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LIGON: Update from the Capitol: Week 8

Sen. William Ligon Jr. serves as Chairman of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. He represents the 3rd Senate District which includes Brantley, Camden, Glynn, and McIntosh counties and portions of Charlton County.  He can be reached by phone at 404.463.1383 or by email at william@senatorligon.com


The end of week eight happened last Friday, and we are less than a week away from Crossover Day. With only 14 days remaining in this year’s legislative session, I am grateful that the General Assembly is working tirelessly and efficiently to ensure that all our goals are met before Sine Die.

On the Senate floor, we passed a number of bills. I was pleased to see Senate Bill 367 pass which will eliminate five state-mandated exams in our elementary and secondary schools. Too many tests have taken valuable time away from academic learning. Teachers were under pressure to “teach to the test” to drive up test scores due to federal mandates. As someone who opposed Race to the Top and Common Core with all the federal strings attached, I am glad to see small steps like this that will help classrooms become better learning environments for students.

In our hurricane prone district, I know everyone can appreciate House Bill 105. It already made it to the Senate before Crossover Day, and we quickly passed the bill and sent it on to the Governor. The legislation exempts from state taxation certain income received by taxpayers as payment for federal disaster relief or assistance grant programs administered by this state or its divisions or by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in connection with Hurricane Michael. We want to ensure that those payments are not taxed so that all those funds can help mitigate the agricultural losses our farmers suffered.

No doubt, all Georgia’s citizens will be interested in Senate Bill 351. This bill would put a non-binding referendum on the ballot to gauge the public’s interest in altering Georgia’s approach to daylight savings time.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 442. I sponsored SB 442 in order to prohibit homeowners associations from amending covenants that restrict the rental of residential property. Homeowners associations will sometimes change their rules to make it so a property owner is no longer allowed to rent out his or her property. This legislation would protect citizens, such as those deployed oversees, who depend on renting out their homes as a source of income.

Additionally, the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY20) budget was passed in the Senate on Wednesday. The AFY20 budget is derived from approximately 0.05% State Fund Growth and a 1.1% increase in Department of Revenue Collections. In it are a few specific allotments and reductions that I would like to highlight:

  • Reduces a total of $1.8 million to share in cost reduction in statewide operations/non-grant activities.
  • Adds $550,000 for maintenance and operations for new Coastal Lab/Medical Examiner Office.
  • Adds $819,000 for agents and analysts of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Gang Task Force and adds $420,000 for development of a gang database.
  • $1,000,000 increase to reflect 2019 Super Speeder collections and reinstatement fees and to improve the trauma care network by raising the trauma center levels of two facilities in southeast Georgia.
  • $3,776,301 restoration to Public Health Formula Grants to counties.

We pride ourselves in being a fiscally conservative body, and I am in support of cost saving expenditures overall while making sure we are allocating your hard-earned tax dollars in a way that funds vitally important programs in Georgia. Ideally, we’d like to put as many dollars back in your pocket as possible.

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