2012 Legislative Session Preview

I was pleased to provide a preview of the 2012 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly today at the Snellville Commerce Club luncheon. As I said to those attending, mine is but one of 180 views from the House of the upcoming term and should be considered in that light.

As constitutionally required, the General Assembly will pass a balanced budget. Over the past several years, the General Assembly has reduced the state budget by approximately $4 billion dollars to just over $18 billion. While year over year revenues have improved for more than 15 consecutive months, placing the most dramatic cuts behind us, there remains much to be done and more precise evaluations on government departments and service levels will most likely lead to a continuation in the reduction in the size of state government.

Tax reform remains a priority though a comprehensive package appears unlikely. I believe the sales tax on energy inputs for manufacturing will be eliminated. That tax, second only to payroll, is the largest expense to many of our manufacturing firms and puts Georgia at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states.  A potential new revenue source may be the implementation of sales tax on the casual sales of automobiles (exempting sales to family members). Buyers of a used vehicle from an individual, under this proposal, would be required to pay the sales tax at the time of title transfer.

Commissions and study groups are evaluating Georgia’s Title 20 education statutes, justice and prison reform, competitiveness and economic development, healthcare, and other important issues. In education, I expect a proposal to eliminate a number of state regulations and statutes placing a greater focus on the classroom and less on what goes on outside. Justice reform will include alternative courts and sentencing designed to protect the innocent while reducing the nearly $1 billion annual cost to our state.

Personally, I will be most actively involved on several issues related to protecting your private property, upholding the rule of law, eliminating “pill mills”, and improving our sunshine and ethics statutes.

Private property issues include hearings on HB 291, that I authored, preventing non-tax fees from appearing on your property tax bill as well as assisting Rep. Mike Jacobs on legislation regarding vacant property registration. HB 59 that I co-sponsored with Rep. Tom Rice would provide that enrollees in any publically funded Georgia post-secondary educational institution be legally present to do so. As I did last session, I will again be working with Rep. Tom Weldon on issues related to the misuse of prescription drugs. This year we will target so-called “pill mills” and “pain clinics” contributing to the enormous death toll from prescription drugs. Finally, I intend to work with Rep. Jay Powell and Attorney General Sam Olens on legislation regarding Georgia’s open meetings, ethics, and reporting requirements.

As you well know, literally thousands of other issues are presented and discussed each legislative session. Please let me hear from you on what is important to you, your family or business.  I sincerely appreciate that you allow me to serve as your State Representative and with your continued support; I pledge to be your advocate for a Georgia we will all be proud to call home.

Happy New Year,