To our readers: State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) will be reporting each week during the Legislative Session. The session began Jan. 14 and is expected to last until the latter days of March.
Day 30 (March 11): In order for a proposed bill to become law, it must pass both the House and Senate during the 40-day session that our state constitution calls for the General Assembly to meet each year. Because each chamber must have the proper amount of time to consider and study the legislation of the other, a cut off day for passing legislation in one chamber to be considered in the other is assigned. That day is day 30 of the session and is referred to as “Crossover day.”
Traditionally this is one of our busiest and longest days of the year, and today is no different as we debate a total of 73 bills. Most notable among the bills passed today is HR 1246, known as the Property Tax Amendment of 2008.
Representing the largest tax cut in the history of our state, this will eliminate the property taxes that Georgians have to pay for their automobiles.
Known as the birthday tax, it will be eliminated over two years, with drivers seeing a 50 percent cut in taxes the first year and a complete elimination of the tax the second year. This constitutional amendment will require the state to fully reimburse local governments for the tax cut.
It also eliminates the state portion of residential property taxes that homeowners have to pay each year as well as capping property tax reassessments at no more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, for residential property, and 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, for all other real property.
In total this is an $89 million tax cut in 2009, a $418 million tax cut in 2010, and a $642 million tax cut in 2011. Most importantly HR 1246 provides a means to fund trauma care in our state. If Georgians approve the elimination of the birthday tax, a $10 fee will be applied to every vehicle registered in Georgia so that we can fund a statewide trauma care network.
Another significant bill that passed today is HB 905, Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy, referred to as “BRIDGE” act. This bill will create a system in which each student selects a focused area of study and receives intense support throughout the high school years to ensure he or she completes their high school program on time.
Designed to reduce the drop-out rate and prepare students to enter the workforce at graduation, the Department of Education and state Board of Education will approve curriculums that must be flexible to allow students to utilize courses offered at technical schools or colleges and at work site apprenticeships.
Although all bills are serious, some seem less so than others. One such bill is HB 1071 which makes it unlawful to knowingly remove or attempt to remove tasers from the possession of another person. This bill is a result of prisoners who have taken tasers away from guards and used them on the guards.
Also, HB 92 changes the language regarding tattooing around the eye. Rather than prohibiting tattooing in the area one inch around the eye socket, tattooing would only be prohibited on the eyelid. This will allow certain cosmetic tattoo procedures to take place.
Mercifully, after 13 hours of debating bills we adjourn and head home for the night.
Day 31 (March 12): After a long, hectic day yesterday, we have only four bills on the calendar to be debated today. Because this is day 31 and since no more House bills can be sent over to the Senate this year, any house bills left in committee are now dead. From this point on we will only debate Senate bills and House resolutions.
SB 345, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, was created to help our voluntary military when it comes to their children’s education. The compact addresses issues pertaining to transferring records, course and graduation requirements as well as entrance and exit exams. This bill gives military children the chance to continue their education and participate in activities that provide a peer network for a new student.
SB 399 re-authorizes the collection of a $1 fee on each new replacement tire sold in the state to be used for tire disposal programs. After we adjourn shortly after lunch, we have a Republican caucus meeting where we discuss upcoming issues, including the Sunday sales of alcohol which is pending in committee.
The rest of the afternoon is spent in Economic Development and Appropriations meetings before retiring for the day. Although we are not in session tomorrow, I will fly home to Savannah for an announcement at Gulfstream Aerospace in the morning, fly back to Atlanta for a committee meeting in the afternoon, then drive home for the weekend.