Increased Court Fees
Below are most of the superior, probate and magistrate court fees that have increased.
General Civil cases: $205, up from $80
Case transfers from probate court: $175, up from $50
Case transfers from magistrate court: $185, up from $60
Subpoenas: $5, up from $1 (Money goes to county)
Preparation of a page for an appeal: $10, up from $1 (Money goes to county)
Partnerships (General, Limited and Amendments): $205 up from $80
Issuance of a new certificate or renewal (notary service): $37, up from $30 (Money goes to county)
Trade name registration: $157, up from $25 ($7 goes to county)
Copy a page without assistance or certification: 50 cents, up from 25 cents (Money goes to county)
Sheriff's Service Fees in Superior
Per Copy Served, General: $50, up from $25
Action from Another County: $50, up from $25
Per Garnishee Served, $50, up from $25
Levying on attachment, $50, up from $25
Summoning each witness: $10, up from $6
Taking bonds in criminal cases: $20, up from $13
Search/return of nulla bonna: $20, up from $13
General probate Fees (solemn and common form probate, letters of admin, leave to sale on estate): $153, up from $113
Guardianships of minors, compromise claims of minors, temp guardianships, discharges: $98, up from $82
Gun permits: $75, up from $60
Birth certificates and death certificates: to be determined
Certified copying fees: $10, up from $1
Uncertified copies: $1 up from 25 cents
General Civil and Dispossessory cases: $49, up from $47
Application for an arrest warrant: $20, up from $10
Issuance of Fi. Fa.: $4, up from $2
Sources: Superior Court employee Becky White and Probate Court Supervisor Peggy Lassiter
Bills Vetoed by Gov. Perdue
Separation of powers
The Constitution gives the General Assembly sweeping legislative powers, including the authority to create and eliminate state agencies, alter their powers, and determine their budgets. The Constitution gives the Executive Branch executive powers -- the responsibility to administer agencies, exercise such powers as are given by the General Assembly, and spend the amounts budgeted by the General Assembly. The Constitution requires the legislative and executive powers to remain separate: “The legislative, judicial, and executive powers shall forever remain separate and distinct, and no person discharging the duties of one shall at the same time exercise the functions of either of the others….” Ga. Const. Art . 1, Sec. 2, Para. 3. Often, during the last year of a Governor’s last term, it is assumed that the outgoing Governor will be less vigilant in ensuring that these powers remain separate. I believe it is necessary, however, carefully to maintain that separation regardless of who is Governor. Four bills passed this year – SB 1, SB 148, SB 374, and SB 480 – are, in my view, inconsistent with the separation of powers required by the Georgia Constitution.
SB 1 provides changes to Georgia’s budget act requiring a purported zero-based budgeting methodology to be applied to a fraction of all state programs annually and for all programs once every four years. Georgia first attempted this budget methodology in the 1970s under Governor Jimmy Carter and has abandoned it since that time. A survey of states finds that of the states that currently maintain this methodology in their statutes all have effectively abandoned the practice because of the additional bureaucratic process and overhead while producing few identifiable results. Additionally, SB 1 does not change the budget process employed by the General Assembly (which could employ zero-based budgeting in its budget process under current law if it so chose). Instead, SB 1 requires state agencies to administer dual budget processes concurrently, the new and the current budget process, to be implemented immediately for the upcoming budget cycle. It is not technically feasible to reprogram state information technology systems or to provide resources for this endeavor on the timeline stated in the bill. While SB 1 is motivated by an admirable goal, the realities of Georgia’s and other states’ experiences have demonstrated few results worth the overhead associated with this new process. Moreover, anyone familiar with the budget process I have employed during my eight years as Governor knows that I and my staff examine all facets of each agency’s budget each year. Because existing law provides sufficient flexibility to conduct a searching examination of each agency’s budget, and because SB 1 unnecessarily imposes new bureaucracy and restrictions on the Executive function of submitting budget requests, I VETO SB 1. I have already committed to work with supporters of the legislation to formalize Executive Branch policies that are consistent with the goals of this legislation.
