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From the Desk of Rep. Jim Cole – Legislative Update as of March 30

Dear Friend: This week proved to be another busy one for the House of Representatives. We voted on legislation that would provide property tax relief to our homeowners for a second time. We also sent a batch of bills to the Governor for his consideration. Earlier this year, we voted to approve Senate Bill 83, which would have doubled the homestead exemption from $2000 to $4000, but it failed along a party line vote. This week it was reconsidered and came back up for a vote, but again fell short of the super-majority requirement. Unfortunately, House Democrats blocked this bill’s approval again. If passed, it would have been put before the voters to provide greater tax relief to our homeowners during these difficult economic times. After months of committee meetings and hearings, several bills made it through the General Assembly and to the Governor’s desk this week. If signed by Governor Perdue, these bills will become law. Some of the bills awaiting the Governor’s signature include House Bills 233, 149, and 160 as well as Senate Bill 13. House Bill 233 puts a moratorium on property assessment increases for the next two years. Under this freeze, property assessments in Georgia will not rise above their current value for this period of time, unless the property is improved or rezoned. We all know that under the current economic conditions, property values should not go up and this legislation protects the homeowner from undue increases. Senate Bill 13 gives prosecutors in Georgia the option to seek life without parole convictions for serious criminal offenses. Under current law, the only way a prosecutor can secure a life without parole conviction is to seek the death penalty. Death penalty trials are usually very costly and take longer to complete at a greater expense to our taxpayers. Often times, prosecutors seek the death penalty just to secure the life without parole conviction. This change in law will allow prosecutors to seek this type of conviction directly without going for the death penalty. It will also ensure that the people who need to be locked up for the rest of their life will be sentenced quicker and reduce the cost of such trials. House Bill 149 allows 11th and 12th grade public school students to attend a college or technical school to complete high school while receiving credit towards a higher degree. This bill, commonly called the “Move on When Ready” Act, gives public school students and their families more options to fit their individual educational needs. By allowing students to choose courses that fit their personal life goals, we can foster the educational interest students need to succeed. House Bill 160 imposes an additional $200 fine on “super speeders.” This bill defines a super speeder as a driver who goes 85 miles per hour or faster on a highway, and 75 miles or faster on a two-lane road. Revenues raised through these fines will help pay for a statewide trauma care network so that Georgians can get the critical care they expect in the event of an emergency. As the 2009 Session comes to an end, many House and Senate bills are now closer to becoming law. Next Friday will be the final day of this session, making it more important than ever that I hear from you. The legislation passed next week may directly affect you and your family. I was elected to represent you, and for that reason welcome your emails and phone calls. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at my Capitol office @ 404-651-7737 or via e-mail I look forward to hearing from you soon. Representative Jim Cole

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