Friday, January 31, 2014

Capitol Update - Week 3 - Start, stop, run

We started fast, we stopped, we raced to the weekend

Well, this was an interesting week at the Capitol to say the least. We started fast on Monday, came to a grinding halt on Wednesday, and accelerated again playing catch-up on Friday.

I attended the Mayor's Day breakfast sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association on Monday morning. After a brief floor session, the Alcohol and Tobacco Subcommittee of House Regulated Industries passed two bills I presented - HB 737 (permits home brewers to transport a gallon of beer) and HB 751 (repeals a section of meaningless code). Monday afternoon I met with representatives from several Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) to hear their concerns about HB 649 that would require submission of annual audits to the state (the audits are already prepared and subject to Georgia's Open Meetings Act - the bill allows submission by email).    

After Tuesday's floor session, I presented 
HB 762 to the Highway Safety Subcommittee of Motor Vehicles and received a unanimous "due pass" recommendation. HB 762 adds active sanitation workers / vehicles to Georgia's existing "slow down to get around" law by requiring motorists to change lanes, reduce speed, and/or stop when approaching an active sanitation worker operating in the roadway. Did you know that in 2012, the Labor Department ranked sanitation worker was the fourth most dangerous job in America as measured by deaths per 100,000? 
Snow began to fall Tuesday afternoon necessitating cancellation of the Ways & Means Committee meeting. I had hoped to present HB 648 that upon adoption into law would reclaim the fourth cent of motor fuels sales tax for transportation rather than the state's General Fund. [Related article: An old penny for transportation]  
Wednesday and Thursday the House adjourned and conducted no business. I hope you and your family fared well during the snow and ice storm.  
The House reconvened at 10:00 a.m. on Friday. In addition to passing several local issues, the House passed HB 176 the Mobile Broadband bill. 

Committee calendars
House committee meeting calendar:

Senate committee meeting calendar:

Family Page Day
Theodore, Derayn, and Darius Swilley

I enjoyed meeting the Swilley family from Grayson and hope they enjoyed the day serving as Pages in the Georgia House. 

Full size photos here

Upcoming bills of interest

HB 875 the Safe Carry Protection Act further expands and secures our Second Amendment Rights - I have co-signed this legislation. This proposal expands areas that licensed citizens may carry a weapon in Georgia including Church and Bar (with property owner permission) and Public Buildings (without active security). The bill also eliminates the requirement for fingerprinting when renewing your license. 

HB 885 Haleigh's Hope Act provides a pathway for prescribing medical cannabis strictly controlled for a limited number of serious health conditions - I have co-signed this legislation. 

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  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 Capitol Update - Week 2 - Supplemental FY 2014 Budget

House passes supplemental FY 2014 budget  
We concluded our second week at the Georgia General Assembly on Friday passing  HB 743 in the House - the amended FY 2014 budget at $20.2 billion. As our economy strengthens, state revenues have increased by approximately $300 million (1.5% increase) as compared to the projection at the start of this fiscal year. AsGovernor Deal proposed, the House allocated over half of the increase to K-12 education ($180 million). In addition, a portion of these new funds will go to economic development and job creation incentives ($51.5 million) through the OneGeorgia, Regional Economic Business Assistance grants and transportation projects ($27 million). The House also supported Governor Deal's request to add $25 million to pay for increased enrollment in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids health care programs.    

The amended FY 2014 budget now goes the the Senate for consideration. Once passed by the Senate, a Conference Committee will likely reconcile any differences in the proposed budgets prior to final passage and the Governor's signature.

Committee meetings at full speed next week

With two key priorities (May 20 Primary Election and amended FY 2014 budget) already voted by the House, next week committees begin meeting to debate numerous pieces of legislation. I am grateful to serve on four committees this year that consider issues of interest to me personally and importance to not only those I represent in District 106, but all Georgians - Budget and Fiscal Affairs OversightRegulated IndustriesTransportation, and Ways & Means. You may view committee meeting dates, times, and agendas at the links below.

House committee meeting calendar:

Senate committee meeting calendar:

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

At the Capitol
Please call, email, or visit Brett at the Capitol.

