Legislature


A Georgia regulator on why finishing Vogtle is a matter of national security

Photo from Plant Vogtle construction site on Thursday, May 11, 2016. Johnny Edwards / AJC The troubled construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle is now the only commercial nuclear project underway in the nation, and Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols has been one of the most forceful advocates of keeping it alive despite mounting financial questions. In an ...


Watchdog: Is Georgia whistling ‘Dixie’ on sovereign immunity?

Watchdog: Is Georgia whistling ‘Dixie’ on sovereign immunity?

Earlier this summer, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a sweeping, unanimous opinion that the state is immune from lawsuits, a precedent that brought cries of tyranny from the left and right. The Georgia justices pinned their analysis to a centuries-old tradition in English law called “sovereign immunity” — a legal theory that the king (or, in our case, Gov. Nathan Deal and the...
Metro Atlanta cities, counties file water wars brief to Supreme Court

Metro Atlanta cities, counties file water wars brief to Supreme Court

Florida failed to prove that limiting water use in Georgia would have any effect on how much water comes to the state, the Atlanta Regional Commission and seven other metro Atlanta cities and counties said in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court. The amicus brief came from Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Forsyth counties; Atlanta and Gainesville; and the Cobb County-Marietta...
Fulton Tax Commissioner Ferdinand will collect fee despite opposition

Fulton Tax Commissioner Ferdinand will collect fee despite opposition

More than one county commissioner called the agreement “repugnant,” but still voted to allow Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand to earn a $1-per-parcel fee for collecting taxes in the new city of South Fulton. Ferdinand, the highest-paid elected official in the state, had refused last month to negotiate on the fee, which is allowed under state law. He earned about...
What might Atlanta’s ‘Union Station’ look like? Check out Denver’s

What might Atlanta’s ‘Union Station’ look like? Check out Denver’s

Denver’s renovated Union Station opened in 2014. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week, at least one state lawmaker wants to revive dormant plans to build a multimodal passenger terminal in downtown Atlanta. The Georgia Department of Transportation has proposed building a $1.5 billion terminal in the Gulch area of downtown. It would be a hub for MARTA...
Georgia income, sales tax collections soar in July

Georgia income, sales tax collections soar in July

State sales and income tax collections improved again in July, giving officials hope of a continued solid economy during the new fiscal year. The state ended fiscal year 2017 on June 30 with a $930 million increase in tax revenue over the previous year. The 4.5 percent increase was more than enough to fund the state’s $24 billion budget, so there should be a surplus for the year when the books...
Meet the rural attorney who is now the Georgia House’s top Democrat

Meet the rural attorney who is now the Georgia House’s top Democrat

To say that state Rep. Bob Trammell cuts a low profile in the General Assembly is an understatement. He has never carried major legislation, is rarely heard on the airwaves or seen in print and had only taken to the House’s well-worn podium a handful of times, largely to rail against campus gun legislation. But now the Luthersville attorney is the leading Democrat in the House after a surprising...
Despite critics, Georgia lays groundwork to manage aquifer storage

Despite critics, Georgia lays groundwork to manage aquifer storage

The idea of using underground aquifers to stash extra surface water for dry times or thirsty needs has raised enough hackles over the years that lawmakers at one point banned the practice in coastal Georgia. The stage may be set for its comeback. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division has published a draft report outlining its authority to allow and manage what’s known as...
Georgia GOP nixes ‘religious liberty’ litmus test for candidates

Georgia GOP nixes ‘religious liberty’ litmus test for candidates

The Georgia GOP decided against imposing a litmus test on “religious liberty” legislation for the Republican candidates for governor, adopting a resolution Saturday that supported the controversial measure without including a pledge for gubernatorial contenders to back it. The compromise came after bitter debate at the Georgia GOP’s state committee over a proposal that initially...
The Week: Taxes, health care draw spotlight in Georgia governor’s race

The Week: Taxes, health care draw spotlight in Georgia governor’s race

The inevitable issues of taxes and, well, avoiding death — aka health care — were leading topics this past week in the 2018 race for Georgia governor. Three of the four leading GOP candidates for governor differed sharply over tax policy at a recent joint event. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle noted that both Florida and Tennessee have no income tax and said he is “very supportive of a strategy...
$500M in HOPE reserves idle while students drop out, drown in loans

$500M in HOPE reserves idle while students drop out, drown in loans

More than half a billion dollars in surplus lottery funds, meant for Georgia’s college students, is sitting unused in the state’s coffers even as many drop out of school, unable to afford to continue. Top lawmakers say the reserves guarantee the stability of the state’s hallmark aid program. But some question the need for holding such a large amount, arguing it could be better used...
Court ousts Roswell mayor, rules he violated term limits

