The Georgia General Assembly has now passed the halfway point of its Legislative Session and the issues of immigration, water and tax reform still dominate the session. On February 24 the Senate approved (46-4) the amended state budget of $18 billion for the remainder of FY 2011. The supplemental budget cut most state agencies by 4%, and it will go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate. What is notable and encouraging, is that actual revenue growth is 4.8% over FY 2010 revenue collections and FY 2011 should end in a surplus of several hundred million dollars.
Rep. Matt Ramsey’s immigration bill, HB 87, is modeled after the Arizona legislation and passed out of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee in late February, and now has made its way to the House of Representatives for a vote. The bill exempts businesses with less than 5 employees from having to use the federal E-Verify system. Police will be required to check the residency status of criminal suspects, and a private cause of action is created for injunctive and equitable relief against any official or agency for enforcement of the law.
Senate Bill 122, authored by Senator Ross Tolleson, would make it easier for local governments to enter into public-private partnerships for the construction of reservoirs and other water projects. The bill passed out of committee and is headed to the Senate Rules Committee.
Several similar or identical bills (HB 385, 386, 387 and 388) have been introduced by Rep. Mickey Channell regarding tax reform based on the recommendations of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians. One notable provision would impose Georgia’s 4% sales tax on 50 personal services for the first time. Everything from haircuts to car repairs could be charged the 4% sales tax.