This Week in the Senate March 14 – March 18

March 19, 2011 by  
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Crossover Day

The Senate and House completed the annual Crossover Day, which is the last day that bills can pass from one chamber to another. Every year, Crossover Day falls on Day 30 of the 40-day legislative session, and is traditionally one of the busiest days as lawmakers debate and vote on a long list of bills before the final deadline.

Immigration reform passes the Senate

Last month, Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming) held a press conference that marked the filing of Senate Bill 40, an immigration reform bill to enhance the use of the federal E-Verify system. It allows local and state law enforcement officers to help federal authorities identify illegal immigrants in Georgia. This week, SB 40 passed the Senate after much deliberation. Sen. Murphy said the main portions of the bill is intended to help businesses and state agencies determine that people working for them are not in the country illegally. Many businesses perform drug tests or other verification procedures on their employees. E-Verify requires a simple computer check and is much less time consuming and invasive than many procedures businesses already use. The House has passed its version of immigration reform, and the two bills will now go to conference committee for negotiation before being combined into a final bill. – SB 40

Georgia Government Accountability Act

On Wednesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 223, the “Georgia Government Accountability Act” sponsored by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick). SB 223, if passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law, would create a Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee to review all state agencies and programs. If those state agencies and programs are not providing essential constitutionally-based services, they can be eliminated or privatized by the General Assembly. The author’s intent is to find and eliminate government waste and to reduce the size of government. SB 223

Sen. James champions Georgia’s scholars

Sen. Donzella James (D-College Park) led the Senate to pass Senate Bill 119. This legislation will protect students’ HOPE scholarships if their school system loses accreditation. Currently, a non-accredited institution, which was accredited by SACS within the last seven years and meets certain requirements, will be deemed an approved school for purposes of HOPE eligibility. Senate Bill 119 expands this provision to 11 years and stipulates that the school must be working to re-attain accreditation. SB 119

Sunday sales receives passage

Legislation aimed at letting local governments decide on the Sunday sale of alcohol received passage from the Senate. Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Sen. John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee), allows local communities to hold voter referendums on whether or not to allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays in retail stores starting at 12:30 p.m. SB 10

Mental health courts passed

To address some often overlooked needs in the mental health community, Sen. Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) authored legislation that establishes mental health courts to improve care for those with mental health disabilities. These special courts would give Georgia’s judicial system a mechanism for improving how mentally ill offenders are handled. Alternative sentences that include treatment and accountability, which these courts offer, are proven to be more effective in reducing recidivism rates. – SB 39

Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council

The Senate voted in favor of Sen. Emanuel Jones’ (D-Decatur) bill to create a Martin Luther King, Jr. Advisory Council to coordinate activities in observance of the MLK holiday. Senate Bill 141 aims to promote awareness and appreciation of the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy. The advisory council will be housed within the Department of Community Affairs and will be composed of nine members, including the commissioner of DCA, members of the Senate and House and six governor appointees, two of whom must be between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. – SB 141

“Women’s Rights to Know Act”

The Senate passed Senate Bill 210, championed by Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville), which protects women by allowing them to sue abortion providers if the provider does not conform to Georgia abortion law. If passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the governor, the bill would allow a woman to sue an abortion provider if an abortion was performed on a minor without her parents’ consent; if it was an illegal abortion; if the abortion provider did not follow the requirements of the “Women’s Right to Know Act”; or if the abortion provider violated any other existing abortion laws. Under the “Women’s Right to Know Act”, passed in 2007, an abortion provider must offer the woman a chance to view an ultrasound or listen to the baby’s heartbeat before she has the abortion. The law says it must be offered but the woman can decline. SB 210 also allows a woman to sue for wrongful death if an abortion occurs because of a crime, negligence or defectively manufactured equipment. – SB 210

THIS IS A CAPITAL UPDATE

March 13, 2011 by  
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This is a Capitol Update from Representative Steve Davis on March 11, 2011.

State Board of Education: The State Board of Education will be meeting on Monday 3/14/11 to vote on proposed changes to the states math curriculum. I have been a vocal opponent of the integrated math system we adopted a few years ago and I am glad to see action being taken by the State Board of Education.