Court ousts Roswell mayor, rules he violated term limits

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood, a fixture in north Fulton politics for two decades, was abruptly removed from his post Thursday after a judge ruled he had violated the term limits that he championed. Wood said in a statement that he plans to fight the decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall, but that he will not seek another term in office. His fifth term expires at the end...
A new ‘religious liberty’ debate in Georgia takes aim at Cagle

A new ‘religious liberty’ debate in Georgia takes aim at Cagle

The state’s leading Republican activists are considering imposing a litmus test on “religious liberty” legislation for the GOP candidates for governor, sparking a new debate over the contentious proposal that has long divided the party’s grass-roots activists and elected officials. The fight centers on a resolution up for debate at Saturday’s meeting of the Georgia GOP...
UPDATE: Roswell Mayor Jere Wood plans to appeal term limit ruling

UPDATE: Roswell Mayor Jere Wood plans to appeal term limit ruling

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said in a statement that he plans to appeal a judge’s decision removing him from office for violating  term limits he put in place. A Thursday order from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall said Wood, who was first elected in 1997, was ineligible to run in 2013, when he was last elected. He ordered Wood be removed from office immediately...
Panel seeks advice as it studies Georgia’s transit future

Panel seeks advice as it studies Georgia’s transit future

A legislative commission is seeking professional help as it studies the future of mass transit in Georgia. On Wednesday the House Commission on Transit Governance & Funding approved a request for proposal seeking a consultant to study the Peach State’s mass transit needs. The commission plans to select a consultant in September. House Speaker David Ralston has asked...
Georgia governor, once again, warns agencies to keep hold on budgets

Georgia governor, once again, warns agencies to keep hold on budgets

Good times or bad, Gov. Nathan Deal warns state agencies each summer not to plan on getting any more money to spend in the coming year. This time around he may have a good reason. Most if not all of the new tax money the state will take in next year is likely spoken for as another huge teacher pension bill comes due and school and health care costs continue to rise. “Any growth we are going...
After Obamacare repeal fails, Georgia leaders to seek Medicaid waivers

After Obamacare repeal fails, Georgia leaders to seek Medicaid waivers

The collapse of the GOP health care overhaul has Georgia’s leaders wrestling over whether to stand pat and let a funding crisis continue to threaten the state’s fragile hospital system or seek changes that could open the spigots for more federal dollars. Amid uncertainty about how insurance markets will be affected by the U.S. Senate’s inability to repeal the Affordable Care...
Methadone clinics in northwest Georgia draw addicts across state lines

Methadone clinics in northwest Georgia draw addicts across state lines

The sign outside a northwest Georgia clinic caught Josh Harrison’s attention. Pay only $1 a day to kick your drug habit, it advertised. It was a steal compared with what Harrison had been paying at another clinic — 10 times more, cash — for the methadone he hoped would finally help him escape the Xanax addiction that had taken over his life. Instead, he simply became hooked on the...
Georgia might ditch those tiny license plate tags

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 might ditch license plate tags; state studies idea

Georgia might ditch license plate tags; state studies idea

It is one of the most common experiences among car owners across the nation: Once a year, for a required fee, receive a decal to stick on your license plate or window showing your vehicle registration is up-to-date. But now Georgia is flirting with the idea of eliminating the stickers altogether, a potential massive decision given that the decals got stuck on more than 10.7 million vehicles in the...
South Fulton Mayor Edwards upset over Fulton’s denial of tax agreement

South Fulton Mayor Edwards upset over Fulton’s denial of tax agreement

Bill Edwards, mayor of the new city of South Fulton, just wants to give Arthur Ferdinand some of his city’s money. Ferdinand, the Fulton County tax commissioner, is willing to take it. Fulton County commissioners are standing in the way. “I’m so mad, I don’t know what to do,” Edwards said, hours after commissioners voted Wednesday not to allow a contract between...
Georgia panel starts examining impact of tax breaks approved each year

Georgia panel starts examining impact of tax breaks approved each year

A Georgia Senate committee on Tuesday began what could be a years-long study to determine whether the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks the state gives industries and individuals each year do what they were designed to do. State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who heads the special panel, told colleagues there is no way they will be able to finish going through the dozens of income tax credits...
Your Tuesday political briefing

Your Tuesday political briefing

Here is what is trending in politics around Georgia and across the nation on Tuesday. 1. GOP health care bill collapses; Republicans say they will repeal now, replace laterRepublican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ground to a halt late Monday after two GOP senators announced they would not vote for the revised health care plan. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky)...
Legislator wants tougher Hidden Predator Act to pursue sex offenders

Legislator wants tougher Hidden Predator Act to pursue sex offenders

When his bill extending the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil claims was signed into law in 2015, State Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) knew it didn’t go far enough. The lawsuits that have been filed since the Hidden Predator Act took effect bear him out. While the law allows victims to go after the individuals they say abused them, the businesses...
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...
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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