Representative Brett Harrell
601-D Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square
Atlanta, GA 30334

Committee assignments:
Budget & Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Regulated Industries, Transportation, and Ways & Means

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snellville – Time for a new Charter?

Since its’ adoption by the legislature in 2001, Snellville City Council Members have amended the City Charter through a sometimes questionable tactic called “Home Rule Ordinance” no less than a dozen times. Each modification appears to be little more than an attempt to gain political advantage. So, is the City Charter of Snellville the problem?

Depends. Do you believe the malfunction, bickering, lack of progress and accomplishment, and failure to lead by our Federally elected representatives is the result of a poorly written, ambiguous, outdated, and in need of replacing U.S. Constitution? After all, the U.S. Constitution is arguably the most litigated document ever written.  Is the problem the U.S. Constitution or those we elect that attempt to manipulate and interpret every word to their own political advantage?

As the primary author of the 2001 City of Snellville Charter, I am understandably concerned when elected officials suggest modifications to a document thoughtfully and deliberately crafted to serve the entire community to serve a particular purpose or person. The Charter is not and should not be about a particular person, party or faction. The City Charter is the guiding document serving all of Snellville and it should remain so.

You may recall a few years ago an outcry to change the Charter to prevent 3-3 tie votes. Some failed to recognize the value of tie votes and sought to gain a short-term advantage for one side of the divide by removing the Mayor’s vote (SB 258 – 2009). Fortunately, that effort failed and we hear nothing of that issue today as the community elected a solid majority. Had we (wrongly) changed the Charter, the minority opinion on Council today would have no voice at all.

The City Charter contains appropriate checks and balances. Unfortunately, elected have often failed to recognize or accept those provisions and have sought to exploit or ignore various sections for their own reasons and benefit. This tendency by elected results in nothing more than an added burden of legal costs, inefficient government, and poor publicity for those they represent.

So, is the City Charter of Snellville the problem? No. It’s the people not the paper – that’s the problem.

The elected in Snellville are good people, they have simply lost focus on what is important to those they represent and focus all too often on issues and positions that the vast majority of Snellville citizens and businesses care little about. Recently, the word I hear most often associated with the Snellville City Charter is “revoke”. If Council will turn their attention to providing a safe community, with employment opportunities and efficient delivery of limited government services, I suspect no one would mention the word “Charter” again. At least, as one citizen, that is my hope.

Brett Harrell is a former Mayor of Snellville and currently serves many Snellville citizens as the state Representative for the 106th District.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014 Capitol Update - Week 1 - State of the State, New Election Dates

The 2014 Session of the Georgia General Assembly began this week

As you may know, the 2014 Session of the Georgia General Assembly began on Monday, January 13.

On Wednesday, January 15, Governor Nathan Deal presented his State of the State address. Governor Deal reported that the state is doing well as we begin to climb out of the recent recession. In addition to adding 217,000 new private sector jobs since taking office, Governor Nathan Deal's conservative budgets have maintained the AAA bond rating, increased the rainy day fund by 518%, and downsized state government by reviewing over 40% of all budgetary programs through zero based budgeting. Governor Deal recommends in the FY 2015 over $8 billion in funding for education. The Governor is allocating more than 80% of new state revenues to education. You may read the Governor's address at the link below:

We concluded our first week passing HB 310 that establishes earlier primary election dates to provide additional time for our overseas service men and women an improved opportunity to vote.

2014 Election Calendar
Qualifying: March 3 - 7
Additional Campaign Report Due: March 31
Primary Election Day: May 20
Primary Run-Off: July 22
General Election: November 4

Additional information available at Secretary of State Brian Kemp's website:

Please take the opportunity to review updates like this one and stay informed about legislative matters that affect you, your family, business and community. You may visit the Georgia House website at to view live and archived committee meetings and review proposed legislation.

Gwinnett House delegation members ready for 2014 Session

L to R: Reps Tom Rice, Joyce Chandler, Chuck Efstration, Brett Harrell, B. J. Pak, Buzz Brockway, Timothy Barr, Brooks Coleman

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

At the Capitol:
Please call, email, or visit Brett at the Capitol.

