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Burns: State lawmakers await stimulus shakeout
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The 2009 General Assembly session has slowed down due to the current economic crisis and the looming $2 billion revenue to the state. This critical shortage has forced the entire membership to first stop and understand that there is not any money for special projects, and most current programs will face reductions in funding or outright elimination.

There is a very good reason why there has not been much legislation looked at, because we are all looking at the budget and determining how it effects us.

The schedule for the General Assembly has been modified by the leadership of the House and Senate.  This was done to slow the pace down of the constitutionally-mandated, no more than 40 day session of which as of this past Friday, came to 15 days.  

We are waiting to see what the federal stimulus package does for education and Medicaid funding which consumes a majority of the roughly $19 billion annual budget total.

The General Assembly will meet on Tuesday through Thursday of each week until the end of March, hoping to finish in 35 days. It also will leave five days for a brief session should the economic crisis worsen and adjustment be needed for the fiscal year 2010 budget.

The House has passed several meaningful pieces of legislation including House Bill 141, a bill that further updates our state banking code. This includes amending the definition of “net assets” and “financial institutions,” re-establishes what a credit union is and is not, as well as other house-keeping rules. This bill passed easily, 162-5. We also modified the threshold requirements to purchase corporate owned life insurance from 10 employees to two employees. H.B. 80 passed unanimously.

In an effort to help those who work in the state’s largest business, agriculture, we have ratified the governor’s executive order which provides a state sales tax exemption for the sale of dyed fuel oils which are used exclusively for agriculture, timber growing, harvesting, mining or construction purposes.  This bill, H.B. 121 passed unanimously also. We also passed H.B. 69, a bill that would allow for the change in criteria for determining “candidate for non-resuscitation” from needing two physicians to only one. The bill also clarified that two physicians were required to concur on an order not to resuscitate. This bill easily passed 153-4.

We unanimously passed H.B. 128, a bill that would exempt from occupation taxes, administration fees and regulatory fees, those self-employed individuals who are also disabled veterans or blind.

Ask nearly anyone in Georgia, and they will tell you that everyone has transportation needs. Whether you’re in Atlanta, Savannah or any town in-between, transportation affects your quality of life. Solving these problems isn’t just about building new roads or widening lanes in one or two cities; it is about allowing families to spend more time together instead of sitting in traffic. A state-wide problem requires a state-wide solution.  

That is why Rep. Vance Smith Jr. introduced a state-wide plan. The Georgia 20/20 Statewide Transportation Act will allow Georgians to vote on a 10-year, one-percent state-wide transportation sales tax that would expire at the end of year 2020. The great thing about this plan is it allows Georgians to choose whether or not to tax themselves.

One bill that has received and will receive continued attention is Gov. Sonny Perdue’s plan to create a “hospital tax.” The bill, H.B. 307, was introduced last week as a way to overcome the $423 million shortfall in the state’s Department of Community Health’s budget.  The bill would require hospitals to pay the state a 1.6 percent “provider-fee” out of their net patient revenues. The taxes collected will allow the DCH to leverage those funds for additional Medicaid funding from the federal government.

At this point in time, the legislation faces an uphill battle as many of us do not want to raise taxes, especially on our local hospitals.

Rep. Burns may be reached at or at (404) 656-5116.