SB 148 started in its original form as a bill I supported – it required regular analysis of regulatory boards within the Secretary of State’s office and recommendations to the General Assembly regarding elimination of boards that are no longer necessary. That language also passed in SB 149, which I have signed. Unfortunately, during the legislative process, the text of HB 236 was added to SB 148. This language creates a “Legislative Sunset Advisory Subcommittee” of the General Assembly, which would regularly review all statutory state agencies to determine if they should continue to operate. Any agency reviewed by this subcommittee would automatically be repealed the following July unless the General Assembly took action to continue the agency (although the legislation confusingly also provides that no agency would be repealed until all responsibilities, statutory, financial, or otherwise, were affirmatively transferred by the General Assembly to another agency). The General Assembly already has full authority to pass legislation eliminating any statutory state agency, and also has full authority to reduce the budget of any agency to zero. This bill is unnecessary and unworkable, and fraught with potential for unintended consequences. For instance, when any substantial agency was up for review and was determined to warrant retention, the bill continuing that agency would be a must-pass bill. Such bills tend to be inviting targets for unrelated amendments that could not pass on their own, leaving future governors with the unappealing choice of signing a bill containing terrible policy or vetoing it and eliminating a necessary agency. Moreover, the bill violates separation of powers by constraining the discretion of the Executive Branch in submitting future budget requests; appropriating funds in response to a budget request from an Executive Branch agency is a Legislative function, but making the requests is an Executive function. Although I strongly believe it is vital regularly to assess the value each part of state government provides taxpayers, and have supported the elimination of certain agencies throughout my terms as Governor, I do not believe that SB 148 actually accomplishes its goal and instead creates substantial risk for unintended consequences. Accordingly, I VETO SB 148. I have already committed to work with supporters of the legislation to formalize Executive Branch policies that are consistent with the goals of this legislation.
SB 374 creates a “Legislative Economic Development Council”, and grants to that council (composed of members of the General Assembly) certain powers Executive in nature over the State’s economic development activities. This violates the constitutionally required separation of powers. “[A] member of the General Assembly cannot discharge the duties or exercise the functions of an agency within the executive branch of state government.” 1988 Atty Gen. Op. Ga. 31. Accordingly, I VETO SB 374.
SB 480 creates a State Council of Economic Advisors that the Governor will be required to consult in preparing a revenue estimate for budgetary purposes. “[T]he Constitution clearly separates the respective functions of the executive and legislative branches of State Government with respect to appropriations. The language and structure of the Constitution leave no conclusion other than that it is the exclusive function of the executive branch to prepare a budget report, including therein the revenue estimate….” 1979 Op. Att’y Gen. Ga. 40 (1979). Although I have used a council of economic advisors to assist me in the preparation of my revenue estimate, and believe that this is a wise course of action, I also believe that future governors are entitled to determine for themselves from whom to seek counsel on such matters. Accordingly, I VETO SB 480.
HB 827 and SB 414 expand eligibility for state and local employees to be covered under the state indemnification program, and also broaden the categories of family members allowed to recover under the program. The indemnification program is not insurance, it is an additional and special benefit for state and local employees in particularly dangerous jobs that provides additional funds to the workers’ dependents when those employees are injured or killed. Most, if not all, of those workers are already provided life insurance and workers compensation. The original intent of the program was to provide some additional funds to the people truly dependent on the employees’ income when an injury or death interrupted the steady income stream. These bills substantially broaden the definition of “dependent”, which departs from the original intent of the program. More importantly, the bills undermine the long-term sustainability of the indemnification program by expanding the program without identifying additional funds. Accordingly, I VETO HB 827 and SB 414.
HB 321, the “prompt pay” bill, is a bill I would have liked the opportunity to sign. Unfortunately, the Medical Association of Georgia insisted (over the objections of many) on including language that likely violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), a federal law that preempts portions of HB 321 as written. Because the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution precludes state law from violating federal law, I will not sign a bill that contravenes ERISA. Accordingly, I VETO HB 321.
