Politics

Immigration
6:00 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Georgia In Appeals Court Over Immigration Executive Action

President Barack Obama speaks about his executive action on immigration during a nationally televised address from the White House in the District of Columbia on Nov. 20, 2014.
Credit Jim Bourg / Associated Press

Georgia along with other 25 states will face the Obama administration in a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Friday over the president's executive action on immigration. 

In November, the president announced programs that would grant deportation relief and temporary work permits for some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as a child or immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizen children. 

Oliva Saldivar is a mother of two U.S. citizen children. The Sandy Springs resident said she hoped to apply for the president’s plan so she could get a work permit.

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Legislative Wrap Up
5:30 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Ga.'s 2015 Legislative Session: Everything You Need To Know

Georgia's House and Senate have reached the end of their 2015 session.
Credit Brandon Camp / Associated Press

Each year for about two months a mass of politicians and lobbyists meet at the Gold Dome in downtown Atlanta for the year’s legislative sessions. The 2015 session ended on April 2.

Jonathan Shapiro and Michelle Wirth reported regularly from the state Capitol, and the rest of the WABE newsroom followed the movement of bills relevant to the topics they cover.

The reporters often spoke with Rose Scott and Denis O’ Hayer on "A Closer Look" about the legislation they followed this session.

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Politics
5:08 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Race For Georgia House Majority Leader Kicks Off

State Rep. Larry O'Neal, left, applauds as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, far right, delivers the State of the State address in 2011. Deal has now nominated O'Neal for a judgeship.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday he'd be appointing House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R- Bonaire, to a judgeship. That means one of the most powerful positions at the Capitol is now open. Several Republicans are already campaigning to take O'Neal's place.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, has formally thrown his hat in the ring. He’s best known for his successful campaign to legalize the limited use of medical marijuana.

"I'm a former CEO. I'm a small business owner. I believe I can be a good voice for our caucus on our core Republican values," Peake said. 

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Politics
4:57 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Medical Marijuana Bill Signed By Gov. Nathan Deal, Becomes Law

Gov. Deal smiles after signing HB 1, a bill that decriminalizes medical cannabis oil for Georgians with eight different medical conditions.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

A type of medical marijuana is now legal in Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill legalizing cannabis oil for Georgians with eight different medical conditions. That means some families who had left the state to get the oil can now return home.

The bill is named for 5-year-old Haleigh Cox who suffers from a seizure disorder.  Her mother Janea moved with her to Colorado so she could get Haleigh cannabis oil, but her husband stayed behind. Janea and her entire family attended the signing.

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A Closer Look
1:21 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Ga. Analyst: Lawmakers Missed Opportunities In 2015 Session

The recently concluded 2015 legislative session addressed transportation and failing public schools, but missed other important issues like health care and tax reform.
Credit atlexplorer / flickr.com/atlexplorer

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign a $21.8 billion state budget soon. The fiscal plan includes tax breaks and spending that lawmakers inserted in the final hours of the 2015 legislative session.

During the session as a whole, legislators addressed transportation funding and school issues, but the president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation,  Kelly McCutchen, said on the organization’s website “several opportunities to address critical economic issues were missed.”

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Politics
1:11 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Georgia Lawmakers Keep Eyes on Roads, Bridges, MARTA

Georgia lawmakers passed a major bill aimed at improving the state’s crumbling network of roads and bridges.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press

Georgia’s legislative session wrapped up earlier this month and it was a big year for transportation. State lawmakers passed a major bill aimed at improving Georgia’s crumbling network of roads and bridges. The legislative package raises nearly $1 billion in new funds by hiking gas taxes and adding new fees on electric car drivers, hotel guests and truckers. It also eliminates tax credits for electric car purchases and jet fuel.

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Politics
6:04 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Ga. Medical Marijuana Bill To Be Signed By Gov. Nathan Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order on medical cannabis oil earlier this month.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

Gov. Nathan Deal will sign a medical marijuana bill on Thursday.  The legislation decriminalizes cannabis oil for Georgians with eight different medical conditions. The oil won’t be produced in Georgia, so residents will have to figure out how to get it here.

Rep. Allen Peake sponsored the medical marijuana bill. He says Georgians will be able to get cannabis oil with less than 0.3 percent THC from two Colorado companies.

“[For] that particular product both manufacturers have said they’re willing to ship it back to Georgia,” Peake said.

