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ASK THE EXPERTS

New laws from the Session that can affect you

POSTED: August 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Every Legislative Session yields many new laws that can affect your life.  I have picked out 10 bills from the 2008 Session on which to comment because they continue to come up during conversations with you.  They concern bills that are designed to make government consumer-friendly, protect families and protect our natural resources. 

 

Making government

consumer-friendly

 

HB 296-Beginning in 2010, local school boards and county commissions that want to ask voters to enact or renew a special sales tax will have to put the question on the Primary or General election ballot or a municipal election when more voters can participate.

 

HB 978-Creates two sales tax holidays for consumers.  The “Back to School” holiday exempted computers and accessories, clothing and school supplies from sales taxes July 31 through Aug. 3.  The “Back to School” holiday just ended, and I had some store managers tell me that sales rivaled those at Christmas.  Energy-efficient and water-efficient appliances and products will be exempt from Oct. 2-5.  This bill will save consumers up to 7 percent (4 percent state and 3 percent local sales tax) on those purchases.

 

SB 55-”Merlot to Go” allows restaurants which serve wine to permit customers to take home a partially consumed bottle of wine IF it was purchased with a meal and is securely resealed by the restaurant.  The resealed bottle must be placed in a bag and stowed in the trunk, locked glove compartment, or behind the rearmost seat if a trunk is not available.  This should reduce the chances of DUI since the customer will not need to drink that last glass of expensive wine.

 

Protecting families

 

HB 89-Allows law-abiding Georgians with concealed weapon permits more latitude in where they can carry a firearm, and it will apply only to the 300,000 individuals who have undergone the background checks necessary to obtain a firearms license.  This puts Georgia on par with most other states. 

Thirty-eight states already allow permitted individuals to carry a concealed weapon into restaurants and 44 states allow them on public transit.

 

HB 130-Enables Georgians to freeze their credit and keeps criminals from accessing their credit history.  It prevents unauthorized individuals from taking out new credit cards or loans.  The credit freeze fee is set at $3 per Credit Company and gives consumers the ability to quickly and effectively protect their credit.  Citizens 65 and older will not pay a fee.

 

HB 336-Makes the 4th and subsequent DUI within a 10-year period a felony offense and provides for stronger consequences.

 

SB 350-Increases penalties for individuals driving without a valid driver’s license or on a suspended or revoked license. 

This bill responds to the growing number of auto accidents caused by individuals who never obtained a driver’s license, including illegal immigrants.  It provides for mandatory jail time and fines.

 

Protecting our natural resources

 

HR 1022-Creates a Statewide Water Management Plan to guide Georgia in managing its water resources.  The newly enacted plan will utilize the state’s water resources in a sustainable manner, support the state’s economy, protect public health, and enhance the quality of life for all Georgians.

 

HB 1211-Georgia Forest Land Protection Act places an amendment on this year’s ballot, which will help protect 24 million acres of forestland, more than any other state.  Forest land plays a critical role in recharging and filtering our water supply.

 

SB 342-Creates a water supply division within the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to assist in issuing permits.  It establishes a reservoir fund to help pay for additional reservoirs to better prepare the state for future drought.  The Legislature and Governor approved $40 million in grants and $30 million in loans for local governments to develop reservoirs.

Even though we are not in session, various committees of the House and Senate are meeting to discuss the major issues to come before the 2009 Session of the

General Assembly. 

 

While much was accomplished during 2008, there is much more that needs to be accomplished. 

 

We will still be working on water, education, trauma, transportation and taxes.

 

The depressed economy is causing the Governor and the General Assembly to rethink the FY 2009 Budget.  There is a projected shortfall of $1.6 billion, representing almost 8 percent of the total budget. 

This shortfall cannot help but affect the projections for FY 2010. 

 

We will continue to watch the monthly revenues and pray that the economy turns around by the end of the year.

 

Let me know if you want more information on these bills or any others. 

 

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533, (706) 864-6589, e-mail hamerson@alltel.net.  Or contact Gerald Lewy (706) 344-7788.  He’ll know how to get your message to me. 

 
 

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