District 80 Town Hall Meeting

February 15, 2012

I will be holding a town hall meeting for District 80 residents tomorrow, Thursday, February 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the Talmage Room of the Student Center of Oglethorpe University.

Topics of discussion will include the City of Brookhaven (I agree that we need to revisit the name “Ashford”), the renewed proposal for a countywide “City of DeKalb,” transportation and education policy, and county commission and school board redistricting.

Pages Needed for 2012 Legislative Session

January 29, 2012

Each year, I host ten school-age children from House District 80, ages 12 and older, to serve as pages for a day during the legislative session. Pages get to see the legislative process first-hand, receive an excused absence from school, have their photograph taken with their legislator and the Speaker of the House, and are provided lunch.

If your child would like to serve as a legislative page, please e-mail me at [email protected] and include in your message your street address and a telephone number where you can be reached. The ten spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and are only available to residents of House District 80.

Please click here to view a map to determine whether you live in House District 80.

District 80 Town Hall Meeting

January 24, 2012

I will hold a town hall meeting to talk about the 2012 legislative session and answer questions for my constituents on Thursday, February 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the Talmage Room of the Student Center of Oglethorpe University. Topics will include the City of Brookhaven, transportation, education, and any other subjects you would like to discuss.

Brookhaven Hearings Begin Today

January 24, 2012

The House Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding the first of two or three hearings on House Bill 636, the Brookhaven city charter, today at 2:00 p.m. You can watch it online by clicking this link.

Click here to read the bill that will be considered in the Governmental Affairs Committee. This is a substitute bill that has a few differences from the bill that is currently posted on the House website.

I have asked the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVI) at the University of Georgia to double check, triple check, and quadruple check the millage cap that is contained in HB 636 to ensure that it provides all homeowners a property tax cut, even if the city needs to use the full millage cap, which is highly unlikely.

The millage cap that CVI recommended is 3.35 mills, which is contained in the bill.

The millage cap is a mechanism that prevents city property taxes from going higher than a certain rate without approval by the citizens in a public referendum. It is a benefit that does not exist in unincorporated DeKalb County.

Remember that cityhood does not add property taxes to your tax bill. Instead, it shifts two of the existing county line items to the city, enabling us to keep those resources here at home.

Click here to review a supplemental report prepared by CVI that reconciles the new millage cap with the Brookhaven feasibility study (click for link) that was released in November 2011.

The supplemental report projects a surplus of $261,348 in excess of the proposed city’s estimated expenditures. This is very similar to the CVI projected surplus for the City of Dunwoody, which was $278,789. Dunwoody was able to reduce its actual expenditures by an additional $1.75 million in its first year of operations, bringing its surplus to more than $2 million.

Finally, click here to view the final map that will be presented to the House Governmental Affairs Committee. Compared to the previous version, this map includes four additional parcels east of Clairmont Road and north of West Hardee Avenue, across the street from Ashford Park and including the 57th Fighter Group Restaurant.

DeKalb Delegation Public Hearing

November 4, 2011

The state legislators from DeKalb County will hold a public hearing on Thursday, November 10, at 6:00 p.m. at Chamblee Middle School, 3601 Sexton Woods Drive. This is an opportunity to make your voice heard on the state and local issues that matter to you.

Redistricting Report

September 20, 2011

Every ten years, the General Assembly is required to adjust Georgia’s congressional, State Senate, and State House districts to account for population shifts that become apparent when census data is released.

The General Assembly recently completed a special legislative session to establish new congressional and legislative districts. After being approved by the legislature and signed by the Governor, these boundaries are subject to approval by the United States Department of Justice or the federal courts pursuant to the Voting Rights Act.

The AJC has created some helpful maps so that you can see where you live relative to the new district lines. These maps superimpose the new district lines over a Google map of the state. You can zoom down to the street level to see your neighborhood:

Click here for the U.S. House map.

Click here for the State Senate map.

Click here for the State House map.

Georgia’s population growth has yielded a new seat in Congress, up from 13 to 14. This population growth largely has been in the northern part of the state. The new congressional district is in North Georgia, and other districts in northern Georgia have shifted significantly.

The Sixth Congressional District, represented by Congressman Tom Price (R), has shifted southward into much of North DeKalb. Most of Brookhaven will be in the Sixth District, as will Chamblee, Doraville, Dunwoody, Embry Hills, Northlake, and Tucker. Citizens who vote at Ashford Park Elementary, Ashford Parkside, the Briarwood Recreation Center, Brookhaven Christian Church, Cross Keys High School, Kittredge (formerly Nancy Creek) Elementary, Montgomery Elementary, Skyland United Methodist Church, St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church, and University Baptist Church are in the new Sixth District.

