Politics

A Closer Look
3:33 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Net Neutrality, At Least For Now

Three of five FCC Commissioners voted in favor of ''net neutrality'' yesterday.
Credit Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission decided to reclassify regulation of the Internet under the Telecommunications Act. Advocates have been discussing "net neutrality" for months.  But what does it all really mean?

Professor Ellen Zegura, from the Georgia Tech School of Computer Science, researches the development of computer networks.  She came over to the "A Closer Look" studio to explain this important new ruling.

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Politics
6:00 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Senate Clashes Over Debit Card Pay Bill

The Georgia Senate approved a bill that would give employers the option of paying workers with pre-paid debit cards.
Credit Frankie Leon / flickr.com/armydre2008

There was a heated debate Thursday in the state Senate. At issue, a bill that would give employers the option of paying workers with pre-paid debit cards.

The bill says if a company decides they want to pay their employees by debit card they can do so, unless an employee tells them they would rather have a paycheck or direct deposit. Republican bill sponsor Burt Jones, R-Jackson, says companies need more options. And he says it will help low-wage workers without bank accounts.

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Politics
6:00 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Georgia Senate Says Cities Shouldn't Be Allowed To Ban Plastic Grocery Bags

Credit Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Should cities and counties be able to ban plastic bags from grocery stores? The Georgia Senate said no Thursday. WABE spoke with local residents about the issue and took a look at the Senate fight over plastic bags.

Gerald Grady stands outside his car at the Ansley Mall shopping center in Midtown. He says the government shouldn’t be able to tell stores they can’t use plastic bags.

“I think it should be done on a local store level whether or not that should be banned or not,” Grady says. 

And when Grady shops, he prefers plastic over paper.

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A Closer Look
6:20 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

A Talk with Sen. Johnny Isakson: Homeland Security Funding; ISIS; And The Keystone Pipeline

In this photo from Jan. 10, 2015, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) speaks to a breakfast meeting of Cobb County Republicans at the county GOP office in Marietta.
Credit Denis O'Hayer / WABE

At midnight on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will run out of money, unless Congress approves a new funding measure. 

Some Republicans have tried to tie DHS funding to their bill to overturn President Obama's executive actions on immigration.  

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leaders reached an agreement to hold a vote on DHS funding alone – without the immigration bill. House Republicans showed no signs of going along with that.  

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Politics
5:59 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Under House Plan, Schools Would Pay More To Keep Part-Time Workers Insured

Under a budget plan approved by the Georgia House part-time school workers would keep their health insurance.
Credit Toby Talbot / Associated Press

About 11,000 bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and other part-time school workers would keep their health insurance under a budget plan approved Thursday by the Georgia House. School districts, however, would be forced to pay significantly more to keep them insured.

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England stressed the importance of the workers, but said change is needed.

“We’ve got a lot of state employees out there that are not covered and so it’s kind of a fairness issue. It’s not fair to the part-time employees we’ve not been covering,” said England.

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Politics
5:44 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

House Committee Scrutinizes Autism Treatment Coverage Bill

Under the popular Senate bill, insurance companies would have to cover autism treatment coverage for children six years old and younger.
Credit Ken Lund / flickr.com/kenlund

A popular state Senate bill requiring private insurers to cover autism treatment for young children was scrutinized Wednesday by members of a House committee. Representatives don’t want small businesses to pay more for insurance.

Under the bill, insurance companies would have to cover autism treatment coverage for children six years old and younger. Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith, R-Columbus, says small businesses can’t afford the extra costs.

“How do I go back home and say by the way, we just voted to raise your insurance premium,” Smith says.

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Politics
3:52 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

House Amends Marijuana Bill To Include Sickle Cell Anemia

State Rep. Allen Peake presents House Bill 1, before a House committee, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, in Atlanta.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Prior to state employees heading home early due to the weather, the Georgia House Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana.  

The House voted 157-2 in favor of the bill, but not before amending it so the list of treatable illnesses was expanded to include sickle cell anemia, which mostly affects African-Americans. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus lobbied hard for the change.

Bill sponsor Allen Peake, R-Macon, told colleagues it was needed.

