The Georgia General Assembly has completed twenty-nine days of the 2008 Georgia General Assembly session and "Day 30" which is "Crossover Day" will be Tuesday, March 11. As I discussed last week, crossover day is the last day that the House or Senate will consider their own legislation and pass it over to the other body for consideration. If a bill that originates in the House of Representatives hasn’t been passed by the House by this Day 30, then the bill effectively is considered "dead."
The big issue at the Capitol this week was the GREAT tax plan debate. Based on feedback from members, we decided that the best hope for a significant tax decrease for the citizens of Georgia was to vote on Senate Resolution 796. The resolution would put an end to out-of-control growth of property taxes on homesteads by freezing assessments at 2008 levels and limiting the annual increase to no more than 2 percent. We also wanted to eliminate the dreaded "birthday tax"-the tax you must pay on your personal automobiles which is due every year on your birthday. The measure fell ten votes short of the 120 votes needed to put it on the ballot in November so you could vote on it. I proudly voted for it and believe that if it were placed on a ballot, you would overwhelmingly approve it. The defeat of this resolution, S.R.796, denied you the right to vote for meaningful tax reforms.
We passed a very strict DUI bill this past week. The bill sets punishment levels for a DUI of drivers who are 18 years and older. The first offense would be a misdemeanor with a fine of $300-$1000; jail from ten days to one year (24 hours minimum); probation for 12 months less time served; completion of a risk reduction program; and community service hours. The second offense would be a 24-month misdemeanor; fine of $750-$5000; jail time from 90 days - 24 months. If the second DUI is within 5 years, 120 hour minimum jail time; and 30 days community service; probation for 24 months less jail time. The third offense: 36-month misdemeanor; fine of $1000-$5000; and jail time of 12-36 months . The fourth offense would constitute a felony with a fine of $1000-$5000 and 1-5 years in jail with 1 year minimum. The bill, House Bill 336, passed 124-17.
We passed a bill that would require local municipalities and county governments who wish to make their water usage policies more restrictive than the state to apply to the state for that ability. We also charged that the Environmental Protection Division of the state rule on those applications within three days of receiving the request. We recognize that sometimes, local governments may become overly ambitious in allocating water use. H.B. 1281 passed by a 124-38 margin of victory.
In an effort to help insure the integrity of our local elections, we passed H.B. 1098, which places the same reporting requirement to the Secretary of States office on municipal elections as on all other state elections. It also requires that municipal election officials be certified. The bill passed unanimously. We also passed a bill that would allow those handicapped individuals or those 75 years old or older to move to the front of the line to vote. This bill, H.B. 993, also passed unanimously.
One bill that I felt was very important for our children is H.B. 1286, legislation that would require our schools to close on November 11 of each year in honor of Veteran’s Day. Many of our school children do not understand the sacrifices that our men and women of our Armed Services have made in defending freedom and by passing this bill we hope to encourage our schools and the parents to talk with their children about what our veterans have done. This bill passed unanimously.
One bill that I sponsored, which is especially important to the fledgling Savannah film industry is House Bill 1100, a bill that would provide an income tax credit for film, video, or digital productions in Georgia. The tax credit would make Savannah, and the rest of the state, more competitive with other states as a potential site for television and movie productions. The bill passed unanimously.
Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues that concern you. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens ,228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org