Lawmakers who don’t file taxes will be outed

The Department of Revenue must begin to release the names of lawmakers who fail to pay state income taxes, thanks to legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Senate Bill 168 was given final approval about an hour before sine die adjournment of the 2009 legislative session. 

The new law requires the Revenue commissioner to inform the chairmen of the House and Senate ethics committees the names of any lawmaker who doesn’t pay or file state income taxes. The lawmakers would have 30 days to try and remedy the situation.

The bill was designed originally to simply eliminate the redundant requirement that public officials file a paper copy of their campaign records that they are already filing electronically.

But when the bill came before the House Governmental Affairs Committee, it was amended to include the tax-dodge requirement. 

That language, however, originated in an emotional fight in the state Senate, when Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah)  argued for a change in the rules that govern the House and Senate to accomplish much the same thing. Johnson’s move failed in a vote in the Senate after some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, accused Johnson of creating a witch hunt. 

The issue first came up after it was reported that a list of more than a dozen House and Senate members who had not filed personal income taxes was circulating through the Gold Dome. It is illegal for the Revenue Department to release the names of individuals who are in tax-trouble, unless a property lien is filed, at which point it becomes public record. 


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