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State looks to cap income tax

POSTED: March 6, 2014 3:59 p.m.

State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is reporting each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan. 13.

Day 27 (Monday, Feb. 24): After a very short weekend, we’re back to work this morning and my day starts with a meeting with my Senate budget analyst as we review the public safety fiscal year 2015 budget proposal that I will be presenting later this week. After welcoming the anesthesiology assistants who are visiting the Capitol today, I head to our caucus meeting before we go into session at 10 a.m.

We are honored today to welcome U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who addresses our chamber and gives us an update on the Savannah Harbor deepening. After many more invite resolutions where we honor various groups visiting the Capitol, we take up nine bills including SB 255, the Partnership for Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act. This bill authorizes the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) to develop public infrastructure and facilities.

We also pass SB 320 permitting courts with jurisdiction over criminal cases to create special veterans court divisions similar to accountability courts, such as drug court treatment programs and mental health treatment programs. SR 415 is a constitutional amendment that caps the income tax in Georgia at its current rate of 6 percent, an important step to maintain our state’s attractive low-tax environment.

The Georgia Council on Lupus Education and Awareness is created by SB 352 and a joint study committee on the emergency relocation of abused adults is created by SR 828.  After a Higher Education meeting and a meeting with Memorial University CEO Maggie Gill, I attend a Health and Human Services committee meeting, where we pass out a number of bills including SB 268, allowing PAs to prescribe schedule II drugs (oxycodone, morphine, etc.) under the protocol of a supervising physician and SB 360 disallowing hospitals from prohibiting doctors from practicing in their hospitals.

Day 28 (Tuesday, Feb. 25): In order to get bills moved out of committees and reported to the full senate, we have committee meetings in the morning today and don’t convene until the afternoon.

One of the bills that I have been working on since last session is SB 52, a bill that would allow the Savannah Airport Police officers to be eligible to participate in the state’s peace officer retirement plan. We are delighted to learn this morning that the situation has been rectified and the officers will be permitted to participate without the legislation.

After a morning full of committee meetings, we go in at 1 p.m. and have four bills on the agenda. SB 343 creates the High School Athletics Overview Committee and sets forth certain requirements to be met by any high school athletic association. The bill underscores the continuing rift between the current Georgia High School Athletic Association and certain members of the legislature.

Also today we pass by unanimous vote SB 397, which requires insurers to cover children 6 years of age or younger who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  This is a bill that has been worked on for many years and is the result of the concerted effort of many legislators, including Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell). During his presentation of the bill, Insurance and Labor Chairman Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta) makes an impassioned plea for passage of the bill and does an outstanding job of describing the need for this important legislation.

After passing the FY14 amended budget by a vote of 47-0, we finish the day with SB 167, a bill dealing with Common Core, one of the most controversial subjects we have dealt with over the past few years. This consensus bill was brokered by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), who has done an outstanding job bringing all parties to agreement on this sensitive issue. The bill allows Georgia to move away from national standards and limits the collection and sharing of student data.

Day 29 (Wednesday, Feb. 26): What is sure to be a very busy day starts out early as we have a Chatham County delegation breakfast meeting in Chairman Ron Stephens’ office. We have quite a few controversial pieces of local legislation that we are dealing with this session and this gives us an opportunity to meet with the lobbyists from the city of Savannah, Chatham County and Chatham Area Transit to gain more insight into these issues.

After our morning caucus meeting, we’re in at 10 a.m. with no less than 13 bills on the agenda. We start out with SB 93, which allows the use of suppressors on legal hunting firearms and suspends hunting privileges of a person convicted of violating certain hunting regulations. SR 70 passes by a vote of 36-13 and urges Congress to draft a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget and federal spending limit.

Also passing are SB 282, implementing changes to state child support laws recommended by the Georgia Child Support Commission, and SB365, enacting criminal justice re-entry reforms recommended by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

Another important bill that passes today is SB 386 that requires redaction of personally identifiable information, including social security numbers, birth dates, bank account numbers and names of minor children, from public court filings.

The only bill not passing today is SB 363, a bill that would have offered a plan for construction contractors to receive a schedule of disbursements, verification of funds, notice of any material loan default and notice of any proceedings initiated for a bank or lending institution’s lien on the real property to be improved. This bill was vigorously opposed by the banking industry and failed by a vote of 26-25.

Although we are out for the next two days, I and other members of the Appropriations Committee will remain here to work on the FY15 budget.

Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at 421-B State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109. You can connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.

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