General Assembly’s Week 9: Gun law clarity, tax assessments

0
5

Last week the General Assembly convened for legislative days 31-33. Since we are now past cross-over day, House committees began the process of considering Senate bills that have passed out of the Senate and are now under consideration in the House.

One of the most noteworthy pieces of legislation taken up by one of my committees last week was SB 308, legislation aimed at clarifying Georgia’s ambiguous and confusing concealed carry laws.

The measure is being carried in the House of Representatives by Billy Horne (R-Sharpsburg), who is a Fayette County native.

In Georgia, you must be a minimum of 21 years of age to obtain a concealed carry permit, and the law provides for a number of locations you cannot carry your firearm.

The segment of the law that has caused the most confusion over the years is the prohibition on carrying the weapon to any “public gathering.” This term’s ambiguity and lack of context has caused a great deal of confusion among the law enforcement community and citizenry alike and a clarification of the law is long overdue.

The measure proposes to provide much more clarity to law-abiding concealed weapons carriers to ensure they know without a doubt where they can and cannot carry their firearm and to the law enforcement community so they know they are not over- or under-enforcing the state’s statute.

The subcommittee heard the bill last Thursday and an additional hearing will be scheduled for next week to hopefully move the measure forward.

On the floor last week the House considered SB 206, a measure authored by Senator Greg Goggans (R-Douglas) to provide more oversight and transparency to the various deductions, exemptions and credits in our state’s tax code.

Quite often tax measures are enacted for important economic development reasons, and the Department of Revenue does not have the capacity or resources to provide ongoing feedback to the legislature on whether the state is getting its bang for the buck for any such measure after it is enacted.

SB 206 proposes to provide a mechanism for better annual tracking of such expenditures by requiring the Office of Planning and Budget to include a Tax Expenditure Report along with its report of direct appropriations expenditures it already is required to provide each year to the legislature.

It is important in these difficult budget times to ensure every single penny coming into and out of the state coffers is being efficiently and properly accounted for, and this will certainly further that effort. The measure now goes to the governor for his signature.

The House last week also passed an important measure (HB 1139) aimed at providing property owners a more efficient and readily understandable process to appeal their property tax assessments.

In my capacity as an attorney and a legislator I have repeatedly heard from clients and constituents alike concerns regarding the fact they have had missed the opportunity to appeal their tax assessment or that the appeal window is simply too short.

Given the huge number of complaints members of the legislature hear annually from property owners regarding their belief that the assessed value of their property is too high, we have passed legislation out of the House to allow property owners the right to appeal the value of their house every year, even in years the value of the property does not change.

Further, the measure will require the local tax assessor to put a line item on each tax bill whereby a property owner would simply have to check a box to notify the assessor of their intent to appeal the value of their home.

This is important property tax relief legislation and is pending consideration in the Senate, where we are hopeful it will receive consideration before the end of the session.

The House and Senate are not in session for the week of April 5-9 to allow the appropriations committees to continue work putting the budget together. As always, I hope to hear from members of this community in the final days of the 2010 legislative session.

[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.]