Aerospace giant invests in Georgia

  Atlanta may get most of the headlines when it comes to adding jobs in Georgia, but other areas of the state are notching victories of their own on the employment front.  The latest of these is Columbus, where aerospace company Pratt & Whitney recently announced its intention to add over 500 jobs at its plant near the city. Those 500 jobs are part of a $386 million investment in Georgia, where the company already employs over 1,200 workers at its Columbus facility, which opened in 1984.  Pratt and Whitney is mainly a producer of engines for airplanes for both private and government use.  Its parent company, United Technologies, is among the largest producers of commercial technology in the world. Governor Nathan Deal was pleased by the news, saying in a press release, “Georgia’s pro-business structural framework and deep talent pool help to retain industry leaders such as Pratt & Whitney. By adding these new high-quality manufacturing jobs, Pratt & Whitney is making a significant investment in the Columbus community and we look forward to strengthening this longstanding partnership as the company continues to grow.” The company will also partner with the Technical College System of Georgia, which will offer specialized classes to help students prepare for careers in advanced manufacturing.  ...

Huge field emerges in 6th District race

  Qualifying ended Wednesday in the race to replace former Congressman-now-Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, and what a field has lined up.  A whopping 18 candidates shelled out the $5,220 for the opportunity to see their name on the ballot on April 18th, when the special election will dump everyone running from both parties into what promises to be a very divided vote. While it’s far too early to call anyone a front-runner, here are some of the better known candidates lining up on the blocks for the sprint to election day.       Republicans Former state Sen. Judson Hill – The first candidate to declare, Hill picked up some early endorsements from the likes of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and has already put together a hefty war chest.  He is also the best known candidate from Cobb County, which should score him some points in a large district split between three counties. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel – Handel ended weeks, (if not months) of speculation Wednesday when she finally officially declared for the seat.  Popular in Fulton County, which contains by far the biggest chunk of votes in the district, Handel has experience in big campaigns and deep connections to the local establishment. Former state Sen. Dan Moody – The Johns Creek candidate has a secret weapon – a campaign team comprised of Perdue family-connected operatives that has a sterling election record in recent years. Former Johns Creek Councilman Bob Gray – A self professed Trump ally, Gray made a big ad buy early and is already busy introducing himself to voters in the district. Also...

Legislators at odds over hunting, fishing fees

  Dueling bills in the state House and Senate stand at odds over the future of hunting and fishing fees, with the former looking to raise their cost and the latter to freeze prices.  The altered House Bill 208, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Trey Rhodes, would increase annual hunting licenses from $10 to $15 and fishing licenses from $9 to $15.   By bringing those costs  “to align with Southern averages,” the state could hire as many as 40 new game wardens and build miles of new roads to and on public forests.  State auditors have claimed that by raising license rates, the state could bring in nearly $7 million annually.  The version of the bill passed its subcommittee and will head to the House Game, Fish, and Parks Committee later this week. Meanwhile on the other side of the Capitol, state Sen. Bill Heath, another Republican, sponsored Senate Bill 48, which would freeze the cost of hunting and fishing licenses where they are for the indefinite future.  The bill quickly passed the Senate without much issue by a margin of 53-1.  Said Heath on the bill, “I think that we need to keep our citizens’ ability to access these hunting and fishing licenses and the rights to hunt and fish as economical as possible.” Should HB 208 pass we could see an interesting moment when two conflicting bills find themselves on the floor of the House and...

Attorney General secures big win for Georgians

  The battle against predatory pay-day lenders is not a new issue in Georgia, but recently-appointed Attorney General Chris Carr may have just won the war.  A settlement between the state and online lending companies Western Sky Financial, CashCall, and other affiliates has resulted in $40 million going back into the pockets of Georgians who fell victim to the schemes.   Last Fall the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that out of state online lenders such as the defendants were subject to Georgia’s Payday Lending Act, which dictates that loans of $3,000 or less may not have interest rates above 10%.  The ruling threw a wrench into the business of the California-based lending companies, which were charging nearly 20,000 Georgians with interest rates between 140% and 340%. The settlement demanded the companies pay some $27 million in restitution to their ex-customers as well as offering  $17 million in loan relief.  An additional $1 million civil penalty to the State and $500,000 in legal fees capped off the deal, the largest monetary settlement with the lender in the nation to date. A monumental victory for Chris Carr and his legal team, including Counsel for Legal Policy Timothy Butler and Assistant Attorneys General Charlene Swartz, Monica Sullivan and Andrew Chesser.  More good press for the AG as he continues to make himself one of the state’s most popular politicians heading into his (re)election bid in...

Gun bill boasts bipartisan support

  Bi-partisan support for a gun bill is almost unheard of in Georgia, where Dems and Republicans rarely see eye to eye.  SB 99 though, introduced by Democrat state Senator Elena Parent and co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Tyler Harper, (among others) is an exception. Currently certain individuals are banned from gun ownership, including felons, illegal immigrants, and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.  For that third category the gun ban lasts for five years, after which the individual is removed from the list and has their second amendment rights restored.  SB 99 would get rid of the five year automatic removal from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, (essentially the ‘no buy’ list), forcing anyone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility to prove in court that they are mentally well enough to own a gun. And that’s where the bipartisanship comes in.  Democrats support the bill because they don’t want mentally ill Georgians owning guns just because their name fell off a list after a five year period.  As Parent told WABE last week, “People who commit mass shootings are very likely to be severely mentally ill.”  Republicans like co-sponsor Harper are on board as well, pointing out that the bill actually lets recovered individuals restore their second amendment rights faster than before since they can petition a court for reinstatement after being only one year removed from a mental facility. It remains to be seen whether the state’s powerful guns rights organizations decide to weigh in on the issue.  With their hands full fighting a reluctant Governor over campus carry, it’s unlikely that they make...

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