Over the past week we have passed several large pieces if legislation. On Tuesday we passed HB326, Governor Deal’s proposal to fix two of the three educational programs funded by lottery revenue (the HOPE Scholarship, the HOPE Grant). The highlights are:

§ Pay 90% of tuition and no fees or books. The 90% will float year to year based on lottery revenue.
§ Add a new best and brightest “Zell Miller” scholarship that covers 100% of tuition. It will require 3.7 high school GPA, 1200 SAT, and keeping a 3.3 in college. If a child slips on this he can still be a regular HOPE scholar. Please note that the regular HOPE stays at 3.0. There were some bad rumors on that point.
§ Private and technical school grants will be reduced to 90% and also float year to year.
§ HOPE will have a seven year limit on a child’s schooling, allow you to get back on one time only after losing it, and not pay for remedial classes.
§ No means testing – still 100% merit based
§ Limit bonuses for lottery executives and reduce the commission to retailers from 7% to 6%

The original proposed changes to the Pre-K program (adding 5000 additional slots for students and cutting the hours from 6 to 4 hours per day) had been widely debated, but the governor, house, and senate leadership came back with an updated plan. The highlights of the new proposal are:

§ The school year will be shortened from 180 to 160 days.
§ Class size will be increased to 22 students from 20. Since all Georgia Pre-K classes have a paraprofessional in the room, the student to teacher ratio will max out at 11 to 1.
§ An additional 2,000 Pre-K slots will be added, bringing Georgia Pre-K enrollment to 86,000.
§ Providers will receive 94 percent of the operating funds they currently receive.
§ Pre-K teachers will receive 90 percent of their current salaries. (The original half-day proposal included a 30 percent reduction.)

The House passed HB200, a bill that strengthens the penalties for human trafficking; especially the trafficking of minors for sexual and other purposes, expands the ability of the GBI to investigate these crimes and provides encouragement for victims to provide information to authorities. The bill also provides for training of law enforcement on how to detect and deal with human trafficking.

Last Thursday we passed HB87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 after three hours of debate. HB87 strengthens our law in dealing with illegal immigrants and helps relieve the serious financial burden placed by illegal immigrants on the state. Several highlights in the build are:

§ Authorizes citizens to force public officials and government agencies to abide by the current law that requires all public agencies to use the E-Verify system
§ Authorizes citizens to force public officials and government agencies to abide by the current law that prohibits sanctuary cities/counties.
§ Creates a new offense of aggravated identity fraud for using false identifying information for the purpose of obtaining employment.
§ Makes it a crime for a person to transport illegal aliens, 7 or fewer is a misdemeanor. 8 or more, second or subsequent offense, or committed with the intent to make a profit are all felonies.
§ Makes it a crime for a person to conceal or harbor illegal aliens. With intent to profit is a felony.

Ø In order to be guilty of these offenses, the accused must have been “committing another criminal offense” and must be “knowingly and intentionally” assisting an illegal alien further their illegal presence in the United States.

· Requires the verification of the immigration status of a foreign national confined in a county or municipal jail.

· Every business is required to use the Federal E-Verify system for all newly hired employees. The current version passed by the house mandates all companies with 5 or more employees comply.

This week the House passed HB 186 the education pathways bill I co-sponsored with Rep Randy Nix has passed the House and is in the Senate. I believe our schools need to do a better job of offering options to our students so that they can be successful in obtaining their high school diploma that is both rigorous and relevant. By giving students more input into the educational decisions and classes we will keep the better engaged and will increase our graduation rates.

Specifically this bill provides and expands options for high school students to ensure readiness for college and/or their career. The State Board of Education (SBOE), the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and the Board of Technical and Adult Education will develop policies to ensure that a student’s core curriculum will be accepted at any institution of higher education. The Department of Education and State Board shall approve models and curriculum framework for 16 specific career clusters of study no later than July 1, 2012.

Within these career, technical, or agricultural clusters there shall be embedded competency standards of academic core subject areas. These competencies and curricula shall meet postsecondary requirements of credit acceptance at the postsecondary level.

This bill also requires SBOE to embed, to the extent possible, academic standards in CTAE courses and to provide for course credit in both the academic course and the CTAE course. The Dept. of Education shall develop forms and information for students in 8th-12th grades relating to the availability of dual enrollment courses.

The State Board of Education will adopt a state wide plan implementing methods for students to earn units of high school credit based on demonstration of subject area competency, instead of in combination with completing hours of classroom instruction.

The Governor’s Office of Workforce Development will establish a certification in soft skills for students. Areas which can be included are, but are not limited to, punctuality, ability to learn, and working in a team.

HB 186 passed the House 164-4 and now resides in the Senate Education Committee.

HB 78, The FY12 budget passed the House today and was sent to the Senate. It was tight but I think we did a good job protecting our priorities. While state funds represent a net 2% increase, total spending for FY 2012 decreases by over 4% from $39.2 billion to $37.6 billion due to loss of ARRA money.