Representative Brett Harrell
601-D Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square
Atlanta, GA 30334

Committee assignments:
Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Regulated Industries, Transportation, and Ways & Means

Modifications to Georgia’s alcohol laws will benefit smaller producers, consumers and preserve the system that serves us well

With passage of the 21st Amendment Prohibition ended and the states became the regulators of alcohol within their borders.[1] The states largely adopted one of two regulatory schemes, “control” or “license.” In the eighteen control states, the state has a monopoly over the wholesaling and/or retailing of some or all categories of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits.[2] The remaining thirty-two states adopted varying forms of private licensed wholesalers and distributors. With the sole exception of Washington State, all others operate with some varying form of the “three tier” system segregating producer, distributor, and retailer.[3]

States have various exceptions to this rule, the most prevalent one being the case of a brewpub, which is simultaneously a producer and retailer, and has no requirement to sell to a distributor. [3]

Georgia is a “license” state operating under a modified three-tier system permitting some exceptions for brewpubs and farm wineries.[4]

A national telephone survey commissioned by the Center for Alcohol Policy polled 1,000 adults over the age of 21 between August 12 – August 14, 2013 and the results indicate Americans are very satisfied with current alcohol laws and regulations.[5] Eighty-six percent (86%) said it is easy to find a wide variety of beer, wine, and liquor in their community. In fact, there are more breweries operating in the U.S. today than any time in our history. The Brewers Association recognizes 2,483 “Craft Brewers” of the total 2,538 breweries operating as of June 2013.[6]

Georgia’s alcohol regulatory system is working well. Georgian’s benefit by strong brand and aggressive price competition within a system that insures a safe, high quality product while providing an efficient method of tax collection. Yet, industry interests frequently request legislative modifications to the current structure largely in an attempt to benefit smaller producers. Other industry interests fear such modifications detrimental to not only their business, but problematic for the industry as a whole.[7]

How should the state respond? If the current system provides Georgian’s a safe, high quality product, encourages brand and price competition, allows entry into the marketplace for new products, and insures an efficient method of tax collection, what more should the state do?

The state should adopt limited modifications to the current alcohol regulatory system to provide start-up and growing concerns added opportunities to prosper and succeed without unduly harming the long-standing and proven program that is benefiting the vast majority of Georgian’s.

32 oz and 64 oz bottles called
"Growlers" allow patrons to
take locally brewed beer home. 
In as much as brewpubs exist in Georgia as an exception to the established three-tier system[8] operating as a producer and retailer, permitting the retail sale of up to 64 ounces of draft beer, brewed on-site at the brewpub for off-premise consumption is a reasonable modification. Permitting customers that have already entered the business to take a limited quantity of beer home for personal consumption will dramatically affect the profitability of these small businesses without injuring the established distribution and retail system within Georgia. These off-premise sales should be included in the 50% food calculation for brewpubs excluding from the calculation only the quantity of beer sold through the established wholesale distribution system.

Breweries and distilleries are both producers and the state should treat them similarly within the law. Georgia law currently permits “free” tastings at breweries and distilleries in conjunction with educational and promotional tours.[9] The current provisions are largely unenforceable and easily circumvented by breweries and distilleries that choose to serve beyond the legal limits. The legislature should modify Georgia law to permit limited sales for on-site consumption by breweries and distilleries. Permitting breweries and distilleries to sell for on-site consumption during pre-determined “tour” hours would affect, as with brewpubs, the profitability of the smaller breweries and distilleries, build brand identity and demand for their products, without harming the established distribution and retail network, and improve enforcement.

The modifications to Georgia’s alcohol laws suggested here represent a compromise of the various positions advocated before the General Assembly over the past several years. Regulatory change often results in unintended negative consequences; however, legislators must take the initiative to consider in balance the interests of consumers and all industry participants in a changing marketplace.

Brett Harrell represents House District 106 in the Georgia General Assembly. Representative Harrell serves on the House Regulated Industries Committee and is Vice Chairman of the Alcohol and Tobacco Subcommittee. He also serves on the House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Transportation, and Ways & Means Committees.

October 28, 2013