Tom Taylor, chair of MARTOC committee, won’t seek re-election in 2018

State Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, in a 2016 AJC file photo.

State Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, the chairman of the MARTA oversight committee in the Legislature, won’t be running for re-election in 2018, according to the Dunwoody Crier:

As chairman of the committee that governs MARTA and chairman of a House subcommittee on Film and Entertainment, Taylor led during a time of unprecedented progress for both.

“The improvements in service at MARTA in recent years have greatly improved the rider experience – and I know firsthand, because I take the train into the Capitol nearly every day,” Taylor said. “And I’ve been blown away by the growth we’ve seen in the film industry.”

It is Taylor’s position as chairman of the MARTA oversight committee, known as MARTOC, that makes the move compelling. With the imminent annexation of Emory University and adjacent properties into the city of Atlanta, the transit agency is about to embark on its first expansion of rail in decades.

At the same time, House Speaker David Ralston is overseeing a new push to establish a financial role for the state in a metro Atlanta transit system.

Taylor pleaded guilty last year to driving under the influence of alcohol. He had been clocked driving 72 mph in a 45 mph zone in Rabun County. According to a city of Clayton police report, his blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit and he had a pistol on his hip.

Even so, Taylor was re-elected last year to a fifth term. However, the Sixth District congressional contest, though won by Republican Karen Handel in June, exposed growing Democratic support in many areas of the district – including Taylor’s House District 79.

Democrat Michael Wilensky, a local attorney, announced his candidacy for the seat in July. Among potential Republican candidates: DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester and former Dunwoody mayor Mike Davis.

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A group led by Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama, has sued the state of Georgia in federal court, accusing Republicans of redrawing the boundaries for two state legislative districts to minimize the clout of black voters. From the AJC’s Kristina Torres:

The suit, filed Tuesday by 11 voters who live in and around those districts, claims that the districts of Reps. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, and Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, were redrawn two years ago to increase the percentage of white voters in their districts to protect both incumbents, who are also white.

Chandler’s District 105 seat and Strickland’s District 111 have been two of the most competitive in the 180-member House. Both district boundaries were changed in 2015 when lawmakers passed House Bill 566, which also adjusted the lines of 15 other districts.

The timing here is interesting. The U.S. Supreme Court this morning takes up a Wisconsin case to determine whether the drawing of highly partisan districts amounts to gerrymandering.

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Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, the two Democratic candidates for governor, had their first joint “conversation” at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Monday. The event was sponsored by Georgia’s WIN List.

Held a day after the Las Vegas massacre, both women called for tighter gun controls, something of a shift in the Georgia Democratic firmament, noted Greg Bluestein, one of your AJC Insiders:

Roy Barnes, the state’s last Democratic governor, earned the National Rifle Association’s endorsement during his 1998 and 2002 runs. Jason Carter, the party’s 2014 candidate, held an “A” rating with the NRA and voted for a measure that vastly expanded where Georgia permit holders can carry their weapons.

Abrams and Evans voted three years ago against that measure — dubbed by critics the “guns everywhere” bill — and both took aim at the new gun law signed by Gov. Nathan Deal this year that allows permit holders to carry concealed weapons on parts of public college campuses.

Both also said on social media or at the forum that more stringent requirements to get firearms licenses are needed to prevent massacres such as the one that unfolded late Sunday in Las Vegas when a lone gunman armed with high-powered weapons opened fire on the crowd at a music festival.

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The deaths of at least 59 and wounding of 500 more in Las Vegas have complicated passage of House Republican congressional legislation that would allow the unlicensed sale of silencers for firearms, touted as a hearing safety issue by the NRA. From the Washington Post:

Republicans familiar with the bill’s prospects in the House said the legislation was already facing unease from moderate Republicans, and Sunday’s violence only made its quick passage more unlikely.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), the bill’s sponsor, said in an interview Monday that the silencer provision would have had little bearing on the events in Las Vegas — pointing to media reports that the shooter may have had more than a dozen firearms, some of which may have been illegal.

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ABC’s late night host, Jimmy Kimmel, took up the topic of Las Vegas – his hometown. You can catch his entire monologue here:

From Fox News:

“When someone with a beard attacks us, we tap phones, we invoke travel bans, we build walls, we take every possible precaution to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But when an American buys a gun and kills other Americans, there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

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The sound of the killing is what we’ll remember. Law enforcement authorities haven’t said whether the Las Vegas shooter, described as a white, aging male with no history of violence, employed automatic weaponry after smashing the window of his 32nd floor hotel room with a hammer.

USA Today speculates that a “trigger crank” – also called a “gat crank” – or some similar device might have been used to convert a semi-automatic assault rifle into something like a machine gun. The contraption fits over a trigger and guard. A small hand crank depresses the trigger faster than a human finger can.

They are illegal in some states, but not in Nevada or Georgia. Bass Pro Shops offers this one, intended for an autoloading .22-caliber rifle, for $19.99:

Given that trigger cranks require the use of one hand to turn the crank, accuracy can be compromised – but is not necessarily the point.

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We’re told Georgia’s junior U.S. Sen. David Perdue was at the White House last night discussing his immigration proposal with President Donald Trump and a handful of other Republican lawmakers over dinner. What makes things even more interesting was the fellow company. The GOPers reportedly in attendance represented very powerful voices on immigration: Kevin McCarthy and John Cornyn, the lawmakers respectively in charge of the House and Senate floors, as well as Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who has jurisdiction over the matter. Perdue’s legal immigration proposal with Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton has yet to gain much traction in the Senate so far, but perhaps Monday’s dinner presented a more politically palatable opening than working with Democrats on the Dream Act. (Tamar Hallerman)

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More federal money could be on the way soon to aid the victims of Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey. Politico’s Playbook reported yesterday that the Trump administration will soon ask Congress for another $10 billion to $15 billion in FEMA disaster relief money this week. Lawmakers approved an initial $15 billion down payment last month, but that was just before Irma made landfall in Georgia, Florida and the Southeast and weeks before Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. (TH)

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The Senate is making quick work of several Trump administration judicial picks for Georgia. The Judiciary Committee has plans to advance the nominations of former federal prosecutor Michael Brown and Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Billy Ray to be U.S. district court judges on Thursday. Ditto for Albany lawyer Charlie Peeler, whom President Donald Trump tapped to be U.S. attorney for Georgia’s middle district earlier this summer. Meanwhile, on Wednesday U.S. Sen. David Perdue is scheduled to introduce Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Tripp Self, another Georgia U.S. district judge pick, before the same panel for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. The full Senate confirmed its first Georgia judicial nominee, former Georgia Rep. B.J. Pak, to be the government’s Atlanta-based U.S. attorney last week. (TH)

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Speaking of Trump, call Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian a fan of the president’s tax reform plan. Our colleague Kelly Yamanouchi reports that Bastian thinks the framework released by key Republican members of the administration and Congress last week as a “positive first step that will lead to economic growth and job creation.” (TH)

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The Senate could take its first votes to confirm Callista Gingrich to be ambassador to the Holy See as soon as tomorrow. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved forward with a key procedural step on Monday evening. (TH).

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