The Fourth Congressional District, represented by Congressman Hank Johnson (D) and formerly Cynthia McKinney, will no longer reach into Brookhaven. The Fifth Congressional District, represented by Congressman John Lewis (D), includes Toco Hills and citizens who vote at Montclair and Woodward Elementary Schools.

The State Senate districts in Brookhaven and Toco Hills will remain largely unchanged. The district represented by Senator Fran Millar (R) will continue to include everyone in Brookhaven who lives north of Peachtree Road, including the neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park and Silver Lake, plus citizens who vote at Ashford Park Elementary, Skyland United Methodist Church, and University Baptist Church. The remaining areas of Brookhaven and Toco Hills will be in the district represented by Senator Jason Carter (D).

The State House district that I represent (House District 80) will no longer include neighborhoods south of Buford Highway, including Toco Hills, which will be in the district of Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D).

The neighborhoods in and around Brookhaven, Murphey Candler Park, and Silver Lake that I currently represent will remain in House District 80. The Brookhaven neighborhoods represented by Rep. Elena Parent (D), namely Drew Valley and two-thirds of Ashford Park, will remain in her House District 81.

The new House District 80 also will include citizens who vote at Kittredge (formerly Nancy Creek) Elementary School and a portion of Sandy Springs along Peachtree Dunwoody Road from Spalding Drive at the north to Windsor Parkway at the south.

Please let me know if you have any questions. If you are in my current State House district but are not in the new District 80, I encourage you to remain on my e-mail list and stay in touch anyway. I enjoy serving all of the neighborhoods in our community, whether or not they fall within boundaries that must be adjusted every ten years.

Legislative Pages Still Needed

March 27, 2011

With the 2010 session of the General Assembly scheduled to conclude in less than a month, I still have six (6) unclaimed slots for middle and high school students from House District 80 to serve as pages for a day. Legislative pages get to see the legislative process first-hand, receive an excused absence from school, have their photograph taken with their legislator and the Speaker of the House, and are provided lunch.

If your child would like to serve as a legislative page, please e-mail me at [email protected] and include in your e-mail message your home address and a telephone number where you can be reached. The six spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis and are only available to residents of House District 80. Please click here to view a map to determine whether you live in House District 80.

Moving MARTA in the Right Direction

January 19, 2011

Despite the sheet of snow and ice covering everything in Metro Atlanta on Monday, January 10, the General Assembly carried out its constitutional responsibilities to convene on the second Monday in January and inaugurate Governor Deal and new constitutional officers.

I made it to the Capitol that morning courtesy of MARTA. I mention my mode of transportation because, even though it took about twice as long as usual, the trains were running regardless of the weather. This underscores MARTA’s importance to mobility in Metro Atlanta. In fact, I frequently ride MARTA from Chamblee to Downtown Atlanta.

A week that started with relying on MARTA to perform the job you elected me to do ended with another unique MARTA-related development: Last Friday, I was appointed by Speaker David Ralston and the House Committee on Assignments to serve as the new Chairman of the MARTA Oversight Committee, known as MARTOC.

My other committee assignments for the 2011-12 term include continued service as Vice Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and as a member of three other committees: Transportation, Insurance, and Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight.

I am picking up the MARTOC assignment from Jill Chambers, who represented the adjacent district in North DeKalb, including Chamblee and Doraville, and served as Chairman of MARTOC for six of her eight years in the State House. On her watch, MARTOC went from a committee that did virtually nothing to a watchdog over MARTA’s budgeting and spending practices.

MARTOC’s work of reviewing the budget and fiscal affairs of MARTA will continue. We will not be going back to the days (years, actually) when MARTOC was a do-nothing committee. A review of MARTA’s 2008 to date purchasing card expenses (click for AJC article) will be a starting point for pressing forward with MARTOC’s oversight duties.

Delivery of criticism, however, will be different. It is my intent to have a legislator who serves on MARTOC in attendance at most meetings of the MARTA board of directors, which is the board that makes budget and policy decisions for MARTA. That will begin on Monday, January 24, with my own attendance at a MARTA board meeting. The lines of communication between MARTOC and MARTA will be frequent, open, transparent, and direct.

Furthermore, over the course of 2011, MARTOC is going to undertake a comprehensive review of the MARTA Act, the 1960s state law that created MARTA. This likely will result in changes to the MARTA Act during the 2012 (next year’s) session of the General Assembly. This project is intended to dovetail with the ongoing work of the Transit Governance Study Commission (click for more information), which I helped to create, and hopefully will result in a 21st century MARTA law that yields better value for taxpayers and better service for riders.

MARTA is a state-created authority that is funded directly out of the pockets of Fulton and DeKalb taxpayers through a one-cent sales tax. You and I pay for it. My mission is to make sure that all of us get the best “bang for the buck” out of the MARTA system.

