I am honored to announce that my first bill, known as “Kelsey’s Law,” passed the House by a unanimous vote. Originally sponsored by my fellow Newton County delegation member, Representative Pam Dickerson, it will protect teenage girls from a form of cyber bullying. This occurred to brave Kelsey Upton, a resident of Oxford, who courageously helped fellow innocent teens by fighting this malicious injustice. Representative Dickerson also authored another anti-cyber bullying bill that I heartily support. It should be voted on during Crossover Day.
The Transportation Bill finally came up for a vote in the House and passed by a wide 123 to 46 margin. Nothing changes for the local’s SPLOST and ELOST except they now must use gas tax money on transportation. For schools, this includes buses and drivers. The non-gas sales tax county LOST will rise from 1% to 1.25% and then the state will take the gas tax LOST money a county once earned and create an initial excise rate of 29.2 cents a gallon for gas and 33 cents for diesel.
This rate will then be adjusted annually based on an aggregate of fuel efficiency standards (CAFÉ) and the National Highway Construction Cost Index (usually up). If the House version is adopted by the Senate in its present form, taxes on gas will increase.
I was forced to recuse myself from this vote because of a late addition of the “Delta Tax” on jet fuel that created a direct ethical conflict for me (my employer is Delta Air Lines). The bill also added a $200 yearly fee for fuel-alternative cars. I would have voted no for this bill, but I want to stress that a recusal is essentially a “No” vote since the requirement for passage is to reach 91 “Yes” votes. I will continue to be engaged as this bill moves forward and – as many predict – comes back to the House with many changes.
In other news, a new bill was introduced that would lower the state income tax from 6 to 4% and increase the Sales Tax from 4 to 5%. This is designed to be a neutral move towards a Fair Tax.
There were several other bills that passed the House. One widens parole eligibility for offenders who are not guilty of violent, sexual, or firearm related crimes. This continues the Governor’s push towards lower prison populations to those who really need to be there. Another bill requires that rideshare drivers (like UBER and Lyft) must carry appropriate insurance. This generated a lot of emails, but it seems like a logical requirement that UBER and Lyft already require. Another bill protects children with asthma by allowing schools to administer “rescue” medication.
In the busy Education Committee, a bill passed that expands school choice for legal refugees (from war-torn nations) who do not speak English to be placed under the “Special Education” threshold. Another bill shortens the time a Special Education child has to wait to get into that same program. A bill offered by one of the Governor’s Floor Leaders says that state employees can use 8 hours of paid leave to volunteer at their child’s school. Another gives preference to military and disadvantaged children to be placed in a charter school. Another tightens the requirements for child care centers. A Senate bill states that kids who get an associate’s or technical degree who also complete certain K12 requirements would receive their high school diploma. This follows the Governor’s lead in creating “menus of options” in addition to the traditional pathway to graduation.
I hope you will contact me with constructive comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-372-4114.
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.