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A Closer Look
2:54 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Councilwoman Mary Norwood On The Adair Park School Controversy

Adair Park neighbors want a developer to purchase the George Adair School property.
Credit Maria Saporta / special to WABE

Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood has never been shy of controversial topics. Now, she is taking on disagreements regarding the historic Adair Park community in southwest Atlanta.

Community members want a developer to purchase the George Adair School, that has been an empty eyesore in Adair Park for years. But Mayor Kasim Reed has refused to release the property deed to Atlanta Public Schools because of an ongoing dispute over BeltLine tax payments.

Today on "A Closer Look," Mary Norwood shared her view of the dispute.  

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A Closer Look
2:42 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Stephanie Blank: Taking A Closer Look At Child Welfare

Stephanie Blank was appointed last year to chair Governor Nathan Deal's Child Welfare Reform Council.
Credit WABE: Candace Wheeler

Stephanie Blank was appointed last year to chair Governor Nathan Deal's Child Welfare Reform Council. Modeled on the Criminal Justice Reform Council, the group is conducting a comprehensive overview of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and they released their first report this past January.

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Sexual Violence
12:40 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Survivor Advocates Say No To Requiring Criminal Investigations Of Ga. Campus Sexual Assaults

Democratic State Sen. Ronald Ramsey proposed a bill on Tuesday that would require Georgia colleges and universities to report all known incidents of campus sexual violence to local law enforcement.
Credit Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr.com/juggernautco

Democratic State Sen. Ronald Ramsey proposed a bill on Tuesday that would require Georgia colleges and universities to report all known incidents of campus sexual violence to local law enforcement.

That idea got tabled, and survivor advocates are saying that’s a good thing.

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Politics
6:14 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Republican Leaders Unveil Tax Reform Plan

The proposed bill would reinstate the state sales tax on groceries for the first time since 1996.
Credit Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press

Overhauling the state’s tax code – and in particular lowering the state income tax – has been a goal of Republican leaders for some time. This week, they unveiled a plan to do it.

At a press conference flanked by House Speaker David Ralston, Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta said the time is now for major tax reform.

"We’ve had resolutions, we’ve had reviews, we’ve had councils, we’ve had committees for years ... but I think people aren’t looking for more reviews. What they’re looking for is leadership," said Carson.

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A Closer Look
4:24 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

California Declares War On Georgia? Just For Entertainment

Actors and extras work on the set of ''The Walking Dead'' in Atlanta, Georgia.
Credit Mike Stewart / Associated Press

Atlanta is becoming more of a film capital than it has been in a long time. Television and film production is taking place all over the state of Georgia, with many entertainment projects drawn here by tax credits the state began offering some 10 years ago.

California has taken note.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed California’s own set of tax credits that will triple the dollars TV and film companies can earn there, as long as they stay in-state. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was standing right beside Brown when he signed the measure.

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Politics
3:09 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

$1B Transportation Bill Faces Setback In House

The transportation plan bill, which seeks to raise $1 billion, was sent back to the House Transportation Committee Tuesday.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Republican infighting over a major transportation plan is spilling out into the open.

The plan, which seeks to raise $1 billion, was sent back to the House Transportation Committee Tuesday, representing a setback for Republicans leaders.

Many rank and file Republicans argue the bill, which already has gone through several revisions, amounts to a major tax hike.

Rep. David Stover of Newnan originally supported the plan, but recently withdrew that support.

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Politics
7:07 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Gov. Nathan Deal Backs New Rural Hospital Pilot Program

Deal's plan calls for $3 million to implement a pilot program in four rural hospitals and their surrounding communities.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Four rural hospitals may get state money to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits. It’s part of a plan backed by Gov. Nathan Deal aimed at stabilizing Georgia’s rural health network. 

A handful of hospitals have closed in recent years and 15 more are under significant financial stress. In April, Deal handpicked a committee of lawmakers, advocates and stakeholders to study the problem and draft recommendations.

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Politics
10:20 am
Mon February 23, 2015

House Democrats Look To Influence Debate On This Year's Hot Topics

Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans nearly two to one in the Georgia House.
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans nearly two to one in the Georgia House. Still, Democrats see an opportunity to drive at least some of the debate on this year’s key issues. 

Republican leaders are pushing two major bills. One is a $1 billion plan to fix Georgia’s crumbling transportation network. The other would allow the state to take over chronically failing schools.

