Week Ahead: TSPLOST funds spark debate

ATLANTA -- The Georgia General Assembly returns to action this week with a looming debate over last year’s statewide TSPLOST voting.

The Roads & Bridges Subcommittee of the Senate Transportation Committee considers SB 73 that would remove the penalty for local governments in regions that did not pass last summer’s transportation sales tax.

“Taxing any one part of Georgia simply because they did not pass a tax increase is un-American”, said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, sponsor of SB 73.

Legislators from Augusta and the other two regions that did pass the tax are expected to oppose the bill because voters in their districts actually agreed to pay more tax for such improvements.

Transportation will also be the issue when members of the House and Senate meet from congressional districts 9, 10 and 14 to elect members to the State Transportation Board that oversees the Department of Transportation. District 10, which stretches toward Athens includes about 11,000 voters in Columbia County.

Elsewhere, the House takes up a pair of education bills with the full House voting on House Bill 115 that requires local boards of education to notify the state within three days of being warned their accreditation is at risk. HB116 requires the Department of Education to transfer any gifts it receives to a separate foundation.

House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal predicted some debate over the bills.

“Those kinds of things are always kind of emotional from all sides of that, whether the parents or the public education workers,” said O’Neal, R-Bonaire.

Most of the action, though during the week takes place in committees. The House appropriations subcommittees are still hearing from agency heads about next year’s budget, and the Judiciary Committee begins consideration of the juvenile-justice reform package Thursday.

A subcommittee of a different House Judiciary committee holds a hearing Tuesday morning on racial profiling by police. But it won’t vote on the bill.

The Rules Committee is expected to vote on a revised ethics bill.

“Hopefully, we’ll give a renaissance to public trust in the government with that,” O’Neal said.

Across the hall on the Senate floor Monday is a vote on Senate Bill 66 by Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, that boosts penalties for contempt of court.

The appropriations subcommittees are winding up work on the mid-year budget adjustment that the House passed Friday.

In a lighter moment, lawmakers will have lunch with the Farm Bureau on Tuesday. They’ll recess Thursday afternoon and Friday so they can get home to celebrate Valentine’s Day with loved ones.

Gradual start forecast for Augusta-area transportation sales tax projects
Columbia County leaders share accomplishments, challenges, goals
Analysis: TSPLOST vote shows Georgia's great divide

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