Around Georgia: Pro-timber bill passes, but critics worry about safety

Georgia’s state Capitol
Georgia’s state Capitol

Ex-senator: Wood construction legislation counters home rule

A former Savannah lawmaker opposes a bill that would prevent communities at risk of hurricanes from imposing tougher building standards. Former Republican state Sen. Eric Johnson, an architect, joined other architects, builders, engineers and emergency service personnel in the Build With Strength Coalition to oppose House Bill 876. The bill, which cleared both the state House and Senate, would prevent cities and counties from blocking the use of wood in the construction of certain buildings, provided state minimum standards are met. The cities of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs also objected to the bill that was backed by the timber industry. Johnson says the bill flies in the face of home rule, reports. In a press release from the coalition, Johnson says: "Savannah has been battered by flooding and high winds the last couple years — first from Hurricane Matthew then Hurricane Irma — bringing along mold and costly cleanups. If it's decided that stronger local codes would help prevent high reconstruction costs, we should be allowed to put them in place."

Report: Asian-Americans drawn to Georgia, South

Georgia and other parts of the South are the new destinations for Asian-Americans. The Asian America and Pacific Islander Data, a policy research program at the University of California, Riverside, reports that Asian-Americans have become the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. and is growing fastest in the South, The Huffington Post reports. The number of Asian-Americans in the South increased by 69 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice. In Georgia, the number of Asian-Americans grew 136 percent from 2000 to 2016 and now accounts for 4 percent of the total population. Also dramatic was the increase in Asian-Americans in Virginia — up 113 percent in the same period.

Analyst: State income tax cut biggest for the wealthiest

Georgia's tax cut will produce the greatest savings for income earners in the top 1 percent, a state budget analyst told the Rome Optimist Club. Wesley Tharpe, the research director for the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said the impact of the tax cut is $57 a year for the lowest 20 percent of income earners; $102 for the next 20 percent; and $2,475 annually for the top 1 percent. "The tax plan represents a kind of an objective choice lawmakers made for tax cuts over investments, that's not to say it's good or bad, it's to say it's just the choice," Tharpe said in an article in The Rome News-Tribune.

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