Legislative briefs

Georgians to vote on income tax cap

Georgians will get to vote on a proposed cap on the state’s 6 percent income tax after the state Senate gave the measure final approval Thursday.

Senate Resolution 415, which is a constitutional amendment, will go on the ballot in November, giving Republicans an enticement to draw more voters to the polls.

The Senate passed it 42-13, the required two-thirds support it needed. It does not need approval from Gov. Nathan Deal.

Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer sponsored the amendment. It was seen as a long shot given the state's slow recovery from the recession, but many lawmakers saw it as an election-year boon.

Democrats warned that it could tie the state’s hands and limit options in case of a financial catastrophe. Even Shafer has said it was partly introduced to “begin a conversation,” with little chance of passing.

— Kristina Torres

HOPE expansion for tech college students OK’d

The Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would pay full tuition for the state’s highest-achieving technical college students

House Bill 697, carried by Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, has the backing of Gov. Nathan Deal and would create a Zell Miller Grant Scholar designation for tech students earning at least a 3.5 grade-point average. It now heads to the governor's desk.

The average cost of tuition at Georgia’s technical colleges is about $900 per semester. Books cost about $300, and fees account for an additional $130 in costs per semester, technical college officials said. About 85,000 technical college students earning at least a 2.0 GPA receive the HOPE grant, which pays about $730 toward these expenses each semester.

The approved bill would fund the gap between what the HOPE grant pays and the full cost of tuition. The bill represents part of Deal’s plan to expand the grant program and is a compromise to Evans’ initial proposal that would have paid full tuition for all HOPE grant recipients.

The bill is estimated to cover about 20 percent of the state’s technical college students.

— Janel Davis

Move to incorporate south Fulton falls short

South Fulton County residents will have to wait at least another year to get a crack at forming a new city.

House Bill 704 failed to clear the Senate before it adjourned at midnight on the last day of the legislative session.

The bill would have allowed voters in south Fulton to decide in November whether to incorporate. It could have paved the way for a city of 90,000 residents stretching from Atlanta to Chattahoochee Hills and from College Park to the Douglas County line.

Supporters said forming a city would allow residents to control planning, zoning and other issues affecting their communities. Those decisions are made by Fulton County commissioners elected from across the county.

Opponents would prefer to remain unincorporated or be annexed by cities such as Atlanta and College Park.

In 2007, 85 percent of voters rejected a proposal to incorporate the area.

— David Wickert

Permanent tax break for Gulfstream passes

Georgia House members on Thursday gave final approval to legislation that would make permanent a multimillion-dollar tax break for luxury jetmaker Gulfstream.

House Bill 933 would make permanent a tax exemption on parts and equipment used to repair and maintain aircraft registered outside of Georgia. Gulfstream and other companies that do such repairs pushed to make the exemption permanent.

Gulfstream contributed $15,000 to the House Republican Caucus’ leadership fund Jan. 22, about two weeks before the bill was filed.

The state estimates the tax break will cost taxpayers $29 million to $40 million a year. Supporters say the tax exemption was due to expire this year and is necessary to keep an important employer in the Savannah area.

The House voted 156-12 to send the bill to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

— Aaron Gould Sheinin