In a very real exercise of the principle of less government, this year’s session has been light on legislative action. So far, only 40 bills have been filed in the Senate and of those none have come to the Senate floor for a vote. This might be a reflection of the high number (14) of new senators as well.
Senate action last week
SB 26: Prohibits state seizure of legally owned and carried firearms during a state of emergency.
SB 33: Re-introduction of zero-based budgeting for state agencies and departments.
SB 34: Allows students enrolled in a charter school or virtual school to participate in extracurricular activities at a public school for their district.
SB 35: Prohibits the state from recalling refund amounts or other payments from bank accounts after they have been deposited.
SB 36: Establishes an electronic database of information on prescriptions of controlled substances in Georgia to help doctors and pharmacists identify prescription drug abusers.
SB 38: Gives state school superintendent the sole authority to employ and dismiss classified employees of the Department of Education.
Bills of interest
SB 33: Virtually identical to last year’s SB 1, this bill implements a procedure known as zero-base budgeting, wherein agencies and state departments’ budgets are examined on a program-by-program basis. If passed into law, each agency along with the Board of Regents would be required to justify programs and expenditures once every four years and report them for inclusion in the governor’s budget recommendation. This report would also consist of alternative funding levels, performance estimates for each program, and a priority list for each funding level. The previous bill, SB 1, was vetoed by Gov. Sonny Perdue following last session- a veto that the Senate voted unanimously this year to override. Currently, that override has been referred to the House Rules Committee.
SB 35: Coming in response to a flap over tax refund recalls by the Department of Revenue, SB 35 prohibits state agencies from withdrawing funds from private accounts without consent of the account holder. Last month, when officials at the Department of Revenue discovered a computer error affecting payment calculations for tax refunds, a stop payment order was issued and funds were immediately withdrawn. This created a host of problems for taxpayers including overdraft fees and returned checks. SB 35 seeks to remedy this by requiring the express written consent of a private account holder before a state agency can withdraw funds. The bill is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Banking and Finance Committee.
The Department of Revenue has released information on obtaining relief for those affected at https://etax.dor.ga.gov/pressrel/Overdraft%20Reimbursement.pdf
SB 40: Designed to increase efforts at curbing illegal immigration in Georgia, this legislation establishes new mandates for businesses and individuals to ensure legal citizen status and creates penalties for noncompliance. The bill requires all private businesses operating with a business license to participate in E-Verify or another federal work authorization program and provides for the revocation of that license should the business fail to do so for the second or subsequent time. A warning would be issued for the first violation. Under this law, businesses would have to verify the legal status of newly hired employees within three days and maintain those records for a period of five years. In addition to license revocation, a violator could be fined up to $10,000. SB 40 provides an exemption for agricultural employers who have applied for federal H-1 or H-2 programs.
The bill also requires lawful aliens in Georgia to carry proof of registration issued by the federal government at all times and makes failure to comply a misdemeanor offense. This would only be checked if a suspect is detained for a crime. The exception to this section would be for crime victims or anyone reporting a crime. Furthermore, it authorizes law enforcement officers to try and determine the immigration status of someone detained for a crime if he or she has reasonable cause. Currently, the bill is awaiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly Web site at http://www.legis.ga.gov/
I may be reached at 234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
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E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
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