State Rep. Trey Kelley presents HB 827

State Representative Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) stood in the house to present House Bill 827, which would increase the amount of money counted toward donations to Rural Hospitals for tax credits up to 100 percent. (Contributed photo) 

  • Rep. Kelley finally gets his tax reform bill through to consideration in the State Senate.

Crossover day has come and gone under the Gold Dome in Atlanta, and now state legislators are busy at work deciding over the next weeks what bills they’ll choose to take up from the other’s chamber before the clock runs out on the 40-day session.

State Rep. Trey Kelley stood on the floor, excited that he was able to finally fulfill a campaign promise he has long held as one his the core to his work for three terms at the State Capitol: tax reform.

It’s a first step down a road to completely rework the state’s income tax system, decreasing individual and business rates to 5.75 during the 2019 tax year, and then down to 5.5 percent in 2020 that he said doesn’t sound like much, but will end up saving most individuals more than they expect.

He said that many Georgia taxpayers will end up saving 19 percent on next year’s taxes when they file in 2019.

It was one of 81 bills that went to the State Senate for their consent and approval during a day of the session that lasted until 1:30 in the morning, Kelley said.

“To work so hard on that issue for the past six years, and to get to vote on it yesterday (March 1) before I got to come back home means a lot,” he said. “Being vice chair on Ways and Means, being the second ranking member in the house in terms of tax policy, I got to play a big role in the tax reform package that has come out this year.”

He said it doubles the standard deduction in Georgia, and brings down the rate from 6 percent.

“It is certainly steps in the right direction,” he said. “It may not look like a huge steps in terms of the rate, but it will mean a lot of savings for Georgia families.”

It was the first time Georgia has cut the income tax rate cut in 80 years.

“Every day I walk into the capitol, I feel honored to get to represent our community,” he said. “And to get to push through something that historic, it leaves you with a good feeling.”

He said other accomplishments he felt worthy of note from Crossover day is an update to Georgia’s distracted driving statute in hopes of curtailing deaths on roadways statewide.

“We feel listening to law enforcement officials that it is a direct result of the increased use of cell phones, smart phones and tablets,” he said. “States that have passed similar measures have seen a decrease in the number of deaths on their roadways go down as much as 18 percent. In Georgia that would mean a little over 300 lives being saved every year. That’s a high school graduating class.”

Kelley said there’s “been a lot of debate to make sure that we get this right.”

A balance between providing a measure with enough teeth to ensure that drivers are staying off devices while behind the wheel yet also take into account common sense on enforcement was sought, Kelley said. That bill now also moves to the State Senate for their approval.

Kelley hasn’t been so much focused on what’s coming out of the Senate, instead keeping tabs more on legislation he sought to get out of the house.

He did say they had several priorities still “hanging around from last year” and he imagined a debate will be had this year in a number of measures.

In the weeks to come, he said that focus will shift to what the state senate has prioritized in the past months since the session’s start in January.

For State Sen. Bill Heath, the priorities range from SB 330, which is an initiative to create an agricultural education pilot program in chosen elementary schools throughout the state. The Department of Education would also work with several school systems to continue establishing agricultural curriculum in middle and upper grades in the bill as well

He also pointed to SB 319, a bill passed in recent weeks also know as Consolidation of Fire Safety Services in Georgia Act. It seeks to incorporate existing fire-related services under a new Division of Fire Safety, and clarifies its responsibilities under the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, and creates a new Commissioner of Fire Safety position as well as the Fire Safety Advisory Board.

“This will hopefully allow for a more streamlined approach when it comes to fire services around the state,” Heath said.