Last week saw our first crescendo of legislating, as we passed the crossover mark of the session. We worked through 112 bills and resolutions. For the next few weeks, we'll be reviewing bills sent over from the Senate as we approach the end of the session.
A number of the measures we considered are worth mention. HB 23 would prohibit provisional drivers license holders under 18 from using cell phones and similar electronic communications devices. Young drivers generally don't have sufficiently solid driving skills to handle a car at the same time as talking on a phone, much less "texting." The bill does exempt situations where a call is made to report an accident or emergency. I voted for the bill, and it passed by 138 to 34.
HB 160 is Governor Perdue's "Super Speeder" bill. Statistics show that flagrant speeding violations have become common in Georgia, actually raising our average speed figures to among the highest in the nation. The bill proposes dealing with this problem by raising fines for "super" speeding violations (over 85 mph on any road, and over 75 mph on two lane roads) by adding an additional $200 fine. License reinstatement for habitual traffic violators would go up significantly too. These provisions are designed to fall on the worst of the worst violators. While the bill ties revenue from imposition of these fines to extension of the state trauma network, my primary concern is with the level of lawbreaking going on. The numbers do indeed show that habitual speeders are endangering others, so I supported the bill. It passed by 113 to 53.
HB 261 offers a one-time income tax credit for purchase of a single-family residence, during a six-month window later this year. The amount of the credit would be either 1.2 percent of the purchase price of the home, or $3,600, whichever is less. The goal of this bill is to get us past the bottom of the housing market. This is important because home sales drive many personal purchases - a key to stimulating the economy as a whole. The bill passed 162 to 4, with my backing.
HB 480 proposes a significant change in how vehicles are taxed. Existing titles will stay under the old system, but future title transfers would see no initial sales tax or yearly ad valorem tax. Instead, they would see a one-time title fee. The title fee would be either $2,000 or 3.5 percent of the value of the vehicle for state government plus 3.5 percent for the local governments, whichever is less. The program was designed to be "revenue neutral" (meaning no change in receipts) to local governments. Once this fee is paid, ownership would be clear of the eternal government lien we now endure. This would be a big improvement on the present system, and it would also capture taxes presently lost to loopholes. I voted for the measure, and it passed by 133 to 39.
HB 481 and HB 482 are the "Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success Act of 2009," which I described several weeks ago. They include several incentives for starting new businesses and hiring new employees. The act is slanted towards small business, because such businesses generate the most new jobs. The bills enjoyed strong bi-partisan support: HB 481 passed by 164 to 4 (with my "yes"), and HB 482 passed unanimously.
HB 485 would change a tax credit available to companies that increase their export activity via Georgia's ports. The bill would make increases of activity due to import expansion qualify as well. America's vast appetite for imports is one of the main reasons we are losing so many jobs overseas, and I see absolutely reason why we should provide an incentive to import more. I voted no, but the bill passed by 153 to 9.
On Thursday, District Attorney Ken Wynne was at the Capitol to discuss legislation. I appreciate his time in coming by to visit.
State Rep. Doug Holt, R-Covington, represents the 112th House District, which includes the eastern portion of Newton County and most of Morgan County. He may be reached by phone at 404-656-0152, or by e-mail at Doug@DougHolt.org.