House Bill 811 was approved by the House on Feb. 22 by a 151-5 tally. We are not sure what Paulette Braddock (R-Hiram), Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock), Billy Horne (R-Sharpsburg), Jimmy Pruett (R-Eastman) and Carl Rogers (R-Gainsville), had against the proposal that would simply direct the state — actually the General Assembly — to stop siphoning off funds from fees that are supposed to be directed to the Solid Waste Trust Fund, the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund, the Peace Officer and Prosecutors Training Fund, the Indigent Defense — Public Defenders Program and Joshua’s Law.
For example, over the last decade, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, $37 million collected from the $1 per tire fee that was supposed to go toward the disposal of old tires was spent on other state programs.
About $58 million has been collected from higher traffic fines through Joshua’s Law that is supposed to fund drivers education. Not a cent went into the fund last year, and according to the ACCG, only about $8 million has gone into the program since its inception.
The bill is far from perfect. It still leaves the fox guarding the hen house. While provisions in the bill would reduce the fees, possibly eliminating them, by the same amount redirected to other uses, it has gaps. Lawmakers could pick the pocket of those funds and others not covered by HB 811 by directing fee proceeds to the general fund rather than a trust account.
It is a start, as Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker told the Atlanta newspaper, but its weaknesses are no reason for the Senate not to approve it. They can always come back next year and put tighter controls on themselves