March 12, 2012


Last week we finished our 30th day at the Capitol, which is known as Crossover Day, the last day a bill can pass in one Chamber to be eligible to voted on in the other Chamber, so it is crucial to have a bill passed by then to stay alive. We had a busy day, and passed some good pieces of legislation. I thought I would share with you the Top 10, plus 1, bills that have been passed in House, and I supported, so far this Session:

FY 2013 Budget Act, HB 742
The Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposed to us by Governor Deal anticipates an increase of slightly over 5% in total revenue ($928 million.) This is an affirmation that Georgia is recovering, albeit slowly, but we have a long way to go to regain the lost ground from our high-water mark of FY 2008, when we had over $2 billion more in revenue and 500,000 less people living in Georgia.
Education remains Georgia’s highest priority, receiving more than 54% of the state’s appropriated revenues. Meanwhile Georgia continues to do more with less by eliminating 540 state employee positions. What growth we have seen has been appropriated to essential spending such as market salary increases for certain law enforcement officers and increasing resources for physicians so they will practice in our state.
All in all, Georgia continues to be very fiscally conservative ranking 49th in the nation in per capita spending.

Georgia Government Accountability Act, HB 456
The Georgia Government Accountability Act will establish a review process for agency efficiency by creating the Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee. The “Sunset Committee” will review of all state agencies and executive branch subsidiaries that receive funds through a state Appropriations Act. The committee will have the ability to recommend the abolition of an agency, if the responsibilities and obligations, fiduciary or otherwise, of the agency in question are repealed, revised or reassigned by the General Assembly. Entities established in the State Constitution shall not be subject to automatic abolishment.

Indigent Defense Funding Act, HB 648 & HR 977
The Indigent Defense Funding Act is the statutory framework necessary to dedicate funding for the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. The Council is charged with the power and authority to provide legal services for individuals accused of crimes and delinquent acts and are not able to afford their own legal defense. The responsibility to provide these services is expressly guaranteed in the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Georgia Tax Tribunals Act, HB 100
A primary recommendation from the 2010 Joint Tax Reform Council, the Georgia Tax Tribunal Act will provide a low-cost mechanism for Georgia’s citizens to resolve disputes involving taxes that are currently administered under the Department of Revenue. In order to be appointed to the tribunal a person must have eight (8) years of experience as a tax attorney. This ensures citizens will be able to come before an expert to handle challenges to state tax assessments and denials of state tax refund claims. The tribunal will not have the ability to determine the constitutionality of statutes nor will it replace existing procedures for administratively solving disputes prior to the issuance of a final assessment or refund denial. This tribunal does not limit a citizen’s ability to file their matter with the Superior Court and all decisions of the tribunal are subject to appeals to the Superior Court.

Drug Testing for TANF Act, HB 861
As a condition of eligibility to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, this act will ensure that individuals who seek aide are not hiding an addiction to illegal drugs. In order to guarantee that children are not victimized by an ineligible parent, a protective payee would be designated for any child that needs assistance. Furthermore, to accommodate pending judicial review of similar legislation from Florida, the effective date of this mandate is set for July 1, 2013.

Fetal Pain Act, HB 954
The Fetal Pain Act states that the General Assembly of Georgia believes babies experience pain at 20 weeks and should therefore prevent abortions after 20 weeks except for limited circumstances. The act also provides for additional reporting requirements of a doctor who performs or attempts to perform an abortion including the gestational age of the fetus and the medical emergency that required the abortion.

Metals Theft Act, HB 872
The Metals Theft Act places additional purchasing requirements on secondary metals recyclers in order to limit the individuals who may sell copper coil or wire. It requires that additional information be kept in the records of each transaction, provides for forfeiture proceedings when any copper has been taken illegally, and requires registration of secondary metal recyclers with the sheriff of each county. It also makes metals buyers liable to a civil case if the provisions of this code section are not followed and the metals purchased proved to be taken through criminal means.

State Charter Schools, HR 1162 and HB 782
The State Charter School Resolution proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia to permit the creation of state charter schools and clarify the authority of the state to establish state-wide education policy. The law will also protect a local school district’s revenues when a state charter school is created.

Directed Fee Act, HB 811
The Directed Fee Act ensures that fees dedicated to specific funds are used for their specified purpose. In addition, the Act provides a mechanism which will reduce fees that accrue more money than is utilized in the state budget by the collecting agency.

Assisted Suicide Prevention Act, HB 1114
The Assisted Suicide Prevention Act makes the act of knowingly assisting in a person’s suicide a felony that can carry a punishment of up to ten years in prison. The act is intended to protect the elderly and infirm from dangerous organizations that assist others in committing suicide. It does not apply to hospitals, hospice associations, or to doctors who engage in common medical procedures and efforts to relieve pain and treat diseases of terminal patients. Specifically, it does not infringe upon the terms of a person’s living will, “Do Not Resuscitate” order, advance directives, or similar measures intending to limit pain or suffering.

Open Meetings Act, HB 397
This act is a comprehensive revision of open meetings to make them more user-friendly for the public at large. A small percentage of the bill is substantive changes to incorporate court decisions and address areas of abuse. This act balances the strong public policy of open and transparency with the need of efficient government