The General Assembly wrapped up its session late last month by passing several significant pieces of legislation, including bills to create a regional transit authority and a “brunch bill” to allow earlier alcohol sales at restaurants on Sundays.
Delaying DeKalb commissioners pay raise
State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) tried to delay implementation of a nearly 60 percent pay raise the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners quietly voted to approve for themselves with an amendment to Senate Bill 430, a bill dealing with salary increases for local governments.
The amendment failed, and Millar called it a “major disappointment.”
“The amendment did not make it out of the House. This was a major disappointment,” he said.
The pay raise becomes effective Jan. 1, 2019 and increases commissioners’ salaries from $40,530 a year to $64,637 a year.
A bill to allow restaurants to begin serving alcohol on Sundays at 11 a.m. instead of waiting until 12:30 p.m. easily passed this year. Local municipalities are now able to put a referendum on the ballot to see if their voters want to do so.
State Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven) carried the bill in the House and said sales could generate $100 million a year in revenue with $11 million in taxes going to the state. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature and Hanson said supporters are hoping he signs the bill soon so referendums can be added to the May 22 primary ballots. If the bill is not signed by that time, there is the chance it could be added to July runoff ballots, she said.
Millar also supported the bill. “You can get mimosas if you belong to a private club like the Dunwoody Club or Brookhaven’s Capital City Club, or at the Mercedes Benz stadium. We may as well let everyone else do it,” he said.
‘Religious liberty’ adoption
Millar was a vocal supporter of the bill that would allow religious adoption agencies to deny same-sex couples from adopting based on their religious beliefs. The bill was passed in the Senate but never made it to the House for a vote.
Millar said there are two or three Catholic charities organizations that would open adoption agencies in Georgia if allowed to legally deny same-sex couples to adopt. If there are more agencies offering adoption services that would mean more children adopted out of foster care, he said. Currently, the agencies fear legal retaliation if they were to deny same-sex couples to adopt, Millar added.
“I don’t have a problem with gay adoption at all,” he said. “I didn’t view this as prejudicial.”
State and federal laws do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, however.
Millar also supported Senate Bill 452 that would have required local police officers to assist in immigration enforcement. The bill passed out of the Senate but did not get to the House floor for a vote.
“This was not about having someone pull over someone with brown hair and eyes and check their papers,” he said. “There had to be probable cause and a crime committed.”
Regional transit authority
A bill was passed that would create a regional authority to oversee transit expansion in the metro Atlanta area, which includes 13 counties. It would be dubbed the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority, or The ATL.
The region’s transit systems, including MARTA, CobbLinc, Gwinnett County Transit, and GRTA’s Xpress service, would operate under the unified brand name by 2023, according to a press release from the Atlanta Regional Commission, which supported the legislation.
It would also enable counties to seek sales tax increases of up to 1 percent for up to 30 years to fund transit expansion.
Added Millar, “We’re making real progress on regional transit.”