In essence, we have nearly $1.6 billion less than was available in the budget we passed earlier in the week for Amended Fiscal Year 2011. Per capita, this puts us – even without inflation factored in – at less than 2001 levels even though our population has increased by 18% in this same decade. In general, we accommodated these reductions by executing an average 7% cut to agencies and departments totaling about a half BILLION dollars, reducing Lottery programs by $300 million and hobbling together savings in debt service and a variety of other payments from authorities to balance.

Under the confines of the governor’s conservative Revenue Estimate, we also did not fully restore with state dollars all of the federal ARRA funds that had been used by executive branch programs during the 17‐month streak of declining collections in the past two fiscal years, and we have kept growth in programs completely in check by adding funds generated by formula‐ driven expenses to QBE only.

Within the budget, however, we were able to provide some intense and needed improvements with statewide impact beyond the governor’s initial proposal:

Education: we tried to lessen the impact of the reductions by limiting direct classroom instruction programs to 1% and indirect classroom instruction to 4% reductions. The governor’s proposed reductions to programs were decreased, such as Georgia Youth Science and Technology ($144,000) and Technology /Career Education ($700,000). Also on a personal note for us in Henry, the $5.4 million for the new Southern Crescent Technical College in McDonough made the budget as well as funds for 3 new school buses.

Differentiated pay for math and science teachers is included for the 2011‐2012 school year per House Bill 280 passed in 2009 ($12.6 million). The 10% reduction to school nurses has also been softened to a 4% decrease. This add‐back of $1.6 million should alleviate some of your burden.

We put in $524,000 for the innovative “Move on When Ready” initiative the General Assembly approved in 2009, something I am in full support of. HOPE Scholarships and Grants as passed by the legislature in House Bill 326 are reflected in the Georgia Student Finance Commission budget. What is noteworthy; however, is that Accel, Engineering, Georgia Military and Public Safety Memorial Grant Scholarships are maintained now with state funds and not lottery dollars.

Health: The Health care industry employs more than 141,000 people in hospitals alone and accounts for 6 percent of our state’s Gross Domestic Product. To that end, we reduced the 1% cut to provider reimbursement rates to ½ of a percent. The dual benefit supports the economy in every Georgia county, as well as ensures that providers, who have not had a rate increase in 10 years stay in the Medicaid and PeachCare programs to provide access to services ($21.3 million).

Human Services: The sub‐committee felt very strongly about restoring funds to programs for the elderly Georgians who built this state, and shored up services to keep them independent and in their homes: Alzheimer’s Respite ($225,000), Home and Community‐based waivers for ($1.3 million), and the full restoration of funds for the Meals on Wheels program to provide 138,000 meals for the elderly and homebound were restored to current levels of funding.

Public Safety: A major initiative of our public safety agencies was to ensure compliance with the new FCC Dispatch and Communications system for law enforcement. The GBI portion of this is funded with $2.9 million in bonds, and $1,072 for each Forestry base station in cash.

We appropriated $5 million in bonds for 200 replacement vehicles for the State Patrol and $600,000 in additional fuel money. We also found that we can save $2 to $3 for every $1 we spend in the Department of Law by adding in‐house attorneys in lieu of outsourcing work to Special Assistant Attorney Generals. The subcommittee recommended and we approved $273,000 for 3 attorneys in the Law Department as well as $104,755 for Senior Judges, who substitute for a sitting Superior Court judge in order to prevent case backlogs.

Economic Development: $250,000 additional dollars in Airport Aid draw a match of $13.6 million and will allow improvements and expansions at the 103 regional airports around the state. Road and bridge improvements were bolstered with over $8.8 million more in highway maintenance shifted from bond savings.

The House agreed with the governor’s proposal for $5 million in “close‐the‐deal” REBA funds, and added $5 million for Georgia Research Alliance economic development projects.

General Government: The General Assembly imposed the same level of 7% reductions to its operating funds that are expected of all state agencies and departments. $3.8 million was added for the requisite Reapportionment activities to be completed by the legislature in response to the 2010 Census to include: per diem, travel, lodging and temporary staff.

The House also funded the Employees Retirement System, affecting the 40,581 active and 13,798 retired members, with the $8.3 million rolled forward from the FY 11 budget.

The Local Tax Officials Retirement Fund has been appropriated $5.3 million, in accordance with actuarial obligations, as well. Fully funded pensions enable our state’s Triple‐A bond ratings. Also brought forward into Fiscal Year 12 from FY 11 is the $18.2 million that may be needed to fund Unemployment Insurance payments in August 2011.

