The committee process started in earnest last week. As Chairperson of the House Science and Technology Committee, I have scheduled meetings at 8 a.m. every Wednesday morning. These sessions can be watched live online or at some later time. They will be videotaped and archived for your review.
Our No. 1 priority is passing a balanced state budget; however, other vital issues remain at the forefront of this year’s legislative session. Every day, new legislation addressing those issues is drafted, introduced and assigned to the various committees in the House for review. Among these are illegal immigration, tax reform and health insurance.
Taxes and illegal immigration are always sensitive issues. The effects of the national economic recession brought to light the need for both immigration reform and tax reform in Georgia. That is why the General Assembly created the Special Committee on Immigration Reform and the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians during last year’s legislative session.
The Special Committee on Immigration Reform, or SCIR, worked throughout the summer and fall to study the economic impact of illegal immigration in Georgia. Currently, there are an estimated 400,000 plus illegal immigrants in our state.
Though illegal immigrants do not pay state income taxes, they do utilize state resources that are funded by taxpayer dollars. As a result, classrooms are more crowded, our health care system is at its limits, transportation infrastructure is overburdened, and our law enforcement community is working feverishly to do more with fewer resources.
The current economic conditions make it clear that Georgia cannot afford to continue this drain on our already limited resources.
The chairperson of the SCIR took the committee findings and introduced House Bill 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. This bill is not a total copycat of the Arizona bill but does contain some similar provisions.
The bill strives to protect taxpayers from the unlawful burden of funding services for illegal immigrants. It includes measures to expand the use of the E-Verify system to private employers, requires secure and verifiable identification for official purposes, and helps local law enforcement agencies handle the various issues associated with illegal immigration.
It is important to note that this legislation will not affect the legal migrant workers who come to Georgia through federal work programs.
The Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians was a non-partisan committee made up of business leaders and economic experts. The council volunteered months of hard work reviewing Georgia’s tax structure.
They traveled all over Georgia listening to the interests and concerns of people from throughout the state. The council concluded its work and released a report recommending numerous changes to our current tax system shortly before the current legislative session began.
Those recommendations are now under review by the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. This bi-partisan joint committee will determine how to move forward with the recommendations of the tax council. Though I am still reviewing the council’s proposal, I think it is important that we consider these recommendations in their entirety. It’s only when we look at the whole picture that we can see how the recommendations would benefit Georgia taxpayers and create a fairer tax system.
Health care will also receive a great deal of attention throughout this year’s legislative session. House Bill 47, for example, would allow insurance companies licensed in Georgia to sell health insurance products that are approved for sale in other states. By doing this, Georgia would create a more open insurance market with greater competition, which would ultimately result in less expensive health insurance for Georgians.
My first few Saturday morning breakfasts with constituents have been well attended, with lively discussions on a wide range of topics. I thank the media from Lumpkin and Dawson counties for attending and adding to the debate. On February 5, 12, and 19 we’ll meet at 8 a.m. at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capital Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone (404) 656-7857; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.