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Funeral service for former First Lady Barbara Bush in Houston

Primary election will lead to turnover in Georgia Legislature

Next month’s primary elections feature races for 20 open seats in the Georgia General Assembly along with challenges to several vulnerable incumbents, potentially shaking up the state’s balance of power. All but one of the 20 seats without an incumbent are currently held by Republicans, creating an opportunity for Democrats to make inroads in the Georgia House and Senate. Five of those...
Next month’s primary elections feature races for 20 open seats in the Georgia General Assembly along with challenges to several vulnerable incumbents, potentially shaking up the state’s balance...

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont have a ‘handshake deal’

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare have struck a deal to renew their contract, Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday. The governor in a tweet called it a “handshake deal.” “The handshake deal means that we have full agreement on the major issues of the contract, and what remains is for us to put that all on paper and sign it,” said Matt Gove, a spokesman for...
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Piedmont Healthcare have struck a deal to renew their contract, Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday. The governor in a tweet called it a “handshake deal.” &ldquo...


Georgia public colleges will not raise tuition for 2018-2019

Georgia public colleges will not raise tuition for 2018-2019

As a parent of students at the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, I am happy to hear this today. Statement from the Board of Regents: University System of Georgia students will pay the same tuition for the 2018-2019 academic year as the current 2017-2018 academic year, after the Board of Regents set annual tuition rates today for all 26 colleges and universities at a zero percent increase. ...
How to hack elections on Georgia’s electronic voting machines

How to hack elections on Georgia’s electronic voting machines

A rapt audience watched as professor Alex Halderman, an expert on electronic voting machines, changed votes in a hypothetical election before their eyes. At a Georgia Tech demonstration this week, Halderman showed how to rig an election by infecting voting machines with malware that guaranteed a chosen candidate would always win. Four people from the audience voted on the same kind of touch-screen...
The Jolt: Nathan Deal’s pick for PSC gets GOP foe with tea party, solar backing

The Jolt: Nathan Deal’s pick for PSC gets GOP foe with tea party, solar backing

So it turns out that, this spring, tea partyer Debbie Dooley won’t be camping out in north Georgia in an attempt to unseat House Speaker David Ralston – as she has in the past. Instead, Dooley is focused on giving Nathan Deal a bit of heartburn, championing a Republican solar advocate against Tricia Pridemore, the governor’s handpicked choice for state Public Service Commissioner...
Georgia’s top candidates: Make harassment complaints publicly available

Georgia’s top candidates: Make harassment complaints publicly available

Georgia law doesn’t require the public release of sexual harassment complaints filed against lawmakers, or the taxpayer-funded settlements they may trigger. The leading candidates for Georgia governor want that changed. Both the Democratic candidates for governor and each of the five top Republicans told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution they support expanding Georgia’s sunshine laws to...
Georgia governor kicks off week of high-stakes meetings 

Georgia governor kicks off week of high-stakes meetings 

Gov. Nathan Deal has a string of high-stakes meetings this week that starts Monday with a sit-down between deadlocked healthcare officials and continues in New York on Tuesday in meetings with analysts over Georgia’s AAA bond rating.  The governor will meet early Monday with leaders from Piedmont Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia to try to break an impasse after a contract...
Hospital thought it had answer for rural struggles. Now it’s in peril.

Hospital thought it had answer for rural struggles. Now it’s in peril.

On April 12 last year, an investigator for the insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield sent a bombshell letter to the owner of a small North Georgia hospital, Chestatee Regional. The investigator laid out evidence of systemic overcharging for urine drug tests, tests that he suggested the Dahlonega facility never should have done in the first place — and maybe never did, at all. The letter touched...
Public review of new Georgia voting system launched

Public review of new Georgia voting system launched

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is moving forward with efforts to replace the state’s electronic voting machines after legislation to do so failed. Kemp announced Friday he’s forming a bipartisan commission of lawmakers, political party leaders, election officials and voters to recommend a new voting system for the state. The group will review options for the state&rsquo...
NRA throws its weight behind Cagle in Georgia governor’s race

NRA throws its weight behind Cagle in Georgia governor’s race

The National Rifle Association endorsed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s campaign for Georgia governor weeks after he promised to “kill” any legislation that would benefit Delta Air Lines after it cut ties with the gun rights group. The endorsement Thursday was no surprise — the group publicly thanked Cagle for his support in February — but it comes after another Republican contender...
Georgia ethics panel dismisses harassment complaint against Shafer

Georgia ethics panel dismisses harassment complaint against Shafer

The Georgia Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a sexual harassment complaint a lobbyist filed against state Sen. David Shafer, with the announcement coming a day after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained an investigative report raising questions about the allegations. “Based on the findings of fact reported by the independent counsel, the committee found that there is a lack of credible...
Capitol Recap: Perdues pop up in prominent roles during tariff dispute

