This week, the Georgia General Assembly completed its 22nd day of the 40-day Legislative Session. Although we only have 18 days left, there is still much work to be done.
The beginning of the year is always a busy time for Georgia families. Many will begin the arduous process of filing annual tax returns and finding deductions to maximize every dollar. Now imagine this same process, but on a much larger level. Each year, the State of Georgia must carefully examine hundreds of pieces of legislation to determine the most effective use of taxpayer dollars.
The process of drafting and revising a piece of legislation into its most effective form is often highly complex and requires a keen attention to detail. In fact, bills are often not passed in their first draft and are meticulously analyzed to ensure the most appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. But, anytime you deal with taxes and finances and think you have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed, sometimes you find issues that still need to be resolved. This was certainly the case for the provision to eliminate the “birthday tax” Georgians pay on their vehicles in last year’s sweeping tax reform package, HB386.
HB 386 received overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses during the 2012 Legislative Session and was not drafted in haste. The initiatives proposed in HB 386 culminated from over two years of research and review, and is expected to provide taxpayers with more than $262 million in savings.
As the state began implementing the new legislation for the March 1 start date, it became clear there were still a few ambiguities in situations regarding long-term car leases, certain forms of auto financing and short-term car rentals. To address this, the House of Representatives recently passed HB 80 to remove any uncertainty that could unfairly impact businesses and individuals. This bill will continue to move through the legislative process to make certain Georgia citizens are not unfairly taxed.
Today, the Senate passed its version of the FY2013 Amended Budget, bringing us one step closer to fulfilling our constitutional obligation to balance the state budget before the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2013. The Senate proposed $19.3 billion in total state funds. For the first time since I was elected to the Senate, the Senate proposed not to spend all the money the Governor proposed would be available by appropriating $43.4 million to the Revenue Shortfall Reserve, or “rainy day fund.” Within minutes, the House disagreed with our proposed budget. It will now go to a conference committee to work out the differences.
At the beginning of session, the Governor lowered his revenue estimate by $190 million; this amounted to a reduction in anticipated growth from 5.9 percent to 4 percent over last year’s revenue. This is important to mention because while our state continues to show positive signs of economic recovery, we still have a long way to go before we are operating at healthy revenue levels.
This week I dropped two pieces of legislation ensuring the privacy of our second amendment rights and conservation of public funds. SB 197 would require all records and information regarding individuals with issued weapons carry licenses to be kept confidential. It would also not allow the state to create or maintain a database with the information of those with an issued weapons carry licenses. SB 198 would prohibit the use of tax dollars to fund a gun buy-back program.
In a move to conserve taxpayers’ dollars, I proposed and passed an amendment to SB 83. Current law requires counties to pay for the cost of burying the indigent. SB 83 passed the Senate today adding cremation as an option to interment. The amendment requires counties to only provide funding for the lower cost option.
Several other bills passed the Senate this week including SB 11, SB 12, SB 69, SB 86, SB 100 and SB 104. These bills may be read by visiting www.legis.ga.gov.
As always, it is my privilege to serve you, the constituents of the 31st Senate District. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office.
Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen