Legislators who do not file their income taxes would have their names released before the beginning of each Legislative session, under a bill that passed the Senate Thursday.
Senate Bill 17 seeks to address the problem of state legislators who habitually do not pay their taxes. The bill passed the Senate 54 to 0 Thursday.
“Elected officials should be held to the same standard as every other Georgian in filing and paying their taxes,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a written statement.
Recently legislative leaders received a list from the state Department of Revenue of 19 legislators who have not paid their taxes. The names were redacted to protect their confidentiality.
Senate Bill 17 would change state law to allow the DOR to name any member of the Legislature who has not filed a Georgia personal income tax return for the most recent preceding calendar year.
Those names would be given to the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, which could in turn, choose to release them to the public.
Sen. George Hooks (D-Americus) sits on the Joint Committee and said the names would probably be released.
The bill also requires the DOR to give written notice to each legislator on the list at least 20 days before the release of their name.
The committee could conduct an investigation into whether a member has committed misconduct and could refer the matter to the Senate or House ethics committees for action.
A previous bill would have changed Senate rules in order to deal with the problem. It generated a rancorous debate in the Senate last week, causing some to say it was a politically-motivated witch-hunt.
Senate Bill 17 had the full support of both parties Thursday.
“This has the force of state law,” Hooks said.
“This is a stronger, cleaner, fairer way of doing it,” he said.