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Transportation funding moves through the House
burns jon 2015
Rep. Jon Burns

The House of Representatives has completed 27 legislative days and many bills have been sent to the Senate for their review. Friday is the last day to send bills to the Senate so they may be considered for legislation this session.

One of the bills passed in the House, House Bill 170, addresses an issue that is a top concern and affects every citizen of this state. Transportation improvements have long struggled to match Georgia’s rapid economic progress, resulting in too many roads and bridges that are now in need of critical maintenance. HB 170, or the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, is a comprehensive package of measures designed to address the critical and urgent need for funding for Georgia’s transportation infrastructure.

HB 170 provides this funding through a variety of measures, including a revenue-neutral conversion of the state sales tax on motor fuel to a straight excise tax that will be dedicated only to transportation purposes. This excise tax will initially be set at 29.2 cents per gallon, which approximates the sales tax rate that has been imposed on gasoline using an average of the price of gasoline over the previous four years.

Unlike the current gas tax, which is a 4 percent sales tax that varies with the cost of gas, the flat excise tax will provide a more stable alternative. This conversion will provide a dedicated, predictable and steady funding source and a long-term solution to our state’s transportation funding issues.

Other funding sources in the Transportation Funding Act include the establishment of a user fee for alternative-fueled vehicles of $200 for non-commercial and $300 for commercial vehicles each year. As these vehicles do not use gasoline, their owners do not currently pay their share of taxes devoted to the maintenance of the roads. This fee will provide equity among those who drive on our roads and ensure everyone contributes their fair share. HB 170 eliminates the state tax credit for the purchase of these vehicles, but the federal credit remains.

The state tax credit on jet fuel, which was established several years ago in a struggling economy, was eliminated.

Overall, HB 170 ensures that Georgia remains an attractive place for businesses and families by making our roadways safe for all drivers. I look forward to refining this bill as we work with the Senate and House to move toward a final version of the bill.

The House passed House Bill 190 requiring appropriate automobile insurance for drivers in transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft. Currently, many of these drivers are offering rideshare services to the public with their personal auto policy, which does not cover passengers when the vehicle is being used for hire. HB 190 addresses this disparity in coverage by requiring the transportation network company or the driver to purchase a commercial motor vehicle insurance policy that maintains $1 million in insurance coverage for drivers anytime they are logged into the company system.

Another life-saving bill passed this week was House Bill 210, which allows Georgia citizens to qualify for organ donation by utilizing state-issued ID cards. Currently, organ donor status is listed on drivers’ licenses, but not on state-issued ID cards. HB 210 changes this, so that more people can become organ donors, regardless of their eligibility to drive in Georgia.

The House passed House Bill 362 in an effort to improve the health and safety of school children. This measure ensures that schools are well equipped to treat students with asthma by allowing public and private schools to obtain and stock levalbuterol sulfate, a medication commonly used to treat asthma. Under HB 362, school employees who are trained in recognizing symptoms of respiratory distress could administer the medication to students.

You can visit me or call my office at the state Capitol at (404) 656-5099 or email at jon.burns@house.ga.gov.