- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Feb. 16

Savannah Morning News on Georgia craft breweries:

It’s disappointing that the ongoing battle between Georgia craft breweries and the Georgia Department of Revenue has come to a head instead of a resolution that is fair to the public and the fast-growing craft beer industry, which includes several breweries in Savannah.

At the heart of the dispute are the state rules for breweries that offer tours with beer samples, as well as a proposal that would have permitted limited sales to patrons who wanted to take samples off-site for personal consumption.

Last April, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation (H.B. 63) known as the Beer Jobs Bill. It was designed to relax some of the overly burdensome restrictions on beer sales in the Peach State and help the state’s craft brewing industry compete with breweries in other states.

Georgia breweries would be allowed to capitalize on their products, yet not undercut bars, package shops and other establishments that feature the same offerings.

In this case, the bill won’t allow people to come in and pay directly for beer. But it would add new tour levels, which visitors pay for, to match different volumes of beer - say, a souvenir pint glass or to-go 32-ounce growlers.

The measure permits breweries to increase the amount they can pour on site to 36 ounces. It allows customers to take 72 ounces to go - the equivalent of a six pack or two growlers.

Industry observers believed at the time that the Beer Jobs Bill will be a bigger help to smaller breweries, such as Savannah’s Southbound, Service Brewing and Coastal Empire Beer Co., than the bigger breweries like Terrapin Beer in Athens and Sweetwater Brewing in Atlanta. Neither of those breweries needs help in packing in visitors for tours and tastings.

There was also a belief that relaxing the rules would help create more consumer demand, which translates into more sales and brewery jobs. If people liked what they tasted on a brewery tour, they’re likely to look for the same beer at their neighborhood package shop.

These changes made considerable sense - in principle. But in practice, this is a somewhat complex arrangement that results in a big mess, in part because of some last-minute changes to the bill that Mr. Deal signed and because of how that state Department of Revenue is interpreting and enforcing the new law. Carly Wiggins, marketing director and co-founder of Savannah’s Southbound Brewing Co., describes the current situation as a “convoluted mess.”

One of the worst changes is the requirement that the price of a brewery tour had to be the same regardless of whether a patron wanted a to-go souvenir. That’s ridiculous. The state of Georgia should not be dictating to businesses what they should charge for their products and services. It should trust that businesses know what’s best for their operations and their customers. A Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature should be supporting the state’s businesses and the free-enterprise system, not setting up roadblocks that hurt sales, growth and job creation.

It’s hard to tell where the train jumped the tracks in Atlanta, but Wiggins said the effects of the new rules as enforced by the Revenue Department have been “devastating.”

Chatham County’s legislative delegation should work with Savannah’s brewers and clean this up by either amending and clarifying the law approved last year or encouraging Georgia Revenue Commissioner Lynnette Riley to back off until lawmakers can fix the problem.

Wiggins said craft brewers “just want a fair chance in the market to compete as our neighbors do” and “just want to be able to keep the lights on.” That’s not too much to ask for, and lawmakers and Commissioner Riley should be sympathetic and fix this “convoluted mess.”

The intent of the original law was to help Georgia’s craft breweries, not to make operations more difficult. Georgia’s breweries should be on a level playing field with competitors in South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida. Indeed, craft brewing has exploded as an industry around Asheville, N.C., and there’s no reason why Georgia can’t cash in on the growing consumer demand and the gusher of jobs and revenue that comes with this industry.

Georgia officials should be raising a glass to Georgia-based businesses, not flushing them down the drain.

Online:

http://savannahnow.com/

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Feb. 15

The Dalton Daily Citizen on voting in the Georgia primary:

It’s election season and Georgia’s big day is coming up.

On Tuesday, March 1, voters in Georgia, along with six other southern states in the so-called “SEC Primary,” will go to the polls to cast ballots in the Presidential Preference Primary.

Often neglected in national campaigns, this time southern states plan to be a major voice in this year’s election. Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia joined with Georgia to vote earlier than usual, March 1, with Louisiana just a few days later. This created a region in which candidates have to invest their time, energy and money or take a massive hit on the road to the White House. After all, there are 1,010 delegates up for grabs from these states.

But you don’t have to wait two weeks to make your voice heard. Early voting is underway and will continue until Friday, Feb. 26. Voters in Whitfield and Murray counties can vote at their courthouse during normal business hours.

Voting early has many benefits. First, you do it at your convenience. It also reduces the lengths of lines on Election Day, eases stress on voting machines and poll workers, and can reveal glitches in the voting system in time to fix them.

Early voting can also improve participation among minority voters, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice that found in favor of early voting laws.

So why not plan a trip to the courthouse to vote early and avoid the hassle of Election Day? The rest of this week would make an ideal time as afternoon temperatures are expected to be in the 60s.

Remember to take a photo ID to the polls. The state allows six forms of valid photo ID. These include a Georgia driver’s license, even if expired; any valid state or federal government-issued photo ID, including a free Voter ID card issued by your county registrar’s office or the Department of Driver Services; a valid passport; a valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency or entity of the U.S. government, Georgia or any county, municipality, board, authority or other state entity; a valid U.S. military photo ID; or a valid tribal photo ID.

Voting early is easy - much like a quick errand that can be run on one’s individual schedule. We encourage area voters to go to the polls at their convenience to participate in this nation’s historic and democratic method of selecting its leaders.

Online:

http://www.daltondailycitizen.com/

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Feb. 11

The Macon Telegraph on carrying a weapon on public colleges and universities:

House Bill 859 is a bill looking for someone to love it. It has found few suitors outside the Georgia Legislature. The bill would give anyone with a license to carry a weapon the right to carry it on public colleges and universities. This bill has been introduced before and was defeated. College presidents were in an uproar then and the same is true this year.

Though guns would not be allowed in certain areas, that hasn’t stopped some lawmakers from making doublespeak. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, State Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said the “legislation would ban guns from athletic events, dorms and fraternity and sorority houses.” But it would enable students to “defend themselves in the case of certain events.” He was speaking of the recent armed robberies around Georgia State University. Think about that for a second.

If students live on campus, they couldn’t keep their weapon where they live. So how, pray tell, would they defend themselves? Do lawmakers just want to protect students living off campus?

This one-page bill isn’t about students being able to defend themselves at all. It is an attempt to allow individuals who are licensed to carry their weapons the ability to bring them on campuses. It would allow them to walk into the president’s office, provost, financial aid or any other building on a public university, college, vocational or technical school, even a classroom, with the exception of athletic facilities, packing a gun.

Lawmakers shouldn’t hide behind the guise of giving students the ability to protect themselves when this bill clearly does not do that.

Online:

http://www.macon.com/

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