Now that the whirlwind 2014 General Assembly Legislative Session has come to a close and many legislators are onto their re-election campaigns, we take a look at a few bills heading to the governor’s desk that might affect Rockdale residents. No local bills made it out of the capitol this year.
Did not pass:
HB1110 –This local bill would have added a 10 percent technology fee to local traffic tickets to be used for the technology hardware and software needs of the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office. Neighboring agencies, including the city of Conyers, have enacted similar fees. The bill was introduced to the Ga. House by Rockdale Rep. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia), at the request of Sheriff Eric Levett. Levett withdrew his request for the bill after public feedback and discussions with members of the public, said Levett.
HB106 – This local bill would have set up a voter referendum in November for enacting the “Redevelopment Powers Laws” for Rockdale County and would have been the first step to enable the county to use future tax revenues for current development in a Tax Allocation District, or TAD. The bill was introduced by Rep. Pam Dickerson (D-Conyers) and passed the house but did not pass the senate. Both of Rockdale’s state senators, Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-Locust Grove) and Sen. Ronald Ramsey (D-Decatur), said Monday they had received very little information on it when it hit their desk and needed to hear more about it from local officials.
HB60 – This would expand the areas that licensed gun owners can carry their firearms, including into school areas and school safety zones by non-students when picking up students, and at churches and places of worship, if the church allows it. It also allows the use of silencers in hunting with the permission of the property owner. HB60 began as a much smaller bill sponsored by Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) and Sen. Ronald Ramsey (D-Decatur) allowing more judges to carry firearms but was amended during a reconciliation stage with many of the provisions of HB875.
During a Rockdale constitutional officers town hall Thursday evening with Sheriff Eric Levett, Clerk of Courts Ruth Wilson, Tax Commissioner RJ Hadley, and Probate Judge Charles Mays, Levett and Mays expressed concerns over what this would mean for their offices if it were signed by the Governor.
Mays said the number of gun permit applications last year in Rockdale had tripled from the year before and permit applications were continuing to come in at a steady stream for 2014. He said he had mixed emotions about this bill.
Levett said the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office offers free gun safety classes for residents that reviews the laws and best practices around gun ownership. “I support people who are law abiding to have a gun in their possession,” said Levett.
Clerk of Courts Ruth Wilson highlighted a bill that allows the District Attorney to hold multiple grand jury selections at a time. However, Rockdale County’s courthouse and court system would not have the resources to do this and Wilson said that after talking with District Attorney Richard Read he had agreed not to exercise that option.
Tax Commissioner RJ Hadley said new residents to Georgia had previously been able to pay only half of the ad valorem car tag fees but new legislation that passed the General Assembly means new Georgia residents will have to pay a slightly higher rate than before, although it would still be less than full time Georgia residents.
HB697 – This bill increases the amount of HOPE scholarship funds received by Zell Miller Scholarship scholars to cover the cost of their tuition. Zell Miller Scholars must receive at least a 3.7 GPA, SAT score of 1200 or ACT score of 26.