Cobb lawmakers to address drug amnesty, TSPLOST
by Jon Gillooly
January 19, 2014 12:36 AM | 2494 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) listens to opening announcements during the opening day of the 2014 General Assembly under the Gold Dome in downtown Atlanta. Seated next to Cooper is Rep. Chuck Estration.
<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) listens to opening announcements during the opening day of the 2014 General Assembly under the Gold Dome in downtown Atlanta. Seated next to Cooper is Rep. Chuck Estration.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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ATLANTA — Moving into the second week of the 40-day legislative session, Cobb lawmakers are working on a variety of bills, from a proposal to give amnesty to teens involved in drug overdoses to revisions to the controversial TSPLOST law.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb), chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, said she’s working on legislation that would give amnesty to minors involved in a drug or alcohol overdose.

“What we’re having is that especially young people, if they’re doing drugs and one of their friends starts to go into respiratory arrest, they’re abandoning them and letting them die because they’re afraid that they’re going to get caught,” Cooper said.

Cooper cited a case where one teen watched his brother die.

“In another one, they put the guy in the trunk of the car and drove him around and dumped the body out in someone’s yard, so I’ve had a group of mothers come, and I’m in the process of working that out. It’s a big problem,” she said.

In the example of the two brothers using drugs where one overdoses, the other could call 911 for help and stay with his brother without fear of prosecution under Cooper’s proposal.

“It’s not to let criminals go,” Cooper said. “It’s to save lives. Think about it. Young people, if they’re dead, there is no chance at turning their life around. As long as they’re not dead, there’s hope.”

Just as EpiPen is used to deliver a dose of adrenaline to someone suffering from a potentially fatal allergic reaction, Cooper said there is a nasal spray that can be used to counter the effects of an opiate overdose.

“It’s not something that somebody is going to want to do again because what it does is you go through total detox,” she said.

“It’s not pleasant, but at least it saves lives, and where it’s really saving lives is, in many places, the police are carrying it.”

Cooper said she’s researching how to make the drug Narcan more accessible.

“If you were a parent and you knew your child was doing drugs and you sent them to rehab and

they’d relapse, a doctor could give them to the parent where they could get it,” she said.

Transportation

State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) is optimistic about his bill, which would revise the 2010 Transportation Investment Act.

That act divided the state into legislatively defined regions, allowing them to hold referendums every two years to impose a 1-percent sales tax for transportation projects. The 10-county metro region in which the TIA placed Cobb includes Cherokee, Clayton, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale.

The metro Atlanta region’s transportation referendum of 2012, also known as TSPLOST, was overwhelmingly rejected 63 to 37 percent.

Setzler’s bill would change the structure of the TIA by allowing counties or cities to define their own regions, partnering with counties of their choosing to call for referendums to levy up to a 1 percent sales tax.

“This is one thing Tim Lee and I strongly agree on,” Setzler said. “Tim believes that Paulding, Bartow, Cherokee and Cobb could actually form a region and get some things done that could really move the needle that we need. Paulding and Bartow could not have been in a vote with us in 2012 if they wanted to be because the Legislature drew them in a region with rural counties.”

It’s about county self-determination, he said.

“Atlanta and DeKalb could get together and form a region to fund MARTA, but we wouldn’t have to play in that,” he said.

Both tea party groups and the road builders tell Setzler they favor the idea.

“When you’ve got the highway builders and the tea party on the same page on the transportation bill, I think you’ve got something that’s going to move,” he said.

Common sense for zero-tolerance law

Setzler and state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) are both preparing to file legislation they believe will bring some common sense to Georgia’s zero-tolerance weapons law. Two teenage students, one at Lassiter High in east Cobb and one at Allatoona High in Acworth, were arrested in September and charged with felonies after school officials had their cars searched and found pocket knives and fishing knives. Violating Georgia’s zero-tolerance law for weapons on school campuses can lead to two to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000 if convicted. The laws apply to parents as well as students and the law applies to all public schools, including college and university campuses. Police officers and school staff say they have no discretion in enforcing the laws. If a knife with a blade of more than 2 inches is found on a student or in their car anywhere on school grounds, they must be turned over to police and charged.

“What I want to do is narrow it to anything you charge somebody with a felony for, it is a legitimate threat,” Tippins said. “I think administrators have operated under the belief that if any child has any of the weapons or what’s deemed to be a weapon, if it’s in their possession on school property they’re supposed to charge them with a felony. I want to give more discretion to the administrator, and if there’s a situation if they feel like a child may have had in their possession what would be determined a weapon, and the child didn’t know about it, they don’t need to be charged with a felony.”

Tippins said he and Setzler share the same idea for how to revise the law.

“What we may do because it’s such a quick session is we may introduce the same bill, I’ll introduce it in the Senate and he introduces it in the House, and if he can get his bill passed in the House, and I can get mine passed in the Senate then we can merge the bills in a conference committee,” Tippins said.

Tax breaks for alternative fuel vehicles

State Rep. Don Parsons (R-north central Cobb) has a bill that would provide an income tax credit for the purchase of commercial vehicles that use alternative fuels such as electric or natural gas. Parsons said the tax credits range from $2,500 to $10,000 depending on the size of the vehicle.

“The purpose of it is to get these vehicles on the road,” he said. “A lot of these companies, UPS, garbage companies, anybody that has some kind of fleet out there that delivers, it would be a way to incentivize those alternative fuel vehicles to get on the road to help clean up the atmosphere.”

The bill is in the Ways and Means Committee chaired by state Rep. Mickey Channell (R–Greensboro).

“I’m fairly optimistic we can move it on through,” Parsons said. “I’ve got a commitment from Chairman Channell to have a hearing about it.”

Public-private partnerships

State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) is working on a bill that governs public-private partnerships.

“If there’s a courthouse that needs to be built, this bill authorizes unsolicited bids to come up with creative ways to deliver that facility with financing, construction and everything else,” Hill said.

There are prescribed methods for procurement at the state and local levels.

“This would leave those in place but offer another tool in the tool box for state and local governments to deliver facilities using private sector experience and financing and everything else,” Hill said.

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