Politics & Government

Legislative Notebook: Kidd to seek Parham’s seat

ATLANTA — Rusty Kidd, a Baldwin County businessman and son of long-time state legislator Culver Kidd, will run for the legislature himself this year, he announced Monday.

Kidd will seek state Rep. Bobby Parham’s seat representing District 141 in the Georgia House of Representatives, a district that includes all of Baldwin County and a portion of southern Putnam County.

Parham recently was named to the State Transportation Board and plans to step down from his seat in the legislature later this year. A special election has not been set, but may be as soon as July. It will be non-partisan, and so far Kidd is the only candidate to announce his intentions to The Telegraph.

“My father was a Democrat down here for a long time,” said Kidd, 62. “My sister was a Republican congresswoman... I kind of fall in between them.”

Kidd owns Middle Georgia Management, which he described as a small-loan company with 17 offices in Georgia. He also has worked as a lobbyist.

He held his campaign announcement Monday in Milledgeville and said jobs creation — both in the private sector and at Central State Hospital in Baldwin County — would be his top focus if elected.

“I need to find a way to shore up the employment base,” he said.

VOTER I.D. CITIZENSHIP ISSUE IS BACK

A pair of measures meant to require voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship passed committee Monday after heated testimony on both sides.

Whether the battle will spill into the full House or Senate this year remains to be seen, but both measures reopen fault lines developed the past several years as the state began requiring photo I.D. at the polls.

House Bill 45 would require voters to submit one of several documents, including photocopies of their birth certificates, to register to vote. House Resolution 12 calls for a statewide referendum to ask voters to amend the Georgia Constitution to say that the General Assembly “shall provide by law for the means of verification of citizenship.”

Currently, the Constitution says the assembly “shall provide by law for the registration of electors,” a small difference and one supporters and detractors argued over.

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, called the amendment unneeded and just a wedge issue designed to turn out voters when it’s time for the referendum.

“We don’t have time for a bunch of nonsense. ...” Gonzalez said. “And we shouldn’t tinker with the Georgia Constitution simply for a get out the vote mechanism.”

State Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, the resolution’s sponsor, replied that “the only time it’s unnecessary to amend the Constitution is when you don’t care about the rights of others.”

House Bill 45 moves citizenship verification up earlier in the voting process and spells it out more clearly, supporters said. Currently, votes may be cast while citizenship is in doubt, then cleared up later. This would move verification up to when voters register.

“Right now we kind of do this backwards,” said state Rep. James Mills, R-Gainesville, the measure’s sponsor.

Others said the new requirement is an unnecessary barrier for voters who can easily be deterred and may not have a copy of their birth certificate or other citizenship documents.

Both measures passed committee Monday in tight votes. They move to the House Rules Committee, which sets the debate calendar for the full House. A similar measure has been sitting in the Senate Rules Committee for some time now, awaiting assignment. It’s not clear whether any of these measures will move forward this year, given the controversy inherent in changing voting laws and other issues taking precedence at the General Assembly.

If the measures pass, they would still have to be cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, which keeps tabs on voter law changes in Georgia.

“Realistically, I think, with the current Justice Department, clearance of any election laws is going to be difficult,” said state Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, who chaired Monday’s committee meeting.

A less controversial voting bill, House Bill 209, also passed Scott’s Governmental Affairs Committee on Monday. The bill would allow students at most private colleges to use their student I.D.’s as proof of identity when they vote.

BIRTHDAY TAX TARGETED AGAIN

A deal to do away with annual car tag taxes died last year in the big push for property tax reform, but a similar idea is back.

This time the proposal would also do away with sales taxes on automobile purchases, charging people 7 percent of a car’s value, to a maximum of $1,500, when the car is titled instead. Georgians would pay the tax only when titles change hands, according to the sponsors of House Bill 480, the enacting legislation.

The bill had its first hearing Monday and it will some time before its fate is known. But it seems to be popular. The so-called birthday tax on cars, so named because it’s due each year around a driver’s birthday, has been a big target for state legislators.

“It’s an out-of-the box idea,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, a Macon Republican and one of the measure’s co-sponsors.

Revenues from the new title tax would be split between the state, which currently gets sales tax revenue from car sales, and local governments, which currently get the ad valorem taxes from tag sales.

A Georgia Department of Revenue official said Monday that the department hasn’t run all the numbers, but supporters said they expect the legislation to be revenue neutral, meaning it won’t bring in significantly more or less tax money than the current system.

FOR YOU POLITICAL JUNKIES

Folks who love to crunch numbers will probably be fans of a bill that passed committee Monday.

House Bill 86 would require local elections offices to account for early and absentee votes in the precincts where the voter lives.

Currently, when elections results are published, voters who vote on election day are counted within their precinct. But early voters are lumped in together, which makes precinct-by-precinct analysis difficult.

The bill passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously Monday, and sponsoring state Rep. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, said he expects it to go to the full House shortly.

The cost to implement the bill should be minimal, according to Millar and the head of the state’s elections division.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 361-2702.

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