Capitol Recap: Perdues pop up in prominent roles during tariff dispute

The tariff quarrel between the U.S. and China has generated lots of talk and more than its share of stock market volatility. It’s also meant time in the spotlight for the Perdue family. Threats aimed at Chinese steel and aluminum begat threats aimed at U.S. soybeans, nuts and peaches. That made farmers jittery, and that’s where Sonny Perdue, the U.S. secretary of agriculture and former...
Report raises questions about truth of Shafer sex harassment complaint

Report raises questions about truth of Shafer sex harassment complaint

The lawyer investigating claims that state Sen. David Shafer, a leading Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, persistently sexually harassed a veteran lobbyist cast suspicion on the allegation in a report obtained exclusively Thursday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Attorney Penn Payne wrote that her conclusion was that “it is more likely that Sen. Shafer did not make sexually...
Georgia House speaker held up session’s end for bill pushed by his son

Georgia House speaker held up session’s end for bill pushed by his son

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston delayed the end of this year’s legislative session past a midnight deadline so lawmakers could vote on a bill to allow speeding ticket cameras in school zones. The bill was pushed by Ralston’s son, a lobbyist for an Arizona-based company, American Traffic Solutions, that sells the camera systems to local governments. The legislation, House...
Talks resume in Blue Cross-Piedmont Healthcare contract break

Talks resume in Blue Cross-Piedmont Healthcare contract break

It’s now been 10 days that patients of Piedmont Healthcare with Blue Cross insurance have been out of network. The two companies still have no deal to renew their contract, which expired Easter Sunday. And they’re still talking tough. But at least they’re talking. On Monday they had their first meeting since talks collapsed at the contract deadline. Blue Cross Blue Shield of...
After Delta flap, a few execs pony up to Georgia Democrats

After Delta flap, a few execs pony up to Georgia Democrats

In the days after Georgia Republicans exacted political revenge on Delta Air Lines, several high-profile business leaders and airline executives quietly threw their support behind one of the two Democrats running for governor. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of recently released financial disclosures shows that some of the state’s top businessmen and high-ranking Delta employees ponied...
Republican secretary of state candidates debate Georgia’s voting system

Republican secretary of state candidates debate Georgia’s voting system

All four Republican candidates for Georgia secretary of state said Monday they want to replace the state’s electronic voting machines with a system that creates a paper record for verification. But none of them ruled out using computers to print ballots, a voting method opposed by several election integrity groups that say it’s unsafe. Those groups prefer hand-marked paper ballots...
More than $22 million has been pumped into Georgia governor’s race

More than $22 million has been pumped into Georgia governor’s race

The candidates for Georgia governor added millions of dollars more to their campaign fundraising hauls over the past two months. The two Democrats and five leading Republicans collected thousands of new donors — and began to seriously ratchet up their spending — ahead of the May 22 primary. In all, according to financial reports filed late Friday, the candidates have raised or loaned themselves...
Podcast: Races to watch ahead of next month’s Georgia primaries

Podcast: Races to watch ahead of next month’s Georgia primaries

This is not a drill. Georgia’s 2018 General Primary Election is next month on May 22.  The latest episode of the Politically Georgia podcast will help you prepare for it. AJC’s Washington correspondent Tamar Hallerman joins host Greg Bluestein to discuss Georgia’s big issues and races ahead of the primaries. Hallerman also discusses an upcoming story on Secretary of Agriculture...
In final minute, Georgia lawmakers OK’d favored insurance bill

In final minute, Georgia lawmakers OK’d favored insurance bill

In the final minutes of the 2018 session, the Georgia House quietly ended a three-year fight to pass legislation making sure insurance agents receive a commission when they sell health coverage. The measure, House Bill 64, was a priority of powerful House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, a veteran insurance agent who has complained that some health insurers were shirking agents for...
Georgia races attract many first-generation Americans

Georgia races attract many first-generation Americans

Ethan Pham fled Vietnam with his family after his father was imprisoned there for 10 years for fighting on the side of U.S. troops against the Communists. He and his wife now run a law firm in Norcross. Kevin Abel of Sandy Springs immigrated here from South Africa as a teenager with his family, leaving behind the ugliness of apartheid and seeking better opportunities in America. He and his wife started...
New legislation to change school funding, discipline, testing

New legislation to change school funding, discipline, testing

Kindergarten students will start learning about sexual assault, schools will find it more difficult to expel misbehaving tykes, and people who speed through a school zone could get caught by a machine instead of a police officer, if Gov. Nathan Deal signs these recently passed bills. They are among about two dozen consequential school-related bills that passed the Georgia General Assembly. Perhaps...
A tide of new cash rocks Georgia governor race

A tide of new cash rocks Georgia governor race

The candidates for Georgia governor added millions of dollars more to their campaign fundraising hauls over the last two months, according to financial reports filed late Friday. The two Democrats and five leading Republicans collected thousands of new donors – and began to seriously ratchet up their spending – ahead of the May 22 primary. In all, the candidates have raised or loaned themselves...
Georgia public schools lose two critical allies in General Assembly

