2010 Session Accomplishments

May 8, 2010

The People’s Business

By President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams
May 5, 2010

At the end of what has been one of the longest sessions in state history, legislators have delivered a balanced budget, lower taxes and a more streamlined state government. In January, we faced the worst economic climate since the Great
Depression, complete with plummeting state revenues and rising jobless rates. When the session closed at the end of April, the legislature had passed new policies that will change the face of our state economy. Job creation is at the center of this transformation, with legislation designed to revitalize Georgia’s job sector. Initiatives like transportation funding and tax code reform will help make Georgia more attractive to new and expanding businesses. We also passed sound fiscal policies that cut taxes and spending. We were committed this year to ensuring that state government lives within its means, just as families across the state are doing in this tight fiscal environment. Following is a look at the important measures that passed this year to achieve growth and prosperity for Georgia.

Banking Reform – HB 926 helps ensure Georgia based banks are given a level playing field to compete with national banks.

Ethics Reform – SB 17 increases reporting requirements and violation fines. These reforms are expected to move Georgia up to 5th from 7th on the national list of states for strongest ethics laws.

Transportation – HB 277 provides local governments within the 12 Regional Development Commission districts the ability to offer voters the chance to vote on and fund projects through a 1% sales tax for regional transportation solutions. The project lists/funding must be approved by the voters.

Trauma Care – SR 277 is a Constitutional Amendment ballot question for $10 of annual tag fees to go to establishing and supporting Georgia’s statewide trauma care network. This will ensure that all Georgians, regardless of what part of the state they are in, have access to important life saving emergency care.

Lawful Carry – SB 308 is major reform clarifying and expanding the rights of licensed gun owners. It will ensure that Georgians’ 2nd amendment rights are protected.

Transparency in Government Act – SB 389 will enhance reporting requirements of the public information website, open.georgia.gov. This will bring more sunlight and transparency to how the public’s tax dollars are being spent.

Paper Reduction Act – SB 388 will bring cost savings to the state by reducing the unnecessary, wasteful use of paper and increase electronic distribution and publication practices.
State Portion of Property Tax Elimination – HB 1055 provides for the phase-out of the state portion of the ad valorem tax by 2016.

Property Tax Reform – SB 346 revises numerous provisions relating to real property tax assessments and appeals and is considered to be the most sweeping overhaul of Georgia’s property tax system in decades.

Senior Income Tax Elimination – HB 1055 provides for the phase-out of the state tax on senior retirement income by 2016.

Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness – HB 1405 creates the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians for the purpose of conducting a systematic review of Georgia’s revenue structure. The Council must report on its findings and legislative recommendations by January 10, 2011.

Zero Based Budgeting – SB 1 requires that beginning January of 2011, the governor’s annual budget report submitted to the General Assembly must use zero-base budgeting on at least one-quarter of the report. This process will bring more transparency and accountability to the current budget process.

Angel Investor Tax Credit – HB 1069 establishes the Angel Investor Income Tax Credit to encourage third-party investors to assist innovative wealth-creating small or startup businesses in Georgia. The total amount of allowable credits is up to $10 million per taxable year.

Balanced Budget – HB 948, the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, is a balanced budget based on State General Fund and Motor Fuel revenues of $16.5 billion. The FY11 revenue estimate reflects an 18% decline from the original FY09 budget, or a $3.6 billion shortfall. The median cut to agencies in HB 948 is 7% from FY10, with a cumulative cut of 18% from FY09, and includes several program consolidations and eliminations. With the passage of HB 948, the General Assembly fulfilled its only Constitutional requirement which is to pass a balanced budget.

Jobs Bill – HB 1023
• Tax credits for hiring unemployed Georgians.
• 50% reduction of Georgia long-term Capital Gains Tax.
• Elimination of the Georgia Corporate Net Worth Tax.

BRIDGE Act – HB 400 is legislation that develops programs to improve graduation rates, improve the preparedness of students for post-secondary education through career academies, choice technical high schools through small learning communities and individual graduation plans.

Texting While Driving – SB 360 prohibits texting while driving, while HB 23 prohibits the use of cell phone use for all drivers under the age of 18 while driving.

Health Care Rights – SB411/SB317 ensures Georgians have the right to choose their own health care and insurance. Provides that no law or rule or regulation shall compel any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system without their consent.

Seatbelt Law – SB 458 removes the exemption from the current seat belt law for pick-up truck drivers. Previously, Georgia missed out on some federal money because of the pick-up exemption. SB 458 will ensure that does not happen again.

E-Verify – SB 447 requires that no public employer, either state or local government can enter into a contract for the physical performance of services within Georgia unless the contractor registers and participates in the federal work authorization program to verify that all newly hired employees and subcontractors have legal work permits.
These measures give Georgia the tools to lead the nation out of the recession and into the future. Despite facing the worst economic climate in generations, the Georgia General Assembly concluded a productive session by cutting taxes, balancing the budget and creating policies that move Georgia’s economy forward.

While the session has ended, I look forward to continuing my service to you throughout the year and working together to make Georgia the best state to live and work.

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Sen. Tommie Williams serves as President Pro Tempore. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Toombs, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached at 404.656.0089 or by email at tommie.williams@Senate.ga.gov