Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Legislative Day 39 News

It’s Legislative Day 39 under the gold dome and here are some of the bills and resolutions we think will be making news today:

HR 1246/HB 1244
These two pieces of legislation have become the primary vehicles for tax reform in the 2008 session. Yesterday, the House stripped Senate provisions out of HR 1246 and replaced it with an elimination of the ad valorem tax on personal vehicles. The House also changed Senate provisions in HB 1244, moving a proposed 10% reduction in state income taxes back by three years to begin in 2011 instead of 2008. House Speaker Glenn Richardson called the plan a compromise. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle released the following statement:
"With four days left, the General Assembly has a choice: the House and Senate can attack each other, or we can get serious about cutting taxes. It is my hope that the leadership of both chambers makes the choice to get serious about cutting taxes. The Senate will support a major tax cut, but we believe we should have the courage to cut state taxes instead of usurping the
role of local officials. We also believe tax cuts should be accompanied by spending reductions, as Georgia’s Constitution clearly requires. We stand ready to consider any plan presented by the House to cut state spending and lower state taxes. I believe that if we work together in good faith there is still time to achieve that goal.”
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen fired back with a statement of his own:
"The argument that eliminating the car tax is somehow an attack on local government is the biggest cop-out of the session. Local governments will receive from the state every single dollar they currently receive in car tax revenue. The House has voted twice to eliminate the car tax and now once to lower income taxes. We are serious about cutting taxes for Georgians."
Lawmakers’ Sandra Parrish is following the continuing developments on this issue today.

SB 458
Withdrawn and recommitted to House Rules yesterday, we expect SB 458 to be on the House Floor this afternoon. Although it was not listed on the Rules calendar this morning, the Rules committee is expected to meet at 1:30 PM to pass a Supplemental calendar. We’ll be watching with interest to see if SB 458 is on that calendar. The bill is Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson’s school voucher bill. The legislation is designed to give vouchers for students in low-performing public schools. If a school loses accreditation or remains on the “needs improvement” list for seven years, the school system would be required to provide parents with the option of a voucher for use at a private school. The Clayton County school system has been used as an example in the debate this session because the system is in danger of losing it’s accreditation on September 1. Johnson held a press conference last week to clear up misunderstandings about Fayette County schools being forced to absorb Clayton students. Lawmakers’ Bridget Snapp is following this story.

HB 257
This legislation, scheduled to be debated in the Senate, would allow constables to carry weapons to public gatherings. It is expected to be amended to include provisions from Representative Timothy Bearden’s House Bill 89, also known as the “carry-your-gun-to-work” bill. HB 89 was passed by the House last year and passed the Senate on January 17 but is currently in conference committee.

HB 978
Expected on the Senate floor today, House Bill 978 would allow law enforcement to seize the vehicles of illegal immigrants who are involved in an accident or pulled over for a traffic violation. In those cases, a judge could order the vehicle be sold to pay restitution. Representative James Mills says he sponsored House Bill 978 after several of his constituents complained about being hit by illegal immigrants. Opponents of the measure say it raises a host of Constitutional issues. The bill passed the House back on February 28 by a vote of 104-51. Lawmakers’ Minoo Hosseini reports.

HB 881
Also expected on the Senate floor today, this is Representative Jan Jones’ legislation to establish the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. This would offer an alternate route for groups and companies seeking to establish charter schools. In addition to applying to local school boards or the state board of education, this bill would allow petitions to be submitted to a seven member charter commission. Lawmakers’ Andi Dixon has that story.

HB 948
Expected to be approved by the Senate today, House Bill 948 would establish a period of sales tax exemption for certain products from 12:01 AM on July 31 until 12:00 AM midnight on August 3, 2008. The bill is a continuation of Governor Sonny Perdue’s 2002 initiative “Shop GA”, designed to give parents a sales tax break on back-to-school items. The General Assembly has renewed the tax holiday every year since.

SB 1
Last year the Georgia State Senate established a website for citizen input called The first piece of legislation generated from that citizen input was Senate Bill 1, which would prohibit registered sexual offenders from taking pictures of minors. The bill was passed last year in the Senate but warnings that the bill’s scope was too far reaching as originally drafted led the House Judiciary Committee to amend the bill to apply only to those photos taken for an “indecent purpose”.

SB 379
Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson’s RoboCalls bill is expected on the House floor today. Senate Bill 379 would prohibit calls that robotically play a solicitation message when a telephone line is answered. Violators could face a misdemeanor with a $2,000 fine.

SB 474
Senator Cecil Staton’s bill that seeks to provide availability of parental controls over Internet access. Representative Barry Fleming will present the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee’s Substitute on the floor today.

We'll have all the latest Capitol news tonight at 7 PM on Lawmakers, only on GPB television.