The author of legislation that would facilitate a major expansion of MARTA into Atlanta’s public transit-starved northern arc, the Emory/CDC corridor and east on I-20, has introduced a slightly revised measure after the original proposal was parked for review in a committee from which few pieces of legislation ever escape.
Now, Sen. Brandon Beach’s bill, which would authorize the voters in Fulton and DeKalb counties to approve by ballot a half-penny tax that would finance a major rail expansion, has been assigned to the Transportation Committee.
That new assignment marks a promising start for the proposal even as it still faces opposition from other members of the Fulton and DeKalb delegations.
If approved, the tax would generate an estimated $4 billion in revenue and could qualify for an additional $4 billion in federal matching funds, which would underwrite a massive expansion of rail north, along Ga. 400, and east, along I-20. The project would nearly double MARTA’s existing footprint.
In the House of Representatives. The Pastor Protection Act, one of at least eight bill’s this session designed to grant legal safe harbor to opponents of same-sex marriage, won approval from a House Judiciary subcommittee and moves now for a vote by the full panel this week.
Neither Georgia law nor the landmark United State Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriage forces religious officials to perform those ceremonies, and supporters of the measure, including Speaker David Ralston, say the proposal represents an opportunity to “come together” to put to rest the concerns of the state’s faith leaders.
On the subject of discrimination. Rep. Rich Golick, the chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, has introduced legislation modeled after the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Georgia is one of but five states that lack a civil rights statute barring discrimination in public accommodation. Golick’s proposal would change that—for some. Like the half-century-old federal bill on which it was modeled, it will not ban discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
Reaching new heights. House Majority Whip Matt Ramsey introduced legislation that would partially restore a tax break on the purchase of jet fuel.
A major windfall for Delta Air Lines, the credit was eliminated as part of a sweeping $1 billion transportation deal approved last year. The Ramsey proposal would allow for a 20 percent exemption on fuel used in flights from Georgia to another state and for full exemption on fuel expended by a carrier's in-state routes.
Polled. A boon to backers of a constitutional amendment to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in Georgia, a new survey finds that eight in 10 voters want to be able to decide the matter themselves.
Rather than pursue outright legalization through the legislature, casino interests have elected to pursue a ballot measure strategy that would allow voters to amend the state constitution in the November general election. According to the poll, some 84 percent of voters support the referendum option. That number is even higher among self-identified Republicans and white evangelicals.
Happening this week under the Dome
The House Judiciary Committee will grant a half-day hearing this week to opponents of Rep. Allen Peake’s in-state medicinal marijuana cultivation bill. The General Assembly last year made legal the use of a non-euphoric form of marijuana for the treatment of a handful of acute medical conditions. But because it remains a federal crime to traffic the substance across state lines, those wishing to take advantage of the new law must risk imprisonment if caught.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on Governor Nathan Deal’s amended FY2016 budget while the House continues to hold hearings on the new FY2017 budget.