The Georgia legislature wrapped up the 2017 legislative session in the wee hours of Friday morning leaving the dust to settle on the nearly 400 votes cast over the last three months, but the Columbus metropolitan area has two state representatives that affiliate with the same political party but vote considerably different.
How do the 2017 voting records of State representative John Pezold, who was elected in 2012, and State representative Richard Smith, who was elected in 2004, compare?
John Pezold voted NO 90 out of 391* times putting him at a 23% NO-vote rate while Richard Smith voted NO 2 out of 391 times leaving him with a 0.50% NO-vote rate. Pezold was also the second highest ranking representative for casting NO-votes during the 2017 session.
Legislation on which Richard Smith voted NO:
- House Bill 441 which adjusted code section for spendthrift trusts (Pezold also voted NO. The bill did NOT pass the Senate)
- House Bill 142 which assess late fees on employers who fail to provide tax documents to employees before the federal and state-mandated deadlines. (Pezold also voted NO. The bill did NOT pass the Senate)
Bills Pezold voted against while Smith voted in favor:
- House Bill 202 which increases the salary of the Governor to $175,000 annually (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 125 which provides tax exemptions for people who have their yachts repaired in Georgia if over $500,000 (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 208 which increases the hunting and fishing licensing fees (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 225 which adds a sales tax to rideshare purchases like Uber and Lyft as well as any other transaction which originates online — food delivery, Air B&B, etc. (no vote in Senate)
- House Bill 452 which was amended in the Senate during the final hours of the session. The bill allows for persons to be arrested and charged with domestic terrorism, though the language angered First Amendment activists who say the bill could target protesters – peaceful and otherwise – and the federal government already had such laws in place. (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 338 which is Governor Deal’s replacement bill for the failed Opportunity School District Amendment that flopped in November. The bill allows for takeovers for what the state deems as “failing schools.” (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 199 which grants tax credits to persons/companies that invest in the entertainment industry (Sent to Gov)
- House Bill 264 which doubles the state bond amount for the Georgia World Congress Center from $200 million to $400 million (sent to Gov)
- SB 201 which dictates that business owners must allow employees to use paid leave time to care for family members, despite company policy, if the employer already provides sick leave (Sent to Gov)
- Senate Bill 183 that allows state dollars to back bonds issued to private developers of the State Road and Tollway Authority (sent to Gov)
- Senate Bill 193, known as the “Friends with Benefits Bill,” which allows patients diagnosed with venereal diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea to obtain an extra antibiotic prescription for their sexual partner or partners, while also providing funding to pregnancy resource centers that operate as 501(c)3s. (sent to Gov)
- Senate Bill 70 which extends the Hospital Bed Tax for an additional 3 years (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 275 which regulates the practice of wake surfing and outlines when wake surfing is not permissible in Georgia (did not pass Senate)
A few pieces of legislation on which both Pezold and Smith voted YES:
- House Bill 280 – the campus carry legislation to allow lawful Weapons Carry Permit holders over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm on public university campuses (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 146 which requires fire departments to provide insurance coverage for firefighters who develop cancer (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 37 that suspends any funding from public and private universities in Georgia if they allow sanctuary safe havens for illegal immigrants on campus (sent to Gov)
- House Bill 139 which requires the Georgia Department of Education to post all budget and expenditure information on its website for public viewing (sent to Gov)
Pezold sponsored four pieces of legislation this session including HB 465 which creates an industrial hemp commission and HB 133 which reforms Georgia’s ballot access laws.
Smith, who is Chairman of the Insurance committee, sponsored two pieces of legislation, HB 71 and HB 127, both of which addressed Georgia’s insurance code section, such as requiring health insurance companies to provide consumers with documentation on providers and hospitals that are covered under their plans.
The two do not sit on any of the same House committees.
*431 votes were cast, however, 40 were attendance and were subtracted to amount to 391.
**Disclosure: Jessica Szilagyi has previously served as a policy analyst for state representative Pezold.