Hamrick Reports from the Capitol

By Bill Hamrick

 It was a busy week under the Gold Dome as lawmakers debated some very important topics. Legislation regarding immigration reform, property taxes and government accountability were debated and eventually approved by the State Senate. This legislation is, simply said, good for Georgia. These bills protect your rights as citizens of Georgia. They also reduce and improve government.

 The legislature’s attempts to strengthen Georgia’s immigration reform to an important step this week with the Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 40, which strengthens the use of E-Verify for Georgia businesses. Public agencies and private companies working on public projects have stricter penalties if they do not use E-Verify. However, the bill exempts businesses with five or less employees, protecting the small mom-and-pop shops from complying with mandates they simply can’t afford. The House has also passed its version of immigration reform, which includes some stricter and further-reaching provisions. Both bills will go to a conference committee, where members will negotiate the terms of both bills and develop one piece of compromise legislation.

 A topic that affects almost every Georgian is property tax reform. The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 234, which continues reform of the assessment and appeal process for property taxes. The measure further protects taxpayer rights to correct assessment errors and successfully appeal excessive property taxes. Georgians deserve a fair and simple tax structure, which is why we continue striving to improve on the existing system.

 We are always working to reduce government and eliminate waste. The “Georgia Government Accountability Act” was passed this week. This measure would create a joint Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee where all state agencies and programs would be analyzed to identify areas of duplication or those not considered an essential service mandated by the Georgia Constitution. The Committee would ultimately rule on the validity and/or public need of each entity or an individual function within that entity. Duplicated services, low productivity, effectiveness of the entity, and performance measures would be some of the factors in deciding on the justification to continue funding the entity with taxpayer dollars. This is the exact kind of legislation we need to ensure government doesn’t grow more than is absolutely necessary as we recover from the recession.

 I was proud to host a special visitor, Eli Ford, this week at the state Capitol. This brilliant little boy is only 4 years-old and knows more about our U.S. presidents than most Americans. Having been honored on national and local TV, he is an example for kids and adults throughout Georgia.

 As always, it’s an honor to serve you, the 30th Senate District. If you have any questions on current legislation in the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me.