Feb: 17: The 2012 Legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly is now officially over half way through the 40 of session under the Gold Dome in Atlanta.
On Friday, the Legislature completed our 21st day of session. The end of the session is in sight. However, work still remains to be accomplished before we are finished and can go back home to our families and districts. Although the House has passed the Amended 2012 budget, we are still working on finalizing and passing what we refer to as the “big budget” of Fiscal Year 2013, which begins on July 1 of this year. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I know that it takes a great amount of work from the Legislature to analyze, prioritize and complete the balanced budget every year for our state.
On Wednesday, the House passed two pieces of legislation. House Bill 729 passed unanimously and it would update our tax code to conform to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). HB 785 also passed on Wednesday by a vote of 167-1. This legislation would insure and clarify that the licensing of medical doctors and dentists continues to be based upon competence and education and not a contractual obligation to a third party.
On Thursday, four bills made their way to the House floor for consideration. HB 835 passed unanimously. This legislation would allow the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation to issue a permit called the Annual Commercial Wrecker Emergency Tow Permit, with a fee of $500, for towing disabled commercial vehicles and allow a 5 percent variance on the weight limitations. Also unanimously passed on Thursday was HB 744, which would enact the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. This legislation would be effective on Jan. 1, 2013, and would provide the procedure by which property may be divided upon inheritance. HB 728 also passed unanimously and relates to property covenants that were in place prior to a city or county adopting zoning laws and would allow the land use to continue to be effective until the covenant expires. Lastly, HB 800 passed 92-61 and would change the requirement that appointed Assistant Adjutant Generals of the Georgia National Guard must have served continuously for five or more years in the Army or National Guard. This bill would allow other military experience to be included and would also allow anyone considered a general officer to be federally recognized and able to be appointed to such a position.
On Friday, the House passed out three bills. HB 824, which passed 143-23, revises the method for calculating equalization grants under the Quality Basic Education Act. It ensures that money is pushed into the poorer school systems that can least afford it. The other two bills on Friday involved local legislation and neither affected our district. HB 407 was a local bill affecting DeKalb and Cobb County and related to the property tax penalty for late payments. It passed 163-2. The other local legislation was HB 636, which passed 101-57 after much debate both for and against a public referendum for the incorporation of the city of Ashford in DeKalb County.
The General Assembly continues our work at the State Capitol this week. I will continue to keep all of you informed throughout the 2012 Legislative session. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, thoughts or concerns. It is both an honor and privilege to continue serving you in the Georgia General Assembly. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099, write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at email@example.com.