Gwinnett’s Hunter turns away from controversy

  Embattled Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter wants to focus on his district and the county instead of the controversy over Facebook comments he made more than two months ago. For now, his consultant Seth Weathers tells InsiderAdvantage that Hunter has done what he can to make amends for  those comments. Still, Hunter has no idea when, or how, it will all end. Hunter called U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig” on Facebook after the civil rights icon criticized President Donald Trump about a week before the inauguration. Hunter also made disparaging comments about Democrats in general on Facebook. About a month after the comments, Hunter tried to mend fences. He and other Gwinnett County Commissioners toured a civil rights museum on Feb. 14. That same night, another bridge-building effort end with more bridges burned that built. Hunter attended a Lawrenceville NAACP meeting, but left when the audience continually interrupted him. Since then, he has mostly avoided public criticism of his comments by leaving public meetings before the public comment section. Weathers, who ran Hunter’s campaign and has been his spokesman during the issue, said Hunter wants to focus only on his job as commissioner. “He is going to continue to represent the people of his district,” Weathers said.  That doesn’t mean he will never stay for public comments again, though. “That could change at any time,” Weathers said. “He is just going to do his best to do what is best for Gwinnett.” As for the commissioner’s future, Weathers said resigning was never on the table. Beyond that, Hunter and his team will deal with protests as...

Headed Into Home Stretch, Senate Gets Busy

With just five legislative days left in this year’s session, the state senate is busy reviewing house bills for passage. Committees are moving bills out and they are hitting the floor with the typical seasonal regularity. Monday’s edition will feature a bevy of bills concerning education, mining and drilling, health care, crosswalks, minimum wage and, like a bad penny, the ad valorem tax. HB 148, an example of some of the seemingly rare bipartisanship under the Gold Dome was referred out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Tuesday. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Glanton (D- 75 Jonesboro) – also Reps. Amy Carter (R- 175 Valdosta), Dave Belton (R- 112 Buckhead), Darrel Bush Ealum (D- 153 Albany) and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D- 89 Atlanta) – the bill would officially designate the Depart of Education to establish a “unique identifier” for students who has a parent or guardian that is an active duty military service member and whose parent is a member of a reserve component of the armed forces or National Guard. The idea is to be able to “allow for disaggregation of data for each category” in order to better track the educational outcomes of Georgia’s students related to the military. The bill passed the House unanimously 168-0 so expect this one to breeze through the Senate. HB 198 also passed nearly unanimously, with only frequent “Nayer” Rep. Matt Gurtler (R- 8 Tiger) and Rep. David Stover (R- 71 Newnan) voting against passage. The bill would require local school systems to provide information on immunization, when other health information is provided, specifically for meningococcal meningitis disease...

Banking Bill Nears Passage

On Wednesday, the state Senate Banking Committee gave a “do pass recommendation” and House Bill 192 will now head to the floor for a full vote. In a state with a rather checkered past with the relationship between the law and banking, the bill would, among other things, change the liability of bank directors and officers for monetary damages occurring under their watch. The bill immediately calls to mind the experience of former Georgia senator Jack Murphy, who got into hot water as the director of a failed Alpharetta-based bank that was ultimately sued by the FDIC for breach of fiduciary duty. And that came amid scores of Georgia bank failures. Rep. Beth Beskin (R- 54 Atlanta) has said the bill was not prompted by that experience. Interestingly, the Georgia Banking Committee chair, Rep. Greg Morris (R- 156 Vidalia), also got into some trouble with the feds and was fined $5,000 by the FDIC for an unspecified rules violation. Beskin’s bill in the house did not come before the banking committee, instead being heard by the Judiciary. Georgians for Lawsuit Reform, a group allied with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, supported the bill and the Chamber was pleased with the senate committee’s action today.  The aim of Georgians for Lawsuit Reform is obvious perhaps but the group claims Georgia’s drop from 24th to 31st (according to the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform) from 2012 to 2015 in its national legal ranking necessitated action to maintain Georgia’s attractiveness as a business environment. The report from the Institute showed that Georgia performs particularly poorly on its “Timeliness of Summary Judgment...

HB 452 sees ‘needless changes’; GBI info sharing delayed by Senator Harper

HB 452 by Rep. Rep Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, would require the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to share with Georgia sheriffs and the public information it has been receiving from the federal Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) for at least 18 months on the release of criminal aliens.  Supporters say the good news is that it passed out of the state Senate Public Safety Committee. But they worry that it passed with needless tinkering with the already well-written language and some very concerning incidents. As Mark Krikorian reported in National Review on Tuesday in a piece featuring Petrea’s bill, “ICE shares information nationwide, through a system called Enforcement Integrated Database (EID) and Law Enforcement Notification System (LENS), when it releases criminal aliens who have been convicted of “violent or serious crimes” like “certain felonies and misdemeanors – such as homicide, rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, and kidnapping.” Georgia activist D.A. King, who has been working on this bill for almost two years, says he is “appalled at Public Safety Committee Chairman Tyler Harper’s uninformed changes, which insert additional, subjective language qualifying which criminal aliens will be subject to the legislation.” “Senator Harper proved that he knows zero about the EID/LENS program,” says King, who testified at Tuesday’s hearing. “On the criminal aliens who will be covered by the bill, Harper has inserted ‘and have committed violent or serious crimes’ into what we hope will become law. This was already the stated policy of the feds. Is Harper afraid that the feds will expand the reporting system to share information on criminal aliens to ‘unserious’ violent crimes?” He concludes: “The amateurish, needless language added to HB...

House to reconsider education SPLOST

  The House will reconsider a Constitutional amendment concerning a county and city school district calling and distributing a SPLOST after it was defeated Tuesday. SR 95, sponsored by Sen. Ellis Black, lost by a resounding 74-101 margin, although no one really spoke out in opposition during the hearing on the House floor.  Rep. Randy Nix, who is carrying the resolution in the House, immediately asked for reconsideration. The opposition wasn’t split along party lines this time, but was split equally among the two parties. House Speaker Pro-Tem Jan Jones reminded members of the House that this was the fourth time this issue has come up for vote in the 14 years.  “This body has voted on this issue three times in the 14 years I have been here, and the first time it originated with me in 2003,” said Jones. “We have approved it and sent it to the Senate three times. This time it is originated in the Senate.” SR 95 has moved around in committee this session. In February, the legislation was withdrawn from the committee on Finance and sent to the committee on Education and Youth in Senate. Two weeks later it was withdrawn from Education and recommitted to Ways and Means Legislation states that the proceeds will be distributed on a per student basis among all the school systems unless an agreement is reached for a different distribution. Sen. Ellis Black, sponsor of the amendment, served fourteen years in the House before moving to the...

Gwinnett makes MARTA push

  It seems like everywhere you look these days Metro Atlanta counties are lining up to expand public transportation, and Gwinnett County is apparently no exception. Four Democratic Gwinnett state House Reps. – Pedro Marin, Dewey McClain, Brenda Lopez, and Scott Holcomb this month co-sponsored House Resolution 565, which would recommend that the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners “take action to incorporate mass transportation into Gwinnett County.”  As Clayton and Fulton Counties work to expand their transportation options, Gwinnett leaders hope not to be left behind. A resolution is not a bill, and in fact has no effect whatsoever on the law.  HR 565 serves only to nudge Gwinnett leaders along the path toward a full discussion of transportation options for a rapidly growing county that like others around the city is often strangled by traffic.  Whether bus service, light rail, or heavy rail, these House Reps. want to begin the debate as soon as possible to get the transit ball rolling. What could public transportation in Gwinnett look like?  See a very unofficial and very hopeful mock up below....

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