HB 417 attempted to clarify which version of documents related to insurance contracts control when multiple versions in different languages conflict. As written, I believe the consequences of such a change in policy could be quite detrimental, and so I VETO HB 417.
HB 907 was originally intended to allow additional flexibility for management of middle schools, which I support. During the legislative process, however, language from another bill was added which imposes onerous requirements on the Department of Education regarding the Special Needs Voucher, most significant of which was the unqualified requirement to pay such vouchers in four equal quarterly payments. In a budget environment as challenging as this one – an environment in which public schools are being forced to operate on smaller budgets – it is not appropriate to tie administrators’ hands and require them to fund vouchers fully as they seek budget flexibility elsewhere during these uncertain economic times. For these reasons, I VETO HB 907.
HB 990, sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell, began as the Georgia State Patrol’s Federal Motor Carrier Compliance legislation, which resolved issues of incompatibility and enforcement between state law and federal regulations. Unfortunately, the bill was amended during the legislative process with a Fleet Vehicle Registration Plan Amendment. This amendment causes significant operational hurdles and will cost the Department of Revenue nearly $1 million to implement, funds which were not appropriated for this purpose. Accordingly, I VETO HB 990.
HB 1023 contains various changes to tax policy, many of which may have merit but also have substantial impact on future state revenues. HB 1405, which I have signed, creates a Tax Reform Study Committee charged with the task of reviewing all our tax policies and proposing sweeping changes as needed to the General Assembly for its consideration next session. Because of the long-term fiscal implications of HB 1023, I believe the tax policy changes it contains are best considered by the Tax Reform Study Committee, rather than signing them all into law at this time. For this reason, I VETO HB 1023.
HB 1028 allows landowners that have placed their land in a conservation covenant to subdivide that land in a manner allowing them to avoid paying tax penalties. In 2008, I signed the Forest Land Protection Act, which provides a way for forest land owners to continue their ownership of these valuable resources by reducing the burden of property taxes on their forest land. The State and local governments have invested millions of dollars in this program, the purpose of which was to help owners maintain their land for conservation purposes. Property owners who make an agreement with the State to conserve their forest for the term of the conservation covenant – and accepts a financial benefit in return – is and should be responsible for any breach of that agreement. HB 1028 would allow owners who sell land they have agreed to keep as forest land to avoid penalties if the conservation covenant is broken. This does not promote the original intent of the Forest Land Protection Act to help owners conserve their forests, and so I VETO HB 1028.
HB 1082 creates a new kind of freeport exemption available to local governments. Currently, local governments are able to enact a freeport exemption that exempts warehouses, distributors, manufacturers, and the like from inventory taxes. HB 1082 creates a second kind of exemption that would apply to retailers. Because this expansion of the exemption would merely create competition between counties at the expense of the property tax base of each county, I VETO HB 1082.
HB 1236 requires all municipal court judges to be members of the State Bar of Georgia. Because I believe cities should be able to decide what qualifications their municipal judges should have, I VETO HB 1236.
HB 1251 allows for significant exemptions from sales taxes for future tourism projects. In previous years, I have supported state participation in tourism projects when considered on a case-by-case basis. I have signed legislation in the past to assist tourism developments and this year I supported bond funding for the College Football Hall of Fame. However, I cannot support legislation that funds up to 25 percent of the cost of a tourism project by allowing the developers to receive refunds on state sales taxes that are collected. The tourism industry is one of Georgia’s most important economic drivers, but funding developments through sales tax refunds has never been done in Georgia which sets precedent that I cannot support. As I have said repeatedly, the process used in previous years to consider projects with legislation on a case-by-case basis removes any unintended consequences of a bill such as this, and so I VETO HB 1251.
