House panel amends bill to find lawmakers who don’t file taxes

Legislation that would require the state Department of Revenue to report the names of lawmakers who fail to file state income tax returns gained key approval in a House committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 168, sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), passed the Senate as an ethics bill, changing some requirements for electronic filing of campaign and personal finance reports. But Tuesday, the House Governmental Affairs Committee amended it to include the tax return information.

The bill could make it to the House floor next week.

The amendment comes weeks after Revenue officials released a report to legislative leaders showing that 19 other lawmakers – 16 in the House and 3 in the Senate – have not filed state income tax returns, some of them for six years. The names were redacted and have not been released because the information is still considered confidential until the individuals are given a chance to respond to revenue officials.

The report prompted Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) to propose a change in Senate rules that would allow the Senate Ethics Committee, which he chairs, to investigate tax compliance among fellow legislators. But the Senate voted down Johnson’s proposal.

Opponents called it a politically motivated witch-hunt.The resolution, which needed a two-thirds majority, failed by six votes, 32-16.

But Unterman’s bill now revives Johnson’s efforts while expanding it to the Senate and the House.

Unterman does not mind the change.

“It’s time,” Unterman said. “I’m glad they did. We do not need deadbeats serving as elected officials.”

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee and said the bill will make a real difference.

As amended, the bill would require the Department of Revenue to first notify the lawmaker who has either not filed a tax return or is in default on his or her taxes. The legislator would then have 30 days to become current.

Lawmakers who have been granted an extension to file taxes would not be affected.

If, after 30 days, the legislator does not correct the situation, the Revenue commissioner would notify the chairman of the Ethics Committee in the legislator’s chamber. The committee would then be required – and that’s a key point, Scott said – to investigate.

“It mandates the investigation,” Scott said.

Should the bill pass the House and make it back to the Senate — which would have to approve the changes made Tuesday — opponents are ready. 

Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown (D-Macon), who railed against Johnson’s original proposal, calling Johnson a “blood-sucker” on the Senate floor, remains against the idea. 

“I would still be opposed to it,” Brown said Wednesday. “It gives an opportunity for witch hunts.”

“There’s evidence that the Department of Revenue has not been an honest broker in this,” Brown said of the Department’s work to get a law passed. He would not elaborate on what that evidence was.

16 comments Add your comment

Jack

March 25th, 2009
12:21 pm

Maybe they should run for congress and be with their friends.

tso

March 25th, 2009
12:30 pm

maybe they who do not pay should all be thrown out of office and into jail! how many idiots does it take

i CANNOT wait to participate in campaigning against that robert brown guy, what an idiot

Joey Porter

March 25th, 2009
12:32 pm

Jawjah is simply full of clowns. Another law by a clueless useless body.

carol hight

March 25th, 2009
12:32 pm

All lawmakers who are honest should support the bill concerning their filing of income taxes. I’m sure the notification and 30 day opportunity to respond to the notice is sufficient to avoid the ‘witch hunt’. Furthermore, any lawmaker who is delinquent in filing taxes, without a legitimate reason, should be removed from office as a lawbreaker. Any ordinary citizen would be treated as a lawbreaker. Why should elected officials be treated any differently?

David

March 25th, 2009
12:45 pm

Searching for “lawbreakers” over non-filed/payment of due taxes is NOT a “Witch Hunt”… it’s called JUSTICE and I for one am taking notes AND names of those opposed to it and will vote accordingly!!!

sethook

March 25th, 2009
12:49 pm

Why wouldn’t it be proper to expect elected officials to file tax forms like the rest of us? Why would an honest person have a problem with it. Maybe it would help eliminate the sleeze factor that is automatically associated with most politicians. If they have a problem with shining some light on the topic of paying taxes, maybe they just want to hide in the darkness of inpropriety. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with a public hanging every once in a while to let folks know justice is still in vogue.

Clark

March 25th, 2009
12:52 pm

Wow, Obama names Voelker as Tax Czar in charge of finding the missing bucks and here we have the solution in our own backyard! Simply raise this to a National requirement for all appointees and elected officials and we’ll certainly find SOME of that missing $$$.

Just a question

March 25th, 2009
1:29 pm

Barney Frank, Democrat from MA demanded the names of bonus payments to private citizen execs from AIG so that he could shame and threaten them and their families to hide his own culpability in the mess. Guess these GA legislators who oppose letting the voters know who the tax scallawags are would not be happy with Barney either.
I would like to see the list of every legislator who voted to keep this information secret from the voters. Change is required.

vlscpa

March 25th, 2009
1:33 pm

Taxes are for the little people, and I hear that little Timmy Geithner and his BOss will be rewriting the tax code. I’m rereading ANIMAL FARM and 1984 in preparation for that circus.

cole

March 25th, 2009
1:42 pm

Does anyone know if the Republican from Fannin County, David Ralston ever paid his taxes. He said it was just an oversight to the tune of around $300,000 if I remember correctly! Will he be reprimanded?

tara

March 25th, 2009
1:48 pm

Good idea. All the elected officials who have not paid taxes go to jail and Americans can take back over their country. We can start over with fresh faces who want to control spending, build american jobs, stop illegals and the cost to the American people, stop welfare fraud, stop corruption in all of government and maintain the security of this great nation. Yes, I like it. Throw all of the tax cheats in jail. That would account for most of the democratic liberal party I would think. And the head of the IRS.

cole

March 25th, 2009
1:49 pm

I beg Mr. Ralston’s pardon. It was only $70,000. He’s a member of the House Civil Judiciary Committee. He should know better, don’t you think?

Tom

March 25th, 2009
1:57 pm

If you are so against something like this, you must have something to hide. This State is in such bad shape and there are legislators not paying taxes….how ironic! I’m sure the race card will get played once again!

Willis

March 25th, 2009
3:23 pm

Why are they making paying your taxes a race issue? I pay my taxes on time and regarless of my skin color….it is the law!!! And if an elected offical is the color of a rats butt….he or she of all people should pay their taxes, after all they make the tax laws, and if they don’t pay them they should be kicked out of the Gold Dome, no questions ask.

Georgia Taxpayer

March 25th, 2009
3:51 pm

Keep this fact in mind..out of the 22 individuals who have not paid or filed we only who 3 are them are. Since the other 19 are not known how could it be racially or politically motivated? It will be interesting to watch how the opponents will justify not supporting this bill.

Joey Porter

March 25th, 2009
4:08 pm

you folks have been brainwashed to believe paying tax is constitutional.

this is what happens when you attend public warehouses until you are 18 and dumbed down, taught to STFU, don’t ask questions, and just comply?

There is nothing American about the IRS.