Last Thursday marked the 30th legislative day of the 2009 Session. Known as “Crossover Day,” it marked the deadline for legislation to pass from one house to the other.
Georgia has a biennial legislature, thus any legislation that did not pass either body will be considered again next session.
Because of the “Crossover Day Deadline,” this week was filled with long days full of key votes as we deliberated various bills that would cut taxes, stimulate the economy, fund trauma care, or offer our students greater educational opportunities.
Since we have gotten all our federal stimulus information for the FY 2010 Budget, we will not need to split this session as previously reported. The last day of the 2009 Session is scheduled for April 3.
All the bills listed below must still pass the Senate in order to become law. But here are some of the more noteworthy pieces of legislation passed by the House last week:
HB 480 removes all ad valorem and sales taxes from automobiles purchased in Georgia after Dec. 31, 2009. Instead, these vehicles will be subject to a one-time 7 percent title fee based upon the value of the automobile being purchased, with a maximum fee of $2,000.
This measure will make cars more affordable for Georgians and provide needed funding for trauma care in Georgia. Trauma care is to receive $50 from each vehicle titled under these provisions. My favorite part of the bill is that it eliminates the “birthday tax.” Our tag fees remain the same, but the ad valorem part of our annual tag bill is no more.
HB 261 creates a six-month window during which anyone purchasing a single-family residence will receive a tax credit of up to $3,600. This short tax window, which starts when the Governor signs the bill, will immediately improve Georgia’s real estate market by creating an incentive to buy homes now rather than later.
The positive effects of increasing home sales will ripple out to many other areas of Georgia’s economy, including construction and manufacturing.
Some bills had catchy names like House Bills 481 and 482, the Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success (JOBS) Act of 2009. HB 481 provides tax credits to employers for each unemployed person hired, suspends business “start-up” fees for one year and eliminates the state sales tax deposit. HB 482 will eliminate the state ad valorem tax on business inventory through a statewide referendum. This legislation will allow small businesses to create, expand and attract jobs for Georgians.
Another named bill was House Bill 400, the Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy (BRIDGE) Bill. That certainly is a mouthful, but this legislation ensures that all students will have a personalized graduation plan, as well as the opportunity for dual enrollment (technical and college tracks). The bill also seeks to increase student interest by creating programs that combine real world experience with increased academic rigor.
One bill which passed, but for which I did not vote, was HB 158. This bill requires the owner or operator of newly constructed residential buildings permitted after Jan. 1, 2010 to install equipment that measures the amount of water provided to each tenant and to charge tenants separately for actual water use per unit. Most entities providing water to residential properties charge a “tap fee” or connection fee. I believe that the water authority and local government should decide the rules under which water is supplied. It should not be dictated by the state.
As you can see, this week was marked by a legislative race to beat the Crossover Day Deadline, and we passed some great legislation that will help Georgians.
However, by far, one of the most important bills passed this week was House Resolution 546, which recognized and commended Miss Ashley Brown, a senior at Lumpkin County High School.
In January, Ashley became the all-time leading basketball scorer. In addition to being a great athlete, she is an honor roll student with perfect attendance.
In February, The Times did a feature story of her life, entitled “A Lesson in Character.”
I want to thank the basketball team and the school administration for allowing me to join them last Sunday for the banquet and to present HR 546 to Ashley.
April 1 is the last date in 2009 to apply for Senior/Disabled Homestead Exemption tax relief for the 2009 tax year in Lumpkin and Dawson counties. If you qualify and have not applied yet, be sure to do so at your county tax office by April 1.
We worked very hard to get this local legislation passed so that senior citizens and the permanently disabled will get the meaningful tax relief they need. Even some folks who lobbied against this legislation have applied for it.
Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334; (404) 657-8534; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.