Monday, February 10, 2014, marked the 20th day and half-way point of the 2014 legislative session. With only 20 days left to pass laws this year, we quickly got to work, voting on legislation and reviewing bills in committee.
Unfortunately, our week was cut short by snow and ice that came with Winter Storm Pax. Despite the inclement weather, we were able to conduct business on Monday and Tuesday of last week.
I was pleased to see two of the bills I authored come to the House Floor for a vote on the 20th day of session.
Several citizens from our district were visiting the Capitol and were in the gallery, when I presented the bills. I was honored to host these citizens at the Capitol, and I was pleased they were able to be there to see these bills pass out of the chamber.
House Bill 741 was passed by the House with only one Representative voting against it.
This bill will allow cities, counties and their citizens to have a voice in where sludge is placed in their communities.
Sludge is the solid material that remains when waste water is treated. Under current law an individual or company can apply for a permit to land apply sludge and the state EPD director would determine whether or not to grant the permit.
House Bill 741 requires that the individual applying for the permit also be in compliance with local zoning and/or land use ordinances.
It also requires that any hearing held to determine whether or not the permit should be granted be held within the city or county where the land is located.
Under current law, the hearing can be held in another county and the citizens that would be affected by the permit may not be aware of it.
House Bill 741 will give local citizens a greater voice in this process.
The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration. I am hopeful that it will quickly pass the Senate and then will be signed into law by the Governor.
A second bill I authored, House Bill 719, also passed the House of Representatives on the 20th day.
House Bill 719 passed the House unanimously.
This legislation was necessary due to a Supreme Court decision in October of last year. The court ruled that part of the current law on how the distribution was being determined for Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) between counties and cities was unconstitutional.
Under Georgia law each county and the city or cities within that county has to renegotiate how they will split the one penny sales tax known as LOST they collect every ten years.
This renegotiation occurs after the census is conducted each decade. If the county and city cannot come to an agreement through a voluntary negotiation process or through non-binding mediation, they then go to "Baseball Arbitration."
This requires that the county and the city present their case and their proposed split of the tax to a Superior Court judge who would then determine which of the two options to accept.
The county and the city would then be required to keep this distribution for the next ten years. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that this was an unconstitutional shift of the legislative branch of governments' ability to tax over to the judicial branch of government.
Thirty-five counties and cities in the state had to have their LOST distribution determined by "Baseball Arbitration."
When the court decision was rendered, it left those affected governments concerned about their future ability to receive this funding.
A committee of Representatives with backgrounds in local government was appointed by the Speaker to address this concern.
I was pleased to carry this legislation on behalf of the committee, since Lumpkin County and the City of Dahlonega were two of the entities affected by this Supreme Court decision. This bill has also moved to the Senate for consideration.
In a session that is moving at a very rapid pace, I feel blessed to have been able to see three of my bills pass the House within the first 20 days of session.
This week I will be presenting additional bills in front of various committees, and I will be assisting several other Representatives with legislation that I have cosponsored.
The next few weeks of the session will be extremely busy, but I am confident they will be productive.
According to the adjournment resolution adopted by both the House and Senate on Tuesday, the last day of session is currently scheduled to occur on March 20th.
I was encouraged to have our United States Congressman Doug Collins join me for my information breakfast at Ryan's this past Saturday. I will be holding the informational breakfast at the Wagon Wheel in Dahlonega this Saturday at 9 a.m.
I am honored to serve as your Representative at the State Capitol. I am always available to assist you and encourage you to contact me with questions or your opinions. I can be reached on my cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-0152 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.