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Politics
6:15 am
Tue April 14, 2015

South Carolina Could Recognize Georgia Gun Permits

House Bill 3799 in South Carolina would allow Georgians with concealed carry permits to take their guns anywhere in South Carolina where firearms are legal.
Credit Robert Ray / Associated Press

Georgia gun owners with concealed carry permits might soon be able to take their firearms to more places in South Carolina. That’s if House Bill 3799 that’s been proposed in the South Carolina legislature gains approval.

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A Closer Look
1:54 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

'Religious Freedom' Bill Expected Back In 2016 Ga. Legislature

Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon is vowing to reintroduce his Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation during the 2016 legislative session.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

    

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act effort is far from over in Georgia. 

Columbus Republican Sen. Josh McKoon is vowing to bring back the potentially controversial legislation next year during the 2016 General Assembly.

McKoon’s bill passed the Senate, but stalled in the House during this year’s session of the legislature.

The lawmaker talked with Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer on “A Closer Look.”

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Politics
10:41 am
Mon April 13, 2015

Ga. Criminal Justice Reform Bill Revises Probation System

A criminal justice reform bill passed by the state legislature would create a new state agency to oversee parole and probation. The agency would combine supervisory services from the Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice and Pardons and Paroles into one state agency.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Private Probation

Georgia lawmakers passed a key part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s criminal justice reform package this year, HB 310. Among other changes, the bill would change the state’s probation system for misdemeanor offenses. Critics have said for years that the system led to abuse, especially for poor offenders.

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Politics
9:34 am
Mon April 13, 2015

Georgia Families Risk Fines In Resupplying Medical Marijuana

Gov. Nathan Deal will sign a law making possession of up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil legal for Georgians with certain illnesses, but the oil cannot be produced in the state creating complications for retrieving the oil.
Credit Brennan Linsley, File / Associated Press

Patients who need cannabis oil for medical treatment say they will face risks and hurdles even after medical marijuana becomes legal in Georgia on Thursday.

Gov. Nathan Deal will sign a law making possession of up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil legal in Georgia. But patients needing the oil still have to go out of state to get it, because it remains illegal to produce at home.

That means families have to travel out-of-state to get the oil, and it is unclear whether the federal government will tolerate that.

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Politics
1:00 pm
Sun April 12, 2015

Sen. Isakson Writes To VA Secretary Over Hospital Wait Times

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, is calling on the Veteran Affairs Secretary to provide a plan that ensures vets can access care outside the VA system.
Credit Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, is calling on the Veteran Affairs Secretary to provide a plan that ensures vets can access care outside the VA system. The request is due to a national report released on Thursday by the Associated Press, which said veterans still have long waits for care at VA hospitals, including here in Georgia.

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A Closer Look
11:03 am
Fri April 10, 2015

Georgia Legislature Approves Major Medical Bills In 2015

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, right, celebrates with families whose loved ones suffer from seizures. The Senate approved Peake's medical marijuana bill March 24 in Atlanta.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia’s legislative session recently ended. This week, we’re looking back at what happened under the Gold Dome, topic by topic. The legislature passed several major medical bills this year.

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A Closer Look
5:46 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Fulton Chairman John Eaves: Failed Cityhood 'Disappointing'

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, seen here discussing Obamacare, said that the more than 90,000 citizens of South Fulton deserve a chance to vote on incorporation.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

A bill to authorize a referendum on incorporation for South Fulton County residents failed for the second year in a row  in the Georgia legislature. House Bill 514 would have authorized a vote on the issue. It passed in the House, but stalled in the Senate.

“It was disappointing,” Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves told Rose Scott and Denis O'Hayer on "A Closer Look."

The Board of Commissioners’ position was that residents in unincorporated Fulton County should have had the chance to vote on whether to become a city, Eaves said.

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A Closer Look
5:42 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Commission Chair Says Fulton County is Economically Robust

While appearing on ''A Closer Look,'' Fulton County Commission chair John Eaves says the county is economically robust.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE

During this legislative session, a push for cityhood was the focus for unincorporated south Fulton County. The bill fell short for the second year in a row.

That’s just one of many issues regarding the current state of Fulton County.

