Amid the wheel-spinning stupidity that seems to occupy so much of the time (and our dime) in Georgia's Legislature, at last there is an issue of substance on which we can all agree:
University of Florida fans aren't entitled to get Georgia prestige license plates featuring their school as long as Florida makes it more difficult for Georgia fans in Florida to do the same.
In the name of "reciprocity," state lawmakers - including our own University of Georgia graduate Barry Fleming - are pushing legislation to allow the creation of prestige tags featuring other states' universities only if those states will make it just as easy to get a specialty plate there.
This all started when some Florida grads in Atlanta lined up enough support to meet the minimum standards for creation of a Gator tag.
State Sen. Eric Johnson dismissed the idea at first, helpfully pointing out that cars on concrete blocks don't need license plates. But once the Gator fans showed they were serious, Johnson and Fleming showed they were serious, too, by putting together the "reciprocity" legislation.
Will it pass? Or, en route to the floor, will it get sacked like Florida quarterback Tim Tebow got smacked down by the Dawgs' defense last season?
We should find out soon, if lawmakers don't get bogged down in silly tax-reform legislation or waste their time on the details of the state budget.
"I already got my first piece of hate mail from a Florida fan," Fleming said with a laugh. "Ain't it great to be a Gator hater?"
Meanwhile, the state Senate passed two proposed constitutional amendments this past week that will certainly pass in the House, get signed by the governor and in November easily win citizens' approval.
Sort of like the Gator tag bill, the proposals are the essence of election-year pandering. In simplest terms, the amendments would freeze property values for tax purposes, preventing "stealth" tax increases through reassessments.
Annual reassessments would then be limited to a set percentage. The taxable value of the home and its fair-market value would be readjusted if the home is sold, and the freeze would resume with the new owner.
The amendments are almost certain to pass; who wouldn't vote to cut their taxes?
There are a couple of minor problems, however.
All such legislation requires an assessment of its potential cost. We don't know what that is yet. But it would be helpful to hear if the two-tiered taxation system - one set of books for existing, "frozen" homes, and another for new homes - will add extra compliance expense that could be a substantial unfunded mandate on local tax offices.
The second problem is purely philosophical. Property taxes are based on the fair-market value of property. A state-imposed property tax "freeze" allows the government to monkey with the free market.
Because this will squeeze local tax revenues - yet do nothing to cut into the state's $1.6 billion surplus of your overtaxed money - don't be surprised if communities around the state jack up this year's assessments as high as possible.
Columbia County property owners, for example, are notified in June of their property's assessed value; tax bills are then due in November. If approved in the November elections, the amendment won't take affect until next January.
So, in the final reassessment before the freeze, all 159 Georgia counties could very well set property values as high as possible to make up for losses that will come later.
If you thought last year's 15 percent hike was bad, wait'll this year.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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