UPDATE: Sheriff Eric Levett is withdrawing his request for a bill that would add a 10 percent fee to traffic tickets to fund technology needs of the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, said RCSO Chief Deputy Scott Freeman.
"There was not enough public support for it," said Freeman.
He said the Sheriff made his decision based on public feedback through Facebook, personal conversations and results collected so far from an online survey that received 18 responses as of Friday; about 10 of those were not in favor. There were about 10 responses posted on the RCSO Facebook page regarding the bill, with half in favor and half not in favor.
Freeman said the RCSO did not foresee picking the bill back up at a later time. "We feel the pulse of the community," he said. "The community is not in support (of it)." If the community expressed interest in picking up the issue again, it would be in dialogue with other elected officials, said Freeman.
Rep. Tonya Anderson, who had sponsored HB1110, and Sen. Ronald Ramsey had both expressed doubt that the bill would be technically eligible to pass this session, since county regulations required it to be advertised three times in the weekly legals and House rules require it to be read three times (three days) during the session before it can move to the Senate. The first notice was advertised last Thursday.
(March 6, 4:56 p.m.) A local legislative bill that few local officials and legislators were aware of proposes a new 10 percent fee on traffic tickets to raise funds for Rockdale County Sheriff's Office technology needs. The RCSO says the bill was a way to "open the conversation" on the idea.
A notice appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 27 Rockdale legals announcing the intention to introduce a "bill to amend an Act creating the State Court of Rockdale County" with District 92 Ga. House Representative Tonya Anderson's name attached to the notice.
A message was left to Rep. Anderson on Feb. 27.
However, when The News asked State Court Judge Nancy Bills, county Chief of Staff Gerald Sanders, and Commission Chairman Richard Oden on Feb. 27 about the notice, all said they were unfamiliar with the bill and had not requested it.
Rep. Anderson responded on Feb. 28 and said the bill had to do with technology and public safety but did not have further detail. The bill did not yet have a number assigned at that time on Feb. 28 because it had been so recently introduced.
"In the spirit of public policy, it's my goal to help public safety," said Anderson. She explained, "The bill is amended to improve public safety. It comes through the state court but it doesn't affect anyone in the court's office."
Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett said on Wednesday that he had approached Rep. Anderson, who is in her first term, with the proposal.
RCSO Chief Deputy Scott Freeman said on Wednesday, "We were looking at innovative ways to fund some of the technological advances used by the Sheriff's Office... We always look for innovative ways to take the burden off taxpayers," Freeman said. The technology fee was one way to "put the burden back on the violator of the law."
"It's exploratory," said Freeman. "We want to get the dialogue going with our representatives in letting people see how the language will read."
When asked if it wasn't better to get feedback before the bill was introduced, Freeman said, "There are a number of ways communication can start." He described the bill as a "first step to open the conversation to our citizens."
Freeman said there was an online survey that was set up on Wednesday afternoon - days after the bill was introduced - to collect public input. That survey can be found until March 16 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TechnologyFeeHB1110
Freeman added, "If there's a strong movement against it... the sheriff will simply not move forward with it."
He pointed out Sheriff Levett, as an elected official and constitutional officer, had a right to ask legislators to enact local legislation.
Rep. Anderson expressed doubt on Monday that the bill would pass this year. Local regulations require the advertisement of proposed local bills at least three times. After a legislative town hall on Tuesday, Sen. Ronald Ramsey pointed out the deadline for local legislation (which is later than regular legislation) is next week. He also said more community input and dialogue was needed.
Clerk of Courts Ruth Wilson, whose office would have to handle collection of the 10 percent technology fee if it were passed, said she had not known about the bill. As of Thursday, she said she had spoken with Sheriff Levett and Rep. Anderson and expressed disappointment that she was not included in the conversation but looked forward to working with them to craft the bill.
Sheriff Levett said on Wednesday, "I haven't had a dialogue with the State Court yet," adding that "sometimes we can't always speak to individuals" immediately.
The bill, which was assigned a number this week of HB 1110, would enact a 10 percent fee on all traffic fines. These fees would be used by the Rockdale County Sheriff to "provide for the technological needs of the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office: the purchase, lease, maintenance, and installation of computer hardware and software." The funds would be "separate from other funds of the county, and shall not be subject to any budgetary action of the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners. All funds collected pursuant to this subsection shall be expended only for authorized purposes upon request of the Rockdale County Sheriff."
Putting technology fines on traffic tickets is not uncommon. Several Georgia municipalities, including the City of Conyers, have enacted similar fines. Gwinnett County looked at imposing a $10 fee per traffic ticket for the maintenance of its traffic citation technology and hardware.