Representative Steve Davis
Chairman of Information & Audits
Georgia House of Representatives
CLOB Room 601-D
Atlanta, GA 30334
404-656-0254

GA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE PRESS RELEASE

February 22, 2011 by  
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: J.D. Easley
Thursday, February 17, 2011 (404) 656-0311
john.easley@house.ga.gov

 

Rep. Steve Davis Co-Sponsors Major Education Reform

Representatives Nix and Davis Lead Charge on Ensuring Career and College Readiness

 

ATLANTA – State Representative Steve Davis (R-McDonough) announced House Bill 186, legislation he co-sponsored with Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange).  HB 186 would establish broader education options for high school students to ensure their career and college readiness by requiring a stronger coordination between high schools, colleges, and technical schools.  This legislation builds on Rep. Davis’ Graduating Everyone Matters (GEM) Act from the 2009-10 legislative term.

“When experiencing my own concern for my children’s education and hearing the concerns of other parents, I chose to register as a substitute teacher and find out first hand what needed to be done to improve our state’s education system,” said Rep. Davis.  “After seeing the difficulties faced by teachers and students, I began working with education and government leaders to find meaningful solutions.  That work ultimately led me to write and introduce the GEM Act during last year’s term.”

“Working with Representative Davis and the Education Study Committee has shown us that we need to put the focus back on the student and give them options in terms of what it takes to get their diploma,” said Rep. Nix.  “We’ve must provide options that lead all Georgia students to success, whether they plan to go to college, technical school, or immediately enter the work force.”

HB 186 would require the State Board of Education, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and the Board of Technical and Adult Education to develop course standards that ensure the core curriculum of all Georgia public high schools will be accepted at any institution of higher education in the state beginning with students entering high school in the fall of 2011.  This coordination will ensure the readiness of students wanting to continue their education and lessen the need for remedial classes in Georgia colleges and technical schools.

Additionally, the legislation would require students on the Career, Technical, and Agriculture Education (CTAE) pathway to take academic core subject courses and pass end-of-course assessments. These assessments would allow CTAE students to receive credit upon demonstration of proficiency, rather than attendance of a mandatory number of classes.  Each student’s proficiency would be graded based on a state wide plan to be developed by the State Board of Education, which will provide standard methods for recording demonstrated proficiency on high school transcripts.

Further, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development would be required to establish a certification in soft skills for students.  Some of the areas included in the certification are punctuality, ability to learn, working as a team, reading for information, and applied mathematics. This soft skills certification will help students strengthen the life skills required for success in the workforce, while continuing to receive the standard education.

Educators are rallying behind this legislation.

“The Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) is lending their support for HB 186,” said GAE President Calvine Rollins.  “HB 186 will be in the best interest of the students of Georgia.”

“PAGE is in complete support of the new pathways initiative in HB186 and we want to thank Rep. Davis and Rep. Nix for their hard work on this bill,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, a representative for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE).

HB 186 is the culmination of work resulting from the GEM Act that Rep. Davis introduced during the 2009-2010 legislative session and the work of an education study committee that met this past summer.  The GEM Act would have brought back the Technical Diploma, which the state is currently phasing out, while also adding personal finance classes that would have taught students financial responsibility.

“This summer’s education study committee really produced a great piece of legislation,” added Rep. Davis.  “HB 186 follows the spirit of GEM Act and creates multiple pathways for Georgians to gain a High School diploma.  This vital step recognizes that all people are different, having different interests and different ways of learning.  Rather than forcing those differences to all fit one set rigid system, HB 186 allows Georgians to specialize their public education to fit their unique talents and interests.”

For more information on HB 186, please click here.

 

Representative Steve Davis represents the citizens of District 109, which includes portions of Henry County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2004, and currently serves as the Chairman of the Information & Audits Committee and as the Secretary of the State Planning & Community Affairs Committee.  He also serves on the Appropriations, Insurance, State Institutions & Property, and Transportation committees.

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GA House of Representative Press Release

February 22, 2011 by  
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: J.D. Easley
Friday, February 4, 2011 (404) 656-0311
john.easley@house.ga.gov

Chairman Steve Davis Introduces IDEA of 2011

GOP Leadership Picks Up Where 2010 Session Left Off

ATLANTARepresentative Steve Davis (R-McDonough) announced today the introduction of House Bill 167, the Insurance Delivery Enhancement Act (IDEA) of 2011.  This legislation reforms current insurance law and allows private companies to come together under a Trade Association Clause when purchasing group policies. Removing this restriction allows normally unaffiliated business to increase the size of their own private insurance pools which will lower their employees’ premiums.

