COLUMBUS CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT
2015 PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
December 2, 2014
(Add-on Item "9")
December 2, 2014 Council Meeting
1. OTHER LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX (OLOST) - HOTEL/MOTEL EXEMPTION:

The Columbus Consolidated Government is requesting that the Local Legislative Delegation to the General Assembly introduce legislation to amend O.C.G.A. 48-8-96 (h) (1) so that it only applies to LOST referenda held after January 1, 2011, thereby leaving the original two exemptions contained in the 2004 legislation in place in Columbus, Georgia. (Requested by Councilor Henderson)

Explanation:
Legislation would reinstate the original exemptions related to hotel lodging and vehicle sales for any LOST referenda held after January 1, 2011.

2. MILITARY RETIREE STATE TAX EXEMPTION:

Rationale: Of the five states that border Georgia, four do not tax military retiree pay. Georgia does not tax the first $35,000 of retirement income for citizens 62 years old and older. Military veterans who retire at younger ages from active service and begin to receive payments immediately do not benefit from this program. This puts border cities at a competitive disadvantage when attracting veterans to the area. These veterans work in Georgia but pay property and income taxes in border-states. With the growth of Fort Benning due to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), active and retired military are choosing to live in Russell and Lee Counties in Alabama while working at Fort Benning. Our community benefits when these families choose to live in Columbus. Exempting military retiree pay from state income tax will help attract military retirees to Columbus. (Requested by: Mayor’s Revenue Commission and Chamber of Commerce)

Explanation:
The mayor and city manager joins the Mayor’s Revenue Commission in support of this item.


3. SALES TAX ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY USER SAFEGUARD (POINT OF SALES DATA):

The Columbus Consolidated Government is requesting the state take necessary steps to ensure the full collection and timely remittance of all sales and use taxes due to the state and to local governments, whether such steps include additional funding for the Department of Revenue for audits and compliance purposes, privatizing sales tax collections or allowing local governments to collect and audit local sales taxes locally. (Carry over 2010/11/12/13/14)(Requested by mayor, city manager and, Finance Director)

Explanation/Example:
1. Require the Department of Revenue to collect data showing sales tax collections in cities;
2. Fully capture all data, whether electronically or manually filed;
3. Require the Department of Revenue to share sales tax data for collections within municipal boundaries;
4. To the extent required to protect taxpayers, support confidentiality and privacy of information shared with cities;
5. Support efforts to increase audits to ensure compliance; and,
6. Allow for more timely remittance of sales tax dollars to local governments.* (added 11/14/14)


4. CORONER OFFICE – FEES:

The Columbus Consolidated Government is requesting the local legislative delegation to introduce legislation that would allow all coroners to charge certain set fees for specific reports and documents in excess of the standard $.10 per page permitted by the open Records Acts. (Requested by Coroner Buddy Bryan))

Explanation:
Requesting an increase above the $.10 per page permitted by the Open Records Acts.


5. RESIDENTIAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT FACILITY:

The Columbus Consolidated Government is requesting legislation recommending the state take necessary steps to fund an adolescent residential treatment facility in Muscogee County. (Requested by Mary Bode, Juvenile Court). (Carry over from 2013)

Explanation: Currently, there is a need in the community for a residential substance abuse treatment facility for adolescents. In 2006, Alchemy Residential Treatment Facility operated by New Horizons Community Service Board was closed. The Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court participants that are in need of a higher level of treatment are being placed in DHR facilities throughout the state of Georgia. Recently, four DHR facilities have closed limiting placement resources for the Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court.

These existing DHR placements require transportation and participants receive minimal family engagement in the treatment process due to the distance of the placement locations. Drug Court Staff also travels weekly to treatment facilities to conduct intakes, discharges and treatment progress meetings. A facility located in Columbus, Georgia would benefit the community by reducing travel expenses and will assist with staff utilization more efficiently. This will also enable the youth to remain enrolled in the Muscogee County School District with less academic disruption. The Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court continues to strive to enhance services for substance abusing adolescents and this need being met will assist in increasing staff and family engagement both in the treatment and re-entry processes.


6. 911 SURCHARGE – INCREASE:

Introduce/support legislation to increase 911 fees from $1.50 to $2.50 for telephone landlines and wireless phones from $1 to $2.50. (Carry over from previous years) (Requested by Pam Hodge, Finance Director)

Explanation:
The revenue generated by the landline, wireless and prepaid phones does not currently support the operation of the E911 function. The E911 function for the past four fiscal years has been subsidized from the General Fund and the Other Local Option Sales Tax Fund for a total of $2.4 million. The E911 fees from the landline phones have continued to decline almost 10% over the last three years.


