With the Georgia Legislature in full swing, PolitiFact Georgia took the opportunity last week to put some claims from the Gold Dome through the Truth-O-Meter.
We examined two gun claims made by Democratic senators. One claim involved public support for universal background checks, while another claim involved Georgia’s gun laws. We researched a claim made by the state House speaker on the Senate’s version of lobbying legislation to strengthen ethics guidelines. Speaker David Ralston has his own ethics legislation making its way through the Legislature.
And just in time for this Tuesday’s county vote, we checked on the success of Cobb County School District’s past local sales tax collection programs, and whether they’ve allowed that system to pay off its debts.
Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below, and full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.
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Georgia House Speaker David Ralston: The Georgia Senate ethics resolution “doesn’t define cap.”
In the past year, the Georgia Legislature has debated its ethics guidelines to counter criticism that it is too beholden to lobbyists. On the first day of the 2013 legislative session, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution aimed at limiting gifts from lobbyists.
Ralston made this claim about the lobbying resolution, which passed in January.
“It doesn’t define a cap,” Ralston said at the Atlanta Press Club last month. “I don’t know if it means $100 a day or if it’s $100 a minute.”
The Senate resolution says: “No senator shall accept any gift, other than those specified in subparagraph (3) of this paragraph, with a value in excess of $100.00 from a registered lobbyist or a single gift from a group of registered lobbyists with a value in excess of $100.00.”
Subparagraph 3 outlined the types of acceptable items without regard to the $100 limit.
The resolution doesn’t clearly define how often a lobbyist can give up to $100 to a state senator. Still, lawmakers and lobbyists understand the resolution’s intent, political science and ethics experts said.
We rated Ralston’s claim Mostly True.
Georgia Sen. Nan Orrock: “More than 80 percent of Americans believe we need to have universal background checks.”
Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat, made this claim during a floor debate earlier this month about a Senate bill, which she feared would expand access to guns.
In certain circumstances, this bill would allow Georgians as young as 18 to be granted a gun license with basic military training, and would eliminate a ban on guns in public housing
After the December shootings in Newtown, Conn, President Barack Obama announced a series of proposals that included background checks for all gun sales. Several Democrats, including Obama, have said about 40 percent of all guns are sold without a background check. PolitiFact has reviewed this claim before, rating it Half True.
National polls we checked about support for background checks produced varying numbers of support: 85 percent, 92 percent, 91 percent and 94 percent. All were above 80 percent, even with a margin of error of 3 to 4 percentage points in each poll.
We rated Orrock’s statement True.
Georgia Sen. Donzella James: Georgia has the most lax gun laws in the nation.
James, a self-described gun owner and Democrat who represents portions of Douglas and Fulton counties, made this claim earlier this month during a discussion of a Senate bill that loosens some of the state’s gun laws.
Some gun control organizations regularly rank each state based on its gun laws. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Georgia an 8 on a scale of 100 in terms of the toughness of its gun laws in 2011. Twenty-seven states received lower scores that year. Georgia also scored an 8 in 2009. There were nearly 20 states that received a lower score.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Georgia a D for the toughness of its gun control laws. Twenty states received an F from the group.
From our review, Georgia is considered to have some lax gun laws. It’s possible from some of the changes proposed, Georgia could score lower in the future. But, for now, there are other states that are far more permissive.
We rated James’ statement False.
Education activist JoEllen Smith: Cobb is one of the largest school systems (in the nation) that is debt free.
Cobb County Schools wants a renewal of its five-year sales tax collection program to pay for about $717.8 million of capital projects. Supporters such as Smith argue that the sales tax, or E-SPLOST, is necessary, and previous installments have allowed the system to pay off its debts.
Smith made this claim in a newspaper editorial in Cobb County’s local newspaper last month.
Cobb Schools is the second largest district in the state, and is the 23rd largest in the country, according to the Census Bureau. Census reports show that the system has no long-term or short-term debt. The system paid off its last $184 million in bond debt in 2007, and has incurred no additional bonds or loans, according to the state Education Department.
The system of 108,000 students ranks in the top 25 largest districts in the country, based on enrollment. And state and census data show the system has no debt. Using sales tax programs to pay off debt is common practice in Georgia, education experts said.
We rated Smith’s statement True.