Political Notes — Former Supreme Court justice will hear Copart tax case

[private]Leah Ward Sears, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, has been appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to hear a tax tribunal case involving a company that had business dealings with the governor.

Sears, who retired from the court in 2009 and is now in private practice, will temporarily replace Tax Tribunal Judge Larry O’Neal, who recused himself from the dispute between the state revenue department and Copart of Connecticut Inc., a company that distributes used automobiles and trucks.

The revenue department has attempted for several years to collect back sales taxes it claims Copart owes from its vehicle auctions. Copart disputes that it owes the back taxes, estimating in a 2015 legal filing that the state was trying to get the company to pay up $100 million.

In 2013, Copart paid Deal and his longtime business associate, Ken Cronan, $3.2 million apiece to purchase Gainesville Salvage & Disposal, an auto salvage firm. The tax dispute with the revenue department was still ongoing at the time of the transaction, although Deal’s spokepeople said the governor would not be involved in resolving the matter.

Sears will now preside over the hearing where the two parties fight it out.

The eyes don’t have it

Reps. John Meadows (R-Calhoun) and Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) had no better luck on their second try at getting an optometrists’ injection bill out of a House committee.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 14-13 Friday afternoon to kill HB 416, a bill that would allow optometrists to inject their patients with specified pharmaceutical agents around the eyes and eyelids.

Only eight states have laws that allow optometrists to do this, and medical doctors generally oppose the injection bill.

Meadows and Ehrhart first introduced the bill as HB 36 early in the session. The Health and Human Services batted down that bill by a narrow margin, with Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), the committee chair, voting to break a tie.

The two powerful lawmakers drafted a second version of the bill with a new provision requiring optometrists to obtain 30 hours training in the art of administering injections, but that measure met the same fate as the first one.

Video gamers tax break

The House of Representatives voted 158-3 Friday to pass HB 199, which would provide tax credits for video game and film post production companies, similar to tax credits adopted already granted to TV and movie producers.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Copart tax dispute , Leah Ward Sears , Nathan Deal , optometrist injections , video game tax credits