Report from the Senate: Sen. Stone
By Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro)
ATLANTA (March 22, 2012) – The final few days of the 2012 legislative session are here and major legislation will be under scrutiny as we approach the final deadline to place bills on the Governor’s desk.
On Monday, the Senate passed HR 1162, which went through the Education and Youth Committee where I am a member. This resolution will give voters the choice to include a charter school amendment to the state’s constitution in November. If passed by the public, it will add an innovative tool to Georgia’s education system by offering the state a partnership role in the creation and approval of charter schools.
The Senate also passed HB 868, which will support businesses by expanding the jobs tax credits adopted by the General Assembly several years ago. Under this legislation, the industries who can apply for this tax break will grow to include biomedical, alternative energy and military contractors. It will also extend tax credits to smaller businesses.
HB 386 is a significant piece of pro-business, pro-consumer tax reform legislation. It was reviewed by the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure on Monday, passed in the House on Tuesday and passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support on Thursday. HB 386 will incentivize job creation and economic development through tax cuts for businesses and families. This comprehensive reform will include reinstating a sales tax holiday for school supplies and energy efficient products for the next three years, replacing the “birthday tax” on motor vehicles with a title fee rate of 6.5 to 7 percent, reducing the marriage penalty in our income tax code, and eliminating the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing and certain agricultural inputs. An estimated $53 million would be trimmed from the 2013 fiscal year if this tax reform is signed into law. While there are many nuances to HB 386, the overall package will drive economic growth and encourage more action such as the expansion of Plant Vogtle and the building of the Caterpillar factory.
The tax breaks in HB 386 have not been factored into the 2013 fiscal year budget, which was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. The $19.2 billion plan will increase spending to support K-12 and college enrollment growth and state-wide construction projects that could attract more businesses. Some cuts were made to projects, including the building of a state history museum or funding for the College Football Hall of Fame. The Senate passed the budget on Wednesday, and a conference committee will be called to resolve differences between the House and Senate version.
Another key piece of legislation that reached the House floor for debate on Thursday is the criminal justice reform package, or HB 1176. This comprehensive bill is a cost-saving measure that will scale down the tremendous burden on taxpayers to support Georgia’s growing prison population. Maintaining public safety remains the first priority even when considering budget costs. We need to ensure dangerous criminals are kept behind bars and low-level offenders are cycled out of the system through accountability courts and other innovations.
On Wednesday, I presented HB 237 in the Senate where it received overwhelming support. This legislation will amend the residential mortgage fraud statute to include foreclosure fraud. Passed unanimously, this bill will assist our Attorney General in stomping out fraudulent foreclosure practices.
I also carried HB 845 to the Senate to provide that early care and education programs give information on the flu vaccine to the parents of enrolled children. By a vote of 42-7, the Upper Chamber passed this measure to assist the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in boosting vaccination rates above the current 40 percent level and in heading off future deadly influenza epidemics.
Legislation in Committees
The Judiciary Committee met twice this week and considered 18 bills:
- HB 744 – Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
- HB 100 – Georgia Tax Tribunal
- HB 997 – False Lien Statements Against Public Officers or Employees
- HB 685 – Dangerous and Vicious Dogs
- HB 272 – Juvenile Court Re-hearings
- HB 397 – Open Meetings Act Revision or “Sunshine Laws”
- HB 541 – Intimidation of Law Enforcement Officers
- HB 728 – Covenants Running with the Land
- HB 1093 – Store Postings Regarding Removal of Shopping Carts
- HB 1198 – Grandparent Visitation Rights
- HB 641 – Juvenile Court Proceedings
- HB 942 – Official Code of Georgia Revision
- HB 1048 – Who May Serve Process
- HB 198 – Real Estate or Personal Property Filing Fees
- HB 342 – Family Violence Orders
- HB 665 – Clerk of Superior Court Offices
- HB 1114 – Ban Assisted Suicide while Protecting End of Life Care Providers
- HB 149 – Termination of Magistrates Under Certain Circumstances
The Education and Youth Committee met on Tuesday and passed HB 797. This is the enabling legislation which will go into effect if the constitutional amendment is passed by the voters.
As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback. Please contact me with your concerns via e-mail, phone or Face Book.