Georgia public schools lose two critical allies in General Assembly

Public schools are losing two critical allies in the Georgia General Assembly as the state prepares to elect a new governor this year.  State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, resigned as chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee after differing with fellow Republicans on a bill that redirected more money to state-sanctioned charter schools, which resulted in funding them at a higher...
Terror fears at Georgia Capitol drive effort to shut short street

Terror fears at Georgia Capitol drive effort to shut short street

Citing concerns about terrorism, the state is again calling for the short street between the Capitol and Supreme Court building to be permanently closed to vehicles. The Georgia General Assembly recently passed a resolution to shut down part of Mitchell Street because a terrorist could use it to run down pedestrians, as in last year’s attack in London that killed five people near the British...
Capitol Recap: Shifting ground on education in the Georgia Legislature

Capitol Recap: Shifting ground on education in the Georgia Legislature

When a major piece of state legislation on school funding wins approval, you would expect that it had the support of the chairman of the state Senate Education Committee. But expectations and reality aren’t always found in the same ZIP code. State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a Republican from west Cobb County, was that chairman when House Bill 787 gained passage. It would increase per-student...
‘Pocket dial’ cost Georgia worker his job. Now he’s suing.

‘Pocket dial’ cost Georgia worker his job. Now he’s suing.

James Stephens put his cellphone in his pocket after hanging up with his boss one evening in January 2016. It took him about 12 minutes to realize that he’d accidentally pocket-dialed his boss, Georgia Subsequent Injury Trust Fund Director Mike Coan, back. By then, he’d had a conversation with his wife, Gina, about, among other things, Coan’s job performance. Not liking what he heard...
Georgia 2018: Bailey raises $270K in race for AG 

Georgia 2018: Bailey raises $270K in race for AG 

Democrat Charlie Bailey said Thursday he will report collecting about $270,000 since announcing he would challenge Republican Attorney General Chris Carr less than two months ago.  The former Fulton County prosecutor’s filing shows he has nearly all that sum – about $260,000 – in cash on hand. Bailey and Carr both don’t have primary opposition, meaning they will square...
Decatur, law firm suing Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board

Decatur, law firm suing Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board

Decatur and the law firm that represents it are suing Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board, alleging the appointed panel is violating the state’s open meetings and open records laws. Filed Wednesday in the Fulton County Superior Court, the pair of lawsuits from the city and Wilson, Morton & Downs allege the board meets irregularly with no public notice, does not provide summaries...
Georgia lawmakers cut Atlanta planning agency funds after bad audit

Georgia lawmakers cut Atlanta planning agency funds after bad audit

A state audit that found the Atlanta Regional Commission engaged in sloppy spending practices, kept poor financial records and misused purchasing cards is proving costly to the planning agency. The state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which gained final approval on the last day of the 2018 General Assembly session, cuts by two-thirds the money the ARC says it receives to work with local governments...
Case against Georgia debt collector settled for $8.5M

Case against Georgia debt collector settled for $8.5M

A debt collection company is giving up $8.5 million in consumer debt under a settlement with the state of Georgia. The Lawrenceville company, National Check Resolution Inc., illegally threatened consumers with imprisonment and garnishment of wages, according to the allegations in the settlement announced Wednesday.  Attorney General Chris Carr said the company repeatedly harassed and...
Lawmaker: New version of Georgia immigration bill could come next year

Lawmaker: New version of Georgia immigration bill could come next year

The sweeping immigration enforcement measure backed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle stalled in Georgia’s House when lawmakers raced to consider other priorities on the final day of the legislative session, House Majority Whip Christian Coomer said Wednesday. But it’s possible, according to the Cartersville Republican, that a new version of the bill will surface next year. Senate Bill 452 would...
State senator resigns chairmanship over charter school bill vote

State senator resigns chairmanship over charter school bill vote

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, is resigning as chairman of the senate’s education committee after disagreeing with Republican colleagues on a bill that would pump more money into state charter schools. “I didn’t see a fruitful future if the vast majority of the (Republican) caucus is different than you on a critical issue,” said Tippins, explaining his decision...
Georgians to vote on victims’ rights and green space amendments

Georgians to vote on victims’ rights and green space amendments

Georgia voters will decide in November on initiatives to ensure victims are notified about their court cases and to set aside tax money for green space preservation. Those proposed amendments to the Georgia Constitution will appear on the ballot after they passed the General Assembly during the 2018 legislative session, which ended last week. The victims’ rights amendment, called ...
Lawmakers tinker with Ga. car tax but calls likely for more repairs

