We have passed the halfway mark of the legislative session and are quickly approaching Crossover Day. The past two weeks have been quite busy as we have passed several pieces of legislation ranging in topics from agriculture education to Medicaid claims.
Law enforcement pay and retirement
This year, the Senate made it a priority to review methods to maintain and increase support of local law enforcement. In 2017, I was assigned to the Compensation of Police and Sheriffs Task Force (COPS), which met several times during the interim. We drafted four bills that addressed the issues we identified during our meetings.
Senate Bill 366 is a four-part bill that addresses compensation for law enforcement officers. This will be completed through wage and compensation studies, pay scales guided by the salary studies, monitoring of Qualified Local Government statuses and the creation of a local law enforcement compensation grant program.
The second bill, Senate Bill 367, addresses indemnification payments for fallen officers. Under current law, the state offers payment of $150,000 to the spouse or dependents of a fallen/deceased officer, firefighter, etc. This bill would allow the payment to be made to the estate of the deceased if the officer was unmarried and had no dependents.
Furthermore, Senate Bill 368 directly relates to support of local law enforcement by requiring the Criminal Justice Coordination Council to provide technical support or assistance.
The final bill, Senate Bill 369, will shore up the retirement fund for law enforcement officers. This bill will require $5.00 of every pre-trial diversion fee to be paid to the Peace Officers Annuity and Benefit Fund (POAB). As legislators, I believe it is our responsibility to protect and support our local law enforcement officers.
Therefore, I am pleased to say that on Wednesday, February 14, the Senate passed all four bills with near unanimity and broad bipartisan support.
State tax cut
On February 20, Governor Deal announced plans to reduce the state income tax rate. Over the past several weeks, the Governor’s office has worked closely with the House and Senate leadership to develop a meaningful state tax reform plan that will benefit Georgia’s taxpayers.
House Bill 918, introduced earlier this week, will reduce the income tax rate for both individuals and corporations from 6 percent to 5.75 percent beginning in Tax Year 2019. It also includes a provision to further reduce rates from 5.75 percent to just 5.5 percent by Tax Year 2020.
This bill represents one of the single largest income tax reforms in the history of Georgia and will result in more than $5 billion in savings to Georgia taxpayers over the next five years. It passed through the House on Thursday and was passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on Friday, February 23.
I will update you on the progress and details of the bill over the next few weeks as we learn more about the benefits it is providing the citizens of Georgia.
Please let me know when you are at the Capitol. I’d love to have the opportunity to talk to you about issues you find important. I am honored to serve on your behalf here in Atlanta. If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to reach out to my office at 404.463.5257 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author: Sen. John Wilkinson serves as Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and Vice Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee. He represents the 50th Senate District which includes Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens and Towns counties and portions of Hall and Jackson counties. He can be reached by phone at 404.463.5257 or by email at email@example.com.