From the House

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Dave Belton

Dave Belton

 

Over a third of the Session is done, and it seems like we’ve passed very little legislation. Some might say that is a good thing…the less laws we pass, the less trouble we can make for the people of Georgia. In any case, we have 25 days left and are scheduled to end on the 2nd of April.

The House has passed a few bills. HB 57 is a pro-business measure that makes it easier for people to buy solar panels for their house by financing them through a third party. It does not contain any tax breaks or credits. The power companies are fully on board, and it passed unanimously. HB 86 creates a new agency (the GA Adult and Aging Services) that will oversee the needs of older people.

This division was previously under the Department of Human Services. HB 91 is an education measure that allows students (now adults) to now get their high school diploma if their only impediment was the now-defunct GA High School Graduation Test. There are still End of Course Tests that will measure key graduation requirements, but these “Graduation Tests” were so onerous and poorly written that they are no longer in use.

This bill allows the 8000 deserving Georgian students who passed every other requirement to now get their diploma. The bill passed unanimously. House Bill 62 also passed unanimously. This would allow children of active duty military personnel to receive special needs scholarships offered by Georgia without waiting a year. House Bill 65 will increase transparency in local School Boards by requiring them to hold at least two public meetings before adopting a budget. This bill nearly passed last year but ran out of time in the Senate.

There was also a prescription drug bill that passed. HB 47 would allow pharmacists to fill certain eye medications before the normally prescribed time. And my legislation, HB 103 (“Kelsey’s Law”) passed through a subcommittee and will go to the full committee. Randy Upton, father of Kelsey and a former police officer, testified at the hearing and was very powerful. The gorilla in the room, of course, is the Transportation Bill (HB 170).

It has admittedly gone through some helpful changes, but it still needs work in my opinion. Currently, the idea is to change the sales tax on gas to a straight excise tax that will be charged per gallon instead of per dollar. Then, the state will take all the county tax gas money on LOST, SPLOST, and ELOST and allow the counties to levy their own excise tax at six new cents a gallon.

Even though there is no doubt that the State’s transportation infrastructure is in need of additional funding, I wanted to know how this would affect the city, county, and our schools. So I’ve met with Newton and Morgan leaders about the effect this would have back home.

In Morgan I met with Mayor Perriman, Councilman DiLetto and City Manager Nunn, as well as Chairman Ainslie, County Manager Lamar, Superintendent Woodard, Chamber President Bob Hughes, Dean Bishop, and John Milliken. If the county levied this six cent tax, it would be a big win for the county, as the formula that they will share this money with the cities will be based on lane miles (or LMIG).

Obviously, the county has more roads than the cities, so they get more from the pot.

It seems the cities will get about as much money as they did before.

The big loser will be the schools, who will lose the gas portion of their ELOST. That is about 30 percent for Morgan (it’s about 10 percent statewide.) One point that I hope is not lost on voters is that these local option sales taxes have always been good for Morgan.

If the state gets about 10 percent and we get about 30 percent, its clear Morgan has been the winner in that equation. I-20 and 441 means that out-of-towners are funding Morgan projects in a big way.

But there is no doubt that if HB 170 passes, and if the locals then levy this six cent tax, you will see a tax increase at the pump. And since the excise tax will be re-evaluated yearly, and will be indexed against rising fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards and inflation of the cost of road construction, this excise tax will most likely be adjusted up on a yearly basis. This is very troubling,

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