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As I see it - the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly

Representative Brett Harrell previews several key issues before the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly.


The Georgia House of Representatives convenes at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, January 14 for the first of forty legislative days comprising the 2013 session. Several of the key issues I anticipate considering include:

  • Adopting a Constitutionally required balanced State Budget that addresses an initial shortfall of $400+ million in state Medicaid/PeachCare funding. Debate will include continuation of the Hospital Provider Fee (Bed Tax) that excluded raises the shortfall to $600+ million. Further, though Governor Deal has indicated Georgia will not participate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) expansion of Medicaid, members will certainly request reconsideration. If Georgia were to expand coverage under this program, the systemic budget shortfall may exceed $1.2+ billion. I appreciate Governor Deal’s reasoning and support his decision for Georgia to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. While I also understand the arguments in favor of extending the Hospital Provider Fee, I oppose doing so and will support efforts to reform Georgia’s Medicaid program to reduce costs and close the budget deficit through less taxing measures.

  • Ethics Reform disguised as limiting lobbyists gifts to $100 or less. I believe our focus on ethics reform is somewhat misplaced and I fear that a simple lobbyist gift limit will result in widespread abuse of intent and an angrier citizenry eighteen months from now. I would prefer strengthening the State Ethics Commission by establishing a dedicated funding source perhaps a percentage of campaign contributions collected; permitting rule-making authority and subpoena powers to compel violators to answer charges; and retention of all fees collected to fund future audits, investigations, and operations. I also believe true ethics reform must consider the influence of governmental lobbyists that rarely appear on any disclosure form while daily spending your tax dollars advocating all too often for more government, bureaucracy, regulations, and taxation that simply is not in your best interest.

  • Pro and Anti-Gun advocates will most assuredly be pushing significant legislation. While I support protecting and expanding our liberties with regard to firearms to include church and campus carry, I suspect the best firearms advocates should expect this session is a strong defense against restricting current statutes further.

  • The Georgia World Congress Center Authority / Falcons Stadium tentative agreement is moving forward toward a 2017 stadium opening. A final agreement may require legislative approval to increase the bonding capacity of the GWCCA from $200 million to $300 million. From what I have read, public opinion remains largely opposed. Last session I co-signed a House Resolution, HR 1871, urging the GWCCA to use free-market principles in any negotiations regarding a new stadium. Based on all the information I have reviewed to date, I will vote against increased bonding capacity to support a new stadium.

The Georgia House and Senate will consider numerous other issues as well. Please keep me informed on the issues most important to you and your family. Whether we agree on a particular issue or not, I value your input and appreciate you sharing your opinions with me.

 

Happy New Year,

 

Brett Harrell
Representative, District 106
(404) 966-5804 cell
Brett@VoteHarrell.com
http://www.voteharrell.com

