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March 17--  The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) is asking its members to contact legislators regarding a House Bill on the use of state fees for other than their intended purposes. 

Pressure Builds as Final Days of the 2012 Legislative Session Draw Near

The General Assembly is on track to wrap up the 2012 legislative session before the end of March. Next week, legislators return for four official days (Days 34 – 37).  Now is the time when ACCG and county officials must keep a watchful eye on all legislation to ensure that bills are not amended in ways that could negatively impact county operations.

ACCG has updated the legislative tracking database and is only tracking legislation at this time that has passed in either the House or the Senate (or both) and is still alive. Remember that you can track legislation by issue, policy committee, or policy staff member to get a quick snapshot of issues that interest you. The ACCG legislative database is available by clicking here.

Watch for updates from ACCG next week on major issues including criminal justice reform, juvenile justice reform and tax reform. Below are updates on other legislation representing county priorities that saw action this week.

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Watered Down Version of HB 811

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed, but made major modifications to, HB 811 this week which will allow state budget writers to continue diverting dedicated fees for other purposes. The Committee amended the bill to allow for the unabated diversion of dedicated fees without any fee reduction until state reserves reach at least 7% percent of the previous year’s fiscal budget, or about $1.1 billion.  The current total held in state reserves is $328 million, and the reserves have topped the billion dollar mark only once in the past 23 years.  Also, indigent defense fees were removed from the bill.  The bill now awaits action by the Senate Rules Committee. 

The media has closely followed HB 811 and asked Senators tough questions this week regarding the need for transparency in the state’s budget making process.  Some of the media coverage includes:

HB 811 is one of ACCG’s top priorities this legislative session.  Please contact your Senators and ask that they support HB 811 and encourage an amendment to reduce the 7 percent reserve threshold to 3 percent. Without this change, the redirection of fees will continue with little, if any constraint. ACCG fully supports building up the state’s shortfall reserve, but not at the expense of fees dedicated to services local governments must carry out.