Rank and file Republicans aren’t yet sold on either measure, so Democrats may be needed to pass the bills. Rep. Howard Mosby, D-Atlanta, says there’s been chatter about the possibilities.

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Politics
5:31 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Atlanta Mayor Supports President's Immigration Action, Tells Immigrants 'Don't Fear'

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he supports the president's executive order on immigration and encouraged immigrants who qualify for relief under the order to continue preparing their applications.
Credit Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke in favor of President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration, which would offer some undocumented immigrants a reprieve from deportation.

Earlier this week, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary halt on the implementation of the president’s order.

“We are fighting fear. The president’s order was the right thing to do. His decision and his executive order will be upheld,” Reed said at an immigration town hall meeting Friday.

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A Closer Look
5:23 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Fighting Child Sex Trafficking By Penalizing Adult Entertainment?

Attorney Kirsten Widner explains why she thinks child sex trafficking and adult entertainment venues are linked.
Credit Dan Raby / WABE

On the surface, legislation aimed at fighting child sex trafficking in Georgia sounds like a great idea … unless you’re part of the adult entertainment industry that would be levied a penalty fee of $5,000 or 1 percent of gross earnings.

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Politics
8:39 am
Fri February 20, 2015

Senate 'Religious Freedom' Bill Hits A Roadblock

A rolling billboard in opposition to "religious freedom" legislation circles the Georgia Capitol.
Credit Jason Parker / WABE

Controversial legislation that gay rights activists, religious leaders and others have been fighting over has hit a stumbling block. One of the “religious freedom” bills that’s making its way through the state legislature got hung up in a state Senate committee yesterday.

It was a procedural fight over a bill supporters say is needed to ensure government can’t infringe on someone’s religious rights without a good reason. Opponents say it could lead to the unjust treatment of gays and lesbians and protect child abusers.

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Politics
5:35 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Uber And Lyft Remain Opposed To Proposed Regulations On Drivers

Among the new rules in the proposed legislation for ridesharing programs like Uber and Lyft, drivers would pay a $300 annual fee, undergo fingerprinting and obtain a special state license.
Credit Julio Cortez, File / Associated Press

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft remain strongly against a bill that would impose new regulations on its drivers. The proposal includes a new $300 annual fee, fingerprinting and obtaining a special state license.

"We rely on part-time drivers," Lyft’s Joseph Okpaku said. "If less drivers are signing up because of these barriers that are being put up, customers are not going to have the access to the rides they currently enjoy, so it’s a real threat to our operations here in Georgia."

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Politics
8:01 am
Thu February 19, 2015

Transportation Bill Clears Key Committee

Documents illustrating Georgia's transportation needs sit on the desks of House Transportation committee members as they listen to testimony on a bill proposing to raise millions of dollars more to maintain Georgia's roads and bridges at a hearing on Feb. 12, 2015, in Atlanta. In recent days, GOP leaders have sought to placate local government officials unhappy with their initial proposal to take about $500 million in local sales taxes on fuel for state use.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

A House bill aimed at fixing Georgia's ailing transportation system cleared a key legislative committee Wednesday, but not before lawmakers made some major revisions.

A billion dollars. That’s how much lawmakers are trying to raise for Georgia’s roads and bridges. To get there, the sponsors of House Bill 170 want to increase the state excise tax on gas by about 20 cents per gallon. At the same time, local taxes on gas would be phased out.

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Politics
6:00 am
Thu February 19, 2015

Brewers, Distributors Battle Over Beer Bill

Credit Flickr/Jan Zeschky

Small brewers and distributors are at odds over a state Senate bill that would allow craft brewers to sell directly to customers.

If you go to a Georgia craft brewery right now, you can’t actually buy beer there or take it home. All that’s allowed is buying a souvenir pint glass for limited samples. David Larkworthy with 5 Seasons Brewing told members of a Senate committee that has to change.

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Politics
6:14 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

How Will Immigration Ruling Affect Georgia?

Immigration activists protest deportations outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Atlanta last year.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

A federal judge in Texas granted a request by 26 states ─ including Georgia ─ to temporarily block President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. But it’s not clear what the ruling means for immigrants in this state. 

The president’s order gives temporary deportation relief to children brought to the U.S. illegally. It would also provide relief for some of their parents.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued an injunction, saying the president overstepped his authority.

