Subscribe to Georgia Tipsheet's agenda-setting morning news digest, the Morning Tipsheet.
Perdue named to budget conference committee
3 days ago

Perdue named to budget conference committee

Freshman Republican Sen. David Perdue was tapped Thursday to sit on a special House-Senate panel to reconcile the differences between the budget blueprints the two chambers passed last month.

The Georgian was one of twenty senators—11 Republicans, 9 Democrats—appointed. He joins Rep. Tom Price, who birthed the House budget, on the joint conference committee, which is slated to hold its first public meeting on Monday.

Both budgets would zero out the federal deficit over the next decade and gut the Affordable Care Act, but conferees must hash out lingering disagreements over an increase for the Pentagon’s war fund.

Senate Republicans may employ a budgetary procedural tool known as reconciliation that would require the support of only a simple majority instead of the standard 60-vote threshold only if the conferees can come to an agreement. Of course, the measure will almost certainly be vetoed by the president. Read More

Dem. Bishop votes to kill estate tax
4 days ago

Dem. Bishop votes to kill estate tax

Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop was among only seven House Democrats to vote Thursday to repeal the estate tax, a longtime GOP legislative priority that is unlikely to clear the upper chamber and unlikelier still to pass the president’s desk.

Republicans set up the repeal vote, which passed largely along partisan lines, to coincide with the week’s tax filing deadline. (Three Republicans—none from Georgia, of course—broke rank and voted the proposal down.) It was the first time in a decade that the full House has moved to the trash the nearly hundred-year-old tax.

Bishop was the lone Democratic cosponsor of the legislation, through he was joined a half-dozen other Georgians: GOP Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, Doug Collins, Buddy Carter, Rick Allen, Jody Hice, and Austin Scott.

Democratic leadership criticized the proposal as a multi-billion dollar tax break for the country’s wealthiest families, while Republicans countered that the tax was more likely to impact family farms and small businesses rather than the ultra-rich.

Only those individuals with estates greater than $5.43 million, or couples whose combined estate tops $10.86 million, must pay the tax when passing assets after a death. According to a joint House-Senate taxation committee, it will hit about 5,400 estates—or 0.2 percent of the projected 2.6 million deaths—this year. That same panel projected that the tax’s repeal would drop government revenue by about $269 billion over a decade.

A Bishop aide did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon, but as recent as last month the Georgia Democrat was publicly boostering a repeal.

You’ll be forgiven for thinking he sounds like a Republican here: “I have heard from farmers, funeral home owners, newspaper publishers, radio station owners, and garment manufacturers about the need for estate tax relief,” he said in a March press release. “I believe the estate tax is politically misguided, morally unjustified and downright un-American.” Read More

House Majority Leader O’Neal confirms retirement
4 days ago

House Majority Leader O’Neal confirms retirement

The number-three Republican in the Georgia House of Representatives confirmed Wednesday to his hometown newspaper that he would resign his seat at the end of the month.

House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal will be dumping his leadership post in exchange for an appointment as the first permanent judge in Georgia’s Tax Tribunal, which settles disputes between taxpayers and the Department of Revenue, according to the Macon Telegraph.

O’Neal, a tax attorney by trade, told the paper he considered the appointment a “bucket list opportunity.”

Tipsheet reported Monday that O’Neal would be resign in exchange for a state appointment by Gov. Nathan Deal, though the majority leader did not respond to requests for comment. An aide to Speaker David Ralston refused comment when asked earlier this week if O’Neal had consulted House leadership on his plans.

Gold Dome Republicans tell Tipsheet that O’Neal has been eying his possible retirement since last summer, when he had hoped to run the state Department of Revenue. That job instead went to former state Rep. Lynne Riley. Read More

Braves exec: we hope fans will ride bikes to new stadium in ‘burbs
5 days ago

Braves exec: we hope fans will ride bikes to new stadium in ‘burbs

A Braves executives said at a recent public forum that he hoped fans would choose alternative transportation methods, like bicycles, when traveling to the team’s new suburban stadium.

Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of operations, told a business association Tuesday that he hopes fans will consider biking to the team’s new location in suburban northwest Atlanta to relieve congestion.

“We’re working closely with [community improvement districts] because we’re going to have a lot of bikers, and we want people to ride there, certainly on the weekends are take cars off the road,” Plant said at a meeting of the Kennesaw Business Association according to the Marietta Daily Journal.

The new stadium, into which the team will move in time for the 2017 season, is located off of one of the city’s major arteries, I-285. Last year, a cyclist was struck by a motorist down just down the road from the site of the new stadium. Read More

Perdue one of 8 no votes on ‘doc fix’ bill
5 days ago

Perdue one of 8 no votes on ‘doc fix’ bill

Republican David Perdue was among a small handful of mostly southern GOP senators who voted against Medicare reform legislation to abandon a flawed repayment program for health care providers.

The legislation was offered as a permanent solution to the yearly congressional tradition known as the “doc fix,” in which Congress was forced to annually override a 1997 federal repayment formula that tied Medicare payouts to increases in the economy.

When it passed the House last month with overwhelming bipartisan support—it fell 37 votes shy of the complete chamber’s backing—two Georgians voted it down. Conservative Reps. Barry Loudermilk and Tom Graves argued the new blueprint was insolvement and would increase the national debt by $500 billion in the next two decades.

