State Rep. Ron Stephens, Guest writer.
This has been one of the most productive legislative sessions I have been a part of in my tenure in the Georgia House of Representatives. We cut tax, passed a tax rebate, increased funding across the board, and plenty of changes to address our current culture that is pervasive in many areas of the country. Of course, having a solid economy and keeping our state open for business during the Covid pandemic allowed for record tax receipts for the state government.
I pushed to continue legislation that provides tax credits for builders to incorporate historic buildings which included $30 million in funding. In addition, with a strong budget, we passed a bond sale for state funding of $83 million for the completion of the Savannah International Convention Center. This takes the state funding over the past two years to $183 million for the project which will put the greater Savannah area in the forefront for destination conferences bringing with it the millions of dollars to be spent on meals, jobs, hotels and tourism.
In following national news, we sought to protect the rights of parents in the education of their children. With the passage of H.B. 1178 or the “Parent’s Bill of Rights” codifies that no state or local government entity, local board of education, or any officer, employee, or agent thereof may infringe upon the fundamental right of a parent. This includes the fundamental rights to direct the moral and religious upbringing of their minor child and the right to review all instructional materials intended for use in the classroom of their minor child. In the same vein, we passed H.B. 1084: The “Protect Students First Act” prevents the use of and reliance on curricula or training programs in state public schools which espouse “divisive concepts” such as that one race is inherently superior to another race or the United States of America is fundamentally racist. The bill also provides that if an athletic association determines that it is necessary and appropriate to prohibit students whose gender is male from participating in athletic events that are designated for students whose gender is female, then the athletic association may adopt a policy to that effect, and that policy shall be applied to all the association’s participating high schools.
We also passed SB 514, the “Unmask Georgia Students Act” which provides that no local board of education, local school superintendent, governing body of a charter school, or school personnel can make or enforce any rules that require students to wear face masks or face coverings.
We passed H.B. 1437, The “Tax Reduction and Reform Act of 2022,” which gave us the largest tax cut in Georgia history. It eliminates the personal income tax brackets and replaces them with a flat tax rate of 5.49 percent. The bill Increases personal exemptions from $2,700 to $12,000 for single and head of household taxpayers and from $7,400 to $18,500 for married taxpayers filing a joint return. It also increases the amount of earned income allowed to be included in the retirement income exemption from $4,000 to $5,000.
Also, for many of us in Georgia, we saw the first tax rebate to taxpayers by passing H.B. 1302 which created a one-time tax credit for taxpayers who filed a return for both 2020 and 2021 taxable years. Single filers would be eligible for a tax credit of $250, those filing jointly will be eligible for a credit of $500 and those filing as a head of household would be eligible for a $375 credit. We also passed an incentive for former military retirees to stay in Georgia by passing H.B. 1064 which adds a new income tax exemption of up to $17,500 of military retirement income for individuals under 62 years old and an additional $17,500 exemption for individuals under 62 years old who have at least $17,500 of earned income.
In protecting our second amendment rights, we passed Senate Bill 319, legislation that repeals the requirement for weapons carry license for those who are not otherwise ineligible to possess and carry a firearm. In other words, if a Georgian is currently eligible to obtain a concealed carry permit, they are considered a “lawful weapons carrier” and granted the same ability to carry as an individual with a concealed carry permit. We also passed S.B. 345 which bans any state or local agency, government, or school from requiring a Covid-19 vaccination and eliminates the need for vaccination passports as many of your may have heard as other states try to infringe on our ability to move state-to-state.
I will continue to be your voice in dealing with problems or questions about your state government. I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation or current events that may impact our community. I am in 226-A of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 656-5115 and my email is ron. firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.