As the halfway mark of the 2008 legislative session approaches, we continue to move legislation through the General Assembly and key initiatives continue to be heard in committee prior to consideration by the full House. Tax relief has been a key issue for many months and this week I joined some of my colleagues in introducing a tax measure that could reduce the income tax burden of our citizens, while reining in spending. On the floor of the House, we adopted House Bill 919 creating oversight of the Georgia Lottery Corporation to protect the future of HOPE scholarships. In the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee I continued to work with my colleagues to ensure the safety of all Georgians.
I was pleased to co-sponsor House Resolution 1216, the Taxpayer Dividend Act, with a bi-partisan group of my colleagues. Currently, Georgia has the highest budget surplus in our State’s history. This is the hard earned money of Georgia’s taxpayers and there should be a mechanism in place to ensure responsible stewardship of surplus revenue dollars. This legislation proposes limitations on how excess revenues could be spent, rather than leave it to the unbridled discretion of the General Assembly and Governor. In years of a budget surplus, the Act proposes to first fund education shortfalls, then the state reserve “rainy day” fund, at 8% of the budget, and the remainder would be returned to the taxpayers as an income tax deduction. This combination of spending reform and tax reform is long overdue in Georgia.
Georgia’s lottery has funded the HOPE scholarships and pre-K programs that have benefited our students for many years. Recently, questions have been raised about how the Georgia Lottery Corporation has used lottery funds for excessive staff bonuses rather than for scholarships and new pre-k programs. This week I joined my colleagues in the House in voting to approve House Bill 919 to create a legislative oversight committee to ensure that we continue to use lottery funds to benefit our students above all else.
This week in the House Judiciary Non-Civil committee we voted to send House Bill 336 to the full House for a vote. This legislation would increase penalties for a DUI conviction to include mandatory jail time for repeat offenders and would make the fourth DUI offense a felony conviction, rather than a misdemeanor. This legislation was strongly supported by prosecutors, solicitors and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. Georgia is one of the last states in America without a felony DUI statute and I was proud to vote in favor of this measure aimed at protecting the driving public. Habitual DUI offenders put our families at risk every time they drink and drive and Georgia needs to be a leader in cracking down on these individuals.
I will continue to keep you up to date on our actions as the legislative session progresses. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at my Capitol office at (404) 656- 0109. I look forward to hearing from you soon.