HB 1272 adds to state tax forms the opportunity for individual taxpayers to direct the Department of Revenue to send their state tax refund to research regarding lupus, kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis. Organizations seeking to cure such diseases and relieve the pain and suffering of those who have them are to be commended. This bill, however, is not an appropriate way in which to help such organizations. The cost to the State of administering such options decreases the amount of the contribution to the organizations, which benefit more if people instead donate directly to those organizations. Not only so, but the legislation does not identify which organizations should receive the funds – it leaves it to the discretion of the Department of Revenue to select. Moreover, state tax forms already include eight such options for other deserving causes. Adding more will confuse taxpayers. Since only laudable causes will receive the votes of the General Assembly, there will never be a stopping place everyone will agree upon. Therefore, I cannot sign a bill adding to an already over-crowded set of options, and accordingly I VETO HB 1272.
HB 1321 expands the permissible purposes for which 911 taxes currently imposed on phone bills may be used. The bill violates the original intent of those funds, which was to provide counties with a mechanism to support emergency 911 services – not for counties to use for other needs such as operable and interoperable radio equipment. Accordingly, I VETO HB 1321.
HB 1407 would require the Department of Community Health to contract with a single administrator to provide dental services to recipients of medical assistance and participants in the PeachCare for Kids program. In 2008, I signed HB 1234, which provided a balanced approach to addressing some health care providers’ concerns with Georgia’s managed Medicaid program, and which maintained the healthy tension between providers and the Care Management Organizations that have been so successful in reducing the growth of Georgia’s Medicaid budget. I said then that I would not support further legislative encroachment upon this very successful program, which has trimmed the annual growth rate of Medicaid spending from 12 to 14 percent a year to four to five percent a year. This is saving the state over $1 billion annually at a time where any budget savings are critical. For these reasons, and the unknown fiscal consequences associated with this legislation, I VETO HB 1407.
SB 239 ensures that families moving from one school district to another register their children for school in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the language of a floor amendment seeking to safeguard homeschooling families instead accomplished the opposite; as written, the bill would actually require homeschooling families to enroll their children in a public or private school upon moving to a new school district. Because of this unintended consequence, I VETO SB 239.
SB 291 changes a variety of provisions within Georgia law regarding firearms. Among others, this bill would allow firearms to be carried into unsecure areas of airports. I have already signed SB 308, which clarifies Georgia’s public gathering statute and preserves the rights of private property owners. I believe this language is sufficient and adequately clarifies the law for Georgia firearms license holders. For this reason, and despite unwarranted intrusion into this state matter by ill-advised federal officials, I VETO SB 291.
SB 373 mandates that private employers turn over employment history records to law enforcement agencies when law enforcement agencies are conducting background investigations on applications and officers eligible for certification and recertification. The state should not be mandating a private business to turn over records to a law enforcement agency or any public agency absent the due process provided through existing judicial and quasi-judicial processes. Moreover, the language limiting liability for private companies complying with the law is insufficient; it immunizes privates businesses for liability only when they provide “complete and accurate” information. Because the question of whether the information provided was complete and accurate will likely be a primary ground of litigation, this is an exception that will swallow the rule. For these reasons, I VETO SB 373.
SB 415 essentially provides liability protection for one company that does business in the area of emergency communications. Although I strongly support tort reform, I believe it is inappropriate to do it one company at a time, and so I VETO SB 415.
SB 539 modifies membership to the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority. The current structure of the MILRA is sound and any attempt to convert ex-officio members to voting members would only cause disruption to the dynamics of this working board. For this reason, I VETO SB 539.
SB 547 is local legislation applicable to the City of St. Mary’s in Camden County. A member of the City’s legislative delegation and local officials requested a veto because of the adverse effects that this bill will have on the City’s financial stability. In addition, the City was not consulted before this legislation was introduced. For these reasons, I VETO SB 547.
HB 1422 is local legislation applicable to Montgomery County. Due to technical errors in the legislation, the sponsor of the bill and the local officials requested that it be vetoed. I therefore VETO HB 1422.
HB 1465 is local legislation applicable to the City of College Park in Fulton County. This legislation creates a Water and Sewer Authority that would have the power to construct infrastructure and serve constituents both inside and outside the corporate limits of the City of College Park. The Constitution requires legislation with extra-local effect to be general legislation, not local. For this reason, I VETO HB 1465.
