State Chamber Scorecard

Crane says voting record led to low grade

by Sarah Fay Campbell

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has released its annual “scorecard” of state legislators.

Each legislator’s score is based on votes on specific pieces of legislation the chamber finds important. Senators were judged on their votes on eight bills, and House members were judged on seven.

Three of Coweta’s five legislators: State Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan, State Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, and State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, received A-plus ratings. State Rep. Carl Von Epps, D-LaGrange, scored a B-plus.

State Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, received a “U” for unsatisfactory. Crane received that score for voting against three bills that the chamber supported.

“I think it just goes to provide, once again, that the chamber of commerce is not a champion of liberty and free enterprise, generally speaking,” Crane said on Thursday.

Occasionally, the chamber will support a bill that Crane believes provides equal treatment under the law and is constitutional.

“But, oftentimes, they support legislation that I think is contrary to those principles, by specifically granting privileges and benefits for one segment and not another. And that distorts the market,” Crane said.

Crane said the ranking doesn’t come as a surprise. “Every time a piece of legislation comes up that is championed by the chamber, a nice little piece of paper ends up on every legislator's desk, indicating that such and such is a scorecard issue,” Crane said.

Crane voted against three bills advocated by the chamber: House Bill 958, HB 643 and Senate Bill 213.

HB 958 was a large bill that created state income tax credits for video game productions, exempted food banks from state sales tax, created the energy efficient sales tax holiday and extended a sales tax competition on construction materials used in “competitive projects or regional significance.”

HB 643 dealt with “e-discovery” in civil cases. It was not approved this year. And SB 213 amends the Flint River Drought Protection Act.

Crane doesn’t like bills that provide tax credits to some types of business and not others. The video game credit was “peculiarly narrowly drawn… it was so narrowly drawn you would think they would have just filled in the blank” with one specific company, he said.

“I really have issue with that type of tax credit. If tax cuts are such a good idea, and I believe that they are, we need to create a different revenue system for the state that supports that idea for everyone,” he said. “If a tax cut is good for Kia, then it is good for everybody.”

Georgia’s tax code “too much mirrors the federal tax structure,” Crane said. “It’s full of carve-outs and favors.”

“Unfortunately, the chamber supports a lot of legislation that falls into that trap,” Crane said. "That is not part of my job description. I’m not there to represent the chamber’s ideas. I’m there as a representative for individual people. Not that I’m against the chamber,” Crane said. “It’s unfortunate their leadership chooses to champion ideas that I think, in the long run, are detrimental” to the free marketplace.

Crane was opposed to the Flint River legislation because it included supplementing river flows with groundwater sources. “I think that is very dangerous,” he said. Depleting groundwater can lead to saltwater intrusion. “We really need to control our output of the river better rather than endangering our subsurface water supplies.”

As for e-discovery, “it’s a very complex issue,” Crane said. His concern with the bill was that it seemed to “put a burden on a small plaintiff against a very big company… I think it disproportionately tilted the ligation playing field in favor of people with a lot of money.”

It’s the second year in a row that Crane has received an Unsatisfactory rating from the Georgia Chamber.

“If they keep up their priorities, then I shall keep up my status with their rating system,” Crane said.

Von Epps received his B-plus rating for voting against HB 714, which prevented contract school workers from receiving unemployment during the summer and school holidays.

The only legislator to receive a lower score than Crane was Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus. Other senators receiving a “U” for the 2014 session were Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, Sen. Steve Henson, D-Tucker, Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, and Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta.

State representatives receiving a U are Charles Gregory, R-Kennesaw, Sam Moore, R-Ball Ground, and Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur.

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