Sign up for email updates - just text: VOTEBRETT to 22828 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tim January 06, 2013 at 11:37 AM
Brett. first of all Thank you for your service to our great state. I am a gun owner Hardcore Pro 2nd Amendment and and Pro NRA. I would like to see legislation initiated to reject any Fed.Govt. bill like the Feinstein bill, that would further restrict the lawful owning and use of firearms, handguns, long guns and shotguns. the AR that people own is a self defense and sporting weapon, it is not an assault weapon. The misnomers that the Libs and media use to "define it"is incorrect and for their own agenda. It is an assault weapon in the hands of the military but not citizens. Lawful citizens should not be punished for the actions of a deranged individual. I hope you understand the seriousness of this issue and will stand with Georgia and US gun owners as we fight. Sincerely, Tim
Dave Emanuel January 06, 2013 at 05:49 PM
As usual, Mr. Harrell's comments are to the point and extremely well reasoned. We can only hope that a majority of his colleagues in the House agree with him. Georgia's constitutional requirement for a balanced budget puts an easily understandable perspective on government operations-- you can't spend money you don't have. Therefore, anyone who favors the expansion of government operations by definition favors tax increases. You can't have one without the other. Time will conclusively demonstrate that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not protect patients nor does it make health care affordable. Georgia will do well to minimize or eliminate participation in programs affiliated with the PPACA. They will lead only to increased costs and lower quality health care. Ethics reform is absolutely essential. We have elected city officials and candidates for county commissioner positions with a history of being delinquent in filing their financial and campaign disclosure statements. It serves little purpose to have a state "ethics commission" with no teeth. (In fact, the state doesn't have an ethics commission. It is now called the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission and deals only with candidate disclosure reports. It can levy fines for late filings, but has no power to collect those fines.) Without transparency in candidates, we have little hope of achieving transparency in government.
Dave Emanuel January 06, 2013 at 06:00 PM
With respect to firearm legislation, it has been proven repeatedly that "gun control" controls guns, it does not control crime. For over 100 years, The Sullivan Act in New York has made it virtually impossible for anyone other than retired police officers and well-connected people to own or carry a handgun. Taken to its logical conclusion, after 100 years of such highly restrictive gun control, no handgun-related crimes are committed in New York City. A review of crime statistics tells a far different story; criminals will have guns regardless of the law. Certainly, people who dislike or are afraid of guns are entitled not to own them. However, their fear and dislike should not impose restrictions upon the rights of people who do want to own them-- any more than the preferences of gun owners should be imposed on those who choose not to own guns.
David Brown January 07, 2013 at 01:07 PM
My viewpoint on firearms is obviously in the minority in District 106, but it nevertheless is my viewpoint. The very last place I would want to see guns is in someplace I attend each Sunday, at church. I must be from another planet, I guess.:)
Brett Harrell January 07, 2013 at 01:11 PM
David, though we disagree, I do appreciate you and your opinion. Private property owners would maintain their right to permit or restrict firearms on their own property.
David Brown January 07, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Brett, thanks for your respectful and gracious response. I surely hope my pastor will restrict firearms at my church.
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 06:08 PM
@Dave Emanuel It has the power but not the funds to support the manpower needed to collect late filings. That were taken away by the Republicans.If you review Brett Harrell's financial disclosure statement ,it reads likes a who's who of lobbyist in Georgia.
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 06:12 PM
@ Brett Harrell If you support guns at church and on the the campus , how about the state legislature?
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 06:40 PM
If the state Republican dominated legislature would stop the massive "corporate welfare programs" of tax giveaways, we would have enough money for education and healthcare. A prime example is the exemption granted to Delta Airlines excluding them from paying sales tax on fuel even though their earnings have soared. Also no mechanism is in place to determine if these exemptions and loopholes in the tax code granted to corporations do indeed increase jobs. This, of course, is the big argument put forth as a reason to enact these tax benefits
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 06:42 PM
According to the U.S. Census, approximately 1.9 million Georgians — around 20 percent — are without health coverage, making Georgia one of the nation's most "uninsured" states. Thousands of people are living in an insurance limbo: too "rich" for Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for people living on low incomes and too poor to ever dream of private insurance. Starting in 2014, the Medicaid expansion included in President Obama's Affordable Care Act would've bridged a big chunk of this gap by extending eligibility to include individuals and families making up to 133 percent of the poverty. The state-based exchanges would attempt to explain and educate people on the options. Gov. Nathan Deal is refusing to use the state's resources to implement the exchange. Deal is also opting out of the Medicaid expansion. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states should have the option of doing so. Deal issued a "No thank you," citing Georgia's inability to afford the expansion. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nonprofit disseminators of numbers and logic, the Medicaid expansion would cost Georgia $2.5 billion over 10 years. In return, the federal government would feed $33 billion into Georgia health care during the same period. So, according to Deal, spending $250 million annually to insure half a million Georgians and getting a yearly $3.3 billion economic booster shot in return is something that the state "can't afford."