The bill passed in the house, but stalled in the Georgia Senate. After the bill’s failure, Fulton County commission chair John Eaves said the full Fulton County Board of Commissioners "strongly supported the taxpayers of south Fulton in heading to the ballot box to determine their own future." 

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Politics
4:41 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Atlanta Transit Leaders Hopeful For Future Long-Term Funding

Metro Atlanta transit leaders may not have received everything they wanted from this session, but the future looks bright.
Credit Allison Guillory / WABE

Metro Atlanta transit leaders are pleased about the gains made during this year’s legislative session, despite MARTA coming away with no dedicated stream of state funding. 

“We didn’t hit the grand slam but we did make major progress,” said MARTA chief Keith Parker.

Among those gains: MARTA is getting greater flexibility with its tax dollars, and transit systems across the state, including MARTA, will split $75 million in new bond money.

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Breaking
1:05 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Former State Rep. Tyrone Brooks Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Georgia Rep. Tyrone Brooks has resigned from his seat in the state House of Representatives Thursday.
Credit Ric Feld / Associated Press

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud in Federal U.S. District Court Thursday. Brooks also resigned the seat he’s held in the state legislature for more than three decades.  

In addition to entering a guilty plea for tax fraud, the Atlanta Democrat pleaded no contest to five charges of wire and mail fraud.

The longtime state lawmaker faces 30 charges in total stemming from a 2013 indictment relating to his charity work.  

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Politics
4:51 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Ga. Probation Reforms Attempt To Increase System’s Transparency

If the bill is signed into law by the governor, private probation companies will have to release key data for the first time.
Credit Keith Allison / KeithAllisonPhoto.com

A bill recently passed by the Georgia Legislature aims to add transparency to the private probation industry. Advocates are hopeful it will cut down on what they say is widespread abuse.

More than 300,000 Georgians are on probation for low-level offenses like traffic stops. Many are put on probation because they can’t afford to pay their fines.

For years, advocates have claimed the probation companies that contract with local courts abuse their power, collecting excessive fees from indigent probationers and illegally threatening jail time.

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Politics
4:53 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Ga. Officials Gear Up To Fix Aging Infrastructure Network

New gas taxes and fees on hotels and electric cars are expected to bring in more than $900 million per year for GDOT.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgians will soon be driving on smoother roads and safer bridges. Lawmakers recently approved about a billion dollars of new money to repair Georgia’s aging infrastructure.

“What we saw this legislative session was something very spectacular. Something we haven’t seen probably since the 1970s," said Natalie Dale, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

That something, Dale said, is a major financial commitment from the state.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

State Settles Fourth Whistleblower Lawsuit For $480,000

MaryTherese Grabowski filed the lawsuit against the Georgia National Guard and the State’s Department last year.
Credit atlexplorer / flickr.com/atlexplorer

The State of Georgia has agreed to pay $480,000 to the former public affairs chief for the Georgia National Guard. It’s the fourth whistleblower complaint the state has settled in the past few years.

MaryTherese Grabowski filed the lawsuit against the Georgia National Guard and the State’s Department last year. She claimed she lost her job after accusing Jim Butterworth, the former head of the Georgia National Guard of unethical and illegal conduct.

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Politics
5:03 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

After Solar Power Bill Passes, Ga. Companies Prepare To Grow

The Georgia Legislature recently passed a bill that would make it easier for homeowners to secure financing and install solar panels with little to no upfront costs.
Credit steve / flickr.com/asburysteve

Good news for those considering installing solar panels.

The Georgia Legislature recently passed a bill that would make it easier for homeowners to secure financing and install solar panels with little to no upfront costs.

Atlanta-based Hannah Solar has always focused on commercial and industrial-scale projects. Now CEO Pete Marte expects residential installations to become a bigger part of the business.

"I anticipate we’ll add between 24 to 50 employees over the next 18 months," says Marte.

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A Closer Look
6:34 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Ga. Lawmakers Wrap Up Productive 2015 Legislative Session

House members throw up paper at the conclusion of the legislative session in the House Chamber.
Credit Brandon Camp / Associated Press

Georgia lawmakers have wrapped up a busy 2015 legislative session.

The session ended late Thursday with the Senate working past the midnight deadline.

Lawmakers did not pass a controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA measure, but they did pass budget and transportation bills. They also agreed on a medical marijuana bill and a measure that provides insurance coverage for autistic children.

