Payne bills address property taxes, electric vehicles

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Jan. 18—As of Jan. 16, more than a dozen bills sponsored by District 54 state Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, have seen some movement under the Gold Dome in Atlanta.

On Jan. 12, Senate Bill 358 made it to a Senate hopper.

The bill, sponsored by 12 Republican lawmakers, would remove the secretary of state from the State Election Board and require the official to cooperate with certain investigations.

A proposed revision to Georgia code would make the State Election Board responsible for investigating or authorizing the secretary of state to investigate "when necessary or advisable the administration of primary and election laws by the secretary of state and local election officials and frauds and irregularities in primaries and elections and to report violations of the primary and election laws either to the attorney general or the appropriate district attorney, who shall be responsible for further investigation."

One day earlier, Senate Bill 349 was sent to the Senate Finance Committee.

The latest iteration of the bill, alternately known as the Saves Our Homes Act, runs 18 pages.

Among other things, the legislation would rewrite the required text included on notices of property tax increases.

"In those instances in which the recommending authority or levying authority proposes to establish a general maintenance and operation millage rate which would require increases beyond the previous year's millage rate," the proposed revision reads, "the recommending authority or levying authority shall advertise its intent to do so and shall conduct at least three public hearings thereon, at least one of which shall commence between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., inclusive, on a business weekday."

The current code section text specifies the roll back and not the previous year's millage rate in the above passage.

The bill would also revise the contents included in annual notices of assessment.

As proposed, the amount of the previous assessment, the amount of the current assessment and the year for which a new assessment is applicable would be removed. In its place would be "a brief description of the assessed property broken down into real and personal property classifications, the fair market value of property of the taxpayer subject to taxation for the prior year and the current year (and) a list of all ad valorem tax exemptions that have been granted for and are applicable to the current tax year."

Another proposed change pertains to procedures and processes for appeals.

"If neither the taxpayer nor his or her authorized agent or representative attends a properly scheduled settlement conference or does not confer with the board of tax assessors in good faith on the matter," the revision reads, "then such taxpayer shall not receive the benefits of any temporary reduction in the amount of taxes due pending the outcome of the appeal and shall be not awarded attorney's fees or costs of litigation in connection with the appeal to the superior court."

Perhaps the most significant proposed revision pertains to ad valorem taxes, with the most recent text of the bill calling for a new statewide homestead exemption — "which exempts the amount by which the current year assessed value of a homestead exceeds its base year assessed value, provided that such base year assessed value is subject to annual increases of up to 3%" — be included as a ballot item in the November 2024 general election.

"The exemption granted by subsection (b) of this code section shall apply to all taxable years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2025," the SB 349 text reads.

Payne is also a backer of Senate Resolution 82, sponsored by 23 Republicans and two Democrats.

The proposal would amend Georgia's Constitution "so as to authorize the tax commissioner, subject to local governing authority approval, to waive certain delinquent ad valorem property taxes, penalty and interest for the purpose of placing non-revenue generating and tax delinquent property back to effective utilization status."

SR 82 was Senate recommitted on Jan. 8.

"Each waiver of city and, if applicable, independent school district taxes, penalty and interest under this subparagraph shall require a resolution adopted by such city governing authority for a specific parcel or parcels of real property or for personal property," the latest version of the bill text reads.

Also Senate recommitted on Jan. 8 was Senate Bill 98.

Sponsored by 11 Republicans, the bill would "prohibit local board of education members from discussing individual personnel matters with school officials except under certain circumstances provided by law."

The most recent version of the bill text indicates that "the mere referral of a personnel matter to the local school superintendent shall not be prohibited."

Senate Bill 43 was likewise recommitted on Jan. 8.

Sponsored by three Republicans and three Democrats, the bill would make changes to the Georgia State Indemnification Fund "so as to provide that death by suicide of a public safety officer in certain instances be considered a death in the line of duty."

The latest text of the bill indicates that such suicides would only be considered "line of duty" deaths if they occur within 30 days of an individual's last day on duty.

Yet another piece of legislation recommitted on Jan. 8 was Senate Bill 260.

Sponsored by 14 Republicans, the bill would "authorize the establishment of a statewide electric vehicle manufacturing program for the promotion of electric vehicle and component manufacturing" in Georgia.

The bill is alternately known as the Georgia Electric Vehicle Future Act.

Among other things, the bill would establish a Georgia Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Commission, which would forward recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly.

That commission would be comprised of the state's economic development commissioner, the planning director for the Georgia Department of Transportation, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia and the commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.

Several governor appointees — including a cooperative utility provider and representatives from electric vehicle manufacturers actually producing products in Georgia — would round out the commission ranks.

"Members of the commission who are state officials or employees shall receive no compensation for their service on the commission but may be reimbursed for expenses incurred by them in the performance of their duties as members of the commission," the latest version of the bill text indicates. "The commissioner of economic development shall be authorized to promulgate any rules and regulations necessary to implement and administer the provisions of this code section to further promote the marketing of this state to the EV industry for future investment."

Also Senate recommitted on Jan. 8 was Senate Bill 123.

Sponsored by five Republicans and three Democrats, the legislation would require "the state-funded administration of a nationally recognized career and college readiness assessment."

The bill would impact "each public school and local school system" with 11th- and 12th-grade students, as well as the Department of Juvenile Justice.

"The Department of Education shall coordinate with local school superintendents and school principals, or their equivalent, regarding the timing of the administration of the assessments," the latest iteration of the bill text states.

The assessment itself is described as a "multiple-aptitude battery assessment that measures developed abilities and helps predict future academic and occupational success in the military."

The bill text indicates that students would be able to opt out of the assessment with parent or guardian approval.