Georgia House Week 3: Water and property tax

Matt Ramsey's picture

Last week the Georgia General Assembly was in session for days 9-13 of the 2010 legislative session. Significant work continued in committees all around the Capitol and the flow of bills on the floor of the House began to increase. In addition, several important pieces of legislation were introduced last week in both the House and the Senate.

On Thursday I joined Governor Perdue, the chairs of the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) and Ross Tolleson (R-Perry) and Senator Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) in announcing the introduction of the Governor’s Water Stewardship Act of 2010. We officially introduced the legislation on Friday.

The measure is the result of the governor’s Water Task Force that he convened last fall after a federal court judge ruled against Georgia in the long-standing tri-state Georgia, Alabama and Florida dispute over the use of water from Lake Lanier. The judge’s ruling goes into effect in three years and its potential impact on the viability of metro Atlanta cannot be overstated.

The task force was made up of representatives from every water stakeholder group in the state, including local government officials, business leaders, environmental groups and state officials.

While the fate of Lake Lanier is in the hands of negotiators from each of the involved states and federal officials, it is critical that Georgia continue to encourage responsible use of our water resources to ensure we have ample supply to meet the needs of a growing population in the years to come. The legislation proposes a host of incentive-based programs aimed at promoting conservation.

I will be presenting the bill to a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, which will be the first step in moving the bill through the legislative process.

We took up several bills on the floor last week. The House passed HB 651, which improves the ability of local school systems to receive updated sex offender registry lists from the state. The measure came though my committee and I strongly support the bill.

Currently, state law provides that the lists be mailed out on compact discs at a cost of over $7,000 to the state. The bill would provide for the list to be sent electronically and updated in real time to ensure local school officials have the most recent possible data to support their effort to keep sex offenders from obtaining employment in our school systems.

One of the most common complaints I hear from constituents is related to their concerns over the administration of property taxes in our state. I repeatedly hear from citizens about not only their belief that their homes are currently over-valued, but also concerns about an appeals process that is anything but user friendly.

Last week Senator Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and several of his Senate colleagues introduced Senate Bill 346 which proposes comprehensive revisions to the law governing the property tax administration process. Some of the bill’s 40-plus changes to the property tax system include standardizing notice procedures and forms, simplifying and making more accessible the assessment appeals processes — including a year-round appeals timeframe, providing for installment and early payment plans, and requiring a unanimous decision by the Board before increasing the value of assessed property.

This effort represents the work of a study committee that held hearings and solicited feedback from taxpayers and local government officials alike over the past year. I look forward to supporting this important taxpayer protection measure when it passes the Senate and is considered on the floor of the House.

As always, I hope to hear from members of this community as matters of importance to them are considered by the General Assembly. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of service.

[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.]

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