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Tax, immigration bills concern Gainesville council
Proposed state legislation could mean changes for city
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As state legislators begin debating controversial bills this week, Gainesville City Council members want to make sure their opinions are heard.

When the group met recently, Mayor Ruth Bruner noted her concerns about several bills, including ones focused on immigration and taxes.

"The immigration bills just look horrible for the cities," she said. "There are all kinds of penalties and unfunded mandates, such as increasing the number of police officers."

She cited the 287(g) federal immigration enforcement program, which allows local officials to check the immigration status of those arrested for other crimes, and pointed out several comments from last week's state Senate committee hearing on proposed immigration legislation.

"We need to be real aware of these immigration bills and how they affect this community, almost more than any other place in the state," she said.

The council members keep up with Gold Dome happenings through the Georgia Municipal Association, which sends out alerts every Friday to update legislation concerning cities.

Friday's alert highlighted House Bill 385, which was introduced Thursday and sent to the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. The legislation would enact many of the recommendations of the Special Council on Tax Fairness for Georgians by expanding the sales tax base to enumerated services, limiting the insurance premium tax and replacing the telecommunications franchise fee with an excise tax.

Council members also talked about HB 92, which requires cities to conduct early voting for 21 days, and Senate Bill 92, which would require only 14 days.

"It seemed like voting was always going on this fall," council member Myrtle Figueras said. "This could really reduce our early voting costs."

City officials will monitor the bills as they move through the session in case they must make quick decisions.

"The Senate bill also offers Saturday voting by municipality choice, so we would need direction from the council if that's something we want," City clerk Denise Jordan said. "We would need to include that now during the budgeting process to be able to fund it this fall."

Council members are also following national legislative actions, particularly with federal funds. As legislators cut the budget, Councilman Bob Hamrick wants to know what will happen to Community Development Block Grant dollars, which help fund projects in blighted areas of the city.

"You can look at Fair Street and the midtown area and see the changes, and the funds help with a lot of sidewalks," he said. "A cut would really have an impact on our budget. This comes up every so often in Congress, so this is our opportunity to talk to our representatives."