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Helping returning soldiers on their property taxes
Hitchens Bill
Rep. Bill Hitchens

As we head toward the final days of the legislative session, our deliberations this week in one way or another addressed living responsibly in regard to our rights, the economy, and our tax system. As usual it was a very productive and interesting week at the Capitol and many bills were passed that directly impact our community.

If you have been reading the newspaper or listening to the news, you know that one of the most controversial issues affecting our state — and many property owners in our district — is a request by Kinder Morgan to build a 200-mile petroleum pipeline that would run through part of Georgia, including our area. The company would like to go through the court system to seize property from owners not willing to sell in order to complete their project which would stretch from South Carolina to Florida. This seizing of property is called “eminent domain” and one which has caused a great deal of concern for many property owners in our state.

I sponsored HB 1036, which would place a suspension on petroleum companies who wish to exercise eminent domain, allowing a study committee to investigate procedures on how the state should handle eminent domain actions by private companies. The committee would have until December 31, 2016 for research and commentary. The moratorium on eminent domain would continue in effect until June 30, 2017 to enable the 2017 session of the General Assembly to consider the committee’s recommendations and have the opportunity to act on them. The bill passed in the House165-2, and now moves to the Senate.

I also sponsored HB 991, called the Returning Heroes Act, which would exempt an active duty military person serving in a war zone from penalties for a delay in filing property taxes on property or vehicles. Our brave service men and women are defending our freedom in far off countries and should never be penalized while doing so.

As a veteran, I understand that military deployments are anywhere from a few months to a year-long and come with all the stress that accompanies being in a combat situation. It seems this is the least we can do to keep our service men and women from further hardship when they return home. This bill passed unanimously and also moves to the Senate for consideration.

On the subject of our military, HB 654, was passed which states that tattoo studios must noticeably display a sign citing that the armed forces will not allow anyone to join if a person has a tattoo on their face, neck, forearm, hand, wrist, or lower leg. Tattoo studios that do not comply with this legislation would be subject to a fine. This legislation allows people to make an informed decision and to know the consequences of that decision before making it.

An important issue in today’s society is the interaction of citizens with law enforcement. Many police vehicles are equipped with video cameras, which capture most of what occurs during traffic stops. However, many other encounters cannot be captured by police cameras and there is no official record except the statements of those involved. Most law enforcement agencies are in favor of purchasing body cameras. They are fairly expensive but the real cost is the video storage since the current law requires that videos be retained for five years. A 100-person police agency’s storage cost for five years is approximately $500,000.

After researching the federal and state laws pertaining to evidence preservation, there are no legal requirements beyond 30 months, except when a criminal or civil action is pending in court. HB 576, which I sponsored, will reduce the storage time for police videos to 30 months and require an additional $12 fee to pay for a disc on an open records request. This benefits law enforcement and the public while significantly reducing the cost. The vote in the House was 164-0, and it now moves to the Senate.

Representing you and your family is a responsibility that I take seriously. It was my privilege to deliberate about the legislation I outlined above along with all other initiatives that affect your life and mine. Please contact me with your comments and concerns at (404) 657-1803 or Your input is extremely valuable to me. Thank you for allowing me to represent you!