New Laws Take Effect July 1, 2013
By: Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen)
Each January, the Legislature begins tackling some of the most important issues facing Georgians. This year was no different. We were asked to find a way to fill a very large anticipated Medicaid shortfall, evaluate the ethical behavior of elected officials, do more with less in the state budget, revamp the state’s juvenile justice system, clarify points from 2012’s tax code overhaul and strengthen Georgia’s boating laws—among many other items on the agenda. While many of these laws have already been signed by the Governor and have already gone into effect, some will begin taking effect on July 1, 2013.
As we discussed last week, I always err on the side of caution when casting my vote in the Senate Chamber. We passed several hundred bills this session, and even though many had good intentions, I did not vote for every bill. When casting my vote, I always have you, the constituents of the 31st District in mind, and consider it my responsibility to advance legislation that won’t bury Georgia businesses and families in excessive regulations and unnecessary government policies. When it comes to legislating, sometimes less is more. It is not good policy to create laws simply for the sake of lawmaking. We must find the proper balance between policy and politics.
Government is here to provide for the benefit of private life, not burden people with excessive regulations and overarching government policies. With roughly 130 bills taking effect on July 1, 2013, I’d like to mention a few worth noting:
SB 87 repeals the Roadside Markets Incentive Program. Signed into law in 1967, this program was never taken advantage of by Georgia citizens, and therefore, the legislature eliminated these unnecessary code sections from Georgia law. This is an outstanding example of efficient government and something that I’d like to see more of in the future.
SB 145 expands the definition of “Agritourism” by allowing farm weddings on properties designated under the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment Program (CUVA). The 31st Senate District enjoys an abundance of farm land and other areas that are premier destinations for weddings. In fact, many of you may have gotten married or know someone who said “I Do” at one of our district’s beautiful farms. Prior to this legislation, facilities wishing to hold weddings and other events were at risk of losing their preferential tax treatment under CUVA. This bill simply requires these properties to be registered by CUVA for at least one year prior to marketing their site for weddings. There is no reason why weddings can’t be held on CUVA properties. These events bring tax dollars into the local economy by benefiting local mom and pop restaurants, stores and businesses.
SB 140 allows certain auto services and repairs to be offered as an extended warranty, and therefore, act as a form of property insurance. While this was up for debate on the Senate floor, I carefully considered every argument surrounding this legislation. After much thought and consideration, I decided not to vote for this measure. This is a situation where I feel it’s best to allow the free market to work and allow consumers to take personal responsibility for their own purchasing decisions. What is the sense in creating more regulations? Let’s allow consumers to buy the products and services they desire and take government out of it.
SB 236 requires health insurers to provide an estimate explaining the amount or percentage of any premium increase that can be directly attributed to the Affordable Care Act. Instead of considering actions that will further sink our nation into debt, we should be looking at programs that not only mitigate the damage already done by Obamacare, but also provide free market solutions that meet Georgians’ health care needs. The passage of this legislation shows that we’re taking positive steps to show the numbers and negative impact hiding behind the feel-good and hollow rhetoric of Obama’s not-so affordable health care act. SB 236 will give Georgians a sobering look at the cost of federal health care mandates. Georgians will now receive notices detailing exactly how much of a premium increase is the direct result of Obamacare – this extends to state employees who are a part of the State Health Benefit Plan.
HB 59 requires alarm monitoring companies to contact the home owner or tenant prior to notifying law enforcement. Like many of you reading this column, I live in rural Georgia and the closest law enforcement official may be miles away. In the event of an emergency, it’s important not to waste precious time waiting on alarm verification. This bill adds another layer of law that may unintentionally hinder a family’s ability to receive an expedient response to an emergency.
If you have any additional questions about legislation going into effect on July 1, 2013, please don’t hesitate to contact my office or visit www.legis.ga.gov. My door is always open and your feedback is invaluable to the legislative process.