HB 1478 is local legislation applicable to the City of Dexter in Laurens County. This legislation annexes an unincorporated area of the County into the City. The Laurens County Commission requested this bill be vetoed because the County was not given notice of the annexation or consulted as to the implications of service delivery to the area in question. Further, the unincorporated area being annexed is not contiguous to the City of Dexter’s current corporate limits. For these reasons, I VETO HB 1478.
Below is a description of some of the recently signed bills. To read any bill, visit www.legis.state.ga.us/ and type in the appropriate bill number in the upper right hand corner.
Senate Bill 360 — texting now prohibited while driving
Effective July 1, this bill will prohibit any driver from texting while driving. The definition of texting includes reading any text based communication, including text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data, according to the law. A violation of this law can result in one point being added to your license and a $150 fine. Georgia is the 28th state to enact an anti-texting law, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
House Bill 23 — drivers under 18 can’t use cell phone while driving
Drivers who have an instructional permit or provisional, Class D, license and are under 18 years of age are not allowed to use a cell phone or similar device for any purpose while driving, except to report an accident, crime or related situation. Similar to S.B. 360, violating this law can result in one point being added to your license and a $150 fine.
Senate Bill 458 — pickup truck drivers must now wear seatbelts
This bill redefines pickup trucks as passenger vehicles, which require drivers to wear their seatbelts. However, pickup trucks being used for agricultural pursuits by drivers over 18 are not included as passenger vehicles.
"Pick-ups have changed over the years, and are often used to get back and forth to work on an everyday basis. Today, they are out on our expressways and bypasses, as well as farms," said Governor Perdue in an official press release. "We all recognize that seatbelts save lives. With this legislation we look to continuing to build a ‘Safer Georgia’ for the next generation."
House Bill 277 — overhaul of transportation funding
This bill was capstone of the state’s efforts to revamp transportation funding in Georgia. The final version of this bill creates special tax districts for transportation that mirror the state’s 12 regional planning boundaries, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.
In 2008, Georgia passed legislation creating regional commission’s to direct planning in those regions. Rockdale County was placed into the Atlanta Regional Commission along with Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties and the City of Atlanta.
Voters in each region will have the ability to decide on new transportation improvements for their region by voting on a one percent sales tax – essentially a transportation-only SPLOST.
Counties cannot opt-out of the process, so if the tax is passed all counties will be taxed even if a majority of voters in a particular county vote against the tax.
At a recent legislative wrap-up meeting in Newton County, Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) said each county will send a county and municipal representative to be on the regional board. Each county will present projects for consideration.
If a majority of the board members can approve a list of projects, which would be created during 2011, Georgia citizens will vote on the one-cent sales tax in the 2012 General Primary, according to the Association of County Commissioners’ website. The tax would be in effect for 10 years, according to the law.
The T-SPLOST money would be added on to the region on top of local and state money. If voters vote not to have the tax, the region must wait at least two years until it can once again vote on a T-SPLOST.
State Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) said that only about 4 percent of the budget is spent on transportation; a figure that falls woefully short of other states. This bill seeks to significantly beef up transportation funding.
House Bill 1055 — increased court fees, eventual elimination of state portion of property tax
This bill contained dozens of changes. The most immediate changes are state-mandated increases to many Magistrate, Probate and Superior Court fees. These took place May 12.
For a full list of all changes view the box next to this story. While many fees are increasing, Newton County Clerk of Superior Courts Linda D. Hays said most of the increased money will go to the state.
The most startling increase was a tenfold increase to the per page cost to prepare a court record when a legal party is appealing a Superior Court decision. Before H.B. 1055 was passed, each page of an appeal record would cost the party $1 per page, but that fee was increased to $10 per page. These records are frequently hundreds or thousands of pages.
