Legislative Notebook: Special car tag cash headed to sponsors

February 19, 2014 

Millions more of the dollars that Georgians pay to get special car tags will go to the sponsoring charity or agency, under a bill dusted off by state Rep. Willie Talton, R-Warner Robins, and passed through committee on Wednesday.

Not immediately of course, but by 2020, sponsoring organizations would get $25 of every $35 spent on a specialty car tag renewal, like the hummingbird tag for the Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife conservation programs or the tags with college logos for educational endowments. Today, sponsors get $10, and the state puts the rest in its general bank account.

“When Georgia had a downfall in the economy,” Talton said, “we passed a law to put the money in the general fund. ... What I’m asking to do is reverse that.”

All 68 special car tags are covered in his House Bill 180, which he filed last year but never got a hearing on until now.

In 2021, the bill would be worth a new $5.4 million, according to the official nonpartisan estimate from the state auditor.

Talton’s bill is now in the Rules Committee. It beat out HB 730, by neighboring state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, which would make the change immediately but only for wildlife tags. The House Motor Vehicles Committee skipped a vote on Epps’ bill and unanimously approved Talton’s.

Four years for GMC collegians

Georgia Military College is a step closer to offering a four-year degree, the bachelor of applied science in management.

The two-year junior college asked the Legislature for permission to expand on the grounds that GMC could provide more services to its unique student body.

The majority of students aren’t cadets: they’re commuters. And it’s an open campus, meaning anyone can enroll, regardless of grades. So it attracts a lot of people who might not have planned for college and need to take advantage of GMC’s strong remedial classes.

The college overcame objections from the Georgia Board of Regents by promising not to offer its four-year degree in cases where public universities offer something similar.

House Bill 763, by state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, was unanimously approved by the House Higher Education Committee on Tuesday and now moves to the Rules Committee.

Area judiciary drops parties

Dodge County’s chief magistrate, coroner and probate judge would run for election minus party affiliation, under a trio of bills in the state House. Another does the same for the Dooly County probate judge.

They’re the latest in an ongoing shift of judicial offices away from partisan elections.

House Bills 1030, 1031 and 1032 by state Rep. Jimmy Pruett, R-Eastman, and 1029 by state Rep. Patty Bentley, D-Reynolds, make the changes. Like similar bills, they are likely to become law with no opposition.

House OKs bigger HOPE Grants

Students who achieve a 3.5 grade point average in Georgia’s technical colleges should be eligible for a HOPE Grant that pays full tuition, according to the Georgia House.

By a 172-2 vote on Wednesday, House members approved a bill to do that. It will affect about 20 percent of technical college students statewide at a cost of $7 million, said House Bill 697 author state Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna.

She called it a wise investment.

Right now, all HOPE-qualified students equally split the sum that comes in from the lottery, even if it doesn’t cover full tuition.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

-- Maggie Lee

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