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Taxes, charter schools hot topics at Town Hall

ALBANY, Ga. — When it comes to upcoming legislation, there is good news, bad news and puzzling news.

The good news, said state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, is that the state plans to stop the “Birthday Tax,” the one a year tax on license plates due on the taxpayer’s birthday.

“People have been asking for that a long time,” Sims said, during her talk at Albany Commissioner Jon Howard’s monthly Town Hall meeting at the East Albany Community Center, 1721 E. Oglethorpe Blvd.

The legislature plans to levy a sales tax on Internet purchases. Until it passes, people could buy clothes, books and other goods free of sales tax. Sims said it would encourage people to buy from local merchants.

“This levels the playing field for local retail businesses,” Powell said. “There would also be another tax holiday for school supplies and appliances.”

Because the lawmakers want to retain huge corporate businesses such as Procter & Gamble and MillerCoors, a piece of legislation giving them tax breaks on energy is also proposed, Sims said. These tax breaks could also encourage new businesses to locate here while bringing more jobs to the area.

Speaking of a controversial proposed law on charter schools, Sims said she was against it. The new law would allow private companies and other groups to start charter schools without the approval of local school boards.

“Charter schools are great,” Sims said. “I want to give parents a choice, but I didn’t vote for it because it takes away local control. The local board of education is elected by the local community. These individuals should be responsible for the educational process.”

Also pending is a law that essentially would not allow a woman to have an abortion for any reason, Sims said.

“Men wrote and pushed this legislation,” Sims said. “As it stands now, if a fetus dies in the womb the woman will have to carry it full term. Incest, rape, no abortion for any reason. It is an affront to women.”

Unfortunately, a bill that would outlaw gifts and contributions to lawmakers from lobbyists seeking favor would probably be “DOA”, dead on arrival, Sims said.

Other bills that could be made into law would establish drug and mental health centers that would keep non-violent offenders out of jails and prisons, perhaps steering them to a better life, Sims said.

“There is a need to reduce the prison population,” Sims said. “It is a large part of the state $19.2 billion budget.”