sizable surplus. Overall tax collections were up 10.3 percent in May, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday. Through 11 months of the fiscal year, they are ahead of last year by 4.7 percent, or almost $900 million. The state saw a big increase in individual...
How did your Cobb neighbors vote in the 6th District runoff election?

How did your Cobb neighbors vote in the 6th District runoff election?

Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the 6th Congressional District race Tuesday night, becoming Georgia’s first female Republican member of the U.S. House. What would usually be a tame special election in an historically red section of the Atlanta suburbs brought obscene amounts of national attention and dollars. You can see how voters at each precinct, ...
Hey, 6th District voters: Did the rain stop you from voting today? 

Hey, 6th District voters: Did the rain stop you from voting today? 

Now that most of the polls have closed in the hotly contested 6th Congressional District runoff, election officials will play the waiting game to see if heavy metro-wide showers and flooding hampered voter turnout.  Voters seeking to elect either Democrat Jon Ossoff or Republican Karen Handel in this special election to replace Republican Tom Price, now U.S. Secretary of Health...
Trump PAC misrepresents scene from Obama book to get 6th District blacks to vote Republican

Trump PAC misrepresents scene from Obama book to get 6th District blacks to vote Republican

In the eighth chapter of his memoir, "Dreams from My Father," former president Barack Obama describes a barbershop haircut he got in Chicago in the 1980s, just days after he moved to the city for his new job as a community organizer. Obama's barber, named Smitty, speaks in the passage of the racial and political tension in Chicago before the city elected Harold Washington as its first black...
Early voting for Senate District 32 race begins May 6 in Sandy Springs

Early voting for Senate District 32 race begins May 6 in Sandy Springs

Voters in north Fulton County will be able to cast ballots as early as May 6 for the runoff election to fill Judson Hill’s state Senate seat. The North Fulton Service Center at 7741 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs will be home to the lone early voting polling place for the District 32 election. Early voting will be available Saturday, May 6 through Friday, May 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hill...
A closer look at individual donors to Georgia District 6 campaigns

A closer look at individual donors to Georgia District 6 campaigns

With less than a week remaining for the special elections for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, the AJC decided to look at where donations are coming from.  To answer this question, we combed through Federal Election Commission campaign filings for five candidates -- Democrat Jon Ossoff, and Republicans Dan Moody, Bob Gray, Judson Hill and Karen Handel -- to produce...
House OKs Cobb rep’s bill to try minors as adults if they shoot a cop 

House OKs Cobb rep’s bill to try minors as adults if they shoot a cop 

The Georgia Senate will be next to consider a bill proposed by a Marietta legislator that would uncomplicate the process to try minors as adults if they’re accused of shooting police officers. The state House passed House Bill 166 on Monday with a 130- 36 vote. Rep. Bert Reeves sponsored the bill after Marietta police officer Scott Davis was responding to a report...
Cobb rep’s bill would let minors who shoot cops be tried as adults

Cobb rep’s bill would let minors who shoot cops be tried as adults

A Cobb legislator’s bill making it easier for minors accused of shooting police officers to be tried as adults will be up for a vote on the House floor Monday. State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta sponsored the bill after Marietta police officer Scott Davis was shot on duty early Aug. 11 by an unidentified 15-year-old member of the Bloods gang. That teen’s case started in...
Georgia settles federal lawsuit alleging it blocked thousands of minority voters

Georgia settles federal lawsuit alleging it blocked thousands of minority voters

Georgia has settled a federal lawsuit that accused Secretary of State Brian Kemp of disenfranchising minority voters because of a requirement on registration forms that critics said blocked thousands of them from voter rolls. The state will no longer reject applications that don’t exactly match identification information in state and federal databases as part of the agreement...
How to contact your Georgia congressmen

How to contact your Georgia congressmen

Why should I contact elected officials?Feedback from constituents is a powerful tool for those who’ve been elected and it’s an opportunity to voice your opinion about the issues that matter to you. How should I contact them?While phone calls are the best way of contacting senators or representatives, email and snail mail are effective options as well. Emails can be sent directly from the...
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...
Bill would close school sex loophole

Bill would close school sex loophole

Legislation to be introduced in the state House on Wednesday would close a loophole in Georgia law that weakened efforts to punish school officials that have sexual relations with students.  Rep. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, will introduce House Bill 32, which would make state law clear that any “employee or agent of a school” is barred from having sexual contact with...
Winter weather postpones Wild Hog Supper

Winter weather postpones Wild Hog Supper

The winter storm bearing down on Georgia has claimed another victim: the Wild Hog Supper.  The event typically occurs the Sunday before every new session of the Georgia Legislature, a welcome-back-to-Atlanta event for lawmakers, elected officials and voters. The 2017 legislative session begins Monday.  Sarah Jackson, corporate partnership manager at Georgia Food Bank Association, ...
AJC January 2017 poll methodology statement

AJC January 2017 poll methodology statement

Abt SRBI conducted the survey of Georgia residents, 18 years and older, on behalf of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The survey included telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,092 Georgia residents (including 919 registered voters). Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (n=396) and cell phone (n=696). Interviewing was conducted from January 2nd to January 5th, 2017. ...
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