A review of bills passed in busy legislative session

Last Thursday as the clock struck midnight the General Assembly concluded its 40th and final day of the 2012 legislative session. It was a busy session and I believe our continued focus on jobs and the state economy led to some important measures being sent to the Governor’s desk in the final days of the session.

I thought I would quickly summarize a few of the measures that received final passage in the last week of the session.

FY 2013 Budget Act, HB 742

The final House and Senate Conference Committee Fiscal Year 2013 $19 billion budget passed the House on Day 39. As is required by the Georgia constitution the budget is in balance.

Education remains Georgia’s highest priority, receiving more than 54 percent of the state’s appropriated revenues. Meanwhile Georgia continues to do more with less by eliminating 540 state employee positions.

What growth we have seen has been appropriated to essential spending such as market salary increases for certain law enforcement officers and increasing resources for physicians so they will practice in our state.

All in all, Georgia continues to be very fiscally conservative ranking 49th in the nation in per capita spending with only Alaska spending less per-capita.

Georgia Government Accountability Act, HB 456

The Georgia Government Accountability Act establishes a review process for agency efficiency by creating the Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee.

The “Sunset Committee” will review of all state agencies and executive branch subsidiaries that receive funds through a state appropriations act.

The committee will have the ability to recommend the abolition of an agency, if the responsibilities and obligations, fiduciary or otherwise, of the agency in question are repealed, revised or reassigned by the General Assembly.

In fact, the legislature got a head start on this process by eliminating the State Personnel Administration Department in House Bill 805 because it is duplicative and unnecessary. This is an important measure as part of our continued effort to eliminate government waste.

Child Protection and Public Safety Act, HB 641

The Child Protection and Public Safety Act is a comprehensive revision of the juvenile court provisions of Georgia’s Code. These provisions govern the state’s response to children and their families in case of abuse, neglect, violations of the law by children, and other circumstances requiring court intervention.

The measure is a critical bill that will enhance public safety and provide abused and neglected children greater protection under the law.

Georgia Tax Tribunals Act, HB 100

A primary recommendation from the 2010 Joint Tax Reform Council, the Georgia Tax Tribunal Act will provide a low-cost mechanism for Georgia’s citizens to resolve disputes involving taxes that are currently administered under the Department of Revenue.

The measure will give Georgia citizens and businesses the ability to come before an expert in a quick and efficient forum to challenge state tax assessments and denials of state tax refund claims.

The goal is to give citizens and businesses a more efficient and less costly dispute resolution mechanism than going to Superior Court to challenge tax disagreements.

This tribunal does not limit a citizen’s ability to file their matter with the Superior Court and all decisions of the tribunal are subject to appeals to the Superior Court by citizens that disagree with the outcome.

Drug Testing for TANF Act, HB 861

As a condition of eligibility to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, this act will ensure that individuals who seek aide are not using the money to subsidize an addiction to illegal drugs.

In order to guarantee that children are not victimized by an ineligible parent, a protective payee would be designated for any child that needs assistance.

I was one of the co-authors of this measure and believe it will save taxpayers money and ensure children are getting benefits that are currently being directed to drug abuse.

Fetal Pain Act, HB 954

The Fetal Pain Act is an important measure meant to end Georgia’s status as one of the late-term abortion leaders in the country. In fact, only two states have more late-term abortions (i.e., after 20 weeks) than Georgia. That is disturbing and unacceptable.

The measure uses the recent recognition by legal scholars that states do have a legal interest in protecting the unborn after the 20th week to prohibit abortions after this point in the pregnancy except in very, very limited circumstances.

I will continue to work to protect the unborn as long as I am a member of the Georgia General Assembly.

False Claims Act, HB 822

The False Claims Act bill expands the use of the state Attorney General’s office to investigate individuals and corporations that engage in fraudulent activity with taxpayer money. Medicaid claims are already subject to this investigative measure.

This act is an attempt to recover potentially millions of dollars in fraudulent claims similar to other states, such as Kansas, Florida, California, and New York.

Metals Theft Act, HB 872

Metal theft has been on the rise in Georgia which not only affects us when we have our property stolen but also impacts Georgians through rising insurance premiums.

The Metals Theft Act places additional purchasing requirements on secondary metals recyclers in order to limit the individuals who may sell copper coil or wire.

It requires that additional information be kept in the records of each transaction, provides for forfeiture proceedings when any copper has been taken illegally, and requires registration of secondary metal recyclers with the sheriff of each county.

It also makes metals buyers liable to a civil case if the provisions of this code section are not followed and the metals purchased proved to be taken through criminal means.

I was a co-author of this bill and a member of the Conference Committee that drafted the final version of the bill.

Safe at Schools For Diabetic Children, HB 879

As I have previously reported, I authored legislation this year to provide additional resources for diabetic children and their schools.

This important measure passed the Senate two weeks ago and the House voted this week to agree to the minor amendment made by the Senate and thus this measure now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature.

This is an important bill to the thousands of children impacted by diabetes in children and will ensure they are in the classroom more and will help to avoid the severe health complications that can result in a diabetic emergency.

These are a few of the bills that passed this past week in the final two days of the session that now await signature by the Governor. I will continue to provide information as the Governor’s bill review process moves forward. As always, thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve on behalf of this great community.

[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City. His email is matt.ramsey@house.ga.gov.]