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April 2024 Monthly Meeting Recap

Reprint courtesy of our friends at The Hartwell Sun! Pages 1A and 8A of the 4/18/24 edition.

On Monday evening, April 15, the Hart County Property Owners Association (HCPOA) hosted Representative Alan Powell following his return from Atlanta upon the conclusion of the 2024 Georgia Legislative Session. Rep. Powell provided an overview of a myriad of both passed and unpassed bills, with emphasis on bills affecting property owners.

“We are not a political organization, but we do have a lot of influence, and of course our primary concern is with taxes,” HCPOA president Lowell Macher said. “We can give some thoughts…as property owners in Hart County.”

Rep. Powell (District 33) began by commenting on the [state] budget. He stated that the fiscal year 2025 budget is $36 billion, with a $16 billion surplus–the latter figure being a feat he takes pride in.

“I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of the state. I never thought we’d have this kind of a surplus…This goes back historically in our state to the fact that we have a policy dictated by your constitution that says we don’t borrow money…[except for] bonded debt and that’s limited,” Rep. Powell said.

In FY25, pay raises for most state employees will increase 4%, with $2,500 pay raises for teachers and $3,000 for law enforcement officers. With House Bill 1015, the legislature also dropped the income tax from 5.49% to 5.39%, keeping with the yearly tradition to decrease it. Additionally, child tax credits will increase from $3,000 to $4,000.

Rep. Powell noted four issues that will be on November’s ballot: state homestead exemptions which, if ratified, would change homestead exemptions from $2,000 to $4,000; creating statewide tax courts, so that citizens will not have to rely solely on local superior courts or bureaucracy when facing tax issues; tangible personal property tax raised from $7,500 to $20,000; and freezing the assessed value of properties, to only be raised annually by the CPI Index (the last being a measure Rep. Powell said he was “unusually proud of"). If the fourth item is passed, there will be a second Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) strictly for the relief of property taxes.

An additional piece of legislation especially relevant to Hart County related to boating insurance. This insurance was difficult to obtain due to litigation filed against boat rental businesses (liveries). Georgia was one of three states that employed vicarious liability, dictating that those who own and lease the boat are liable for any accidents. Under new legislation just passed–a Senate substitute of HB 994–liveries are offered protection if the individual renting the boat operates it negligently, resulting in injuries (provided that the livery takes certain precautions such as ensuring the renter is a “reasonably safe operator”).

Through an amended version of HB 301, which the state House passed last year, the legislature also passed a bill stating that sanctuary cities will lose state funding. (This was partly in response to the murder of Laken Riley, a nursing student in Athens. The accused killer, an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela, has not yet gone to trial.)

Rep. Powell also touched on HB 246, which prohibits ownership of land in Georgia by North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran; their citizens; and any of their companies.

The legislature also implemented a “slew” of laws related to election reform, including that election officials and poll watchers must be United States citizens; it is more difficult to challenge another voter if one suspects they are not registered, due to probable cause; ballots will be watermarked according to HB 976; and chain of custody is implemented, meaning that any ballots in a secure container must be sealed (HB 17). Additionally, HB 894 provided that QR codes on ballots are eliminated so that ballots must be counted by their text, not by a machine code.

Rep. Powell’s visit to the HCPOA proved a prime opportunity for citizens to hear about legislation not only related to property ownership, but also regarding the democratic process as elections gear up and many topics in between.

“Thank y’all for having enough care and concern for your county [to come tonight]. This is the future,” Rep. Powell emphasized.

The next HCPOA meeting will be May 20 at 7 p.m. The guest speaker will be from the Hart County Botanical Gardens; the meeting will thus be held at the gardens as well.


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