Lawmakers tinker with Ga. car tax but calls likely for more repairs

Lawmakers waited until the waning hours of the 2018 General Assembly session to cut the levy new state residents pay when they register their cars and to try to fix a car tax system that has shortchanged local governments in recent years. House Bill 329, which was sent to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for his consideration, is only the latest bid by lawmakers to remake state law mandating how Georgia...
Computer snooping ban passes Georgia Legislature

Computer snooping ban passes Georgia Legislature

A proposal to ban accessing a computer or network without permission is now in the hands of Gov. Nathan Deal. Supporters of Senate Bill 315 say it’s needed to prevent identity theft and other online crimes, while cybersecurity researchers said it would criminalize legitimate efforts to find and fix vulnerabilities. One organization has even called on Deal to veto it. Georgia...
End of session begins final sprint in Georgia governor’s race

End of session begins final sprint in Georgia governor’s race

The end of the legislative session last week sprung candidates for Georgia governor into a final sprint for the primaries. And what passed over the past three weeks — as well as what was left behind — could define the final stretch of the race. Over the next seven weeks, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is sure to trumpet tax cuts and the surprise plan to boost the state’s funding for k-12 schools...
No contract for Blue Cross Georgia, Piedmont Healthcare

No contract for Blue Cross Georgia, Piedmont Healthcare

About a half-million Piedmont Healthcare patients will have to find new healthcare providers to avoid out-of-network prices, after the the company and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia could not agree to new contract terms. The previous contract ended at midnight without a new deal, said Piedmont spokesman Matt Gove. The negotiations affected about a half-million current patients across the state...
Georgia lawmakers increase funding for charter and private schools

Georgia lawmakers increase funding for charter and private schools

Two bills that emerged from this year’s legislative session will steer more money into alternatives to traditional public schools. House Bill 787 raises the per-pupil allotment for state charter schools, and House Bill 217 lifts the cap on annual contributions to a tax-credit scholarship program for private schools. HB 217, by Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, had passed both chambers of the...
Georgia Legislature emerges from Delta fallout with productive session

Georgia Legislature emerges from Delta fallout with productive session

Caught in the furor of election-year politics and a national gun debate, Georgia lawmakers seemed poised for a do-nothing legislative session. With every legislative seat up for election this fall, and several legislators running for higher office, lawmakers could have avoided tough debates over distracted driving, transit, taxing online sales, culture wars and education funding...
The Legislature is done, but Georgia’s governor has decisions to make

The Legislature is done, but Georgia’s governor has decisions to make

The end of the legislative session triggers the start of another 40-day period for Gov. Nathan Deal to sign measures into law or veto them. And while some of the biggest debates are off the table, he still has some weighty decisions to make. The Republican, in his final year in office, has shown little aversion to the red pen. He vetoed nine bills last year, including a foster care measure that...
Around Georgia: State called a leader in cybersecurity

Around Georgia: State called a leader in cybersecurity

The magazine Government Technology reports that Georgia is one of a few states working to address a shortage of cybersecurity professionals. The report notes that Dan Coats, President Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence, recently labeled cybersecurity his “greatest concern,” ahead of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. In 2015, the market research firm Frost...
Inside the sudden GOP bonhomie under the Gold Dome

Inside the sudden GOP bonhomie under the Gold Dome

You could be excused for thinking that the leaders of the Senate and the House had been abducted last night and replaced by impostors.  A year after the legislative session ended in a bitter stalemate between the heads of both chambers, a strange spirit of bonhomie ruled the evening. Whatever the motivation - a show of pre-election GOP unity? - it was out of the norm.  ...
Georgia transit bill could pave the way for Cobb County MARTA vote

Georgia transit bill could pave the way for Cobb County MARTA vote

Legislation approved by the General Assembly late Thursday could pave the way for a MARTA expansion in Cobb County by 2019. House Bill 930 would allow 13 metro Atlanta counties to impose transit sales taxes. But it includes special provisions for Cobb that would allow a portion of the county to pay for a MARTA expansion without obligating the rest of the county. An earlier provision that would...
What bills passed and failed at the Georgia Capitol?

What bills passed and failed at the Georgia Capitol?

From major transportation initiatives to rural internet programs, Georgia lawmakers gave final approval to dozens of bills before Thursday’s conclusion of this year’s legislative session. Many other proposals didn’t make the cut, including election measures and an immigration enforcement bill. Here’s a look at what legislation passed and fell short by the time the Georgia General...
Georgia just passed distracted driving bill: What’s legal, what’s not?

Georgia just passed distracted driving bill: What’s legal, what’s not?