Dave Emanuel January 07, 2013 at 06:44 PM
David-- a few thoughts to consider. If you believe that the rights of property owners (with respect to their own property) should not be infringed by government, a ban on weapons that tramples on that right is no different than a government requirement to be armed. In spite of the fact that it is legal to carry a weapon in Georgia, as Brett noted, you have a right to permit or restrict firearms on your own property. Individual rights, as opposed to gun laws are truly the core issues. As for restrictive gun laws, although not by intent, the reality is that they serve to protect criminals, not law abiding citizens. Irrespective of any law pertaining to the owning or carrying of firearms, criminals will use them as well as a wide assortment of other weapons. Making it difficult or impossible for a citizen to purchase or carry a gun simply means that a criminal is much less likely to meet armed resistance during the commission of a crime. New York's Sullivan Act is a perfect case in point. Enacted in 1911, this law was originally intended to prevent New York City's immigrant population from resisting the strong-arm tactics of Tammany Hall crooked politicians and their cronies. And in spite of the fact that for over 100 years it has beent virtually impossible for the average citizen to possess or carry a handgun, there is still plenty of handgun-related crime in New York City. The Sullivan Act is still providing protection for criminals.
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 06:54 PM
@Tim I am also a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment, especially the first part that says" a well regulated militia," .The key word is regulation. 1. Close all loopholes at gun shows 2. Limit the size of magazines 3 Ban military style assault rifles 4. Enforce and implement a national data base to check out individuals who purchase guns This is a common sense approach that will reduce mass gun violence over a period of time.
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 07:12 PM
@Dave Emauuel How much greater would crime have been without gun control in New York? Mayor Bloomberg has constantly complained about guns obtained In Georgia and other states with lax gun regulations showing up on the streets of New York. That is why we need a national program as I outlined above. Also the NRA was instrumental in stopping an objective study on how effective are gun regulations? So other than a massive amount of propaganda from the NRA and the gun manufacturers, objective data can be hard to obtain.
Brett Harrell January 07, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Yes, personally I would. Thanks for asking.
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 07:20 PM
@David Brown Your viewpoint may not be in the minority ,it's just the politicians who are afraid to do the right thing.
Dave Emanuel January 07, 2013 at 07:30 PM
@George Wilson-- Let's consider a different question-- How much of a reduction in crime would there be with less stringent gun control? By definition, criminals violate laws when they commit crimes. You want a national gun control program, fine. Criminals will source their weapons through other countries. In fact, they'll probably bring them in with drug shipments. Think banning assault rifles will have a significant effect? Guess again. According to FBI statistics, in 2011, 323 murders were committed with rifles of all types. Twice as many murders were committed with "personal weapons" (hands, feet, legs). Knives, blunt instruments and shotguns were also used more frequently than rifles to commit murder. Pitch it any way you like, the "war on rifles" will be just as ineffective at reducing murder rates as the war on drugs has been in reducing drug use.
David Brown January 07, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Dave, my friend, we will have to agree to disagree at this point. I just see it differently from you. I lost some of my respect for the individual rights argument when Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky stated that Congress went too far in passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, specifically when it mandated that restaurant owners here in the south could no longer refuse to serve Black customers. The way Senator Paul sees it, Congress did not give the priority to private property owners.
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 07:51 PM
@Britt Harrell and Dave Emanuel Is it legal for me to bring my gun into the state legislature (the visitors gallery ) and the Snellville city council meeting ? If not ,shouldn't this me a legislative priority over churches and colleges?
George Wilson January 07, 2013 at 08:07 PM
@Brett Harrell Let me get this straight. The state of Georgia will not invest $2.5 billion dollars over 10 years to get back $33 billion that would go into our anemic economy and improve the health of millions of Georgians. Just the multiplier effect alone (econ.101) would be a tax generator.Second; the state of Georgia will abdicate its responsibility to the Federal government without control or input in setting up the health exchange. What happened to the alleged Republican concepts of local control, state rights and all that blather? The people of Georgia should remove from office the people who use this kind of reasoning .But I'm afraid they can't because of gerrymandered voting districts.
Dave Emanuel January 07, 2013 at 09:51 PM
David- I can certainly understand and appreciate your perspective, and agree that we'll have to agree to disagree. The question of individual rights, as they affect the rights of others is complex, and requires definition of the point at which the exercise of one person's rights infringes on those of others. I guess a lot depends on an individual's moral compass, but someone will always find a way to argue in favor of the right to commit a wrong. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence in our country's history of arguments that wrongly infringe on personal rights becoming law. As you might expect, I have quite a bit more to say on this subject, but this certainly is not the place.
