House Resolution 158 would set up a statewide referendum on protecting designated funds. They’re accounts such as the Solid Waste Trust Fund built up with the $1 replacement tire fee or the add-on traffic fine under Joshua’s Law that’s meant to pay for teen drivers education.
“These are for designated programs, but the General Assembly can put the money into their general fund,” Commissioner Evie McNiece said. “It kind of goes hand-in-hand with ethics, if you ask me.”
The bipartisan measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jay Powell of Camilla, calls for a constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to permanently earmark the revenue from a targeted fee or fine.
“I think that’s a very important bill,” Mayor Jamie Doss said before the board unanimously backed a resolution urging passage of HR 158.
It cleared the House late last week with support from all three of Floyd County’s delegates and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate. But it’s been a battle to get it that far, so CRBI and the Georgia Water Coalition are sponsoring a marathon scrap tire roll around the State Capitol to highlight the issue.
“The Bible tells us Joshua and the Israelites circled Jericho enough times to bring down the city’s walls,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, CRBI executive director and Riverkeeper. “We don’t expect to bring down the walls of the Capitol, but we do hope that by pushing a tire for 24 hours we can help push this legislation across the finish line.”
Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, is a co-sponsor of the resolution and a long-time advocate for locking down the fees. He’s authored bills to abolish fees that aren’t used for their intended purpose, but they’ve always died for lack of support.
“If we haven’t spent those dollars for what we said we would, why are we collecting them?” Meadows said last year as he was trying to muster enough votes to pass HR 158 out of his chamber.
Demonbreun-Chapman said residents have paid about $500 million into the Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste trust funds for community clean-ups since their creation in the 1990s, but about $200 million has been diverted to the state’s general fund.
“HR 158 will help hold legislators accountable, and ensure that the fees we pay for specific programs will be used for their intended purpose,” he said. “It’s a measure that restores honesty and trust in our government.”
The Georgia Water Coalition is lining up volunteers now for next week’s 24-hour marathon. They’ll push a large tire around the sidewalks surrounding the Capitol from 8 a.m. Feb. 28 to 8 a.m. March 1.
The roll will end as Capitol Conservation Day begins. Advocates from around the state will be meeting with lawmakers about legislation to protect Georgia’s water resources. The free event includes breakfast and an information workshop.