New Alcohol Bills Floating Quietly Through GA Legislature

I can’t find the soft-copy of this, but this morning’s newsprint AJC (ugh, god…what IS this black stuff all over my hands?!) reports that there are several proposed laws “to ease the selling, drinking or making of alcoholic beverages…moving quietly through the Legislature” this session.  Among them are…

  • Allowing visitors to GA distillers to sip a half-ounce sample
  • Letting brew pubs double their beer-making capacity
  • Permit wine tastings in liquor stores
  • Giving GA residents with a single drunk-driving conviction to wipe their records clean
  • Allowing alcohol sellers to increase their dealer licenses fivefold
  • Make it easier for local gov’ts to call for liquor referendums

The rest of the article documents the quiet journey these bills have taken compared to the craziness surrounding last years Sunday Sales brew-hah.   It’s unclear how many of these bills will make it to the floor for a vote, but it seems likely that at least some of these bills could become law before the close of the 2012 legislative session.

If someone can find a link to the AJC story online, let me know!

New Law Creates Thousands of Georgia Job Openings

From the AJC

Migrant farmworkers are bypassing Georgia because of the state’s tough new immigration enforcement law, creating a severe labor shortage among fruit and vegetable growers here and potentially putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops in jeopardy, agricultural industry leaders said this week.

…Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, said he has been in close contact with Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black about the shortage, calling it the most severe he has seen. Hall said it’s possible state officials could hold job fairs to steer some of Georgia’s unemployed workers to these farm jobs, which pay $12.50 an hour on average. The state’s unemployment rate is now at 9.9 percent.

Sure it’s backbreaking work, but a job’s a job, right?  Local food advocates?  The under-employed? Hello?

Take it, Colbert…

Continue reading “New Law Creates Thousands of Georgia Job Openings”

AJC: DeKalb May Raise Taxes By 4 Mills as Property Values Decline

Yikes

DeKalb County may have to raise property taxes higher than expected after new calculations revealed Tuesday show property values have plunged even more than anticipated.

The 13-percent drop in property values translates into an estimated $40 million shortfall in the 2011 budget –- and what some county commissioners say could lead to a 4-mil tax hike this summer. The drop in the county’s assessed value, down to $20.8 billion, had been projected last week to be about 10.5 percent.

But commissioners, who have the final say on the budget, say they won’t approve any tax increase unless the CEO Burrell Ellis offers up more cuts.

My casual calculations, based on the formulas in this Decatur Tax Blog post, seem to show that a 4 mill increase on a $275,000 house would result in an annual property tax increase of around $400.  Throw in the roughly $120 DECREASE Decatur residents will soon see on their DeKalb taxes due to the elimination of long-running “double-taxation”, and it’s possible that the $1,600 tax difference between the two municipalities on a $275,000 home could be reduced to at least a $1,200 difference (if you assume the DeKalb mill increase wipes out the “no-more-double-taxation” drop for Decatur residents).

Decatur’s taxes may still be higher, but they certainly seem a bit more sustainable than those in DeKalb.  How much more expensive must DeKalb get before annexation requests come flooding in?

Lifting Sunday Sales Ban Will Be “Tough” on Area Package Store Owners

The Emory Wheel gets reaction from area liquor store owners about a potential lifting of the Sunday sales ban in DeKalb County…

Ricky Ram, owner of Rocky’s Package Store located on Briarcliff Road, and Decatur Package Store owner Herb Cherrick said that the increase in alcohol sales will not outweigh the expenses necessary to keep stores open on Sundays because the legislation spreads out profits over six days and increases overhead costs. Ram, who said that many Emory students visit his store, during the academic year, explained that although there will likely be a large spike in revenues during the first weekend of each semester of the 2011-2012 school year, the increase does not justify an entire year of keeping the store open.

…“As a citizen, it makes sense, but as a business owner, it’s tough because I think it’s a fallacy to think that your business is going to grow by now being open on Sundays,” Cherrick said. He compared the situation to the introduction of the lottery when the first six months yield a short-term spike in revenue followed by a return to pre-Sunday sales level.

With much of his clientele inside Decatur-proper, Mr. Cherrick’s situation seems particularly difficult.  New Sunday sales are one thing, but if DeKalb opted not to allow Sunday sales, while Decatur did, that really seems like it would have the potential of cutting into his bottom-line.

Sunday Alcohol Sales Bill Passes Legislature; Ball Now In Decatur’s Court

Last night the Georgia House passed the Sunday alcohol sales bill 127 to 44.  The bill now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal, who has stated publicly many times that he would not veto such a measure.

But what now?  Luckily the AJC detailed the necessary moves of local municipalities back on April 4th, in preparation for just such an outcome.

The next step would be for some city council member, county commissioner of government official to put a call for a referendum on a meeting agenda. Then a majority of the board would have to vote for it, giving elections offices ample time to run legal ads, hire poll workers and assemble ballots.

Under state election law, questions can only be put to voters on certain dates. The next chance will be Nov. 8, and this being an odd-numbered year, not everyone has elections scheduled that day. Among them: Atlanta, Marietta, Sandy Springs, Cobb County and Fulton County.

Among those opening polls: every other city in Cobb, every other city in Fulton, all cities in DeKalb County and Lawerenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee.

Decatur’s got three commissioners up for re-election in the fall, so Decatur will certainly have an opportunity to put it on the ballot this year if they so choose.  When (or) will this be brought up?  Looks like I need to do a little digging.

Bill Would Lift Georgia Yard Waste Ban in Landfills

Smalltowngal points out a call-to-action on the Oakhurst Message Board urging area residents to contact their local legislators about Georgia House Bill 274, which would lift the statewide ban on yard waste in landfills (with “linings”) under the premise that the additional garbage would increase methane captured as a renewable energy source.

The AJC actually wrote an extensive article on the bill back on March 12th…

If approved, the bill would end a state ban on yard trimmings in landfills that was imposed in 1996 with the stated goals of conserving landfill capacity and promoting recycling. Delaware this year became the 23rd state to impose such a ban.

The city of Atlanta and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are on the side of environmental lobbyists who are working to kill the bill. On the other side, the waste management companies have lobbyists, attorneys and what some would argue is a distinct advantage: They wrote the bill.

 

Sunday Liquor Sales Bill Clears GA Senate, Passage “Probable”

After nearly dying in committee, the AJC reports that after four hours of debate, the Georgia Senate has approved legislation 32-22 that would allow local jurisdictions to decide for themselves whether to allow the Sunday retail sale of alcohol.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives “where passage is considered probable”, according to the AJC’s Jay Bookman.

As we’ve mentioned before, Gov. Nathan Deal has already stated publicly that he is willing to sign the measure.  So, if passed, Decatur and/or DeKalb residents will most likely soon be given the option to vote on whether to allow Sunday sales.

In terms of Decatur, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb thinking that such a measure would pass rather easily here.