Legislative briefs

Bill to place MLK statue at Capitol advances

A House committee on Wednesday gave key approval to legislation that could lead to the placement of a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Capitol grounds.

House Bill 1080, by Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, was unanimously approved by the State Properties Committee. The bill, which includes House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, as a co-sponsor, could reach the House floor Monday.

The bill would allow for the creation of the statue as long enough private funds are raised to pay for it.

— Aaron Gould Sheinin

Shorter early voting periods in municipalities OK’d

Georgia’s House has approved a measure that would shrink municipal early voting periods for primaries and elections from 21 days to six, including a Saturday.

But House Bill 891 includes a new amendment allowing cities to retain their three-week early voting periods, so long as — depending on their charters — they can get approval from the Legislataure or the local government. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, offered the amendment, citing the importance of “local control.”

Republican state Rep. Barry Fleming of Harlem said he is sponsoring HB 891 to help cities control their election-related costs.

— Jeremy Redmon

‘Slow-poke’ bill aims to stop left-lane lingerers

Those who lollygag in the left lane of highways and interstates could be ticketed under legislation approved Wednesday in the state House.

House Bill 459, by Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, was approved 162-9.

The bill makes it a misdemeanor for any driver on a divided highway who does not move to the right when a car going faster approaches from behind.

“Everybody knows this is the slow-poke bill,” Hitchens said.

Hitchens said he knows enforcement will be difficult — an officer will have to witness it happening.

“My reason for doing this is more for an educational opportunity for people who don’t understand you’re not supposed to ride 55, 60 mph in that left lane when you’ve got 15, 16, 17 people lined up behind you.”

That kind of situation has been known to be “the spark that ignites road rage,” Hitchens said, adding that it’s really just good manners.

— Aaron Gould Sheinin

Bill allowing fractional sales tax dies in House

Lawmakers on Wednesday shot down a plan to allow local governments to levy a special local option sales tax at smaller rates.

House Bill 153, by Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, failed 92-78.

The bill would not have affected local governments that already levy a 1-cent SPLOST. But, when that tax expired, or for areas that don’t have a SPLOST, the local government could charge a sales tax in increments of 0.20 cents.

“We’re not changing what you can spend the SPLOST on, only changing what the county could opt to charge,” Carson said.

It would have given “cities and counties the ability to scale to local government projects,” Carson said.

But fellow Republicans said it would create accounting problems for local jurisdictions to deal with fractions of pennies.

The bill has a chance of being revived. Carson asked the House to reconsider its vote, a procedural move that sets up a final decision Monday.

— Aaron Gould Sheinin

Giffords’ gun control group targets Georgia bill

Americans for Responsible Solutions, a national gun control organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, announced a campaign Wednesday to defeat a sweeping gun bill that would widely expand access to guns in Georgia.

The group has asked its Georgia members to ramp up pressure on lawmakers, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Nathan Deal in an attempt to defeat House Bill 875. It has also alerted its half-million members nationwide to provisions in the bill, which would lift restrictions on guns in churches and bars and allow school boards to arm employees. The bill would also sanction an existing practice that allows guns into portions of Georgia’s airports —including Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The state House passed HB 875 last week. The Senate currently has the bill under review.

The group has also posted online an ad related to its Georgia campaign.

— Kristina Torres

Senate approves silencers for hunting

Georgia hunters could use noise suppressors on their guns under a bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate.

Senate Bill 93, sponsored by Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, would still require gun owners to follow federal law in buying and registering what are commonly called silencers before they can be used in the field. Anyone who violates the rules or uses the suppressor to hunt on land without permission or hunts big game out of season or at night would lose hunting privileges for three years and be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Thirty-two states already allow hunters to use suppressors. Here, one of the state’s biggest gun advocacy groups, Georgia Carry, supports the bill.

SB 93 passed on a 43-10 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration.

— Kristina Torres

Lakeside legislation moves forward

The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would allow residents of north-central DeKalb County to create Georgia’s newest city later this year.

Senate Bill 270 passed 32-18 to create the city of Lakeside. Its exact boundaries, however, changed with a new map introduced on the floor by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody. Millar wants to include nearby Tucker, where residents had already proposed forming a separate city unto themselves.

Democratic senators who represent the area responded angrily to the change, noted a growing controversy and confusion over Lakeside’s overlapping boundaries with both the would-be Tucker and another proposed city nearby, Briarcliff.

Lakeside’s borders are mostly in dispute with Tucker, another heavily Republican area. Each has laid claim to the lucrative Northlake area to help its tax base.

The bill now heads to the House for consideration. The DeKalb delegation has held off on cityhood proposals this year because of the boundary battles.

— April Hunt, Kristina Torres

DeKalb land dispute headed to governor

Gov. Nathan Deal could end a battle over a prime piece of real estate in north-central DeKalb County by signing two bills recently approved by the state Legislature.

House Bill 905 and House Bill 906 both would validate Chamblee’s annexation last year. Co-sponsors include two Democratic and two Republican lawmakers from DeKalb.

That annexation included the Century Center office complex, whose owners are now suing Chamblee to instead become part of Brookhaven. Brookhaven had annexed the property just before the Chamblee referendum last fall.

If Deal signs the bills into law, the borders listed in the Chamblee vote will prevail, making Century Center part of Chamblee. The property has remained part of unincorporated DeKalb during the court battle, which is slated to be reviewed by the state Court of Appeals.

— April Hunt

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