Legislative Week 10: Democrats sink taxpayer relief bill

This past week proved to be another busy one for the House of Representatives. We are set to start our last week and the pace of bills and resolutions being considered is brisk. Last week we considered several important bills.

Earlier this year, we voted on Senate Bill 83 that would have provided Georgia’s voters the ability to increase their homestead exemption by $2,000, which has not been increased since the 1930s on a statewide basis, but it failed along a party line vote.

This week it was reconsidered and came back up for a vote, but again fell short of the two-thirds majority vote necessary to provide for such a constitutional amendment.

Unfortunately, House Democrats blocked this bill’s approval again. If passed, it would have been put before the citizens and given them an opportunity to vote to give tax relief to our homeowners during these difficult economic times.

After months of committee meetings and hearings, several bills made it through the General Assembly and to the Governor’s desk this week. If signed by Gov. Perdue, these bills will become law. Some of the bills awaiting the governor’s signature include House bills 149 and Senate Bill 13.

Senate Bill 13 gives prosecutors in Georgia the option to seek life without parole convictions for serious criminal offenses.

Under current law, the only way a prosecutor can secure a life without parole conviction is to seek the death penalty. Death penalty trials are usually very costly and take longer to complete at a greater expense to our taxpayers. Often times, prosecutors seek the death penalty just to secure the life without parole option.

This change in law will allow prosecutors to seek this type of conviction directly without going for the death penalty. It will also ensure that the people who need to be locked up for the rest of their life will be sentenced quicker and reduce the cost of such trials.

House Bill 149 allows 11th- and 12th-grade public school students to attend a college or technical school to complete high school while receiving credit towards a higher degree.

This bill, commonly called the “Move on When Ready” Act, gives public school students and their families more options to fit their individual educational needs. By allowing students to choose courses that fit their personal life goals, we can foster the educational interest students need to succeed.

I am also pleased to report that House Bill 123, legislation that I authored to close a loophole in our child molestation statute, passed the Senate unanimously and now comes back to the House to be agreed to one technical change that was made by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Chance has worked closely with me on this important legislation and did an excellent job presenting the bill on the Senate floor. We are one small step away from sending this bill to the governor and providing for additional tools in the effort to protect children from predators.

As the 2009 session comes to an end, many House and Senate bills are now closer to becoming law. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at my Capitol office, 404-651-7737. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

[Matt Ramsey, an attorney in Peachtree City, represents District 72 in the Georgia House of Representatives.]

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