The Georgia General Assembly late Thursday approved House Bill 673, which would require drivers to use hands-free technology when using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. But “hands free” isn’t as clear cut as it sounds. Here’s a look at what would and would not be allowed, assuming it is signed by Gov. Nathan Deal as expected. *Holding or supporting...
Bill to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines falls short

Bill to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines falls short

A proposal to replace Georgia’s electronic voting machines failed to pass the state Legislature on Thursday amid deep disagreements over how to safeguard elections. The measure, Senate Bill 403, died at midnight, the end of this year’s legislative session. The House had approved an amended version of the bill earlier Thursday, but the Senate rejected those changes. Georgia...
Georgia lawmakers don’t give sex abuse survivors more time to sue

Georgia lawmakers don’t give sex abuse survivors more time to sue

Georgia lawmakers endured hours of grueling testimony and debate about predator pedophiles during this legislative session, but in the end they couldn’t agree on a law that would have let more adult survivors of child sex abuse file lawsuits. The Hidden Predator Act would have extended the statute of limitations for lawsuits to age 38 from the current 23. It also would have opened a one-year...
Plan to create city of Eagle’s Landing heads to governor’s desk

Plan to create city of Eagle’s Landing heads to governor’s desk

Last-minute attempts to derail a proposal that would ask voters whether they want to carve out a section of Stockbridge to create the new city of Eagle’s Landing were unsuccessful. The Georgia Senate approved Senate Bill 263, agreeing to changes made in the House earlier this week. Eagle’s Landing supporters say cityhood is necessary so that residents can start a local government...
Georgia officials to urge feds to change name of Runaway Negro Creek

Georgia officials to urge feds to change name of Runaway Negro Creek

The Georgia General Assembly will urge the federal government to change the offensive name of a body of water on Skidaway Island.  State Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, said locals would like the Runaway Negro Creek to instead be called Freedom Creek. The House on Thursday approved Senate Resolution 685, which will direct state officials to urge the U.S. Board of Geographic...
Georgia lawmakers vote to add PTSD to medical marijuana conditions 

Georgia lawmakers vote to add PTSD to medical marijuana conditions 

Georgia’s medical marijuana law would be expanded to cover post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain, according to a bill approved by the state Legislature on Thursday. The legislation passed after one of its sponsors railed against opposition from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor, earlier in the day. Rep. David Clark said in a speech that Cagle...
Campus speech bill gets approval from Georgia General Assembly

Campus speech bill gets approval from Georgia General Assembly

Guest speakers on Georgia’s college campuses might not have to worry about being heckled anymore after the Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would make it illegal. Senate Bill 339 aims to keep people from interrupting students and guests invited to speak on the state’s public colleges and universities.  The bill also would require Georgia’s public colleges and...
Free credit freeze bill wins final approval from Georgia Legislature

Free credit freeze bill wins final approval from Georgia Legislature

You could soon be able to protect your credit report for free in Georgia. The Georgia Senate voted 51-0 on Thursday to give final approval to a bill that would prevent credit reporting agencies from charging customers to lock their credit reports. A locked or frozen credit report can’t be changed. It currently costs customers up to $3 each time they want to lock or unlock...
Tax credit scholarships for private schools to grow to $100 million

Tax credit scholarships for private schools to grow to $100 million

It took them a year, but the two chambers of the Georgia General Assembly finally agreed Thursday to raise the cap on tax credits for private school scholarships. House Bill 217 had passed both chambers of the legislature during last year’s legislative session, but the chambers disagreed over how much to raise the cap from the current $58 million. The House of Representatives wanted...
Bill to let Georgia lottery winners remain anonymous heads to governor’s desk

Bill to let Georgia lottery winners remain anonymous heads to governor’s desk

Big lottery winners could soon keep their names private after the Georgia Senate approved legislation Thursday. The measure, Senate Bill 331, would guarantee anonymity for anyone who wins more than $250,000 from the Georgia Lottery upon written request.  The bill’s sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, has said the legislation was necessary to keep...
Students opposing gun violence barred entry to Ga. Capitol galleries

Students opposing gun violence barred entry to Ga. Capitol galleries

High school students lobbying against gun violence were denied entrance Thursday to the House and Senate public galleries on the final day of the 2018 General Assembly session. The students, at the Capitol for a Georgia Alliance for Social Justice lobby day, wore “March for Our Lives” and “We Can End Gun Violence” T-shirts and were barred from entering either gallery &mdash...
Deal rolls behind distracted driving bill with a dash of roadside humor 

Deal rolls behind distracted driving bill with a dash of roadside humor 

The question to Gov. Nathan Deal came near the end of a brief session with reporters: Has the second-term incumbent pictured what it would be like to join the masses of motorists again, and would that influence his decision on a measure to crackdown on distracted driving?  The governor has already endorsed a measure that would ban drivers from handling their cellphones or other electronic...
Judge rules protesters can wave signs opposing immigration bill in Georgia Capitol

Judge rules protesters can wave signs opposing immigration bill in Georgia Capitol

A federal judge has ruled that police must allow protesters to wave signs in the Georgia Capitol as they oppose an immigration enforcement bill. U.S. District Judge William Duffey granted a temporary restraining order Thursday allowing the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and others to silently display posters in the Capitol Rotunda and the balcony around the Rotunda. Protesters aren&rsquo...
Georgia lawmakers give state charter schools more money

