The Georgia legislature has adjourned for the 2017-18 session, but the effects of their votes are sure to linger for much longer than the 40-day period they’re under the Gold Dome each year.
Last year, AllOnGeorgia took a look at every vote cast by lawmakers in your area in an effort to provide some scaled overview of the votes cast. We’ve done the same for 2018, offering analytics of the NO votes cast, brief summary of several votes cast,and indicators of which expanded the size and scope of our state government.
A few key facts:
- Lawmakers in the State House cast 460 votes this year, with 40 being attendance.
- That leaves 420 votes cast by each state representative on bills, resolutions, amendments, and procedural votes.
State Representative Bill Werkheiser, who serves Tattnall, Evans, and Wayne counties and was elected in 2014 after running unopposed, voted NO 17 out of 420 times, or 4% of the time. Of those votes cast, five (5) were procedural, meaning Werkheiser voted NO on actual legislation 12 of 420 times – or 2.85%% of the time.
What did he vote NO on?
- SB 17, better known as the “Brunch Bill.” The bill would allow local governments to decide for themselves if alcohol should be served on Sunday mornings before 12:30 p.m. at establishments where food served. The bill came about because the World Congress Center – a government entity – is granted an exemption under the law and allowed to serve alcohol before 12:30 p.m. for special events. The bill was focused on local control and allowing Georgia businesses to be on the same playing field as the state government, instead of placing them at a disadvantage.
- HB 696 – which would create a special tax exemption for high-technology data centers
- This bill was voted on three times and included a procedural motion to reconsider the bill. Werkheiser voted NO all 3 time and on the motion to reconsider.
- HB 81 which allows income tax refunds to be seized to pay unpaid medical bills
- HB 877 which lessens the tax rate on some tobacco products
- HB 59 – which would provide a tax credit for the revitalization for historic structures.
- He also voted NO on the amendment to this bill
- HB 647 which allows state employees to have gastric bypass/bariatric surgery for weight loss covered by state benefits plans
- HR 1107 – which would encourage the Georgia Department of Economic Development to assist with the expanding Space industry currently developing in Kingsland, Georgia.
A few of the higher profile YES votes:
- HB 624 which was an increase by more than two times the current amount for retirement benefits for lawmakers.
- HB 65 – which creates an additional study committee for medical cannabis use in Georgia and adds PTSD and intractable pain to the list of approved conditions for CBD oil
- HB 978 which allows for un-manned automated devices for traffic enforcement in school zones
- HB 793 which grants a massive tax exemption on building materials and construction services for the Georgia Aquarium and an automobile museum in Bartow County.
- HR 447 which declared porn a ‘public health crisis’ in the state of Georgia.
- SB 331 which allows lottery winners paid out tax dollars from Georgia Lottery Corp. who win $250,000 or more to be kept anonymous from any public record
- SB 118 which mandates that insurance companies over autism up to age 20 (Current law is age 6)
- HB 150 which allows the state to take income tax refunds to pay unpaid tollway fines
- HB 890 which makes it illegal to leave through an emergency exit door if you’re shoplifting
- SB 336 which allows law enforcement officials to gather electronic data from your service providers (like cell phone, Internet, tv, etc) and the prohibits your service provider from confirming to you that your data has been subpoenaed by law enforcement
One of the most controversial bills of the legislative session was HB 673, the distracted driving bill. Current law allows officers to pull someone over for any type of distracted driving – playing with the radio, using a cell phone, eating an egg roll, putting on lipstick, etc – all at the discretion of the officer. HB 673 changes the law to allow law enforcement officials to cite anyone who is touching their phone while a vehicle is in motion. The bill went through a study committee process in 2017 and law enforcement officials testified about the difficulty of enforcement, while also denoting that states with hands-free driving laws have not seen a reduction in accidents or traffic-related deaths. Still, the bill passed both chambers on the final day and State Representative Werkheiser voted YES on this measure.
The legislature also spent considerable time passing unenforceable resolutions and proclamations, even going as far as to:
- Urge the Republic of China to stop harvesting organs from people without their consent (HR 944)
- Urge the Country of Israel to keep it’s consulate in Atlanta and to urge the President of the US to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Werkheiser voted YES on both of these measures.
His Wayne County delegation mate, State Rep. Chad Nimmer, voted NO 15 times.
Werkheiser has drawn a primary opponent, former State Representative Delvis Dutton. The primary election is May 22.
Disclosure: AllOnGeorgia, LLC is owned, in part, by Delvis Dutton.