Governor Signs Jacobs Bills into Law

May 27, 2010

Today Governor Perdue signed three of the bills that I pushed during this year’s legislative session: SB 250, which contains my anti-bullying amendment; HB 1345, Georgia’s new Kosher statute; and HB 451, Revised Article 7 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which deals with electronic documents of title in warehouse and shipping transactions. Click the links for more information about each bill.

Sometime soon, I plan to write at greater length about the anti-bullying bill and the Kosher bill. In the meantime, here are excerpts from press releases about these two significant pieces of legislation:

Agudath Israel of America on the Kosher Bill:

Agudath Israel of America commended Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly upon the signing into law of the Georgia Kosher Food Consumer Protection Act on Thursday.

The bill had garnered unanimous support in both the House and Senate last month, “a testament,” says Agudath Israel Ohio Regional Director Rabbi A. D. Motzen, “to the personal effort of the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Mike Jacobs,” who worked with Orthodox Jewish community leaders in Georgia to promote the legislation. Representative Jacobs, Rabbi Motzen notes, “was involved in every aspect of the bill’s drafting – and redrafting – and garnered the necessary support for the bill’s passage.”

The revised Georgia statute will amend the existing kosher labeling law, enacted in 1980, in a manner that is patterned after the “public disclosure” models adopted in Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.

Public disclosure requires stores selling unpackaged food represented as kosher to inform the public as to the identity of the kosher certifier and other relevant information regarding the standards adhered to when making such a claim. Among other things, the bill also transfers oversight of the kosher law from the Georgia Department of Agriculture to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

Though no court in Georgia deemed the state’s kosher law unconstitutional, a challenge was filed by local Conservative Rabbi Shalom Lewis and the American Civil Liberties Union. In response to the lawsuit, a bill was originally introduced in the House to repeal the kosher labeling law, but that measure was not brought to the floor for a vote.

“Had the current law simply been repealed, consumers would have likely faced an increase in kosher fraud,” says Rabbi Reuven Stein, director of supervision at the Atlanta Kashruth Commission. “Any store could have advertised its products as kosher without any requirement to substantiate their claim. House Bill 1345 does not replace the need for a reliable kosher supervisor or agency, but it will give consumers information about the kosher standards being used so they can make informed decisions.”

HB 1345 was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group including State Representatives Kevin Levitas, Joe Wilkinson, Wendell Willard, Michele Henson and Fran Millar. The bill was shepherded through the Senate by Senator Don Balfour. Testimony in favor of the bill was offered by Rabbi Yechezkel Freundlich of Congregation Beth Jacob, University of Georgia law professor Hillel Levin, and David Schoen, Esq.

Rabbi Ilan Feldman, of Congregation Beth Jacob and Dean of the Atlanta Kashruth Commission, had warm words of praise for Agudath Israel’s efforts. “Rabbi Motzen visited Atlanta several times,” Rabbi Feldman said, “and spent dozens of hours working on this legislation from his Cincinnati office. He used Agudath Israel’s national legal network to bring together the necessary experts and kept everyone focused on producing the best legislation possible under the circumstances.”

Governor Perdue on the Anti-Bullying Bill:

Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that he has signed Senate Bill 250, which strengthens Georgia’s anti-bullying laws. The law requires parental notification for students involved in a bullying incident and directs the state Department of Education to develop a model anti-bullying policy that can be used by local school systems. . . .

“Bullying has no place in our schools,” said Governor Perdue. “This legislation will help local systems address incidents of student intimidation and ensure that parents know when their child is involved in a bullying incident.”

The Governor was joined at the bill signing by the family of Jaheem Herrera [of DeKalb County] who committed suicide after being taunted by classmates.

Anti-Defamation League on the Anti-Bullying Bill:

Governor Sonny Perdue has signed into law an ADL-backed bill that provides Georgia schools with new tools for cracking down on bullying, including provisions that target the growing menace of cyber bullying.

S.B. 250 expands on previous state law, which covered just physical violence, to include “Any intentional written, verbal or physical act which a reasonable person would perceive as being intended to threaten, harass or intimidate.” The bill was sponsored by Republican State Representative Mike Jacobs, but also attracted broad-based bipartisan support. . . .

Voting on the bill took place at about the same time that the suicide of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who had apparently been relentlessly bullied made national headlines.

Here in Georgia, many legislators said their concerns about school bullying came into sharper focus after seeing reports last year that 11-year-old boy Jaheem Herrera, a student at DeKalb County’s Dunaire Elementary School killed himself because, his mother said, he had been the victim of repeated bullying at school.

The new Georgia law establishes guidelines for dealing with repeat offenders and calls on the state Department of Education to develop a model policy on bullying that will give schools additional support for dealing with the problem. Individual schools will be required to update their own bullying policies to comply with the law’s new scope.

Legislators Locked In (and Out)

February 28, 2010

Here is an offbeat story by Doug Richards of 11Alive News. It certainly was the most entertaining interview I’ve ever done. It also gives you a slice of daily life in the General Assembly.


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