Because that cost would be prohibitive for so many residents and businesses, both the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have created internal rules allowing attorneys to prepare part of the records themselves. This bypasses the increases, because previously the court’s clerks had to prepare the appeal records. Now, the attorneys can print most of the records themselves at their own costs, and need only a few pages from the clerks, said Newton County Superior Court employee Becky White. Most state legislators have said they did not realize the effect of this particular increase on the court system.
This tenfold fee increase is also being applied to the cost to make certified copies at probate courts, said Probate Court Supervisor Peggy Lassiter. She said most of the additional money made by the increased fees will be held locally. She said increased birth and death certificate costs will probably have the largest effect, but the increases for those have not yet been decided.
• This bill will also reduce the state portion of annual property taxes, beginning in 2012. By 2016, the state will no longer charge its portion of the property tax. The effect on the average homeowner will be small compared to local property taxes. According to information previously provided by Newton County Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler, a homesteaded property valued at $153,500, the average home value according to the U.S. Census Bureau, paid $14.85 in state property taxes, regardless of whether it was incorporated or unincorporated.
• In addition, the bill essentially eliminates taxes on retirement income for citizens above 65 years of age. They will not be taxed on any retirement income below $65,000 after 2012, and by 2016 will not be taxed on that retirement income no matter how much they make. However, earned income, such as wages, will still be taxed after a senior citizen earns more than $4,000.
• It also includes a 1.45 percent hospital provider payment that will allow the state to draw down additional federal dollars and increase Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and other providers, according to the Governor’s Office. Provider payments are what hospital pays to the government in order to operate.
This voluntary, self-imposed payment agreement will allow the state to receive federal Medicaid dollars by a three-to-one ratio while also preventing a possible 10.25 percent Medicaid rate cut to physicians and hospitals, which could hurt many hospitals, according to a story in our sister paper The Barrow County News.
Senate Bill 308 – clarifying gun carrying laws
This bill was designed to clarify where Georgians can legally carry firearms. Under most circumstances, individuals with a valid weapons carry license can carry a handgun or knife in all parks, historic sites, or recreational areas and on public transportation.
Individuals may not carry guns in a government building, courthouse, jail or prison, place of worship, state mental health facility, nuclear power facility or within 150 feet of a polling place. In addition, guns may only be carried in bars with the owner’s permission. With a few exceptions, if a person has a weapons carry license he can carry a gun in nearly every location not listed above.
According to GeorgiaCarry.org, which describes itself as a non-partisan, grassroots organization and voice for gun owners:
"It is vital for law-abiding citizens who wish to arm themselves for self-defense to know definitively what places are off-limits. This bill, through the leadership of Sen. Seabaugh, eliminates much of the ambiguity inherent in the former law. GeorgiaCarry.org believes that this legislation is an important step in the restoration and full implementation of law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms."
Senate Bill 250 — anti-bullying bill
This bill changes the definition of bullying by increasing the number of locations where harmful actions are considered bullying, including at school, on school vehicles, at bus stops, at school related functions and through the computers or computer networks of school systems.
Also bullying is redefined as any intentional written, verbal, or physical act, which a reasonable person would perceive as being intended to threaten, harass, or intimidate a child or which causes physical harm, interferes with education, threatens to disrupt general education or disrupts the operation of a school.
Local school boards have to develop policies to notify parents or guardians if bullying occurs, and the Georgia Department of Education is tasked with developing a model policy to address bullying.
House Bill 122 — Local governments must submit their budgets and financial audits to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to be displayed on the institute’s website — cviog.uga.edu.
House Bill 901 - If an individual commits a fourth felony, and for each subsequent felony, he must "serve the maximum time provided in the sentence of the judge based upon such conviction and shall not be eligible for parole until the maximum sentence has been served."
Senate Bill 435 - This bill establishes a grant program to combat the increase of diabetes cases in Georgia. Without prevention, the burden on the state related to diabetes is expected to more than double to $11.9 billion in 20 years.
Senate Bill 454 - This bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Douglas and increases the costs for the licenses that are required for business owners to operate coin-slot machines.