BREAKING NEWS — Casino Bill Being Reworked — Again

State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, says the “destination resort” legislation he is pushing in the Senate is being reworked by changing its population stipulations to “two regional designations” to allow a casino operation. Beach and other lawmakers fear that stipulating resorts in areas narrowly defined by city or county population numbers could be deemed unconstitutional. Beach says the enabling legislation will now be written to allow for two regions. “The first destination resort could be located within a five-county metro Atlanta area and the second could be located  anywhere outside of the first region.”  “The main stipulation for the second region,” he says, “is that the location has to be outside of a city with a 125,000-square-foot convention center within 30 miles of the destination resort.” Beach says he expects the enabling legislation to receive a positive vote out of committee on Tuesday in the House, and then receive a positive vote out of committee on Thursday in the Senate. How much HOPE Scholarship coffers would receive under this legislation may still be up in the air. A previous draft said HOPE would receive a 50 percent share of revenues. That may be lowered to 30 percent so that other revenue streams could go to rural healthcare and trauma centers (thus picking up the votes of more rural...

Out-of-state wire transfer bill being blocked

  HB 66, authored by state Rep. Jeff Jones, R-Brunswick, proposes that wire transfer companies collect a fully refundable fee on out-of-state wire transfers. The fee would be 100 percent reimbursable as a tax credit when an individual files their Georgia income tax. But the legislation’s real aim is to address wire transfers sent out of Georgia by individuals who try to hide their cash and thus foster a huge underground economy. Jones points out that corporate transfers are specifically exempted, as are veterans and others in his retooled HB 66. He believes few law-abiding Georgians would actually be paying these transfer fees. The bill, however, is stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee by Chairman Jay Powell, R-Camilla. Powell tells InsiderAdvantage that he has problems with HB 66 and won’t grant a committee hearing on it. When he pre-filed HB 66, Jones estimated that the legislation could produce $100 million in annual state revenue. Powell disputed that number and notes that the estimate now has been scaled back. “It won’t generate nearly the amount of revenue he thinks,” Powell says. The committee chairman further told InsiderAdvantage that more exemptions have been granted by the author since the bill was introduced and “I don’t know exactly how many exemptions there are now.” Powell questions “the underlying assumptions of the bill,” says he “has his hands full with other bills” and that “there is always next year to address this bill.” D.A. King, president of the Dustin Inman Society and an HB 66 proponent, counters: “The reluctance to allow a hearing on HB 66 seems to be related to...

You Know POTUS, SCOTUS And maybe FLOTUS – How About WOTUS?

In these times of “lol”s, “brb”s and “fwiw”s*, most everyone has come to learn the acronyms often used for the president, POTUS, and maybe some others but there may be one ‘OTUS’ you haven’t heard – WOTUS. And now Rep. Rick Allen (R- GA 12) wants to get rid of that one altogether. WOTUS stands for the Waters of the United States Rule. It was issued under the Clean Water Act by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers and was issued to define and clarify the scope of waters under the EPA’s purview. In effect, it was designed by the Obama administration to help downstream waters from upstream pollution. “This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable,” said then-President Obama. The rule broadened what qualified as under federal regulatory authority and critics say it was far too broad. According to Allen, it included nearly all bodies of water, including creeks, streams, and groundwater as well as drainage ditches, irrigation pipes and farmland ponds. Ranchers and farmers and others with significant land holdings were particularly upset with the legislation. The Farm Bureau expressed its concerns with the regulation and its uncertainty. “The final rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promises. Instead, it creates confusion and risk by giving the agencies almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects, including common farm ditches, ephemeral drainages, agricultural ponds and isolated...

Senate Weighing the FAST Act to Streamline Business Creation

Early in this year’s legislative session, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, along with Senator Mike Dugan (R- 30 Carrollton), Chairman of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, announced their sponsorship of Senate Bill 2 – the FAST Act. It’s less brevity-inclined title is “The FAST Act – Fairness, Accountability, Simplification, and Transparency – Empowering Our Small Businesses to Succeed.” Besides Dugan, the bill has some heavy hitters from the Republican-led Senate. It’s pretty much a who’s who of Senate leadership as the bill is part of the Senate Majority Caucus’ six legislative priorities. President Pro Tempore David Shafer (R- 48 Duluth), Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R- 46 Athens), Majority Whip Steve Gooch (R- 51 Dahlonega) and Majority Caucus Secretary John Wilkinson (R- 50 Toccoa) are all lead sponsors. Judson Hill, who resigned his state Senate seat when he qualified for the 6th District Congressional race on Monday, had also been a sponsor of the bill. According to the Cagle’s office, the “pro-business, pro-job creation legislation will address and remove the costly hassles placed on Georgia’s small businesses by creating a more efficient and transparent permitting process.” If it passes, the bill would require government agencies that issue licenses or permits to establish a fee schedule that includes processing times. If the agency failed to meet that schedule, the fee would be reduced by 10% for every ten days beyond the deadline. Agencies will also be required an expedited processing option for an extra service charge, which can be no more than twice the original fee. The Act would also establish a “Building and Infrastructure Transparency Score” (BITS) system to rank...

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...

Atlanta’s Rising Murder Rate Poses Challenges

  New Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields declared last Friday at her first press conference that she is committed “to clean up this violent crime.” She is referring to the fact that in 2016 Atlanta’s murder rate soared to be the deadliest in a decade. The city recorded 111 murders – and that number, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, is a 39 percent increase from when Mayor Kasim Reed took office in 2009. In fact, Atlanta’s homicide rate has jumped 17 percent since 2015. “We’re developing new strategies to deal with the rise in murders, carjackings… crimes that shake the public’s confidence,” the mayor says. However, Shields was short on details. The new chief did say that “the current juvenile justice system is simply not working,” and noted that 1,100 juveniles were arrested in 2016. Five teenagers alone, she said, were arrested 101 times for their alleged roles in 120 crimes. Observers note, though, that Shields didn’t emphasize dealing with the growing criminal gang problem – all too many of them juveniles— plaguing Georgia’s capital city. Officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation estimate there are about 20,000 gang members in metro Atlanta. In fact, as early as 2003, federal reports recognized growing concern in Georgia over the increased presence of older and more experienced gang members from Chicago and Los Angeles. And it is reported that Georgia has one of the largest populations of the feared Los Angeles-born street gang MS 13. Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds, however, does provide specifics when it comes to the rising Atlanta area murders which are often gang-related. He says there are...

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