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Senate looks at changing tax system
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To our readers: State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the legislative session. The session began Jan.11 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.

Day 9 (Feb. 1): While our sessions normally start at 10 a.m., we push them back to noon on Mondays to allow the senators from South Georgia time to drive up in the morning. During Points of Personal Privilege, when senators are given the opportunity to make announcements and present legislation, Sen. Greg Goggans (R-Douglas) shares with us his intentions to propose legislation that would tax the sale of lottery tickets in order to increase revenues in the state.

Later in the day, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) announces that he will be introducing legislation to overhaul Georgia’s property tax system. The legislation will include over 40 changes to the existing tax system including year-round property tax assessment appeals, requiring all comparable sales including foreclosures and banks sales to be applied to the assessment and eliminating the “view factor” as a way to determine value.   

Day 10 (Feb. 2): Today is the 38th annual Firefighters Recognition Day at the Capitol as we welcome them from around the state to the Senate chambers. We wear yellow roses today to commemorate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

After much debate, we pass SB 319 that will give local school boards more flexibility in allocating funds for digital text books. As teaching methods and materials change, it is important that our schools have the ability to adopt new technologies. As a member of the Regulated Industries Committee, I spend most of my afternoon meeting with different groups regarding HB 168, the Telecom Jobs and Investment Act, that is currently being considered by the committee.       

Day 11 (Feb. 3): SB 315, the Universal Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act, is unanimously passed today and will allow out-of-state, licensed emergency personnel to assist the state in the event of a disaster. It will ensure rapid medical attention during an emergency by allowing registered health practitioners to enter the state and begin treating Georgians under a temporary license.

In an afternoon full of meetings, we are brought up to date by representatives of the Trauma Commission and endure a two-hour joint meeting of the Senate Public Safety and House Motor Vehicle committees to discuss the “reasonable” price of motor vehicle records. While Georgians account for approximately 3 percent of the nations driving population, we have not been able to sell the motor vehicle records to third parties due to a disagreement in the cost of the information. The committees are meeting with the third parties and the Department of Revenue to come up with a “reasonable” price.

Day 12 (Feb. 4): Today is Savannah Day at the Capitol and the hottest ticket in town is to the Annual Seafood Fest to be held at the Depot tonight. This is one of the premier events of the session and I am inundated with requests for tickets. One of the more interesting bills of the session is passed today as SB 235, the Microchip Consent Act of 2010 passes overwhelmingly. The bill gives Georgians greater protection from being implanted with a microchip against their will and lays out guidelines for voluntary implantation.  

Later in the afternoon, we have an intense two-hour committee meeting as Regulated Industries passes HB 168 which will eliminate most of the regulations still in effect for the telecommunications industry. After meeting with various state leaders, delegates from Savannah do not disappoint as later that night they once again treat the legislature to a grand event with the annual seafood fest.  

Day 13 (Feb. 5): We go in early today and although not much business is conducted, the Capitol is abuzz with the news of the governor’s proposal to revamp state government by abolishing four statewide elective offices — agriculture commissioner, labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and state school superintendent — and putting them under the control of the governor’s office. As one might guess the proposal receives a very lukewarm response from the legislature as we head to our respective homes throughout the state.       

Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA 30334.  His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.