Political Notes – Lawmakers look into the misclassification of employees

[private]While lawmakers were in Savannah this week for the Southern Legislative Conference, some of them took the time to start looking at an issue important to workers and employers: the misclassification of employees.

Several bills have been introduced in the Legislature over the past few years attempting to halt the practice of classifying employees as “independent contractors,” thus enabling some employers to avoid payroll taxes and worker’s compensation insurance premiums.

The bills usually don’t get out of committee, but state Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) made some progress this year with SR 11, which called for creation of a study committee to investigate employee misclassification.

Although the resolution did not get a floor vote, Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), chairman of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee, promised to have a subcommittee look at the issue during the interim between sessions.

That subcommittee held a hearing Tuesday and took testimony from several truck drivers and companies that work out of the Port of Savannah.

As reported by Walter C. Jones and Mary Carr Mayle of Morris News:

In Georgia 82 percent of truckers hauling freight from the ports are misclassified, according to Rebecca Smith, the project’s deputy director. That means they earn about $29,000 yearly compared to $35,000 for drivers paid as employees.

As contractors, the owner-operators have to cover their own expenses, and most drivers don’t buy health insurance because money is so tight, said Carol Cauley, a veteran driver representing the group Stand Up for Savannah.

“If we take one day off, it takes us 90 days to get caught back up,” Cauley said between sobs. “God help us if we have to take off a week because we’re sick.” . . .

The head of the South Georgia Mechanical & Erectors Association said widespread misclassification makes it harder for conscientious companies to compete with those who save money by cheating workers, and a representative of a local Plumbers & Pipefitters Union said his review of files show 100 percent of contractors on federal projects in the state misclassify workers.

Chairman Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, announced that two more hearings will be scheduled and that no decision has been made about whether to propose legislation. But he said, “I heard some things that, frankly, were pretty disturbing.”

Sen. Ramsey on short list for judgeship

The Judicial Nominating Commission has submitted a list of 10 recommended candidates to Gov. Nathan Deal to fill four new traffic division judgeships in DeKalb County, a list that includes state Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Lithonia).

Other candidates on the list are Bob Dallas, former head of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety; Akintunde A. “Tunde” Akinyele, an associate judge in Lithonia Municipal Court; Deputy District Attorneys Shondeana Crews Morris and Ronnie E. Dixon of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit; DeKalb Magistrate Court Judge Juwayn Haddad; Senior Assistant District Attorney Brian K. Ross of the Clayton Judicial Circuit; Deputy Chief Assistant Solicitor-General Kiesha R. Storey of DeKalb County; Chief Assistant District Attorney Donna Coleman Stribling of the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit; and Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey W. Stump.

Tisdale is honored

Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist who’s been harassed and arrested by local governments for merely videotaping their public meetings and events, will be given the 2015 Open Government Hero’s Award presented by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

Tisdale won a civil lawsuit filed against the City of Cumming after Mayor Ford Gravitt had her ejected from a 2012 city council meeting when she attempted to videotape a discussion of water services.

Tisdale was in the news last year when she tried to videotape a public forum of Republican statewide candidates at a party rally in Dawson County. She was manhandled by a law enforcement officer and arrested on charges of criminal trespass and obstructing an officer, even though the event was advertised as being open to the public.

Attorney General Sam Olens was the only elected official at that event to protest Tisdale’s arrest, saying: “Let me be possibly politically incorrect here for a second. If we stand for anything as a party, what are we afraid of with the lady having a camera filming us? What are we saying that shouldn’t be on film? What message are we sending? What is the harm?”

Nearly a year after Tisdale’s arrest in that incident, Dawson County District Attorney Lee Darragh has yet to bring the case before a grand jury, according to a report in the Dawson Advertiser.

Robinson recovering

Veteran capitol lobbyist Roy Robinson suffered a mild stroke while attending the Southern Legislative Conference in Savannah this week, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Ethan James, a board member of the Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association, reported:

While additional test results are still pending, initial diagnosis for Roy is that he suffered a mild stroke. Roy’s wife Alex has told me that doctors expect a full recovery, but that Roy will need much quiet and rest over the coming days and weeks.

Alex thanks all of his extended hospital and Capitol families for their prayers and well wishes and asks that you give them time and privacy in the immediate future as Roy recovers in the hospital and at home.

Honoring Herb Emory

The new flyover ramp at Georgia 400 was officially dedicated Wednesday in memory of Herb Emory, the longtime radio personality and traffic reporter for WSB who was known to listeners for years as “Capt. Herb.” Emory died unexpectedly of a heart attack last year.IMG_2140

A replica of the flyover ramp sign was presented to his widow, Karen Emory, during a brief ceremony at the capitol.

“He was indeed the eye in the sky,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. “I know he would appreciate the fact that this is now being dedicated in his memory.”

“It’s an appropriate way to remember a great Georgian,” said Sen. Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton).

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Charlie Bethel , DeKalb judgeships , employee misclassification , Josh McKoon , Nydia Tisdale , open meetings , Ron Ramsey , Roy Robinson