Session brought mixed results for Bibb midstate lawmakers

mlee@macon.comMarch 28, 2013 

ATLANTA -- Only part of a lawmaker’s work is making laws. There are also committee hearings, endless meetings, fighting other peoples’ legislation, and from time to time, even repealing laws.

Besides that, it’s fairly tough for Democrats in the Georgia Legislature to pass laws, and it’s not so easy for junior Republicans either. Each of Bibb County’s legislators has something of a specialty, a topic that legislator follows closely. Their bills, successful or not, tend to show what that is.

It was not a very good year for state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon. His House Bill 547 to waive state park entrance fees for disabled veterans failed to get traction. His House Bill 410 that would have enlarged the footprint of the Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority, a downtown investment incentive plan, died in the Senate.

Other legislators fared better.

Peach-grower state Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, passed House Bill 298 to create a Georgia Grown Products Commission. Like they do on the commissions for peanuts and other crops, growers chip in to the commission, which will promote and help market their Georgia-grown trees, fruit, vegetables, flowers, meat and dairy.

State Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, moved House Bill 202, which exempts road projects worth up to $50 million from a value engineering study -- an outside evaluation of how useful, safe and reliable a proposed project is. He said that should save a strapped Georgia Department of Transportation some money.

Freshman Burt Jones, R-Jackson, carried some technical bills related to his profession of insurance, including Senate Bill 236, which would require many insurers to state on their invoices how much of any price increase is because of the federal Affordable Care Act.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd of Milledgeville is the only Independent in the Legislature and, keeping with his record, filed several maverick bills, which to some extent are meant just to provoke thought.

His House Bill 61 would cut out the requirement for lobbyists to disclose their spending on lawmakers. Instead, each lawmaker would take responsibility for reporting gifts they receive. The bill got no hearing. Neither did one that would let minors, under certain circumstances, have DUIs removed from their records.

In his first year as a state senator, after decades in the House, David Lucas, D-Macon, pushed redistricting bills in his new rural counties, Hancock and Washington, which had not yet redrawn their local office districts to match population changes based on the 2010 U.S. Census. He made his most obvious mark as a debater on the Senate floor.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, earned a reputation for pushing tax credits, though he didn’t get all he was seeking. Tax credits for investing in vacant buildings in cities’ downtowns failed, as did an expansion of a tax credit for renovating old buildings Peake wanted to set aside up to $5 million in renovation credits annually, he said, to match what other states are offering and to encourage big commercial projects.

“Next year,” he said.

Bibb’s senior legislator, state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, carried tweaks to Macon-Bibb County’s administration. One created a new State Court judgeship in Bibb, and another amended the county Civil Service Board to allow the award of attorneys fees for some successful defendants.

State Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, has tried several paths over the past few years to channel more funding to the Rural Trauma Commission, which aims to strengthen and improve critical care offerings outside of metro areas.

This year, he signed onto Senate Resolution 378 to legalize and tax fireworks and use some of the income for trauma care.

Doing that would require a constitutional amendment, which would require a statewide referendum.

Such a vote could not happen until 2014.

“We’ve got time on that,” Staton said.

All stalled bills will come back to life in the second term of the two-year session. It begins in January.

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