“This is an important market-based solution that will help bring the cost of medical care down at no cost to the tax payers,” said Rep Davis. “This law will give immediate relief to the citizens of Georgia especially with the turbulent future of healthcare costs over the next couple of years.”

HB 167 also includes a prompt pay provision that will require third party administrators to pay for service claims in a uniform and timely fashion the same as primary care insurance.  If the third party administrators fail to do this, they would pay a penalty.  This will primarily affect small practices that operate on tight finances.

“Requiring prompt payment will help bring medical cost down because doctors and physicians will be able to better anticipate when they will receive payments, enabling them to budget more appropriately,” added Rep. Davis.

IDEA passed overwhelmingly in both chambers in the 2010 session but was not signed into law.  Rep. Davis reintroduced the bill with five other Republican Chairman as co-sponsors, including Representatives Howard Maxwell, Carl Rogers, John Meadows, Sharon Cooper, and Bill Hembree.

For more information on HB 167, please click here.

Representative Steve Davis represents the citizens of District 109, which includes portions of Henry County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2004, and currently serves as the Chairman of the Information & Audits Committee and as the Secretary of the State Planning & Community Affairs Committee.  He also serves on the Appropriations, Insurance, State Institutions & Property, and Transportation committees.

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This Week in the Senate

February 18, 2011 by  
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February 14 – February 18

State of the Judiciary

The General Assembly welcomed Chief Justice Carol Hunstein to the Capitol this week for the annual State of the Judiciary Address.  Chief Justice Hunstein outlined the judiciary’s accomplishments of the last year and the challenges the system faces moving forward.  With the fourth-largest prison system in the nation, she discussed the need for criminal justice reform in Georgia.  In the last two years, the state’s overall prison population has grown 4.6 percent and costs Georgia taxpayers $1 billion a year.

Emergency weather legislation passes unanimously

After the ice storm that paralyzed Metro Atlanta and much of the state in January, the Senate passed a resolution urging the Georgia Department of Transportation to prepare a list of contractors to be utilized during weather emergencies.  The legislation, sponsored by Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), also preauthorizes local governments to clear state roads when necessary.  SR 30 & SR 31

Legislation gives juvenile offenders the opportunity for parole

Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) has introduced legislation to give juvenile offenders the opportunity for parole.  Senate Bill 105 establishes a three-person juvenile parole panel within the Department of Juvenile Justice that will have the authority to establish and maintain parole guidelines for designated felons.  The law currently requires all children convicted of a designated felony to be confined to a youth development center (YDC) for 12 to 60 months, with no option for parole. This bill deletes any mandatory minimum time of confinement and allows for parole.  – SB 105

Bill keeps health care premiums at same rate for surviving spouses of state employees

The Senate passed a bill authored by Sen. Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) that keeps health care premiums at the same rate for the spouses and dependents of a state employee who is killed in the line of duty. HB 107

Senate votes in favor of multiyear leases

Senators approved a Constitutional Amendment authored by Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) to allow the State Properties Commission and the Board of Regents to enter into multiyear rental agreements without obligating the full amount of money due for the agreement up front.  The legislation requires that any multiyear agreement must include an exit for the state if the state has insufficient funds.   SR 84

Lupus Awareness Day

Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) hosted Lupus Awareness Day at the Capitol along with the Georgia Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America to raise awareness of the chronic autoimmune disease that affects at least 1.5 million Americans, including approximately 55,000 Georgians.  The Lupus Foundation of America is the nation’s leading nonprofit voluntary health organization, dedicated to finding the causes and a cure for lupus while providing support and services to all people affected by lupus. SR 142

Girl Scout Day

The Girl Scouts of America were honored by the Senate for their longstanding commitment to the youth of this state and the nation as a whole.  March 12, 2011 marks the 99th Anniversary of the organization, which was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah in 1912.  Throughout the organization’s distinguished history, Girl Scouting has instilled millions of girls and women with the courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place.  The Girl Scouts continue to take an active role in increasing girls’ awareness of the opportunities in math, science, sports, technology, and many other fields of interest that can expand their horizons.  SR 144

Widespread Panic honored

Nationally renowned for their powerful live performances, Widespread Panic has sold out venues from coast to coast in record numbers.  The Senate honored the band that got its start 25 years ago in Athens, