State Representative Tom McCall spoke to members of the county’s Republican Party Feb. 19 at the county complex in Danielsville about issues state lawmakers are dealing with during this legislative session.
McCall spoke of current bills being considered, including those on immigration, rewriting the tax code, where HOPE funding is headed and re-apportionment.
McCall said he believes some HOPE items may be defunded, while pre-k and kindergarten through 12th grade funding may be increased. He said the Governor Nathan Deal’s recommendations were a well-kept secret that weren’t due to be unveiled until Tuesday (Feb. 22).
“HOPE is a promise we made to kids that have a 3.0 or above average,” McCall said.
On college funding, he said he expects there to be cut-backs on tuition payments.
“Lottery sales are flat right now,” he said. “Though we’re still making those big pay-outs here in Georgia.”
McCall also spoke about HB-87, an “Arizona-style” bill designed to toughen the state’s position on illegal immigration, saying that the “e-verify” process portion of the bill that requires businesses to confirm whether new hires are legal or not will be lengthy and burdensome, particularly to small businesses.
He pointed out that the legislation, if it were approved, does not cover current employees or contract employees, only those new hires who will receive W-2 forms. He also pointed out that the bill calls for those who are caught transporting “seven or more” illegal workers in their vehicle can be charged with a felony and have their vehicles confiscated. Likewise, if an illegal immigrant is found living on a landlord’s property with a legal immigrant, the landlord must prove that he/she did not know his tenant was harboring someone illegal. McCall said while he does not support illegal immigration, he does not want to see legislation that will harm business, particularly agricultural, in the state.
“We have to do something,” McCall said. “But we don’t want it to shut down the economy of Georgia.”
As for overhauling the state’s tax code, which will charge sales tax on some services now exempt from taxes, while lowering the state’s income tax in phases, McCall said the plan looks “pretty good for agriculture.” He said new sales taxes on services like haircuts, shoe repair, lawn care, even on-line dating, will purportedly generate $250 million in revenue for the state.
“I think agriculture will come out good,” McCall said.
On re-apportionment, McCall pointed out that according to the 2010 Census, Georgia’s population has increased from 8.5 million to 9.5 – 10 million people, with one-half that population living in the 16-county metro-Atlanta area.
McCall said representation will be lost in areas outside Atlanta.
“After re-apportionment, country folks won’t have as much say-so,” he said. He did say at least one representative will likely be picked up in a district northeast of Atlanta.
But McCall pointed out that he feels part of a legislator’s job is not just to vote on laws, but to “stop junk” before it comes through in a bill.
“(In fact) we need to spend time repealing a lot of stuff that we’ve already passed,” he said.
Georgia Republicans are considering shortening the state’s early voting period from 45 to 21 days to make the process cheaper on local governments and more convenient, and McCall supports this.
“Counties can’t afford it,” McCall said of the expense of the maintaining polling places for 45 days. He said the bill includes a provision for at least one Saturday for early voting.
McCall said things are tough this year, he expects some “major hurting cuts” to come in the state budget for 2012.