Rep. Shaw continues to fight against metal theft in Georgia
The House Regulated Industries Committee voted March 5 to approve legislation I have introduced in an effort to crack down further on the problem of metal theft in Georgia. In 2012, I introduced and passed the most effective tool in the fight against metal theft to date. That law, which imposed much stricter conditions on the sale of air conditioning coils to secondary metals recyclers, almost immediately eliminated the theft of air conditioners.
The current legislation, HB 461, represents a similar strategy to help deal with the growing problem of catalytic converter theft in Georgia. This proposal would enable the rightful owner of any scrap catalytic converter the ability to sell it to a secondary metals recycler with certain documentation. Illegal sellers and buyers such as transient and fly by night recyclers would not be able to legally sell or purchase the converters.
Key provisions of HB 461 would provide these enforcement tools:
• Tighter regulations on the sale and purchase of scrap catalytic converters
• Removes the exemption on scrap batteries as a regulated metal property
• Clarifies any confusion about the purchase of end of life vehicles and the appropriate code section that regulates their purchase relative to regulated metal property by secondary metal recyclers.
• Establishes a clear effective date for the reporting of transactions by secondary metals recyclers to the GBI transaction database
• Clarification to the language regarding a signed statement required by the seller of secondary metals to a recycler to eliminate any confusion over the need of a notarized document
• Requires secondary metals recyclers to report the name and date of birth to the GBI database, a request made by the law enforcement community.
• Other technical clarifications prepared by legislative counsel to eliminate confusion and to assist law enforcement and prosecutors on metal theft cases.
The legislation now awaits action by the full House of Representatives.
Georgia New Markets Jobs Act: On March 4, the House Insurance Committee favorably reported HB 439, which I introduced to assist underserved and rural areas by allowing for an investment fund to help put more capital investments for small businesses in those areas. Through tax credits, New Markets initiatives help entrepreneurial small businesses owners create private sector jobs and expand their businesses. The success of the federal New Markets program has encouraged 14 states to enact similar legislation.Studies of the federal and state programs show they pay for themselves by creating more new revenue, which exceeds the cost of the tax credits. HB 439 awaits action on the House floor.
Transportation Funding: The House of Representatives dealt with one of the most significant issues of the 2015 legislative session March 5 by approving a plan to provide additional revenue to be used for infrastructure maintenance and improvements in Georgia's transportation system.
By a vote of 123 to 46, House members approved HB 170 in response to the report of a special Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding, which concluded that Georgia needs a minimum of $1 billion to maintain the state's existing roads, bridges, air and transit system infrastructure. The Transportation Funding Act is a comprehensive package of measures to address the critical and urgent need for funding for Georgia's transportation infrastructure needs. HB 170 seeks to raise just under a billion dollars for maintenance and repair of our state's bridges and roadways, many of which have been deemed functionally obsolete and structurally deficient; therefore, these funds are crucial to guarantee that our roads and infrastructures are safe for Georgia drivers. Well-maintained roads and bridges will enhance safety and quality of life for our citizens, but these road improvements will also continue to attract new businesses to our state and create jobs for Georgians.
After substantial changes in the House Transportation Committee and the House Rules Committee, the major provisions of the legislation include the following:
• Moving the state to an excise-tax only system on motor fuels. HB 170 calls for a 29.2 cents per gallon excises tax, to be indexed in future years to account for changes in vehicles' gas mileage efficiency. Sponsors of the measure said the excise tax would be a more stable and sustainable funding source than sales taxes on motor fuels, which rise and fall dramatically based on the price at the pump.
• Special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) would continue to be levied on gasoline if renewed by the voters, but those revenues derived from motor fuel purchases would be dedicated to transportation purposes. The House was able to protect E-SPLOST revenues for school systems through this new definition of transportation purposes for education: "...transportation necessary to move students to and from educational facilities in this state and all accompanying infrastructure and support necessary to provide safe and efficient access to and egress from these educational facilities."
• Local option sales taxes implemented for the purpose of rolling back local property taxes would no longer be collected on motor fuels, but the maximum rate on those sales taxes would be increased to 1.25 percent to account for the tax base loss to local governments.
• A new user fee would be established for alternative fuel vehicles, including $200 per year for non-commercial vehicles and $300 for commercial vehicles, to account for the use of these vehicles on our roads without paying motor fuel taxes as they do not use gasoline.
Other provisions of HB 170 call for the recapitalization of the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (GTIB) as a source for loans and grants, elimination of the sales tax exemption on jet fuels and an end to the Governor's authority to suspend the collection of state motor fuel taxes, except in emergencies and with two-thirds approval of the General Assembly. Furthermore, the measure calls for GTIB to give preference to eligible projects in Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties as defined by economic factors, which is good for rural Georgia.
HB 170 continues to be a work in progress. It now goes to the Senate, where further changes are likely to be made.
Other legislation approved by the House and sent to the Senate in the past week includes:
• HB 71, which would require more public disclosure of information related to decisions of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.
• HB 190, which would require ride-sharing companies to carry $1 million worth of commercial liability insurance on their drivers.
• HB 200, which would increase the income tax credit for electric vehicle chargers and compressed natural gas fueling appliances.
• HB 213, which would remove the restrictions on how the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority can use sales tax proceeds.
• HB 315, which would change the name of the Technical College System of Georgia to the Georgia Career College System.
• HB 328, which would enact reforms recommended by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.
• HB 339, which would extend for three years a state income tax credit for film, video or digital production companies.
• HB 504, which would require college students residing in campus housing to sign a document stating they have been vaccinated against meningococcal disease within the past five years.The bill includes language from legislation I introduced, allowing for more vaccinations to be administered by pharmacists, including pneumococcal disease, shingles or meningitis. Pharmacists are already allowed to give flu shots, which has been a successful improvement in access to healthcare. I appreciate Rep. Sharon Cooper, the sponsor of HB 504, for working with us on this important issue.
Thursday, March 5 was the 27th legislative day of the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly. We are approaching the all-important 30th day, also known as Crossover Day as it is the final day for most legislation to pass either the House of Representatives or the Senate in time to be considered by the other chamber this year. Crossover Day will take place Friday, March 13.