Leg­isla­tive twists and turns

The Covington News - - Front page -

The House re­turned to a pos­ture of heavy com­mit­tee work and light floor ses­sions last week. Hav­ing fin­ished cross­over, we are now work­ing on bills the Se­nate has al­ready passed. The next sev­eral leg­isla­tive days will see a com­pressed re­peat of the ramp up from com­mit­tee work to lengthy time on the House floor. As such, we voted on nine bills and reso­lu­tions dur­ing the week. One mea­sure was no­table.

SB 206 would re­quire that the Depart­ment of Au­dits and Ac­counts com­pile an an­nual re­port on all tax ex­emp­tions cur­rently in ef­fect in the state. The re­port is to be com­pleted in time for use dur­ing the bud­get cy­cle each year. I think it is high time we got a big-pic­ture view of tax ex­emp­tions, so that we can eval­u­ate whether each one is truly ef­fec­tive in bring­ing new firms and jobs to Ge­or­gia. Any ex­emp­tions that don’t con­trib­ute that way end up be­ing mere tax bur­den shifts and need to go. I sup­ported the mea­sure, and it passed unan­i­mously.

An in­ter­est­ing

twist has occurred with the is­sue of trans­porta­tion fund­ing. You may have heard about an ini­tia­tive that orig­i­nated ear­lier in the ses­sion with the gov­er­nor, lieu­tenant gov­er­nor and the speaker, and was em­bod­ied as HB 1218. The bill sought to cre­ate 12 re­gions around the state, which could in­de­pen­dently hold ref­er­en­dums on a 10-year, 1 per­cent sales tax for trans­porta­tion cap­i­tal projects. The bill saw ex­ten­sive hear­ings in the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, where it was amended to a fair de­gree.

One of those changes would have al­lowed in­di­vid­ual coun­ties within a re­gion to opt out of the sales tax ref­er­en­dum if they so chose. While the gov­er­nor had in­di­cated a fair de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity re­gard­ing changes to the bill, one thing he said that was un­ac­cept­able was an opt-out pro­vi­sion. So even though the bill was suc­cess­fully voted out of com­mit­tee, it moved no fur­ther. With cross­over day be­hind us, that bill is dead now. How­ever, the is­sue it­self is not dead.

Last year, the Chair­man of House Trans­porta­tion Rep. Vance Smith (who is now com­mis­sioner of DOT), had pur­sued an ini­tia­tive of his own that in­volved a statewide ref­er­en­dum on trans­porta­tion fund­ing. It was em­bod­ied in com­pan­ion pieces of leg­is­la­tion, HR 206 and HB 277. The two had passed out of the House, only to be dra­mat­i­cally re­vised in the Se­nate, away from Chair­man Smith’s in­tent. There was no meet­ing of the minds in the House/ Se­nate con­fer­ence com­mit­tee that was named to ne­go­ti­ate a com­pro­mise ver­sion. Thus the two pieces of leg­is­la­tion were left un­fin­ished, see­ing no fur­ther action. How­ever, since last year’s ses­sion was only the first of a nor­mal two ses­sion term, the res­o­lu­tion and bill are still “in play,” with the en­vi­able sta­tus of hav­ing passed both House and Se­nate and be­ing in con­fer­ence com­mit­tee. So here is the twist I spoke of: both the House and Se­nate have ap­pointed new mem­bers to the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, and those folks have been meet­ing to see if they can set­tle on a new ap­proach to trans­porta­tion fi­nance.

This kind of action qual­i­fies as leg­isla­tive “high ad­ven­ture,” and the mem­bers of both cham­bers are wait­ing to see if the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee can pull a late-ses­sion rab­bit out of the hat. Some­thing tells me the twists and turns with this is­sue aren’t over yet.

On March 30, For­rest Sawyer, the Rev. Wil­lie J. Smith, Joseph Lightfoot and John Martin were at the Capi­tol and came by to visit while the House was in ses­sion. On Thurs­day, Linda Park from Al­mon was there to dis­cuss con­cerns with cer­tain bills. My thanks to all for com­ing by the Capi­tol.

The Gen­eral As­sem­bly is in re­cess this week in or­der to com­plete more ap­pro­pri­a­tions work.


SINCE 1865

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