Saturday, February 16, 2008

Debate on tax reform moves to the forefront

It was back to business this week in the General Assembly, as Senators and Representatives returned to the Gold Dome for another week of the 2008 session. We are rapidly approaching the halfway point of the session, and many new bills have been introduced in both chambers. This week, the debate on statewide tax reform took center stage, as the Senate passed three important pieces of legislation that could end up as referendum votes on the ballot in November. I’d like to update you on these measure this week, because they affect every citizen of this state.

On Tuesday, Senate took the first steps in the tax reform debate by passing two Constitutional Amendments that will freeze property taxes at the 2008 rates until the property is sold. With broad bipartisan support, the Senate voted to send both Constitutional Amendments to the House for consideration. Essentially, these two pieces of legislation propose an amendment to the Constitution to require the freezing of existing real property values at the time the owner acquires the property. Any valuation increases thereafter would be subject to limitations. Once a property is transferred or sold to another person, that property will be appraised at its fair market value on the date of the new owner’s acquisition. Any increase in the assessment could not exceed an inflation percentage set by the Department of Revenue for the current tax year. Only significant improvements to a property would warrant further increases in the property’s value.

Another resolution that I have sponsored on Governor Perdue’s behalf, SR 859, would create a Constitutional Amendment to repeal the state portion of the ad valorem tax on homes and cars. This tax reform measure was also overwhelmingly approved in the Senate on Thursday. Overall, these amendments will give Georgia citizens the opportunity to voice their opinion on the amount of tax they pay on their homes and vehicles. We may not approve all of these amendments, but I think it’s safe to say we will leave here in the spring with some significant tax relief measure on the ballot for approval by the voters.

In other news, I was extremely pleased to see the Senate unanimously approve a bill I introduced, SB 388. This legislation will establish an identity theft task force within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Earlier this year, Gov. Perdue included $1 million in his budget proposal to fund the task force, which will combat identity theft on several fronts, including investigating alleged identity theft, educating the public, supporting victims and training local law enforcement in combating identity theft. Identity theft cost Georgia citizens more than $25 million in 2006. More than 34,000 reports of identity theft in Georgia were filed with the Federal Trade Commission from 2002 to 2006 – and Georgia is ranked 7th in the nation when it comes to identity theft per capita. The GBI has a proven track record of combating crimes that plague Georgia’s citizens, and I believe their work in this area will make a significant difference in combating identity theft in our state. SB 388 now moves over to the House for consideration, and I look forward to seeing this become law in 2008.

As always, please contact me in my office and let me know your opinions, your ideas and your concerns.

Chance introduces legislation to create the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway

State Sen. Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) has introduced a Senate resolution that would forever honor and remember the commitment and sacrifice of veterans of the Korean War. SR 720 dedicates a portion of US 80 located within the state as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway.

“It’s fitting that we pay tribute to those who served our country faithfully and honorably,” said Sen. Chance. “Several other states, such as Alabama, Mississippi and Nevada have already dedicated portions of US 80 to honor Korean War vets, and I’d like to see this tradition continue in Georgia.”

Under SR 720, US 80, running across the state from Columbus to Savannah, will be forever known as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway. The legislation also authorizes the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) to place and maintain appropriate markers in Columbus, Macon and Tybee Island, dedicating the Memorial Highway.

“Many young Georgia soldiers fought bravely in Korea, proudly serving their country as members of the armed forces, and many suffered injury and loss of life as a result,” added Sen. Chance. “I think the Memorial Highway is a perfect way to honor their service to our nation.”