Agreement reached in Senate's 'two MARTA rail bills' problem

The Problem of the Two MARTA Bills was resolved Monday during a private gathering of the state Senate Republican caucus.

You’ll recall that

ExploreSB 313,

the rail expansion bill dropped by Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta,

Explore was accidentally sent to the State and Local Government Operations Committee

, chaired by rail skeptic John Albers, R-Roswell.

Albers refused to remand the bill. And so Beach created a second, nearly identical bill – SB 330. Which is now in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Faced with a floor fight over the issue that he stood a good chance of losing (Democrats were prepared to line up behind Beach), Albers has now conceded the point. But at this price:

-- Today’s 2 p.m. SLO-GO hearing on SB 313 will proceed, after which the bill will be remanded to the Senate Transportation Committee;

-- and Albers will hold an ex officio seat on the transportation committee while it is considering that particular bill.

We’re told there was a “side agreement” that may be more important than either of the two concessions above. The MARTA rail bill will be subject to the “Hastert rule” -- i.e., it must receive the majority approval of the Senate Republican caucus before a vote by the full chamber can be held.

Beach has scheduled a 1 p.m. press conference at the "northern end of the first floor" of the Capitol, presumably to discuss the agreement.


State campaign contribution reports with a Jan. 31 deadline have started rolling in. Looking at lawmakers in the Capitol, one can examine the $241,393 reported by House Speaker David Ralston and give a low whistle.

But then  you look at Senate President pro tem David Shafer's cash-on-hand: $1,263,252.97. That doesn't include another $142,634.81 that's held in a dormant campaign account built when Shafer was a candidate for lieutenant governor back in 2010. The report shows $323,875 raised in last six months.

Maxed-out donors include newly named Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian (an airline mea culpa, perhaps?) and Atlanta businessman Guy Millner, the former Republican candidate for governor.

Other donors include former Senate President pro tem Eric Johnson of Savannah, Henry County Solicitor Trea Pipkin, and $500 from the Marietta law firm of former Gov. Roy Barnes.

That kind of cash might prompt the question of whether Shafer intends another run for lieutenant governor in 2018 – if Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle makes his run for governor. Shafer demurred: "I am grateful to the many friends who have encouraged me in my public service, financially and otherwise," he said.


We've barely begun 2016, but already Cathy Woolard is socking away cash for the 2017 race for mayor of Atlanta.

In the first reporting period since registering her campaign committee, Woolard raised $145,745, including more than 250 individual donors. Her cash on hand is $100,738.


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for vice president? When asked whether he would consider the nation's No. 2 job, the Democrat demurred. Hillary Clinton, he said, should tap U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro to be her running mate.

He told our AJC colleague Scott Trubey:

"I think Secretary Castro and Secretary Clinton would make a wonderful one-two combination and I also think it would help build the bench of the future of the Democratic Party to have someone who is as dynamic as Secretary Castro. I also think Sen. (Tim) Kaine of Virginia would be terrific as a person on Secretary Clinton's ticket once we're done with the primary."

At the groundbreaking of a new residential community in downtown Atlanta, Reed also predicted that Clinton will "dominate" Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in South Carolina and took a shot at his standing as a democratic socialist.

“I can’t imagine as nice a man as Senator Sanders is, a person who has never decided to be part of the Democratic Party being the standard-bearer of Democrats after being a Democrat for a year,” Reed said.


State Rep. Scott Holcomb sees his legislation to abolish the role of DeKalb County chief executive as a conversation-starter.

The legislation he introduced Monday would also add another seat to the commission, making it an eight-person panel, and eliminate at-large seats. The Brookhaven Post has a copy of the new county map.