Your Georgia Desk:
From Senator Bill Heath
Gold Dome Update: Week 2
The 2014 legislative year is now more than 20 percent complete. In the first two weeks since we gaveled in, things are pretty quiet around the state capitol. The pressing question, however, is this: Is a lightning fast legislative session a good thing?
On the surface, there are obvious financial benefits. For every day we shorten the session, we save thousands of dollars for the taxpayers. Frankly, the only thing this body is required to do each year is pass a balanced budget. After that, it is all downhill.
I’m all for handling the issues of the people, but good governance doesn’t require the passage of hundreds of bills each session. As a strong proponent of limited government, I feel it is the legislature’s duty to only support measures that reduce government’s thumbprint on our daily lives and allow the private sector to thrive.
Before placing my stamp of approval on any bill or resolution, it is important to determine whether a particular piece of legislation upholds constitutional principles and allows Georgians the autonomy to live their lives with limited government interference. That determination doesn’t always come easily.
Senate Bill 297 achieved approval Friday. This legislation corrects language from last session’s hastily-adopted ethics bill. Last year, the public demanded changes to how government officials conduct business under the gold dome, and I voted for the measure; however, it was quickly passed and did not achieve its original intent. Under the legislation passed this week, candidates running for municipal office may file a declaration of intent exempting them from public disclosure if they promise to accept and spend less than $2,500.
During my conversations with citizens within the district as well as citizens throughout the state, the people of Georgia continue to send a resounding message that they desire to see more transparency from government officials. Why would we require a greater level of accountability from state officials and less from our locally-elected leaders? Regardless of the public office held, the people have a vested interest and right to know who iscontributing to campaigns.
Most people assume that whoever is providing the money is directly influencing the decision making process. However, if it is the case, we should rethink electing them to state or local office. Elected officials should never be motivated by the paper trail of money, but principles, values and the best interests of the people they serve. Furthermore, it stands to reason that smaller contributions would have greater influence in lower cost races such as municipal races.
On Thursday of this week, I introduced legislation to propose a Constitutional amendment to eliminate the state’s ability to collect ad valorem taxes. I look forward to sharing a closer and more in-depth look at this bill in my upcoming columns.
As we previously discussed, the Georgia General Assembly is on pace to finish its business at the state capitol by mid-March. House Resolution 1108 was adopted Thursday to set the legislative calendar through legislative Day 24 on February 18, 2014. To view the legislative calendar you may visithttp://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/137807.pdf.
It is an honor to serve you at the State Capitol, and I look forward to keeping you up-to-date on the legislative process. For more information regarding a specific piece of legislation, or to view a list of all legislative action this week, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at http://www.legis.ga.gov.