The legislation passed the Senate Tuesday on similar overwhelming margin, 92-8. In a statement, Perdue echoed the concerns of his fellow Peach State dissenters in the lower chamber.

“We have got to stop borrowing at these outrageous levels to meet our federal priorities,” Perdue said via spokeswoman Megan Whittemore. “Meeting the needs of our seniors, doctors, and rural health centers is a priority, but we need to find the money within the budget process, and put together a responsible way to pay for these priorities, not use more borrowed money that adds to our long-term debt.”

The bill marked one of the first fissures between Perdue and senior Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, who voted for the doc fix-fix. The two have generally been in line on most matters since Perdue took office earlier this year.

Isakson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the abandonment of the old formula was an “important first step forward on strengthening Medicare and reforming entitlements.” Read More

Isakson raises $1.6 million in Q1
6 days ago

Isakson raises $1.6 million in Q1

Senator Johnny Isakson raised more than $1.6 million in the first three months of the year, according to an aide.

Fundraising reports are not due with the Federal Election Commission until Thursday, but an Isakson spokeswoman previewed the campaign’s filing with Tipsheet Tuesday.

The GOPer, who faces reelection next year, will report a cash balance of $3.75 million and zero debt, a far stronger financial position than this time last cycle.

“I am proud that Georgians continue to feel that I effectively represent their interests in Washington,” Isakson said in a statement. “I look forward to this campaign and supporting all those conservative candidates across the country who are also dedicated to keeping our Republican majority and taking back the White House.” 

His campaign had raised less than $400,000 in the first quarter of 2009 and had a war chest of just $2.47 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Isakson already faces one nominal challenge—from MARTA engineer Derrick Grayson, who secured just over 6,000 votes in last year’s Republican Senate contest—but the 70-year-old is hoping to preemptively big foot any serious primary trials by posting strong fundraising numbers lest any would-be challengers think him easy prey. Read More

Ga. man arrested after attempting to build guard rail on spot where daughter died

By  •  Local

A grieving north Georgia father took the state’s infrastructure backlog into his own hands last week when he attempted to construct guard rail along a bridge where his daughter recently died.

White County sheriff’s deputies arrested Shannon Hamilton of Cleveland, Ga. over the weekend for attempting to construct a safety barricade on the spot where his 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend died after their vehicle overturned and plugged into a creek earlier this year.

The county commission voted last month to add guard rails to the spot but Hamilton considered the government’s pace dangerously sluggish — so he acted himself and now faces a felony charge.

“For 30 days to go by and nothing to happen is disgusting, disrespectful, it’s negligent, and it’s reckless disregard,” he told a local Fox News affiliate after his arrest.

Hamilton’s arrest was caught on film. In the cell phone-recorded video, he’s seen saying, “[i]t’s sad the community of grieving parents have to make things happen when the White County roads department can’t do shit.”

He was booked into the White County Detention Center on a felony charge and posted a $5,000 bail. Read More

RFRA sponsor: nondiscrimination rider would hold hostage people of faith
6 days ago

RFRA sponsor: nondiscrimination rider would hold hostage people of faith

The author of Georgia’s failed religious liberty legislation says he will revive the divisive proposal next year as written — without non-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians that supporters in the General Assembly deemed a poison pill.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, the Columbus Republican who authored the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said in a Monday radio interview that possible discrimination based on sexual orientation is totally immaterial to his bill—it’s already the case in Georgia that private businesses may refuse service to LGBT persons barring municipal nondiscrimination ordinances—and accused activists of dishonestly leveraging the debate over free exercise of faith to force an unrelated discussion about nondiscrimination.

“There’s nothing about this bill that impacts the current state of Georgia law as to whether we’re going to recognize sexual orientation as a protected class,” McKoon told Atlanta NPR affiliate WABE. “I think that one of the objectives of the opposition to this bill has been to create confuse about [religious freedom] to then leverage it to try to talk about [nondiscrimination].”

McKoon evaded questions by host Denis O’Hayer why those two debates—the barring of government from interfering with the free exercise of faith, and codifying in state law sexual orientation as protected class—could not be had in tandem as a means of diffusing criticisms of his bill and similar measures in states like Indiana and Arkansas.

“I don’t think that people of faith in this state should be held hostage to any other issue, any other public policy issue,” he said. “That debate … has nothing to do with the fundamental protection of the first freedom of all Georgians, which is the right of free exercise.”

The GOPer also said he expected state party activists to send a “very strong message” to the General Assembly that the base supports his bill. Party activists will huddle this weekend for district conventions and again next month for the state Republican party’s convention in Athens.

“I’ve been spending most of my time talking to congressional district Republican party chairmen around this state. We’ll be having conventions this Saturday,” he said. “And I expect you’re going to hear a very strong message sent from all over this state and all 14 congressional districts on this issue.”

Asked if that strong message might translate to primary challenges for the three Republicans who were instrumental in the bill’s demise by supporting the inclusion of nondiscrimination clause in committee, McKoon said he wasn’t “in the business of getting into threatening people” but expected it would “certainly impact the debate.”

Listen to the full exchange at WABE’s website. Read More