Monday, March 11, 2013

Capitol Update Week 8 - Rise of the Government Lobbyist

Ten days to go in the 2013 Legislative Session

An early release in both the House and Senate on Crossover Day signaled the beginning of the end of the 2013 Legislative Session and the rise of taxpayer funded lobbyists advocating for more government, more bureaucracy, more spending, and less freedom.

HB 512 the Safe Carry Protection Act passed the House and expands both Second Amendment protections and private property rights. Lobbyists for publicly funded schools and universities actively opposed the measure. Upon becoming law, HB 512 would permit, subject to property owner permission, the ability for licensed weapons permit holders to carry on college campuses, bars, and churches.

Taxpayer funded lobbyists and government employees stalled HB 1 Civil Forfeiture Act and HB 159 Property Protection Bill that adhered to Georgia's Constitutional mandate that requires the "Protection to person and property is the paramount duty of government and shall be impartial and complete."

Those same interests prevented HB 176 Mobile Broadband Development Act from coming to the floor and defeated HB 282 Municipal Broadband Investment Act. HB 176 sought to expand mobile broadband coverage and HB 282 would limit government from competing with private industry where the private sector provided coverage.

While I may agree on any given issue with the lobbyists funded by your tax dollars, the prevalence of these interests is much more troubling to me than those private sector advocates that most often simply want government out of our way.

Several bills passing on Crossover Day advance

The following bills remain under consideration and are now in the Senate:

HB 123 the Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act would allow parents to petition their local school board to convert a traditional public school into a public charter school.

HB 127 Automatic Adjustment of Fees requires an automatic adjustment in a fee if it isn't used for the purpose for which it was collected. These fees include the solid waste disposal fee, the tire disposal fee, certain fees pertaining to traffic violations collected by the courts, certain court filing fees, and penalties related to criminal, quasi-criminal, traffic cases, and bond violations.

HB 132 moves the Georgia Board of Pharmacy and Dentistry to the Department of Community Health rather than the Secretary of State's Office.

HB 150 attempts to prevent websites from charging a fee to remove a "mug shot" from publication when the individual in cleared of any crime.

HB 399 clarifies what types of real estate interest are taxable in Georgia via an "ad valorem" tax bill by prohibiting a "possessory interest" tax. Yet another example of local governments use of an "ad valorem" property tax bill for other purposes.

Senator Isakson visits the Capitol

Sen. Isakson and Rep. Harrell
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and Georgia Representative Brett Harrell

As always, I remain appreciative that you allow me to serve as your state Representative. I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you have about the legislation being considered at the state Capitol.  You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0254 or on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at
 Thank you,
 Brett Harrell  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Capitol Update Week 7 - Ethics, Beer and Guns

The pace at the Georgia House is picking up. Crossover Day, the day a bill must pass one chamber to be considered by the other this session, is Thursday, March 7th. Committees are meeting more frequently, the number of bills receiving a hearing is growing, and the Rules Calendar is getting longer.

Last week the House passed two pieces of Ethics legislation on Monday.

HB 142 relates to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance (Ethics) Commission and modifies requirements for lobbyists registration and disclosures, regulates lobbyist spending on Legislators, and restores rule-making authority to the Commission.  HB 142 passed 164-4 and is now in the Senate.

HB 143 changes provisions to campaign contributions and disclosure reports revising both local official reporting as well as mandating that contributions to Legislators between January 1 and the first day of the Legislative Session be reported within five days of the beginning of that Session. HB 143 passed 167-0 and goes to the Senate.

The House unanimously passed HB 242 a comprehensive Juvenile Justice Reform bill.

By the time we reached Friday, legislation concerned beer.

HB 99 the Home Brewer's Rights Bill authored by Rep. Jason Spencer passed easily with a vote of 151-4. I co-signed this bill that legalizes home-brew competitions, permits the transportation of home-brewed beer to the competitions, and raises the maximum amount of beer a person can brew yearly from 50 gallons to 100 gallons (200 gallons if two people of legal drinking age live in the household).

Next Week

The House is in session on Monday and Tuesday, we are adjourned Wednesday, and return for Crossover Day on Thursday. Monday's calendar is published here. A few bills on interest include:

HB 124 a Sunday Sales fix providing that a failure to approve package liquor sales on Sunday would not nullify the prior approval of package beer and wine sales.

HB 125 streamlines the licensing and citizen verification process dealing with immigration.

HB 361 reiterates that Georgia is a "right to work" state and provides annual renewal of any authorization to deduct union dues from employee paychecks.

HB 362 provides that governmental public works contracts shall not be required to use union labor. 

HB 159 passes House Ways & Means Committee

HB 159 my Property Protection Bill passed the Ways & Means Committee and is now pending before House Rules. This proposal that simply says "taxes and only taxes should appear on our property tax bills" is gaining support. I am pleased that in addition to the 55,000 Georgian's that are members of Americans for Prosperity-Georgia, the Real Estate Trade Group including the Georgia Association of REALTORS, Mortgage Bankers Association, Georgia Credit Union League, and Community Bankers Association among others is actively supporting passage. This week the NFIB, National Federation of Independent Business added their support. There remains much work and a long way to go, however, I am gratified that support is growing. HB 159 is sound public policy and prohibits the use of our property tax bills as a debt collection tool for tack-on fees

HB 512 Safe Carry Protection Act hearing Monday afternoon 

HB 512 the Safe Carry Protection Act will be heard before the Public Safety Committee on Monday afternoon at 3 PM in room 415 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.I strongly support HB 512 and I anticipate it will come to the floor for a vote quickly.

As always, I remain appreciative that you allow me to serve as your state Representative. I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you have about the legislation being considered at the state Capitol.  You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0254 or on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at
 Thank you,
 Brett Harrell