Georgia lawmakers give state charter schools more money

Georgia lawmakers adopted legislation Thursday that increases funding for state charter schools. Local charter schools and traditional public schools get money from both the state and from their local tax base, but State Charter Commission Schools only get money from the state. House Bill 787 addresses that difference. Georgia already gives state charters a supplement to make up for the missing local...
Bill to allow Georgia communities to restrict fireworks approved

Bill to allow Georgia communities to restrict fireworks approved

Georgia communities would be able to effectively ban loud fireworks except on a few holidays under a bill that cleared the state Legislature on Thursday. The House voted 157-6 to allow local governments to regulate fireworks through their noise ordinances. The legislation, House Bill 419, now advances to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. The Georgia General Assembly has allowed the purchase...
Blue Cross Georgia-Piedmont Healthcare dispute grows grim

Blue Cross Georgia-Piedmont Healthcare dispute grows grim

Negotiations to keep Piedmont Healthcare in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia’s insurance network have gotten grim, and the deadline is midnight Saturday. The negotiations affect perhaps a half-million patients in the state, and they’re starting to feel the heat. A major group of customers got new insurance cards in the mail from Blue Cross in recent days in anticipation of contract...
Georgia Legislature: General Assembly approves transit expansion bill

Georgia Legislature: General Assembly approves transit expansion bill

11:49 p.m. update: A bill that could pave the way for a dramatic expansion of mass transit in metro Atlanta has passed the General Assembly. The Senate approved House Bill 930 by a vote of 48-6. The House approved the measure by a vote of 155-19. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal, who had endorsed the measure. 11:10 p.m. update: The House of Representatives has approved HB...
Internet sales tax, transit bills win approval in Georgia

Internet sales tax, transit bills win approval in Georgia

The Georgia House gave final passage Thursday to legislation aimed at making sure Georgians who buy goods from online retailers pay sales taxes on what they purchase. And in the final hour of the 2018 session, lawmakers backed a bill that House and Senate leaders say could lead to a dramatic expansion of mass transit in metro Atlanta. House Bill 930 would allow 13 metro Atlanta counties to impose...
Bill to help victims escape violent homes passes Georgia Legislature

Bill to help victims escape violent homes passes Georgia Legislature

A bill that would allow victims of domestic violence to break their leases without having to pay a penalty won final approval Thursday. The Georgia House of Representatives voted 166-0 to pass House Bill 834, which is designed to help family violence victims escape their abusers. Legislators say victims shouldn’t be trapped in a violent relationship just because they can’t afford...
Distracted driving bill clears Georgia General Assembly

Distracted driving bill clears Georgia General Assembly

11:45 p.m. update: The House has approved the distracted driving bill, which now goes to the governor’s desk. Gov. Nathan Deal has endorsed the measure. 10:39 update: The Senate has passed a revised version of House bill 673 and sent it back to the House.  At issue is a provision that would require first-time offenders to be found not guilty if, in court, they produced a hands-free device...
Feds to give Georgia $10 million to upgrade outdated voting machines

Feds to give Georgia $10 million to upgrade outdated voting machines

Georgia is in line to receive more than $10 million in federal funding to upgrade its voting machines and make other security improvements ahead of the upcoming elections, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission announced Thursday. The independent agency said Georgia would receive $10.3 million in federal grants from the recently signed fiscal 2018 government spending bill, combined with $515...
Georgians to decide on creation of dedicated fund to protect green space

Georgians to decide on creation of dedicated fund to protect green space

Georgia voters will be asked whether the state should create a dedicated source of money to pay for the conservation of green space. The state Senate gave final passage to two pieces of legislation Thursday that would ask voters whether they want to create the fund. If they are signed into law, Georgians will be asked whether they think 80 percent of tax revenue collected from sporting goods stores...
Georgia Senate passes child sex abuse bill

Georgia Senate passes child sex abuse bill

Adult survivors of child sexual abuse are accusing the Georgia Senate of siding with predators. “Either you’re on the side of survivors,” said Alan McArthur, 54, who said he was sexually abused by a Boy Scout troop leader decades ago. “Or you decide you want to stand with pedophiles.” McArthur was part of a group of victims, lawmakers and plaintiffs’ attorneys...
Georgia House seals the deal on new $26.2 billion budget

Georgia House seals the deal on new $26.2 billion budget

The Georgia House gave final approval to a $26.2 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, sending it to Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday for his signature. The spending plan is somewhat historic: For the first time since 2002, it includes full funding of the k-12 school formula, thanks to a growing Georgia economy that is bringing in record tax revenue. By law, the only bill lawmakers must...
Minute by minute: Georgia Legislature’s final day of lawmaking in 2018

