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General Assembly nearing end of session

Legislative update

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POSTED: April 7, 2010 2:26 p.m.
The 2010 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly is almost completed, with only seven session days left. Working into the late hours of the night on Crossover Day, last Friday, the House passed many important pieces of legislation. Given that Crossover Day is the last day that a bill must pass one chamber in order to be considered by the other, the members of the House continued to debate legislation as long as time would allow. Some might say that the “People’s Work” is never finished and as a member of the “People’s House,” all of the legislators have a duty to continue to work as long as is needed to ensure allowed time for debate on bills and potential passage of the legislation. The House stayed past midnight debating legislation. Although there were close to 45 bills voted upon, several key pieces of legislation passed on Crossover Day, including: the JOBS Act, the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians, and the Hospital Bed Tax.
 As many people throughout our state and across the country have experienced the results of a struggling economy, we all also know that it has led to increased unemployment. Reaching disheartening unemployment numbers, the legislature felt it necessary to promote job creation and economic growth within the state. In Georgia, the members of the General Assembly are only part time, meaning that all of the members have some other type of full time employment. Some of us are employees, and others are business owners; however, on both sides of the spectrum we are all concerned. As business owners we are focused on how to maintain through these tough economic times and keep our valuable employees gainfully employed. As employees, we are worried about our jobs and what would happen if our company had to downsize due to the economy and we had to try and seek other employment. We understand the difficulties that many people throughout the state are experiencing. To encourage employment and stimulate businesses in Georgia, the House passed the JOBS Act of 2010 on Crossover Day. House Bill 1023, the Jobs, Opportunity, and Business Success Act, seeks to encourage employment and stimulate our businesses and the economy. Using incentives and tax credits, our goal is to help the people in our state. Specifically, this bill would provide employers that hire people that are currently receiving unemployment compensation with the “Georgia Works Tax Credit.” Also, it will allow corporations and individuals to file an income tax exclusion for long-term capital gains and also eliminate the corporate net worth tax beginning in 2012. Another benefit is the creation of the “Angel Investor Income Tax Credit” which promotes third party investments in early stage businesses. All of these options are incentives for businesses to stay or relocate to Georgia and for our citizens to once again have employment opportunities.
Tax reform has been a major topic all across our nation. In an effort to research Georgia’s current revenue structure, we passed House Bill 1405, the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians. This will create a Special Joint Committee composed of eleven members including Governor Perdue, two members each appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker, four economists, and the chairperson of both the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Also created under this bill is the Special Legislative Joint Committee which will include six House members and six Senate members. By creating these committees, the General Assembly as a whole is working together, in a bipartisan manner, to research our tax structure in Georgia. Bringing together these leaders in our state, our goal is to reach workable solutions, with the committees offering suggestions and making recommendations.
As most of our citizens are aware, the budget for the state of Georgia is struggling due to decreased incoming revenue. With revenue shortfalls, and the Constitutional requirement of a balanced budget for the state, the legislature has had to make some difficult decisions trying to determine where the cuts will come from. The members have come together in an effort to find additional sources of revenue. Either the state has to increase our revenue or make drastic cuts to our ever slimming budget. For example, Medicaid funding is almost $600 million short of what is needed. We passed House Bill 307, labeled the “Hospital Bed Tax”, which would impose a 1.45% tax onto patient revenue for hospitals. This fee placed on hospitals would create additional revenue and the funding would help to fill the gap by potentially raising around $170 million. In addition to that, it would also allow the state to receive some federal funding for Medicaid. This is a program funded by the federal and state government that helps those that are unable to finance their own medical expenses by reimbursing hospitals and physicians. This bill will impose a fee on the net patient revenue the hospital receives. As legislators, we have had to look at all of our options and this decision to impose a fee will not have an effect on our citizens and will allow us to fill some of the revenue shortfalls and also increase federal funding. Although not enough, any amount of revenue helps the state. I will continue to keep all of you informed on our progress during the 2010 legislative session.
 
Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues that concern you. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens ,228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov

 

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