Post Session Recap #2

Over the next few weeks we will continue looking at specific bills which helped accomplish our caucus agenda focused on improving our economy, creating jobs for Georgians, and making Georgia safer for our children.  One of our primary objectives this year was to pass legislation that encouraged fiscal responsibility. To accomplish this task, we focused on several bills including Zero Based Budgeting, the Georgia Government Accountability Act, a Balanced Budget Amendment and the bill we discussed last week which increases the transparency of SPLOST projects.

This session marked the second time the General Assembly has sent a Zero Based Budgeting bill to the governor. Senate Bill 33 moves Georgia’s state government to a system of zero-based budgeting. By giving the General Assembly valuable tools to identify and eliminate wasteful spending, we can be better stewards of your money.

Under Georgia’s current system of budgeting, expenditures approved in prior years are routinely rolled over into the next year’s budget under a single line-item identified only as “continuation.” A waste reduction system, such as Zero Based Budgeting, requires each agency’s budget to be rebuilt from scratch at least once every ten years. By having state agencies and departments justify their spending, we can identify areas where ineffective or wasteful spending is hidden and begin tightening the belt to make the most of each dollar spent.

With Zero Based Budgeting, at least once every ten years each agency would start from zero, hence the name. At that point, program managers and departments would have to justify all contracts, personnel, etc.  This is done at varying time intervals.  All expenditures are reviewed and approved by the General Assembly. In the end, if it can’t be explained and justified we shouldn’t invest taxpayer dollars in the program.

Another bill which promotes fiscal responsibility is the Georgia Government Accountability Act. Also known as “sunset legislation”, HB 456 calls for the creation of a joint committee which will be tasked with assessing the efficiency of state agencies. Although the committee would have no authority over the agencies it examines, it will make recommendations as to whether the agencies should be privatized, consolidated, eliminated, or remain unchanged. This bill will play a vital role in reducing unnecessary spending and inefficiency in the future.

Additionally, the Senate supported Senate Resolution 673 which petitions the United States Congress to call a convention for the purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The resolution recommends that the total of all federal appropriations made by Congress for any fiscal year may not exceed the total of all estimated federal revenue for that fiscal year.  An exception would be made during the state of a national emergency.

Currently, every state except for Vermont has constitutional requirements for a balanced budget. While the Georgia Constitution permits the General Assembly to draft legislation, it requires us to adopt a balanced budget. With the national deficit spiraling out of control, 18 states have joined together in petitioning Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment to require balanced federal budgets each year. The support of 15 more states is needed to force Congress to call a convention.  If the proposed amendment is passed by the Constitutional Convention, three fourths of the states must then ratify it before the Constitution is amended.

Another issue we felt necessary to address this year is metal theft. Due in part to ongoing hard economic times, Georgia continues to be plagued by metal thefts across the state. The Georgia Legislature has made multiple attempts over the past few years to address this growing problem. House Bill 872 addresses secondary metal thefts, especially copper, and the policies that relate to the handling of metals by recyclers.  The bill prohibits cash payments for purchases of regulated metals, requires permits for fixed site recycling centers, and creates an electronic database to maintain records from regulated metals sellers, purchasers, and transactions. Additionally, the bill institutes new policies regarding scrap vehicles.  Statements affirming the valid ownership of vehicles will now be a requirement in scrap transactions and transaction records of these vehicles must be provided to the State within two days of the transaction. We hope that this new framework for addressing and preventing metal theft will provide relief to those who have been affected by this serious issue.

As always, it is a privilege to serve you. I hope that you find value in reading about the issues that affect you and Georgians across this great state. I am eager to hear from you about how our state can continue to make fiscal responsibility a priority. How do you feel we can be the best stewards of your tax dollars? Please continue to share with me your ideas of how we can encourage greater governmental responsibility and increase our personal liberty.  Together, we can make our state a place that families and businesses will come to in order to grow and thrive.

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  • © 2012 by
    Senator Bill Heath
    E-Mail: billheath@billheath.net

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