News from Rep. Pam Dickerson | Georgia House District 113
December 15, 2015

Rep. Pam Dickerson
As the year 2015 draws to a close, I would like to extend to you and your family warmest Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Ramadan greetings and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

Additionally, I would like to invite you to attend these Town Hall Meetings I will be hosting in early January 2016:
  • Tuesday, Jan. 5, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Rockdale Career Academy, 1064 Culpepper Drive, Conyers, GA
  • Thursday, Jan. 7, 6:30 -8:00 p.m., Newton College and Career Academy, 144 Ram Drive, Covington, GA

We will be discussing the upcoming 2016 Georgia legislative session, which is scheduled to convene Monday, Jan. 11.


As always, feel free to contact me with your views on the issues facing our state, or whenever I can be of service. Thank you for allowing me to continue to serve you in the Georgia General Assembly.

Rep. Pam Dickerson 

Casino supporters, opponents prepare for 2016 debate
Georgia State Capitol
The Associated Press

ATLANTA - The start of Georgia's legislative session is weeks away, but supporters and opponents of a proposal to allow casinos throughout the state are already battling for lawmakers' attention.

A study committee met three times this fall to hear testimony about the issue. However, its chairman, Rep. Matt Ramsey, on Thursday said the group will sum up what it has learned in a report rather than make an up-or-down recommendation before lawmakers return to the Capitol on Jan. 11.

In the meantime, gambling powerhouses aren't staying quiet. MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren teased interest in a downtown resort and casino at the panel's first meeting, adding that metro Atlanta could support a $1 billion project with restaurants and concerts for other entertainment options.

MGM has 14 lobbyists prepared to continue making the company's pitch, a number that rivals other Capitol powerhouses. For instance, state records listed 15 lobbyists registered on behalf of the utility Georgia Power and named eight for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Other gambling firms have hired lobbyists ahead of the session. Records show three registered for the Boyd Gaming Corp., which runs 22 casinos in eight states including Louisiana and Mississippi. Penn National Gaming, with 27 casinos including several Mississippi properties, also has three registered lobbyists.

Opponents of gambling expansion in Georgia, wary of gambling companies' clear preparations for 2016, are trying to reach members at home before the session begins. The conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition this month sent out flyers headlined "Stop the casino rip-off!" to voters in several of the study committee members' districts, warning that crime, corruption and addiction will follow gambling expansion.

Gambling in Georgia is largely limited to a state-run lottery, and previous bids to permit casinos or horse racing have failed. Meanwhile, Georgians are traveling to casinos run by Indian tribes with compacts that limit commercial facilities in other Deep South states, pro-casino lawmakers say.

To the north, the Cherokee tribe in North Carolina opened its second casino this summer, located an hour closer to Atlanta gamblers. Florida and Seminole Tribe officials this week announced a new gambling deal, awaiting legislative approval, which would allow table games at the tribe's existing locations and limit commercial development. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians runs three casinos with electronic bingo machines in Alabama, where lawmakers rejected commercial expansion this year as a fix for the state's budget woes.

Demand for Georgia's merit-based HOPE scholarship program has outpaced lottery funding in recent years, prompting casino supporters to suggest the facilities as a fix. Without casinos in Georgia, potential scholarship money is crossing the border, said Rep. Ron Stephens, a Savannah Republican sponsoring the casino bill.

Stephens' proposal would divide the state into districts. Stephens said last week that he's open to allowing two casinos in metro Atlanta and another four at each corner of the state to ward off competitors in other states.

Lawmakers seized an opportunity to consider gambling in the "Preservation of the HOPE Scholarship Program" study committee meetings, without deeper study of other options, said Virginia Galloway with the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

"I think there's a lot of misinformation that could come out from supporters with large budgets," she said. "Most people don't even know this committee is meeting. They don't know by the name what it's about."

Supporters' odds of winning gambling expansion this year remain unclear. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has told reporters he's concerned the state lottery will lose revenue and has suggested a higher tax rate is necessary for him to reconsider.
Stephens' existing bill would tax 12 percent of gross gambling revenue, with at least 90 percent of the total going toward educational programs including HOPE scholarships. Stephens said this week he's open to that conversation.

New plan in place to eliminate trips to license and tag offices

WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News

ACWORTH, GA - Going to the Georgia Department of Driver Services could be a thing of the past.

Channel 2 Action News is learning about a revolutionary plan to do away with standing in line for a tag or even a driver's license.

Standing in long lines at the tag or license office has become a cliche, even when the lines aren't long, but two state agencies are now working on one massive system upgrade so that you may not need to go to the counter at all.

"Oh, you can be there for hours ... like working a shift," Terry Woods said. 
Woods was pleasantly surprised when it took only a few minutes to get his tag. Even the workers at a tag office in Cobb County told Strickland they were surprised that they weren't slammed as usual.

State officials say it's time to cut the line for good.

"The ultimate goal is for our drivers and our motorists to never have to go to a tag office or a driver's facility, " Revenue Commissioner Lynne Riley said. 
Riley and Rob Mikell from driver services, gave Strickland their take on a four-year project to upgrade the electronic backbones of the tag title and driver's license systems.
Old main frame computers will be ditched, data will be shared and made web friendly, both for agents at the counter and drivers, who for the most part won't need the counter.
"It's going to be simple, streamlined, efficient, hopefully a lot of it will be done by cell, that's definitely one of our drives," Mikell said. 
Some $20 million dollars set aside only pays for phase one.
We should know this spring which computer vendor lands the contract. 
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Strickland asked. 

"I'm absolutely sure this is going to work, and I don't mind working against the impossible," Mikell answered. 
The tag and title offices get their new systems first, followed by drivers' services.
Beyond helping Georgia drivers, officials tell Strickland this will be a selling point for drivers who don't even live here yet. 

State tax revenues up 7.5% in November

Georgia's net tax collections for November totaled $1.64 billion, for an increase of $109.7 million, or 7.5 percent, over November 2014. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled nearly $8.4 billion, an increase of $699.5 million, or 9.1 percent, compared to November 2014, when net tax revenues totaled almost $7.7 billion.
House Bill 170, which introduced an array of both tax reforms and new tax legislation beginning on July 1, generated transportation revenue of $76.7 million in November. As a result, the total net revenue for November 2015 increased by 12.8 percent over November 2014.

Contact Rep. Dickerson
At the Capitol:
611-E Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone 404-656-0314
In the District:
P.O. Box 1016, Conyers, GA 30013
Phone 678-207-6043