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Legislative wrap-up, final report

POSTED: June 16, 2010 4:00 a.m.

The 2010 Legislative Session officially ended on April 29, but for those of us waiting for the governor’s signature, the session has been much longer. 

  

Remember, the governor has 40 days from the end of legislative sessions to either sign or veto legislation. If he does neither, legislation automatically becomes law at the end of the 40 days.

  

Why the governor took so long to sign some legislation is puzzling. The “no texting while driving” bills should have been a slam-dunk, but it really took a last minute effort by a lot of people to convince him to sign both bills into law.

  

One bill prohibits drivers under 18 from using cell phones, including texting, while driving. The other bill pertains to drivers 18 and older and prohibits only texting while driving.

  

We already have laws prohibiting distractive behavior, but because so many highway deaths are attributed to texting while driving, we believed new, more specific legislation was needed. My thanks and praise for Sally Sorohan who did most of the leg work.

  

The waning days also saw the governor sign four local bills for Dawson County. These bills will be on the November ballot as referendums.

  

HB 1327 and HB 1333 are to amend the acts providing homestead exemptions from ad valorem taxes approved by the voters in 2008.

  

The income limit of $50,000 for those 65 and older was not supposed to include Social Security payments. Voting for these changes will correct a 2008 transcribing error.

  

HB 1327 will provide a homestead exemption from Dawson County school district ad valorem taxes in the amount of $120,000 of the assessed value of the homestead for residents who are 70 years of age or older. There are no income restrictions.

  

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will ask for a tax allocation district under the “Redevelopment Powers Law.” It seems there are areas along Ga. 400 in need of revitalization. Authorization will be by HB 1491, which also requires a referendum vote in November.

  

Sometimes consequences overshadow the best of intentions.

  

In the closing days of the session, we knew the FY 2011 budget would not balance without additional revenues. It was decided to increase dozens of user fees.

  

This included raising the cost of copying, preparing and certifying an appeal from $1.50 per page to $10 per page.

  

County clerks prepare and certify the records for appeal. Most of us are not attorneys and did not realize that some appeals can total 1,000 pages, which would increase the cost of filing such an appeal from $1,500 to $10,000.

  

This huge increase in cost was more than many litigants could or would be willing to pay.

  

Recently, the appeals court’s 12 judges voted unanimously to change its rules so lawyers and parties on both sides of an appeal could work together to prepare the record, instead of having the losing party pay the clerk’s office to do it. The Georgia Supreme Court similarly changed its rules several weeks ago. 

  

A number of other states, including South Carolina and North Carolina, allow lawyers to prepare their appeals.

  

On June 8, the last day to sign or veto a bill, Gov. Perdue signed the $17.9 billion FY 2011 budget.

  

While signing the budget, he made the following statement: “The economic downturn has forced a number of tough budgetary decisions, but we have worked closely with the House and Senate leadership to manage the state in a thoughtful, conservative way and ensure Georgians are receiving value for their tax dollars. We have maintained our triple-A bond ratings, which has saved the state nearly $100 million, and we continued funding our top priorities to ensure the basic responsibilities of state government are being met.”

  

Gov. Perdue issued five line-item vetoes, which will save the state more than $1.1 million in debt service in FY11 on projects that total almost $12 million in bond funding.

  

“Just as Georgians are balancing their checkbooks and making tough decisions in difficult times, the state must and will do the same,” explained the governor. 

  

None of Gov. Perdue’s vetoes affected projects funded for our district.

  

Overall, constituents and taxpayers in State House District 9 fared well during the tough economic times forced on the 2010 Legislature. The important must-pass legislation did finally pass.

  

We fulfilled our constitutional responsibility of passing a balanced budget. No wild spending with unreasonable debt is allowed in Georgia, unlike Washington, D.C. where the national debt has more than doubled in less than 18 months.

  

We are also positioned to take advantage of an upturn in the economy as soon as it comes our way.

  

Now that the 2010 Legislative Session is finally over, and I don’t have to participate in a lengthy and costly re-election campaign, I can get back to attending to your legislative needs on a daily basis.

   

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail hamerson@windstream.net. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.

 

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