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A Closer Look
4:31 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

A New State Debate On LGBT Rights And The Last Decade's Changes: A Talk With Rep. Karla Drenner

Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale) during an interview in her Capitol office on Feb. 13, 2015.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

The Georgia Legislature may soon be taking another look at the rights of the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.  

After several previous efforts failed, Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale) has introduced HB 323, which would ban the state government from discriminating in hiring and promotion against anyone based on sexual orientation.  

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Politics
8:56 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Survey: Voters Favor Higher Gas Tax To Fund Transportation Projects

A new survey shows voters are willing to pay a higher gas tax if it means improved roads and transit.
Credit Chris Ferguson/WABE

 

     

A new survey shows voters are willing to pay more at the pump if it means improving roads and other transportation projects.

The survey, issued by the Georgia Transportation Alliance, says likely voters don’t mind paying a higher gas tax if the funds go to improving roads and enhancing other transit systems.

According to the report, 51 percent of those polled said the state isn’t allocating enough money to maintaining roads and bridges.

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A Closer Look
3:37 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Georgia's Adult Entertainment Clubs Promise To Fight Proposed State Fee

Attorney Alan Begner, who represents many of Atlanta's strip clubs and other adult entertainment establishments, speaking during an interview with WABE's Denis O'Hayer at the station's studios.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE

On Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, the Georgia State Senate passed two pieces of legislation aimed at toughening prosecutions and punishments for child sex traffickers in the state.  

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Jimmy Carter
5:49 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Jimmy Carter Discusses Human Trafficking, Says Laws Should Protect Victims

Former President Jimmy Carter discussed the problem of global and domestic sex trafficking at Clark Atlanta University.
Credit Elly Yu / WABE

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke at Clark Atlanta University on Friday about battling human trafficking both around the globe and here in Atlanta.

Speaking to a crowd of students, the 39th president said the selling and buying of human beings is far from over.

“There’s more slavery now on earth than there ever was in the 19th or 18th century,” Carter said.

He said that in Atlanta, more than 200 people are sold in an average month, and the business of human trafficking is lucrative.

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Politics
4:39 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Citing Red Tape, Lawmakers Aim To Wean State Off Federal Transportation Funds

State lawmakers are pushing a $1 billion plan to boost transportation revenue.
Credit Elly Yu/WABE

State lawmakers are pushing a $1 billion plan to boost transportation revenue. An underlying motivation in those efforts is to become less dependent on federal funds for road and bridge projects. They say the money comes with too much red tape.

Georgia is second to last in the country in transportation spending per capita. That means the state has to depend more on federal dollars to build and maintain the state’s roads and bridges. 

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Politics
5:33 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Sex Trafficking Measures Pass First Major Test

Senators vote 53-3 for a measure that would put a fund that seeks to aid sex trafficking before voters in November of 2017.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

Voters are one step closer to deciding whether a fund should be set up to help victims of child sex trafficking. That’s because the Georgia Senate approved measures aimed at combating the sexual exploitation of children Thursday.

If the fund gains approval, it’s supposed provide counseling, housing and other services for victims of child sex trafficking.

Voters would also have a say on whether adult entertainment establishments should give 1 percent of their profits annually to the fund. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford.

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Politics
3:50 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Bipartisan Bill Aims To Strengthen Protections For LGBT Workers

Rep. Karla Drenner, seen here in 2008, is sponsoring a bill which would ban the state from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation.
Credit Stanley Fong / flickr.com/eggrollstan

A pair of Democrat and Republican lawmakers will once again try to pass a bill aimed at strengthening protections for state employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, is sponsoring House Bill 323, which would ban the state from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. Drenner, a lesbian, has sponsored similar legislation in the past, but each time those efforts have failed.

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Politics
3:18 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

House OKs Easier Path To Diploma Despite Failing Tests

Former students who did not pass the graduation test can request a waiver from the State Board of Education.
Credit /John Amis / Associated Press

The Georgia House of Representatives has approved a bill letting thousands of Georgians who did not pass high school graduation tests petition local officials for diplomas.

It now goes to the Senate for consideration. Students have not taken the tests since the 2013 school year.

Former students who did not pass the graduation test can request a waiver from the State Board of Education. But officials say the board can only hear 300 cases a year.

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