Legislative briefs

House transportation chairman hospitalized

State Rep. Jay Roberts, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee who has been crucial in the launching of a $1 billion transportation funding bill, was hospitalized Monday with chest pains.

Roberts, a Republican from Ocilla, was was expected to remain in the hospital overnight.

Kaleb McMichen, a spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, said in a statment that Roberts “is doing fine” and only went to the hospital “as a precautionary measure.”

The Senate passed its version of House Bill 170 last week, cutting some $200 million from the annual amount expected to be raised by the measure. The chambers have yet to name a conference committee.

— Jim Galloway

Counties with MARTA, GRTA could vote sooner on transportation tax

A Senate committee on Monday tweaked a bill to make it easier for some metro Atlanta counties to decide for themselves whether to raise local sales taxes to pay for transportation projects.

House Bill 106 as rewritten by the Senate Transportation Committee last week proposed several notable changes from the state’s 10-year, 1 percent regional transportation sales tax currently used in some areas. For starters, it would let local governments initiate the process of setting up a vote on the tax. It would give counties the option of going it alone if a regional consensus cannot be reached. And it could cost a fraction of a penny, rather than the whole coin as currently constructed.

The committee had said each of Georgia’s 159 counties could decide for themselves on a county-by-county basis to pursue a local sales tax only after January 2017. Changes made in committee Monday, however, would allow earlier votes for any metro Atlanta county currently served by the area’s MARTA transit system or the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

Unanimous passage Monday by the committee now sends the bill back to the Senate Rules Committee, which decides which bills head to the floor for a vote by the whole chamber.

— Kristina Torres

Beer bill advances with distilleries, but minus brew pubs

A House subcommittee on Monday advanced legislation allowing customers to buy small amounts of beer and liquor directly from brewers and distilleries.

The Regulated Industries subcommittee, however, voted down an amendment allowing brew pubs the same opportunities.

Senate Bill 63 now goes to the full committee, which is scheduled to consider the bill at 2 p.m Tuesday.

Sponsored by Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, the bill would allow breweries to sell tours of its facilities and then “give” consumers up to 72 ounces of beer —a six pack, essentially — to be consumed elsewhere. Distilleries would have the same option to offer paid tours and give away one 750-milliliter bottle of liquor.

The bill as approved Monday is different from the one that passed the Senate on March 13. The new version did not include a provision that the Senate adopted allowing brew pubs to sell its beer for off-site consumption.

— Aaron Gould Sheinin

State ban on environmentally friendly construction advances

State buildings would be effectively banned from using environmentally friendly construction standards known as LEED certification under a measure passed Monday by the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

The “wood wars” battle over the national certification system comes as the state’s timber industry claims LEED discriminates against the use of local wood products that aren’t registered through the Forest Stewardship Council. According to the Georgia Forestry Association, only about 32,000 acres of the timber industry’s 20 million acres in Georgia currently meet that standard — since much of the industry here uses competing guidelines.

There are currently more than 100 state buildings with a LEED rating, but supporters of House Bill 255, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, say the state should do more to promote Georgia-grown wood.

The bill does not apply to private construction. Critics, however, said the ban would extend to state-sponsored construction at the state’s public universities and colleges. They called the effort shortsighted and unnecessary because existing law already requires the use of Georgia forest products in state buildings.

— Kristina Torres