A big chunk of the bills that eventually make it to the House floor for a vote do so either on crossover or the legislative days immediately preceding it. All of the bills discussed below passed the House and now go to the Senate for further consideration.
HB 193 gives local school systems flexibility in setting their calendars. Current law requires our schools to be in session for 180 days each school year, but HB 193 would eliminate that requirement as long as students maintain the same amount of instructional time. For example, a school system could decide to have class only four days a week as long as they extended the length of the school day and/or added enough weeks to make up the difference in instructional time. Another example might be for a system to begin school after Labor Day and end by Memorial Day, which again would be permitted as long as the calendar included the same amount of instructional time.
Another education bill was HB 243, which concerns salary supplements for teachers who complete the additional requirements necessary to become national board certified. This bill, which was part of Gov. Perdue’s legislative agenda, originally proposed eliminating the program entirely, including the supplements for those teachers who have already reached NBCT status. The Education Committee sent out a compromise version that would maintain the supplement for those teachers who are already in the program but not allow any others to enter the program in the future, and that is the version that reached the floor. Since I preferred to maintain the NBCT program as it now exists, I voted against the bill.
HB 16 would make it illegal for someone to place a GPS or other electronic tracking device on your car without your consent. It includes exceptions for things like law enforcement purposes and for parents placing such devices on cars driven by their children.
HB 261 would create a one-time tax credit of 1.2 percent of the purchase price (up to $300,000) of a single family home purchased within six months of it taking effect. This could be claimed in amounts up to $1,200 per year for three years. The idea is to get folks who are looking at buying a house to go ahead and do so in order to clear out some of the glut of inventory and get the housing market moving again.
Other economic related bills included HB 481, which basically provides that employers who hire people who have become unemployed and keep them on the job for two years will get a $2,400 tax credit for each such employee. The hope is that this will encourage employers to go ahead and start hiring new employees, especially as our unemployment rate continues to climb.
Finally, Crossover Day saw a vote on another tax related bill, HB 480. This one started off looking very attractive, but, as often happens, it got uglier as the details came out. Eventually I saw enough problems to convince me to vote against the bill.
The pretty part is that for any car you bought beginning next January, you would not have to pay sales tax or ad valorem tax on it. However, you would have to pay a new tax — called a “title fee” — of 7 percent of the value of a car any time you changed the title on it.
I don’t have to tell you that when we start talking about 7 percent of the value of a car every time a title is changed, we’re talking about some real money on a statewide basis. I became concerned that this would be not only a big tax shift but also a big tax increase. I became even more concerned when no fiscal note was provided for the bill.
The fiscal note is an analysis of the projected revenue changes that would be produced by a bill, and they are supposed to be furnished to us when considering bills like this. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being asked to buy a pig in a poke, and that’s what I was asked to do when I was asked to vote on this bill without being provided a revenue analysis. When all the details come out, I fear that HB 480 will be revealed as a big tax increase and that most of the increase will fall on those who are struggling the hardest.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns. If you point out that you are one of the home folks, I will make every effort to respond personally. Even if the hectic pace prevents me from responding promptly, I do look at all my messages.
You can reach me locally at (770) 748-4090; in Atlanta at (404) 656-0265; or by email at email@example.com. Thank you for the honor of representing you in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Rick Crawford is the Georgia House of Representatives member for Dist. 16, which includes Polk County.