When I started reviewing important bills passed during the 2012 Legislative Session, 20 bills immediately came to mind. Last week's article only looked at four of those. Here are six more.
The General Assembly passed the Government Accountability Act (HB 456), which will establish a review process for agency efficiency by creating the Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee.
The sunset committee will review all state agencies and executive branch subsidiaries that receive funds through a state Appropriations Act.
The committee will have the ability to recommend the abolition of an agency if the responsibilities and obligations of the agency in question are repealed, revised, or reassigned by the General Assembly. Entities established in the State Constitution will not be subject to automatic abolishment.
We got a head start on this process by eliminating the State Personnel Adminis-tration, through HB 642, because the department's duties were determined to be duplicative and unnecessary. The elimination saved the state about $2.6 million.
Closely related is SB 33, the Zero-Based Budgeting Act, which will allow the General Assembly to routinely examine the expenses of certain government agencies within the state budget. General methods of appropriation only analyze the changes a given agency asks for from year to year.
Zero-Based Budgeting will require analysis and justification for all line-item expenditures, not just new requests.
The Department of Education will be required to undergo this analysis for FY 2013. Furthermore, the Board of Regents will be subject to this routine examination.
The False Claims Act (HB 822) expands the use of the state Attorney General's office to investigate individuals and corporations suspected of fraudulent activity with taxpayer money.
Medicaid claims are already subject to this investigative measure. This act is an attempt to recover potentially millions of dollars in fraudulent claims.
Kansas, Florida, California and New York have passed similar legislation.
HB 861 requires all applicants to submit to a drug screening test as a condition of eligibility to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The measure will ensure that individuals who seek aid are not hiding an addiction to illegal drugs.
In order to guarantee that children are not deprived because of an ineligible parent, a protective payee would be designated for any child that needs assistance.
Furthermore, to accommodate pending judicial review of similar legislation from Florida, the effective date of this mandate is set for July 1, 2013.
The Metal Theft Act (HB 872) places additional purchasing requirements on secondary metal recyclers in order to restrict individuals attempting to sell copper coil or wire.
During the hearings for this bill we heard stories of thieves destroying $100,000 irrigation units, while stealing a few dollars worth of copper wire.
Contractors described how thieves stole air conditioning units and copper wire from homes under construction and sold the copper to dealers in the vicinity.
The stories went on and on until it became apparent that laws governing the purchasing of "used" copper had to be changed.
The new law requires additional information to be kept in the records of each transaction, provides for forfeiture proceedings when any copper has been taken illegally, and requires registration of secondary metal recyclers with the sheriff of each county. It also makes metal buyers liable to a civil case if the provisions of this code section are not followed and the metal purchased proved to be taken through criminal means.
Many media reports have described Atlanta as a hub for human trafficking, especially young girls being exploited for sexual activity.
The Legislature created The Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission (HR 1151) to examine Georgia's system of care for victims of human trafficking.
It will study the conditions, needs, issues and problems associated with the issue of Human Trafficking in order to create a plan of action to care for these victims that makes the best use of state resources while involving the private sector and other charitable organizations.
I'll discuss the remainder of key 2012 legislation in future follow up columns.
Your comments are important.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; phone (706) 864-6589; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.