To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan. 12.
Day 28 (March 9): We’re back in this Monday morning and as we head into the all-important day 30 this week, we’re trying to debate as many bills as possible. Today we have 30 bills on the calendar including the governor’s “super speeder” legislation.
This bill adds an extra $200 to other fines or penalties imposed by the local jurisdiction or the Department of Driver Services (DDS) for a driver convicted of driving 85 mph or more on any road or highway or 75 mph or more on any two-lane road or highway. The driver will be classified as a “super speeder” and if they fail to pay the fine within 90 days, their license will be suspended until they pay the fine and a $50 reinstatement fee.
The bill is framed by the presenter as serving two primary purposes — slowing people down and raising funds for the trauma care system in Georgia.
Unfortunately, these funds will not be dedicated to trauma but instead will only go into the general fund with the intention of being used for trauma. Nevertheless, the bill passes by a comfortable margin and now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Also passed today is HB 400, the Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy (BRIDGE) Act. This act develops programs to improve graduation rates, improve preparedness of students for postsecondary education and careers and provides for the development of focused programs of study.
Day 29 (March 10): Another busy day sees us passing 32 of the 34 bills we debate today. HB 123 is one of the bills that passes and further defines the crime of child molestation. Recently, a Court of Appeals ruling established that physical presence was required for a conviction of child molestation.
This bill establishes that if a person uses some electronic means of communication, such as the Internet, to expose a child to an immoral act with the intent to arouse the sexual desires of the child or person, the act is still child molestation even though they are not physically present.
A bill to eliminate the Universal Access Fund, HB 168, receives a great deal of discussion today and once again pits rural legislators against urban ones.
The fund was originally set up to aid in bringing parity to intrastate telephone service rates by helping smaller, primarily rural telephone companies be competitive with the much larger companies such as AT&T. The smaller, rural companies argue that, because of less density in their service areas, they are not as profitable as the larger, urban companies and need the fund to stay competitive.
However, the larger, primarily urban companies argue that the fund has been used for purposes outside of its creation and ultimately convince enough legislators to vote for the bill and elimination of the fund.
Day 30 (March 11): Well, day 30 is finally here and in anticipation of a very busy day, we start an hour earlier this morning.
Our state constitution limits the legislative session to 40 days per year and in order to allot enough time for debate, day 30 is set as “crossover” day, meaning that any bills not passed out of the body in which they originated are officially dead for the session. This means that less that 10 percent of the total bills that have been introduced this year are still eligible to become law this session.
We have nearly 70 bills to consider today and spend nearly 14 hours debating them with much of the focus being on those bills intended to give businesses tax breaks, such as HB 482 that will eliminate the unpopular state inventory tax charged to businesses.
As one of only six states that charge this tax, Georgia has witnessed many businesses moving to neighboring states in order to avoid this tax.
Also passed today is HB 481 that will temporarily suspend the fees charged to new businesses for filing incorporation papers as well as establish a tax credit for the creation of new jobs.
Without question, one of the most historic bills to pass this session is HB 480 that will eliminate the hated “birthday tax” on automobiles and replace it with a one-time title fee of 7 percent of the price of the vehicle (up to $2,000) when the vehicle is purchased. As was the case with the “super speeder” bill, revenues from this new tax are intended to go toward our state’s trauma system.
Rep. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) Room 508, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-0213.