Published on April 15th, 2015 |0
Sen. Hunter Hill recaps ’15 Legislature for Buckhead 50 Club
“Georgia is doing well,” he told the group of about 50 mostly senior Buckhead residents who are members of the oldest club in Buckhead and meet monthly at the American Legion Post lodge off Powers Ferry Road at Chastain Park. Thursday night, Hill will repeat much of what he said at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting.
“Overall, I am pleased with the outcome of this session,” a casual Hill said. “We created beneficial laws that will make Georgia a better state today and in the future.”
Hill spoke about one of the key priorities of the 40-day legislative session, which was transportation. “I really engaged on that issue this year. Pointing out that transportation needs are funded from sales taxes, Hill said, “We should appropriate more money in the budget rather than raise the gas tax. Instead we did raise the gas tax.”
This year Hill was put on the Appropriations Committee, “and I have worked hard to prioritize transportation in our budget this year,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I found opposition to my plan to allocate more dollars toward transportation,” Hill explained. “The influence within the capitol to raise a dedicated funding source won the day. The good news is that we will have more money for transportation in the future.”
Hill told the group, “Transportation should be prioritized and addressed just like we do with education, healthcare and every other aspect of the state budget.” Education is over 53 percent of the budget, and health care related expenditures are 22 percent. Transportation is 4% of the state budget.
“Experts say transportation funding should be around 8-12 percent every year, and that would require us to make some difficult decisions,” stated Hill. “With that said, Georgia desperately needed revenues for this important function, so while I fought against raising taxes and lost the argument, Georgia will have funds for transportation.”
In response to a question, Hill said he anticipates taxing of alternative fuel vehicles and more tolls on Georgia roads to help fund transportation needs.
Hill also spoke of some of the pieces of legislation he authored, one of which was Senate Bill 59 dealing with public-private partnerships. “This bill passed on the 40th day after a great deal of negotiation and three years of work,” he said. “It will establish a guidelines for cities, counties and state agencies regarding best practices for them to engage in public private partnerships.”
Another bill he authored was Senate Bill 63: The Beer Jobs Bill. “It will allow for Georgia Breweries to sell a tour and for the customer to drink up to 36 ounces of their beer on site. It will also allow for that same visitor to take a ‘souvenir’ of up to 72 ounces of beer to go,” Hill explained. In the House, the distilleries were added as well. They can also sell a tour and offer up to three half-ounce samples and a souvenir 750 ML bottle to go.
“This bill was a compromise that met my goal of allowing these small businesses to increase their revenues as they grow by lessening some of the burdensome laws impeding that growth,” Hill pointed out.
Hill also authored Senate Bill 92 which would create education savings accounts (ESA). “This bill would allow families that are attending public school (or about to enter first grade or kindergarten) to apply for an ESA if their public school is not meeting their needs,” Hill explained.
If approved, the student will get an ESA with the state portion of money that would have gone to the public school on behalf of that child, and the family can use those funds at a private school, home school, or other learning service.
“Unfortunately, this bill did not even get a hearing this session,” Hill reported. “There are many in government who don’t believe that tax dollars should follow students, but rather stay in that failing school. I disagree with that notion and will keep working for Georgia’s students.”
Hill also discussed his Senate Bill 152, dealing with teachers’ retirement and compensation. He pointed out the bill would offer future teachers a 401k as opposed to a Defined Benefit or pension.
“Teacher compensation is so very important to recruiting and retaining the best teachers for our children. Ensuring that we compensate our teachers
well for the value they bring to our students every day is essential to this process,” he stated.
“We are now recruiting for teaching talent not only against other states but also the private sector and we need to offer modern and competitive compensation packages to recruit the best and brightest,” Hill explained. “Restructuring teacher compensation includes offering new teachers a portable retirement plan.”
The bill was approved for an actuarial study regarding the fiscal impact to the state.
As a member of the Finance, Judiciary Non-Civil, Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committees, Hill was involved in numerous other issues and bills, but these were the handful he mentioned to the Buckhead 50 Club members.
On Thursday night (April 16), Hill will one of three members of the Georgia Legislature on the program of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods to talk about some of the bills they introduced, sponsored and/or supported, including the School Opportunity District (“OSD”), the billion dollar transportation bill, the religious freedom act and more.
Joining Hill on the BCN program are Rep. Beth Beskin, who represents House District 54 which includes most of Buckhead. She is on the Education, Judiciary and State Planning & Community Affairs committees.
Also speaking on the program will be Rep. Margaret Kaiser, who represents District 59 which encompasses much of East Atlanta. She serves on the Education committee as well as three others. Rep. Kaiser recently announced her campaign to run for Mayor of Atlanta in 2017.
The BCN meets from 6:45-8:45 p.m. in room 2209 of Peachtree Presbyterian Church, 3434 Roswell Road in Buckhead. The meetings are open to the public.