Legislative Notebook: Senate prepares Staton honor

March 4, 2014 

Cecil Staton

The state Senate is sending off their retiring colleague, Cecil Staton, R-Macon, with a resolution commending him for his decade in office.

“Known for his intelligence, diligence and deep desire for the betterment of the state, Sen. Staton has led the charge on critical issues such as voter identification reform, strengthening Georgia’s trauma care networks, and strengthening higher education across the state,” reads part of Senate Resolution 1111.

The measure, brought by Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, and GOP leadership on Monday, will be heard on the Senate floor in the coming days.

House bypasses special car tax bill

For yet another year, the state Legislature is declining to let go of more of the $35 people pay for the special car tags that promote everything from colleges to wildlife to pet spaying and neutering.

For most tag renewals, $25 goes into the state’s general bank account, and the remaining $10 goes to the sponsoring foundation or nonprofit, like the Mercer scholarship fund for tags that show Toby the bear.

A bill to reverse the split, channeling the $25 to the foundations after five years, passed the House Motor Vehicles Committee, but despite last-minute efforts by House Bill 180 author state Rep. Willie Talton, R-Warner Robins, it never got called to the House floor before Monday’s midnight deadline for passage through the chamber.

Peach tax OK for now, but ...

A bill that retroactively legalizes a sales tax agreement among Peach, Fort Valley and Byron is on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk, awaiting his signature.

House Bill 719 remedies Peach and nearly three dozen other counties that passed sales taxes and sought judicial arbitration to decide how to divide the tax between incorporated and unincorporated areas. The state Supreme Court ruled that process unconstitutional, saying judges can’t be involved in setting taxes.

The bill is a fix only good until the tax expires. The Legislature must still rewrite the law on city and county local option sales taxes to remove judges from the process.

The state Senate on Monday voted 46 to 1 to agree with the House bill by state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville.

Speeding cell towers

A year-and-a-half fight appears finished with Senate passage of a bill to speed and ease approval of cell towers.

Counties and cities will have 150 days to reject any cell tower application. Otherwise, it’s considered approved. It also caps the fees local governments can charge to review applications at $500.

It’s good for business, said Senate sponsor Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, ahead of the 48 to 1 vote on House Bill 176.

Telecommunications companies and local governments have already wrangled the compromise bill through the House. It’s now on the governor’s desk.

-- Maggie Lee

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