Fearing the fractional SPLOST legislation he’s wanted for the last few years was at risk of not passing again this session, county Chairman Tim Lee paid a visit to the Capitol on Tuesday to make some noise.
At issue is a bill by state Rep. John Carson (R-northeast Cobb) that would allow counties and cities to collect a sales tax of less than 1 cent per dollar spent.
The House passed HB 153 after a revote earlier in the session and the Senate approved it last week with an amendment by the Senate Finance Committee chaired by state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb). That amendment would allow for multiple special purpose local option sales taxes to be levied at the same time, provided they add up to no more than 1 percent.
But when the Senate’s amended version returned to the House, Carson objected.
Lee said since resistance to the fractional SPLOST option was strongest in the House, Carson didn’t want to risk another vote in that chamber.
“I think Carson, the first time he brought it forward it lost in the House and he had to get it reconsidered and voted on again,” Lee said. “He just didn’t want to take the chance of going back for another vote. I don’t think he really cared about the amendment, the process was just going to be challenging for him.”
Since Thursday is the last day of the session, Lee drove down to the Capitol to urge Hill to see Carson’s original bill safely through the Senate.
“I told him it was my belief if it went back to the House for a vote, it would not get either considered or through and we’d lose another year, and is there another alternative of passing what’s currently been approved by the House, and would you please consider that, so that’s where we left it,” Lee said.
The bill has been the target of the Georgia Municipal Association, which represents cities. City advocates oppose the bill because they want the full 1 cent per dollar a SPLOST collects and nothing less, critics say.
Hill said Tuesday night he agreed to pass Carson’s bill without the amendment on Thursday.
“The clock is running out, and to make additional changes requires the House and Senate to go back and forth to agree to certain changes, and that becomes challenging in the last few hours of the legislative session,” Hill said.
Hill’s abortion bill passes
Hill scored a victory Tuesday when both the House and Senate voted in favor of his bill prohibiting teachers and other state workers from having an abortion paid for under the state health benefit plan.
SB 98 now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal to be signed into law or vetoed.
“I think it’s good for the people of this state that their taxpayer money is protected from paying for abortions,” Hill said. “We have not changed any provision in the abortion law, we just joined with about 24 other states to declare that their taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions in this state.”
State employees have the right to pay for an abortion if they choose, they just have to pay for it out of their own pocket, Hill said.
“Except for protecting the life of the mother we’re prohibiting the use of taxpayer money to perform abortions in the state,” he said.
Deal used his executive power to remove abortion coverage from the state health benefit plan, but Hill is trying to put it into state law so that if a Democrat is elected governor, the Democrat couldn’t put the option back in the plan.
Between 2010 and Jan. 1, when Deal’s change took effect, about 2,000 abortions were paid for by the state plan, Hill said.
State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) has opposed the bill because it doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest victims. Evans has used the example of a baby that was brain dead or dead in the womb.
“If a woman on a state health benefit plan faces this difficult situation, but cannot afford to pay for an abortion without her insurance coverage, she will be forced to carry the baby to term even though the baby has already passed away,” she said.
But Hill said the bill includes a medical emergency exemption that would cover that scenario.
“Removing a dead baby is not considered an abortion under the law because the baby’s already died,” he said.