Post-Sine Die update

4.11.2015
Scott

The 2015 legislative session ended last week. I appreciate having had the opportunity to represent you, and I'm grateful to have heard from so many of you this session.

I spent the majority of this session working on issues related to DeKalb County. Among other things, I am proud to have helped pass important reform legislation that will improve standards for ethics and procurement and will also require the use of an independent internal auditor. I was also actively involved with the cityhood efforts in DeKalb. More information on each of these items as well as summaries of statewide legislation is contained below.

2015 Legislative Summary

Statewide, the following pieces of legislation passed both the House of Representatives and Senate before the end of the session and now require the Governor's signature:

Transportation

HB 170 is expected to raise approximately $900 million in new revenue annually to fund maintenance of Georgia's roads and bridges. The new revenues were primarily achieved by transforming the sales tax on motor fuel sales into a 26 cents per gallon excise tax. In addition, the bill eliminated the tax credit for and imposes a $200 registration fee on low-emission vehicles, creates a $5 nightly hotel fee and eliminates the sales tax exemption on jet fuel for Delta Airlines.

HB 213 will lift the 50/50 restriction on MARTA which requires that half of all revenue be spent on operations and half on maintenance.

Education

SR 287 proposes a Constitutional amendment allowing the General Assembly to establish the Governor's proposed Opportunity School District. The Opportunity School District would allow for state intervention in schools that are failing to achieve results on standardized testing measures. The superintendent of the newly created district could opt for:
- State management of the school
- Shared governance with the local school board
- Conversion to a charter school
- Closure of the school

HB 91 was already signed by the Governor and it retroactively awards high school diplomas to approximately 9,000 Georgians who failed the Georgia High School Graduation Test, which is no longer a graduation requirement.

Haleigh's Hope, Rachel's Law and others

HB 1, Haleigh's Hope Act or "the medical marijuana bill", authorizes possession of low THC cannabinoid oil for patients suffering from cancer, sickle cell disease, ALS, Parkinson's, seizure disorders and others.

SB 8, Rachel's Law, establishes a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to help victims of sex trafficking with housing, health care and other services. Voters will vote on whether or not to approve a $5,000 annual assessment on adult entertainment establishments and a $2,500 fine on convicted sex traffickers to maintain the fund.

HB 429 requires insurance companies to provide up to $30,000 a year of coverage for children suffering from autism age 6 and under.

SB 63 allows craft breweries to sell up to 36 ounces of beer for consumption on their premises and up to 72 ounces of beer (or a 6-pack) can be taken home.

HB 110 will legalize the sale of fireworks beginning July 1.

Local legislation:

Reform bills: For those of my constituents who live in DeKalb County, I am delighted to let you know that three extremely important reform bills were passed during the legislative session. Their intent is to ensure that DeKalb County meets the best practice standards for county governments. These reforms were deemed necessary by the Government Operations Task Force appointed by Interim CEO Lee May and also by a citizens' group, Blueprint DeKalb. HB 597 provides for an ethics board appointed by representatives of outside organizations, instead of by the Commissioners. HB 598 involves the development of a purchasing policy involving sealed bids for purchases exceeding $50,000 for all county departments. HB 599 mandates that the Board of Commissioners will create a Department of Internal Audit, which will be independent, to monitor the cost effectiveness of County departments and programs.

New Cities: Over the past year and a half I have sent you many updates regarding the proposed cities of LaVista Hills (HB 520) and Tucker (HB 515). Because both cities claimed some of the same neighborhoods and commercial areas, in December a subcommittee of the House Governmental Affairs Committee determined the boundary between the two cities and declared it to be "set in stone." However, during the session, some changes were made in order to secure agreement between the House and Senate. Here are the maps for both cities. Both proposed cities now proceed to referenda, which will occur in November of this year. I will continue to provide you with updates and opportunities to access the information you will need in order to educate yourself regarding this important decision.

Several other proposals, including the proposed annexation of Druid Hills and some other areas into the city of Atlanta and the proposal for the City of Stonecrest, did not make it through the session.

Regarding the area (DECA) that was annexed last year into Chamblee, only to have that annexation threatened by Century Center's attempt to annex into Brookhaven instead of Chamblee, the Supreme Court ultimately refused to hear Century Center's challenge and the annexation finally became final. Century Center's request for reconsideration was denied on Thursday so the litigation is finally over.

Thanks to my staff.

I want to thank my team for all of their help this year. Ann Abramowitz again served as my Chief of Staff and did a terrific job, particularly with her efforts on the reform legislation. Scott Riley served as my legislative aide for the second time and did a great job. I'm very grateful to them for their hard work on behalf of the 81st House District.

My best,
Scott



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