Sunday, January 10, 2010

From the Wild Hog: Gun law momentum questionable, and a ban on texting while driving

I'll be at the state Capitol tomorrow morning and throughout the 2010 legislative session. But here are a few notes from the session kickoff "Wild Hog" shin-dig next to the state Capitol tonight ...

Proposals to broaden Georgia's concealed carry laws have been getting some press, and a bill is in a House subcommittee. But I don't know how much appetite, to use Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's word from last year, there is to change the laws.

Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams said tonight that no one has talked to him about changing the rules, which perhaps is not surprising, since it's a House initiative.
Update: I was neglectful here. State Sen. Mitch Seabough also has a gun bill.
But soon-to-be House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones said she'd rather leave the laws as they are.

"I'm a great supporter of Georgians being able to protect themselves," she said. "I'm pretty comfortable with our current gun laws. We've got some really big challenges this year. ... That's what's going to take my attention this year. .. We've got to put first things first this session."

That doesn't mean she's necessarily speaking for the House leadership, though. It's hard to say what those dynamics will be.
Update: Freshly minted Speaker David Ralston's seat in the House had been next to state Rep. Tim Bearden, who is pushing for these concealed carry changes. But Speaker Ralston said he hasn't discussed the proposals with Bearden. Asked what chance they have for passage, Ralston said: "I'm not sure where that's going to land in the priorities this year."
State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he's going to drop a bill soon to outlaw texting while driving, regardless of age. It will probably be messed with an effort to limit the ban to teenage drivers, he said. Peake said he got a call one day from a guy who had seen him pass on the interstate (Peake, like other legislators, has a state plate with his district number on it) texting. The guy told Peake he was a bad example and "he was right," Peake said.

Everyone I spoke to agreed a transportation funding solution would be found this session. Speaker to be David Ralston said it would be a priority, along with the state budget and changing the House's rules to "promote floor debate" in the first few weeks of the session.

But no one seemed to know, or to be willing to say, just what it will look like. Sen. Williams said "the governor has some ideas," and until he weighs in Williams said he couldn't give hard details.

H.R. 1 and other property tax reforms are coming back. So is the effort to do away with the annual ad valorem tax on vehicles.

Secretary of Education Kathy Cox said she doesn't know whether to expect more teacher furloughs. She said the governor's office is playing things close to the vest on the budget. She did say that several changes are in the offing to give local systems more flexibility. That includes waiving class size regulations, which of course means you need fewer teachers.

Said Cox: "The legislature has to help with class sizes."

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