March 11-- State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides an update on legislative activity this week in the Georgia Senate and his take on increased state revenues in February.
FEBRUARY REVENUES SHOW GROWTH, TELL ONLY HALF STORY...
With an increase of $148 million (26.1 percent) over February of last year, February's revenue numbers would seem to indicate a sharp increase reflective of recovery and job growth. But while these numbers are encouraging, they may be more attributable to an accounting change wherein the filing deadline for federal itemized individual returns was pushed back two weeks. This means that March revenues may show less than expected, since more returns will likely be issued this month. Sales and use taxes were up $32.7 million (9.6 percent) over last year, motor fuel taxes showed an increase of $2.3 million (3.4 percent), and corporate income taxes jumped $8.9 million over February of last year.
SENATE ACTION THIS WEEK
Bills Passed- Now In The House
· SB 326: Governor Deal's package of changes to the HOPE passed the Senate this week after undergoing changes by the Higher Education Committee and a number of floor amendments. Among the changes was an amendment to extend the Zell Miller Scholarship (100% tuition) to the valedictorian and salutatorian from an eligible high school, regardless of SAT score or GPA. Another amendment installed a provision for a 1% loan to cover the difference between HOPE award and tuition amount based on need. A third amendment requires students graduating in May 2015 to take at least two credits in either advanced math, science, or foreign language, advanced placement classes, international baccalaureate, or core classes at a USG university. This requirement will increase by one credit each year thereafter to three in 2016 and four in 2017. Provisions remaining unchanged include the 90% revenue based award for students with a 3.0 GPA and the 3.7 GPA/ 1200 SAT score requirement for 100% tuition coverage.
· HB 179: Allows permitting outdoor advertisers to clear vegetation obstructing a billboard. HB 179 sets limits on how much vegetation can be cleared, requires the outdoor advertisers to replace trees that are cut down and places height restrictions on billboards where vegetation is cleared. The bill also strengthens obscenity standards for all billboards. The House accepted the Senate amendment so the Senate vote was final passage.
· SB 86: Removes the requirement that local governments and regional commissions file a comprehensive plan with the Dept. of Community Affairs (DCA). Also ends requirement that local governments submit to regional impact reviews conducted by DCA.
· SB 110: Repeals prohibition on permit issuance to landfills accepting waste from outside the county or region, in the case of regional landfills. This is to update the code following a court decision striking it down.
· SB 113: Adjusts how local government and municipal corporations go about entering into contracts for public works projects.
· SB 206: Prohibits releasing a feral hog onto unfenced land.
· SB 214: Makes it a misdemeanor for a prisoner to possess a cell phone or for anyone to provide a prisoner with a cell phone.
· SB 218: Allows companies to purchase and remove deadhead logs from riverbeds.
· SB 223: Creates the joint Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee to review and if necessary, abolish state agencies.
· SB 234: Prohibits issuing an execution for nonpayment of property taxes while an appeal is pending.
· SB 236: Provides for court-ordered installation of ignition interlock devices.
· SB 246: Increases employee contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System and increases benefit amount.
Passed House-Now in Senate
· HB 175: Creates a clearinghouse of online courses offered by local school systems for students in other districts.
· HB 214: Creates the Department of Public Health