Minute by minute: Georgia Legislature’s final day of lawmaking in 2018

The 2018 Georgia legislative session is now in the books as the clock hit midnight or slightly passed it on the 40th day.  The day — known as Sine Die — usually features grueling debates, dealmaking and occasionally some shenanigans.  Here’s a rundown of what happend:  12:20 a.m. Is it really over? Gov. Nathan Deal said earlier this year he’ll...
Georgia Legislature Today: The final countdown

Georgia Legislature Today: The final countdown

The Georgia General Assembly at a glance for Thursday, Day 40 of the 2018 legislative session: The time is now: The 2018 legislative session draws to a close Thursday and much remains to be done. The Senate has 41 bills available for debate after pushing through nearly half of its calendar on Tuesday. The House has seven items eligible for debate, but the Rules Committee is expected to meet sometime...
As clock ticks, out come tricks on last day of Ga. legislative session

As clock ticks, out come tricks on last day of Ga. legislative session

If it’s the 40th day of the General Assembly session — and Thursday’s that day — it’s prime time for legislative shenanigans. That means vehicles without wheels (re: one bill attached to another), Christmas trees that are neither green nor have a star on top (re: several bills attached to one), and hijacking that’s legal (re: gutting a colleague&rsquo...
What passed at the Georgia Capitol late at night

What passed at the Georgia Capitol late at night

Georgia lawmakers kept passing bills late in the night Tuesday, creating a new city, banning high school workers from having sex with students and slapping a sales tax on the internet. The Georgia General Assembly is rushing to pass bills before this year’s legislative session ends at midnight Thursday. Here’s a look at a few last-minute measures approved Tuesday, all of which...
A solemn final farewell to Zell Miller at Georgia Capitol

A solemn final farewell to Zell Miller at Georgia Capitol

A day after three former U.S. presidents paid tribute to Zell Miller, a pair of his successors as governor presided over an executive state funeral for their friend at the state Capitol. During a solemn ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, Gov. Nathan Deal and former Gov. Sonny Perdue bid farewell Wednesday to the former U.S. senator and two-term governor who launched the state’s HOPE scholarship...
Gwinnett elections chair joins critics of bill limiting early voting

Gwinnett elections chair joins critics of bill limiting early voting

Update, March 30, 2018: This bill did not make it out of the legislature and is dead. To see what else passed and failed, click here to visit PoliticallyGeorgia.com. Original story, published March 28, 2018: The chairman of Gwinnett County’s elections board has joined those opposed to a piece of legislation that would place new limits on the amount of weekend voting his county — and every...
Georgia House backs plan to create Eagle’s Landing city from part of Stockbridge

Georgia House backs plan to create Eagle’s Landing city from part of Stockbridge

Georgia representatives approved creating a new city of Eagle’s Landing, in part from land taken from the 98-year-old city of Stockbridge. The House voted 102-67 to incorporate Eagle’s Landing despite protests from dozens of Stockbridge residents at the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday. Eagle’s Landing supporters say cityhood is necessary so that residents can start a local government...
Georgia Senate passes distracted driving bill

Georgia Senate passes distracted driving bill

A bill designed to crack down on distracted driving in Georgia cleared a major hurdle Tuesday night. By a vote of 55 to 0, the Senate approved House Bill 673, which would require motorists to use hands-free cell phone technology while driving. But the debate isn’t over. The Senate amended the bill to lower the proposed fines for violating the law. Under the amended version, the fines would...
High school sex ban exits Georgia House of Representatives 

High school sex ban exits Georgia House of Representatives 

Legislation that prohibits high school workers from having sex with students cleared the Georgia House of Representatives unanimously Tuesday. The author of Senate Bill 154 introduced it on the House floor as “a very ugly topic.” It criminalizes sex and sexual touching between any school employee or school “agent” and students.  The age of consent in Georgia...
Bill forcing more lottery money for HOPE scholarships, pre-k gets new life

Bill forcing more lottery money for HOPE scholarships, pre-k gets new life

A bill that would force the Georgia Lottery to put more money into the state’s popular HOPE scholarship and pre-k programs got new life Tuesday when senators voted to attach the stalled measure to another piece of legislation. Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, added the measure onto a House Bill 714, which, among other things, lowered the requirement of home schooled students...
Internet sales tax clears big hurdle in Georgia

Internet sales tax clears big hurdle in Georgia

The Georgia Senate joined the House on Tuesday in calling on online retailers to start charging sales taxes on their goods. The Senate voted 49-3 for House Bill 61, which would require online retailers who make at least $250,000 or 200 sales a year in Georgia to either collect and remit to the state sales taxes on purchases or send “tax due” notices each year to customers who spend...
Bill banning computer snooping clears Georgia House

