We are more than a third of the way through the legislative session, and it seems like we’ve passed very little legislation. Some might say that is a good thing … the less laws we pass, the less trouble we can make for the people of Georgia. In any case, we have 25 days left, with the session scheduled to end on the April 2.
The House has passed a few bills.
House Bill 57 is a pro-business measure that makes it easier for people to buy solar panels for their house by financing them through a third party. It does not contain any tax breaks or credits. The power companies are fully on board, and it passed unanimously.
House Bill 86 creates a new agency, Georgia Adult and Aging Services, which will oversee the needs of older people. This division was previously under the Department of Human Services.
House Bill 91 is an education measure that allows former students to now get their high school diploma if their only impediment was the now-defunct Georgia High School Graduation Test. There are still End of Course Tests that will measure key graduation requirements, but these “Graduation Tests” were so onerous and poorly written that they are no longer in use. This bill allows the 8,000 deserving Georgia students who passed every other requirement to now get their diploma. The bill passed unanimously.
House Bill 62 also passed unanimously. This would allow children of active duty military personnel to receive special needs scholarships offered by Georgia without waiting a year.
House Bill 65 will increase transparency in local school boards by requiring them to hold at least two public meetings before adopting a budget. This bill nearly passed last year but ran out of time in the Senate.
House Bill 47 would allow pharmacists to fill certain eye medications before the normally prescribed time.
My legislation, HB 103 or “Kelsey’s Law,” passed through a subcommittee and will go to the full committee. Randy Upton, father of Kelsey and a former police officer, testified at the hearing and was very powerful.
The gorilla in the room, of course, is the Transportation Bill (HB 170). It has admittedly gone through some helpful changes, but it still needs work in my opinion. Currently, the idea is to change the sales tax on gas to a straight excise tax that will be charged per gallon instead of per dollar. Then, the state will take all the county tax gas money on LOST, SPLOST, and ELOST and allow the counties to levy an additional excise tax should they choose to do so.
Even though there is no doubt that the state’s transportation infrastructure is in need of additional funding, I wanted to know how this would affect the city, county, and our schools. So I’ve met with Newton and Morgan leaders about the effect this would have back home. The numbers are constantly changing as to how much the county will be allowed to tax, and whether the schools will be able to get in on the deal, but the latest numbers I’ve heard would be a hit to the county and the schools. What is certain is that any money raised by this new tax must go to transportation only. For the schools, this would currently include buses.
As for the state portion, since the excise tax will be re-evaluated yearly, and will be indexed against rising fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards and inflation of the cost of road construction, this excise tax will most likely be adjusted up on a yearly basis. This is very troubling.
I hope you will contact me with constructive comments at email@example.com.
Dave Belton is the newly elected District 112 Georgia Representative. The Morgan and Newton County representative is serving in his first term in Georgia’s House. He is a resident of Morgan County.