7. BLUE LIGHT – LIMITED USE:

The Columbus Consolidated Government is requesting legislation requesting the Georgia General Assembly to take necessary action to oppose any legislation that would decriminalize the law as it regulates to the use of blue lights. (Requested by Recorder’s Court Administrator/Judge Cielinski)

Explanation:
By allowing blue lights on any vehicles other than those already approved, will cause confusion for citizens. Mostly all citizens identify the blue light for public safety vehicles.


8. SPECIALTY TIER DRUG STUDY AND MORATORIUM/CREATE A JOINT STUDY COMMITTEE:

The Columbus Consolidated Government is requesting the local legislative delegation to support legislation to create a Joint Study Committee on Specialty Tier Drugs with an Advisory Task Force required that will report on effects of Specialty Tier Drugs and cost-sharing, including coinsurance impact on enrollees; and for purpose of evaluating its disease, minority and economic discriminatory practices; and to support legislation to make such drugs more affordable for all Georgians. We ask for a twenty-four month (24) moratorium on current out –of-pocket expenses for all health insurance plans in Georgia. (Requested by Councilor Barnes)

Explanation: Traditional prescription drug benefit plans included well-established multi-tiered drug formulary structures. Typically, generic drugs are placed in the first tier with preferred brand name drugs in the second tier and non-preferred brand drugs in the third tier. Specialty Tiers involve fourth or greater tiers where such prescriptions typically do not have a generic equivalent and are very expensive to manufacture with special storage and administration requirements. Prescription drugs in Specialty Tiers may include injectable or infused biological agents and are often used to treat conditions such as Hemophilia, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Cancers, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and other rare, chronic conditions. These are cutting-edge drugs that do not have generic equivalents. Specialty Tiers require a patient to pay a coinsurance currently ranging from twenty to almost fifty percent (20-50%) of the drugs’ cost.

In Georgia, insurance companies are implementing Specialty Tier categories. Georgia has an opportunity to join 19 other states that are moving forward with legislation to support transparency of prescription coverage protecting patients’ full access to Specialty Tier drugs without financial devastation.


9. ELECTION CALENDAR: ADDITIONAL ITEM FOR 12/2/14 COUNCIL MEETING

The Columbus Consolidated Government is requesting the local legislative delegation introduce legislation at the 2015 Session of the Georgia General Assembly to allow a merged election calendar for federal and state elections, which will reduce the burden of payment by Muscogee County taxpayers for such elections. (Mayor Pro Tem Pugh)

Explanation:
Under current Georgia Law, elections for state officials, Mayor and Council, and other local referenda are set. Such a dual calendar for state and federal elections poses administrative issues for election officials and significant increased costs to Muscogee County taxpayers. Under a dual election calendar, Muscogee County taxpayers could be forced to spend between $80,000 and $120,000 for each additional election, including dual primary elections and dual general election runoffs. A dual election calendar system would contribute to significant increased voter confusion about state and federal candidates, election of local candidates and other local issues.
9.
A RESOLUTION

No._____

WHEREAS, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has set federal election dates comply with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA);

WHEREAS, under current Georgia law, runoffs for federal and state elections are held at different times;

WHEREAS, such a dual calendar for state and federal runoff elections poses administrative issues for election officials and significant increased costs to Muscogee County taxpayers;

WHEREAS, under such a dual election calendar, Muscogee County taxpayers could be forced to spend between $80,000 and $120,000 for each additional runoff election;

WHEREAS, such a dual election calendar system would contribute to significant increased voter confusion about state and federal candidates, and other local issues;

WHEREAS, this Council desires that the local legislative delegation introduce general legislation at the 2015 Session of the Georgia General Assembly to allow a merged election calendar for federal and state runoff elections which will reduce the burden of payment by Muscogee County taxpayers for such elections.
NOW, THEREFORE, THE COUNCIL OF COLUMBUS, GEORGIA HEREBY RESOLVES:

We hereby respectfully request that the local legislative delegation introduce general legislation at the 2015 Session of the Georgia General Assembly to allow a merged runoff election calendar for federal and state elections which will comply with the Order of the U.S. District Court and which will reduce the burden of payment by Muscogee County taxpayers for such runoff elections. Let a copy of this resolution be forwarded to each member of the local legislative delegation to the Georgia General Assembly and to Ms. Nancy Boren.

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Introduced at a regular meeting of the Council of Columbus, Georgia held on the 2nd day of December, 2014 and adopted at said meeting by the affirmative vote of ______ members of Council.

Councilor Allen voting________________.
Councilor Baker voting________________.
Councilor Barnes voting_______________.
Councilor Buck voting_________________.
Councilor Davis voting________________.
Councilor Henderson voting____________.
Councilor Huff voting_________________.
Councilor Pugh voting_________________.
Councilor Thomas voting_______________.
Councilor Woodson voting______________.


______________________________ ____________________________
TINY B. WASHINGTON TERESA PIKE TOMLINSON
CLERK MAYOR