An Update On Pre-Filed Bills: What Do King George III And The U.S. Supreme Court Have In Common?

A reader requested an update recently on the legislative pre-files for the upcoming session. We dutifully checked and found a little rebellion against the national government brewing in the Georgia House.

Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, who can always be counted on for provocative legislation, has a bill that, among other things, declares the U.S. Supreme court lacked authority to issue its Roe v. Wade decision some 35 years ago and that states have every right to disregard it.

That’s exactly what Franklin’s bill – HB 916 – does, and then goes on to declare the practice of abortion is murder and conspiracy to commit murder per se.

This bill, of course, won’t go anywhere, but it’s worth a read, anyway, for the impassioned argument he makes as to just how the U.S. Supreme Court – like King George III – overstepped.

But don’t dismiss the issue out of hand. A certain number of Christian conservatives are very anxious to pass the Human Life Amendment – HR 536 – which was introduced late last year, and which will be a center point of the annual Right To Life rally at the Georgia Capitol this year. (It will take place precisely two weeks before Georgia’s presidential primary.

Gary Bauer is the guest speaker and Mike Huckabee has agreed to attend.)

The amendment’s chances of getting to the floor aren’t good this year. It requires a super-majority vote in both chambers, which it clearly cannot get.

Given the math, House leaders want to keep it off the floor to keep from bogging down the House in an ultimately useless but highly controversial debate. Backers, however, don’t seem to see it quite the same way.

What else is in the mix?

A fix for that portion of the sex offender law that was struck down late last year by the Georgia Supreme Court is among the pre-files, as is the Speaker’s BRIDGE plan for education and a new gun bill that revises Georgia’s carry laws. There also are some proposed tax reform alternatives from key senators to the Speaker’s GREAT plan, and another bill aimed at DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones.

HB 908 is the fix to the law which prohibits sex offenders from living or working within 1,000 feet of places where children gather. The Supreme Court voided the law in a case in which a sex offender was in compliance with the law until a daycare center was built in the neighborhood.

The fix aims at restoring the 1,000-foot prohibition by making a special carve-out for offenders who are made to be in violation by events over which they have no control.

HB 905 is the BRIDGE plan, which stands for Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia’s Economy. It’s designed to help keep bored and at-risk students in school.

Under the proposed legislation, high schools beginning in the 2010-2011 school year would offer students the option of taking a college-prep track or a career-prep track toward the same high school diploma.

The academic standards would be the same for both groups. But those on the college-prep track would take additional studies in subjects like math, science, foreign language or fine arts, while those on the career-prep track would get hands-on training in high-demand career fields and would pick up a technical certificate along with their diploma on graduation day.

The new gun bill is Rep. Tim Bearden’s HB 915, and it is one to watch because it likely will go head-to-head with a separate bill that the National Rifle Association pulled out all the stops for last year but couldn’t get past strong opposition from the business community. The NRA’s bill in the parking lot guns bill, designed to prohibit employers from making rules which prohibit employees from keeping guns in their cars at work. NRA contends it’s a 2nd Amendment issue. The business community sees it as an abridgment of private property rights.

Bearden’s bill, supported by a group called GeorgiaCarry.Org and containing elements of legislation the NRA has pushed before, completely revises the “carry” laws, imposes sanctions against agents like those sent to Georgia gun shops by New York’s Mayor Bloomberg to try to buy guns under false pretenses, and prohibits a government seizure of weapons like the one attempted in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Which will prevail? It’s an issue to watch.

Speaker Glenn Richardson’s tax reform plan – the GREAT plan – has gotten most of the attention this year. That proposal has been a work in progress all year. The latest version of it calls for eliminating the school portion of the property tax on homeowners, along with the property tax on cars, and replacing the lost revenue with an expanded sales tax that would cover consumer services, most of which are not now taxed.

City and county governments could continue to levy property taxes, but property assessments could rise no more than 1 percent a year and local government spending growth would be capped at the rate of inflation plus one percent.

Some alternatives in the pre-filed folder:

* SR 686 is a proposed constitutional amendment by Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson to freeze residential assessments at 2008 levels until the property is sold.

* SR 687 is a proposed constitutional amendment by Sen.

Mitch Seabaugh that, with voter approval, would allow local governments to use an additional 1 percent sales tax to reduce or eliminate local property taxes.

There are a few alternatives floating around in the House, as well.

* HB 896 would give taxpayers a credit against their state income taxes for the ad valorem taxes they pay, so long as the state’s revenue shortfall reserve fund remained above $500 million. (Not a problem this year. The reserves are now at $1.6 billion.)

* HR 1012 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would freeze property tax assessments at their current level, but only for the county portion of the tax bill. (The school portion is often as much, if not more. Municipal levies also would not be affected.)

* HR 1013 is broader. It would allow the Legislature to freeze assessments for “any or all” ad valorem taxes.

Now … what about Vernon? You may remember that several bills already have been pre-filed aimed at curbing some of his power with regards to the board of commissioners.

One pre-filed bill by Rep.

Mike Jacobs, who switched to the Republican side this year, would strip Jones of veto power over county legislation and enable the county commission to set its own agenda. It is HB 899.

Jones is a Democratic candidate for Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat, and last year vetoed an ordinance that would have required DeKalb County bars to close earlier (2:30 a.m. rather than 4 a.m.)

Rep. Kevin Levitas, D-Atlanta, also has a bill that would curb some of the CEO’s powers by giving commissioners power to set their meeting agendas, run their own meetings, and have more oversight over county affairs. It is HB 894.

The latest bill is by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur. It would make it illegal to serve alcohol after 2:30 a.m. and before 9 a.m. It is HB 912.


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