At year’s end, it’s a good time to review what your Georgia Legislature and local legislators have done for you, not to you, as some believe.
We’ve reduced taxes, increased educational spending, reformed ethics and eminent domain rules, tightened sex offender and immigration laws, instituted voter ID requirements, controlled spending and reaffirmed our dedication to open government.
Reduced Taxes: Seniors age 65 and older and the permanently disabled will be able to apply for meaningful ad valorem tax relief in Lumpkin and Dawson counties starting with the 2009 tax year.
Lumpkin County folks are invited to the “Rachel and Amos” show in the Lumpkin County Courtroom on Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 6:30 p.m.
Newly elected Lumpkin County Tax Commissioner Rachel Pruitt and I will discuss the new property tax relief legislation recently passed for those 65 and older and the permanently disabled. We will have the forms available for you to apply. Join us so you won’t miss out on this new benefit.
Dawson County Tax Commissioner Linda Townley has requested that Dawson County folks contact her at (706) 344-3520 for information on applying for 2009 ad valorem tax relief.
Georgia seniors age 62 and over, now pay no state income tax on the first $35,000 of retirement income; for married couples the limit is $70,000 (HB 43 - 2003).
Georgia sales tax holidays have been helping students and others save money on items we all need:
• Back to School Sales Tax Holiday since 2002
• Energy Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday since 2005
• Water Efficient Products Sales Tax Holiday (SB 342, HB 948 - 2008)
We reduced the effective rate of Georgia corporate income tax on Georgia based manufacturing and services whose customers are outside of Georgia.
Georgia families who adopt foster children now get a tax credit every year until the child reaches the age of 18.
HR 1, pre-filed last month, will cap ad valorem property tax assessments at 3 percent to protect owners from back door tax increases. This is a top priority for the 2009 Legislature.
Increased Educational Spending: We spend more on per student education now than we did six years ago, and Georgia has the highest paid teachers in the southeast. Georgia was the first state to provide universally available pre-school to 4-year-olds.
In 2006, as part of the Governor’s education reform plan, we passed SB 390, which requires that 65 percent of school operating funds be spent on classroom related expenses. In 2007 we passed into law a voucher program for students with learning disabilities, and in 2008 we made it easier to create charter schools and changed the way they are funded.
Reformed Ethics Rules: In 2005 we passed the strongest, most sweeping ethics reform in the history of the state (HB 48). Other states are using our law as a model for their reform.
Reformed Eminent Domain Rules: Legislation in 2006 (HB 1313) responded to fears of eminent domain abuse by quasi-governmental authorities. Now, only elected officials, who answer to the people, may exercise the power of eminent domain.
Tightened Sex Offender Laws: In 2006 we passed the strongest sex offender laws in the nation by increasing the penalties for all sex crimes and requiring lifetime registration for offenders. The laws (HB 1059 in 2006; SB 1 in 2008) prevent sexual criminals from living, working or volunteering near places where children congregate.
Tightened Immigration Laws: The Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act of 2006 (SB 529) requires that public employers verify that their employees and the employees of anyone who wants to contract with a public entity are lawfully able to work in the United States. We are working again this year (pre-filed HB 2) to ensure that our state’s resources go to those who are here lawfully.
Instituted Voter ID Requirements: In 2005 we created voter ID legislation, which was refined in 2006, to require that voters must have a picture ID in order to vote. During the recent elections, we were able to ensure that only citizens of Georgia registered and voted.
Controlled Spending: In addition to the above, we have controlled spending at the Legislature. We spend less per capita on state government than we did 10 years ago —even as our state continues to grow at a rapid rate. The total cost to run our Legislative Branch ranks 50th among the states on a per capita basis.
That’s dead last; at the bottom. That’s where you want state government expenditures on itself to be.
Reaffirmed Dedication To Open Government: The committee process has been opened up to all Georgians. We will be broadcasting all committee meetings live on the Internet. That makes it possible for all Georgians to participate in the legislative process either in person or on-line. It is a good way for teachers to demonstrate government in action to their students. The House Science and Technology Committee will meet every Thursday at 8 a.m. during the Legislative Session. As Chairman, I invite all of you to attend or watch the proceedings on your PC.
The 2009 Legislative Session begins Jan. 12.
Let me know what your legislative needs are before the session begins. That way I can do my homework in advance.
Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533, (706) 864-6589, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.