Good Grief Y'all January 08, 2013 at 02:15 PM
@Dave Emanuel, the argument against military grade weapons in the hands of private citizens vs hands, feet, ball bats, etc., is lopsided at best, ridiculous more accurately. It would take a whole lot of hands and feet, even with ball bats and knives, to kill as many innocents and as quickly as an automatic or semi-automatic firearm with high capacity magazines.
Good Grief Y'all January 08, 2013 at 02:22 PM
George, our state Republican "leaders" won't admit their stupidity ever, even after many dollars have been lost and many people are dead from lack of health services.
Lenora Church January 08, 2013 at 04:07 PM
I can't believe I agree with Mr. Wilson, but I think he is right on this issue.
Tim January 09, 2013 at 10:14 AM
Thanks Brett and Dave Emanuel for providing accurate facts and logic on the Gun Control law results......anyone with deductive reasoning and who is willing to review the facts of the past GC laws can clearly see the futility of future laws that would protect the law abiding citizen. Thank God for the Foresight of our Founding Fathers as they drafted the Constititution.
George Wilson January 09, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Some facts, the United States has 5% of the world's population and own 50% of all the guns in the world. Thirty four Americans are murdered with guns every day in America. That means more than 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns in President Obama’s second term. This is not a second amendment issue, because the government has the right to regulate guns. This is a corporate greed issue fostered by the gun and ammunition manufactures who fund the NRA and other gun organizations. The NRA does this with propaganda of fear and misinformation,
George Wilson January 09, 2013 at 08:15 PM
@ Tim Here is what Thomas Jefferson had to say about the constitution. From a letter 1816 to Samuel Kercheval: "Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it....But I also know that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times." I would suggest that the the "new discoveries" Jefferson talks about in his letter could be weapons that kill large groups of people quickly like assault rifles with large bullet clips. Maybe the constitution needs to be modified ,if we have put up with these high gun/ murder rates.
Tim January 09, 2013 at 09:04 PM
The rights given in the Constitution are based on Universal truths and in my opinion are timeless. God given rights concerning the human soul, freedom, liberty and with the understanding that the Ego, especially those of Narsaccists like all dictators and the one we have in the WH, need to be restrained. You keep referring to the weapons as assault weapons, as all liberals do. They are assault weapons in the hands of military and evil people. They are defense weapons in the hands of law abiding citizens such as myself. And your statement about the mind evolving is BS. I am educated with two degrees but my mind does not shift to and fro with different circumstances, because I believe in the Truths of the Bible and the sanctity of the Constitution. We came to America to worship God as we pleased, to get out from under the tyranny of King George, and the Constitution reflects that. A pitiful argument you provide. Humanity has a Moral problem. It is called Evil. Why don't you put your energy towards "enlightening" the criminals about new truths and manners. God and the Bible are my Ultimate Authority and when I lie down to sleep at night, the bible is nearby along with my weapon.
George Wilson January 09, 2013 at 09:41 PM
@ Tim In reviewing the "facts" on gun laws, I noticed that the NRA and its allies had put in enough loop holes in many laws at the state and federal level to make sure that they failed or were not as effective. For example, the ability to buy guns at shows without a background check was a major loophole. There are many other examples. In addition, the CDC was deprived of funds to do an objective study on the issue of gun regulations. Perhaps they (NRA) were afraid the truth would come out because they were behind the effort.
George Wilson January 09, 2013 at 09:48 PM
@Tim I was just quoting Thomas Jefferson who appears to not be as rigid and doctrinaire in his thinking. Personally, I always expect any threat to my liberty to come in the form of a choir robe or a multi- national corporation. From what I can tell it appears to be slowly arriving especially in the South.
George Wilson January 17, 2013 at 03:33 PM
If the state needs more revenue to fund Medicaid or restore funding to our schools, than it could be achieved by hiking the state's super-low cigarette tax, or revising the state's obsolete tax code, parts of which were written in the 1950s.This would include reducing the number of sales tax exemptions (over 100) to special interest groups. The most glaring being the sales tax exemption to Delta on fuel.It is estimated that if all of sales tax exemptions were eliminated that the sales tax could be reduced from 4 % to about 2.5 % .Even better, apply that extra money to fund our schools which have had their funding reduced by the Republicans. Another area would be to examine the tax breaks given to corporations that are suppose to increase jobs. We currently have nothing in place to evaluate whether or not this objective is being reached .If not we could eliminate some of this "corporate welfare". Georgia ranks 4th in the nation for its pro business climate. The people have little to show for it. For example: In 2001, Georgia ranked number 17 in poverty, by 2011 we ranked number sixth. In 2001 we were 25th in per -capita income today we rank 39th.We also have the nation's fifth highest rate of those without health insurance but our Republican government is refusing to expand Medicaid. We need real leadership at the state capital and the people of Georgia are getting short changed .But because of the undemocratic gerrymandered districts we can do little about the problem.

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