Bill banning computer snooping clears Georgia House

Georgia lawmakers are making computer snooping a crime. The Georgia House of Representatives voted 107-63 on Tuesday to approve a bill that bans accessing a computer or network without permission. Georgia is one of three states nationwide that doesn’t prohibit unauthorized computer access. The state already has laws on the books against data theft and tampering. Supporters of the legislation...
In our GOP-controlled Legislature, ‘local control’ has lost its cachet

In our GOP-controlled Legislature, ‘local control’ has lost its cachet

Sometime this week, the mayors of several metro Atlanta cities – three of which were created by a GOP-controlled state Legislature – will gather to discuss whether to mount a constitutional battle for the right to determine what goes on inside their boundaries.  Their argument: The Republican party, which came to power with a promise of more local control, is now spinning out of control...
Georgia Senate advances bill to submit lobbyists to sexual harassment policy

Georgia Senate advances bill to submit lobbyists to sexual harassment policy

The Georgia Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to subject lobbyists to a new sexual harassment policy that governs lawmakers and staff at the state Capitol. House Bill 973 would require lobbyists to sign a statement agreeing to comply with the state’s sexual harassment policy annually. The Senate stripped a provision from the bill that would have allowed the Georgia Government Transparency...
Georgia Senate approves more money for state charter schools

Georgia Senate approves more money for state charter schools

Proponents of public school choice were winning a tug-of-war over funding Tuesday when the Georgia Senate voted to add money to the state charter school system. House Bill 787 would increase the per-pupil student allotment for schools operating under the State Charter Schools Commission, at a cost of about $17 million a year. The legislation had been amended in the Senate Education...
Georgia House votes to reduce cash bail for those who can’t afford it

Georgia House votes to reduce cash bail for those who can’t afford it

The Georgia House of Representatives voted unanimously Tuesday to reduce or eliminate costs of bail for defendants who can’t afford to pay. The legislation, Senate Bill 407, is a final piece of Gov. Nathan Deal’s eight-year effort to remake the state’s criminal justice system to make it more fair and less costly. The bill allows judges to consider defendants&rsquo...
Three presidents lead a high-powered crowd at Zell Miller’s funeral

Three presidents lead a high-powered crowd at Zell Miller’s funeral

For more than four decades, Zell Miller filled up every corner and conversation of political life here, never leaving statewide office, it seemed, unless it was to deliver the keynote address at first one, and then the other party’s presidential nominating convention. And so when it came time to say goodbye to the former Georgia governor and U.S. senator who died last week at age 86, everyone...
Georgia aims to extend peer counseling to all public safety officers

Georgia aims to extend peer counseling to all public safety officers

A bill expanding public safety officers’ access to counseling unanimously cleared the Georgia Senate on Tuesday. The state-run program would use peer counseling to address the emotional needs of those working in fields ranging from state Department of Transportation road workers to police officers and prison guards. Since 2005, the state has had a program that trained law enforcement officers...
Around Georgia: Website opposes elimination of Sunday voting

Around Georgia: Website opposes elimination of Sunday voting

Thinkprogress.org, a self-described progressive website, says a proposal before the Georgia General Assembly would make it more difficult for residents of majority-black Atlanta to vote by eliminating Sunday voting. State Sen. Matt Brass, a Republican from Newnan who sponsored Senate Bill 363, said the legislation is about fairness and not race. “Quite honestly, race never entered...
Georgia governor announces $100 million for transit

Georgia governor announces $100 million for transit

Gov. Nathan Deal gave a boost to a possible metro Atlanta transit expansion Tuesday, announcing the state will borrow up to $100 million for mass transit projects. The $100 million in transit bond money is included in the governor’s 2019 budget. It’s not clear from the announcement how the money will be spent. “In keeping up with the demands of a 21st-century economy and workforce...
Savannah port launches $126M ‘mega rail’ project

Savannah port launches $126M ‘mega rail’ project

Savannah —- The Georgia Ports Authority on Tuesday broke ground on one of its largest-ever expansion projects, a new rail hub that officials say will connect the fast-growing Savannah port to Memphis, Chicago and other cities in the Midwest. The $126.7 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal project is expected to eventually take some 200,000 big rig trucks off the state’s freeways – even...
Deal comes up with money to fully fund Georgia k-12 schools next year

Deal comes up with money to fully fund Georgia k-12 schools next year

With Georgia’s economy continuing to grow, Gov. Nathan Deal increased his projection of how much tax money the state will take in next year, allowing lawmakers to fully fund the k-12 school funding formula after more than a decade of cutbacks. State House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, made the announcement Tuesday as House and Senate negotiators agreed to a $26.2 billion budget...
Senators back Liberty Bell monument honoring MLK atop Stone Mountain

Senators back Liberty Bell monument honoring MLK atop Stone Mountain

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech famously referenced Stone Mountain during his “let freedom ring” climax, and there are references to the civil rights leader within the park. Sen. Emanuel Jones, chairman of the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council, wants to take it a step further by erecting a monument to king at the top of the mountain...
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