2013 Legislative Session
Stover active in tax, gun bills at General Assembly
by Sarah Fay Campbell
State Representative David Stover got to the Capitol just in time for the most exciting and active part of this year’s Georgia General Assembly session.
Stover, R-Palmetto, who was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives District 71 seat on March 5, was sworn in on the 31st legislative day of the 40-day session, just after “Crossover Day.” Crossover Day is the day when most bills have pass either the House or Senate in order to have a chance to become law. It is after Crossover Day that the House and Senate typically start considering the other side’s legislation.
Thursday was the 40th legislative day, and the session lasted until midnight
“It was feet into the fire,” Stover said of joining the legislature when he did. “I was happy to be there during that time frame.”
He didn’t get to do a lot of work in committees, but he did sign as a co-sponsor of some legislation, including a bill that was introduced on the last day of the session.
House Bill 688, the “Fair Taxation Act of 2014,” would eliminate the state’s income tax and replace it with a sales tax. In the bill itself, the current 4 percent tax is crossed out, to be replaced with a tax of a “percentage to be determined by the General Assembly.”
“The main thing to recognize on the Fair Tax bill, as it sits, is that it’s an initial incarnation of it,” Stover said. “It really is not fleshed out.”
“The reason we introduced it the way we did was so that we could start looking at it over the summer and have a couple of committee hearings,” he said.
The percentage the sales tax needs to be will have to be determined as well.
The bill is intended to “open up, basically, the tax code for review, over the summer time when the committees meet,” Stover said. “It gives us basically a nine-month window to start looking at the legislation and how to properly structure it.”
Stover serves on three committees: Motor Vehicles, Science and Technology, and Small Business Development.
The Small Business Development committee held a “Red Tape Watch” hearing. “Basically, small business owners got to come and speak about” the red tape and regulations they are facing. Stover said speakers included a caterer who was frustrated that she needed a separate food service permit for every county she served food and a man who works at a large non-profit mental health facility.
“He said the Department of Community Health is constantly re-writing their policies and creating new” policies for them to follow. The new policies required an increase in staff and resulted in a reduced ability to help people. The most recent change resulted in costs of about $150,000 to ensure compliance, Stover said. That money was being “taken away from patient care and going directly into administrative services,” he said.
The Science and Technology Committee held its last committee hearing before Stover was sworn in.
The first bill that Stover co-sponsored was HB 26, Constitutional Carry, which would eliminate the requirement that law-abiding Georgians get licenses to carry a handgun.
He also co-sponsored HB 652, which would prohibit probate judges from giving out the names of gun permit holders in response to open records requests.
Those bills didn’t get very far, but other bills expanding where guns can be carried came very close to being approved. The provision to allow handguns on college campuses — though not in dorms or at sporting events — was the most controversial.
“I was disappointed in Senate Bill 101 and the lack of cooperation from the Senate,” Stover said. The bill started out as HB 512. The House committee took the language from HB 512 and put it in SB 101 because the Senate didn’t give HB 512 a hearing. “They put it into SB 101 so the Senate would have to hear it,” Stover said.
What killed the bill was language the Senate put in that would have allowed campus carry only by people who had taken specific training.
“The vast majority of the people on the floor of the House were worried if we opened any kind” of avenue toward requiring training for carry permits, that it could open the door to future training requirements for other permit holders, or that the requirement could be made retroactive somehow in the future.
Though it didn’t get approved this session, Stover thinks it is “going to be a very hot bill next year.”
Thursday’s final day of the session, commonly known by the Latin term “sine die,” wasn’t as frenzied as ones he’s seen before, according to Stover.
“[Thursday] wasn’t bad at all in comparison to what most of the sine dies are like,” Stover said. “I’ve kind of followed it for a while. It’s not something I’m unused to,” he said. But next year, the second year of the two-year session, will likely make up for the relative calm of this year’s 40th day.
Stover said his first three weeks as a legislator have been fun. “I enjoyed it,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of really good people. There’s a lot of really good people serving in the legislature,” he said. “For the most part, the people have their hearts in the right place and they believe in what they are doing.”
Now that the session is over, Stover wants to serve the constituents of District 71 “in any way that they need.” That includes answering people’s questions about state government, talking about issues and pointing them in the right direction.
And “if anybody has questions about issues, or issues they are passionate about that they would like to have addressed in the next General Assembly, I’m here to listen to them and make sure their voices are being heard,” Stover said.