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Politics
6:15 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Ga. Bicycling Bill Passes Legislature, Moves On To Gov. Deal

A bill passed by the state legislature last week allows riders to make their way through some intersections before a red light changes.
Credit TimothyJ / flickr.com/tjc

If you own a motorcycle or bicycle you could soon have a shorter wait at some stoplights. A bill passed by the state legislature last week allows riders to make their way through some intersections before a red light changes.

Whether you’re on your Harley or your Schwinn, you still have to come to a complete stop at an intersection.

But if you think your bike isn’t triggering the stoplight, you can go through the light as long as there are no other vehicles within 500 feet.

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Politics
5:32 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Ga. Pit Bull Bill Fails, Cities Can Continue To Ban Breeds

Credit Hugo A. Quintero G. / flickr.com/haquintero

Cities and counties in Georgia will continue to be able to place bans on pit bulls or other dogs.  A bill that would have prohibited local governments from making laws about specific breeds of dogs failed to gain passage this legislative session. The bill passed the Georgia Senate, but never got a vote in the House.

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Politics
5:24 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Top Ga. Democrat Reflects After MARTA Compromise Fails

Republicans agreed to pass an amended bill that would have generated $200 million a year for MARTA. But Thursday, the MARTA proposal was defeated.
Credit Allison Guillory / WABE

This year’s legislative session wrapped up last night and Senate Democrats are weighing what was won and lost during the debate over transportation spending.

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Politics
4:37 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Ga. Craft Beer Bill Passes But Falls Short Of Ultimate Goal

Under a bill passed by the state legislature this session, craft brewers would be able to charge customers for a brewery tour, with the option to hand out up to a six-pack's worth of take-home beer as a ''souvenir.''
Credit J Rosenfeld / flickr.com/jmrosenfeld

Georgia’s craft brewers and brewpubs made some small strides this legislative session on loosening up sales restrictions, but the effort fell short of their ultimate goal to get direct sales to consumers.

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Politics
9:13 am
Fri April 3, 2015

Georgia's ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Dead For 2015

Georgia's 'religious freedom' bill sparked protests outside of the Capitol building. The proposal didn't receive a vote in the Georgia House this year.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

One of the most contentious bills of this year’s legislative session failed to get final passage for the second year in a row. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act never made it out of a House committee.

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, held on to the end and tried to attach the bill's language to an unrelated House measure. He argued the bill is needed to make sure the government doesn’t infringe on someone’s religious rights without a good reason.

“People of faith would be entitled to better treatment by courts,” McKoon says. “That’s the difference it would make.”

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Politics
8:48 am
Fri April 3, 2015

Ga. Senate Passes Bill To Create Fund For Sex Trafficking Victims

The Georgia Senate has overwhelmingly approved legislation that would establish a fund for abused and sexually exploited children.

Lawmakers approved the bill in a 50-2 vote on Thursday.

The fund would be financed through $2,500 fines on convicted traffickers and an annual $5,000 fee on strip clubs.

The fund would pay for housing, health care and other services for victims. The legislation also would mandate that convicted traffickers register as sex offenders.

Politics
8:09 am
Fri April 3, 2015

Georgia 'Religious Freedom' Bill Won't Get Vote In House

Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon, left, says he will continue to work on the ''religious freedom'' bill he sponsored.
Credit Branden Camp / Associated Press

Legislative leaders say no vote will happen this year on Georgia's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Thursday marks the 40th and final day of the legislative session. Any bills not approved by lawmakers before midnight are dead for the year.

The proposal prompted a debate on discrimination and gay rights protests outside the Capitol. 

House Speaker David Ralston says the bill went through the House's committee process but was not sent forward.

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Politics
11:32 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Ga. Lawmakers Nix MARTA Expansion Deal On Session’s Last Day

On the last day of session, the Georgia House rejected a MARTA tax proposal pushed by Senate Democrats.
Credit Jonathan Shapiro / WABE

Heading into the last day of this year’s legislative session, MARTA was hoping to secure new money to expand its rail network.

The Senate did its part earlier in the week, passing a bill that included a new long-term funding option. But the House didn't follow suit, stripping the funding option from the bill on Thursday. 

Senate Democrats who worked to strike the fragile deal with Republican leaders were clearly disappointed. 

“It’s not acceptable. It’s not the deal we were offered,” Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said. “A lot of trust has been eroded in my opinion.”

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