March 1, 2013

Capitol Partners

Public Affairs & Government Relations

On Tuesday, the headline on the front page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution read “House OKs Historic Ethics Bill.”  That was one of several significant news items for the week. In addition to Speaker Ralston’s historic ethics bills (HB 142/HB 143), the House also passed sweeping reforms in juvenile justice and criminal justice as recommended by Governor Deal’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

The Speaker’s ethics bills have been assigned to the Rules Committee in the Senate.  These bills ban most spending by lobbyists, however, meals including full membership of the General Assembly or identified committees/caucuses would be allowed. The bills also define who must register as a lobbyist, lower the lobbyist registration fee from $320 to $25, restore rule-making power to the state’s ethics commission, and require legislators to file a campaign report for donations received between January 1 and the beginning of the legislative session.

Rep. Willard’s comprehensive revision of the state’s juvenile justice code (HB 242) has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary committee and Rep. Rich Golick’s criminal justice reform (HB 349), which passed the House earlier today, will be read and assigned to a committee in the Senate on Monday. Both of these bills seek to divert non-violent offenders away from the prison system and into lower cost, community-based treatment programs.  They also put an increased focus on new drug and mental health courts, thus providing needed help for individuals and saving the state a substantial amount of taxpayer money.

Also of major importance, the Senate passed a tax code update (HB 266) which was amended to include Rep. Rice’s bill (HB 80) correcting unintended consequences from last year’s tax legislation on vehicle leases and rentals. After passing HB 266, the Senate immediately transmitted it to the House, but House leadership has expressed reservations about the Senate changes, particularly regarding the “buy here, pay here” dealers, and adjourned without taking up the bill.  The tax reform bill from last year became effective today, which means major changes for consumers purchasing or leasing a vehicle. Under this new system, the annual vehicle ad valorem tax and one-time sales tax on vehicles will be replaced with a one-time title tax that is 6.5% of the vehicle’s value.

The House and Senate also passed an adjournment resolution setting the calendar for the next couple of weeks.  They will work three days next week, taking off Wednesday and Friday.  Thursday, March 7, will be Day 30, which is known as “cross-over” day.  All bills must have been passed by the house where they originated by the end of Day 30 in order to still be “alive” for this session.  We have now completed 27 legislative days.


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