2012 Capitol Update 2 – Cut Red Tape, More Support HB 291


The General Assembly completed its third week of the 2012 legislative session with a challenge by Speaker Ralston to cut red tape on small business. The Speaker charged Representative David Knight, Chair of the House Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation to lead this effort toward serious regulation reform to help spur our state economy and create jobs for Georgians.

The initiative, called “Red Tape Watch,” seeks input from small business owners and operators throughout the state. That is why I am personally asking anyone in House District 106 who is burdened by oppressive and outdated state regulations to please visit www.house.ga.gov/redtapewatch and make your experiences known.  With your help, we can make it easier for small businesses in our community to thrive and hire new employees.

The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform concluded an in-depth review of our state’s current justice system and those of other states and published their report here – Criminal Justice Reform report.  According to the report, non-violent drug and property offenders represent almost 60 percent of prison admissions.  With each prisoner costing taxpayers $49 a day, it is no surprise that Georgia spends one billion dollars a year on our corrections system.  Instead of sending these low-risk, non-violent, first offenders to an expensive prison, where they often learn to become hardened criminals, the council’s report recommends cost effective alternatives, like community treatment at a Day Reporting Center for $16 a day or probation supervision for $1.50 a day.

HOPE / Immigration

Key bills passed last year still garner attention

I voted in support of both of these bills that passed and were signed into law by our Governor.

HB 326HOPE Scholarship preserves the tuition program for students maintaining a 3.0 GPA and establishes the new Zell Miller Scholarship at 100% tuition for exceptional students earning a 3.7 GPA.

HB 87, Illegal Immigration Reform requires employers to use the E-Verify system for new hires, provides law enforcement tools and assurances needed to combat illegal immigration, and preserves human dignity.

This year both measures continue to receive attention.

HB 159, Income Limits on Eligibility introduced last session did not succeed; yet, the idea of establishing an income cap for qualifying for the merit based scholarship continues to receive attention by some.

I oppose any means testing of HOPE – it should remain a merit based program.

HB 796, Repeal Provisions of HB 87 Illegal Immigration Reform seeks to repeal the crime of “aggravated identity fraud,” removes language encouraging local law enforcement to cooperate with federal authorities, and strikes out E-Verify requirements for employers and local governments.

I oppose efforts to weaken HB 87 as passed.

Tax Bill adds supporters 

HB 291 back in its original form

Legislation I authored last session would prohibit the billing of non-tax fees (sanitation, storm water, etc) on your property tax bills. The bill was amended weakening its intended purpose and ultimately failed to pass.

I am pleased to report that Ways and Means Chairman Mickey Channell’s office has prepared a substitute putting HB 291 back into its original language as I introduced.

Further, this week both the Georgia Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Bankers Association joined in support of HB 291 in its original form. Realtors and Mortgage Bankers also recognize the negative impact of the practice of placing non-tax fees on ad valorem property tax bills including increased difficulty qualifying for a home, higher monthly mortgage payments, and possible liens against your home for non-tax fees.

While I continue to work with opponents of the measure, primarily the Association of County Commissioners (ACCG) and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) representing county and city governments, to find a reasonable compromise, I anticipate a hearing on the measure within the next few weeks.

At the Capitol
Please call, email, or visit Brett at the Capitol.

Representative Brett Harrell
601-D Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square
Atlanta, GA 30334