With just three working days left in the Georgia General Assembly session, HR 158's chances of getting to the floor are dimming.
"The committee isn't scheduled to meet again before the end of the session, so now the measure is entirely up to the leadership of Lt. Gov. (Casey) Cagle," said Joe Cook of the Rome-based Coosa River Basin Initiative.
"He could make a way for it to be voted on by the full Senate if he so desires."
The environmental group's main concerns are the $1 replacement tire fee for the Solid Waste Trust Fund used to pay for cleaning up old tire dumps, and the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund fed mainly by landfill tipping fees.
But the resolution also would apply to any other special levies — such as the so-called super-speeder fine designated for trauma centers and the traffic offense fines added under Joshua's Law to fund teen driver education courses.
As it stands, the money can be diverted to the general fund budget and it often has been.
The Rome City Commission passed a resolution in February in support of HR 158, noting that Joshua's Law generates between $3 million and $10 million a year but only about $8 million has gone to fund teen driving courses since 2005.
The Peace Officers & Prosecutors Training Fund, which gets about $27 million a year, has seen about $70 million redirected; and nearly 40 percent of the money from the Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste trust funds has been used elsewhere, according to the resolution backed by both the Georgia Municipal Association and Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
"(W)ithout funding from these fees, local governments often must raise taxes to fund programs designed to keep their citizens healthy and safe," the resolution states.
HR 158 passed the House in mid-February, 166 to 1, with support from all three of Floyd County's delegates: Rep Katie Dempsey, R-Rome; Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee; and Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville.
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said "some people who were here during the recession" expressed concern that the loss of flexibility in using the money could hamper their ability to fund essential services during another financial crash.
But he subscribes to the view of Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, a co-sponsor of the resolution, who maintains that the fees were levied for a specific purpose and not as a budgetary cushion.
"I'm supporting (HR 158) and working for its passage," Hufstetler said Wednesday.
The measure passed by the House includes provisions for a temporary suspension if the governor declares a financial emergency. The law also could be changed with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
Cook said he and others plan to attend a rally Cagle has scheduled in Perry today, in hopes of persuading him to move the measure to the floor.
"The hearing today was a charade," Cook said. "It's now up to Lt. Gov. Cagle to show leadership. This is a choice between moving toward honest and transparent government or continuing the status quo of deceiving citizens about how their money is spent."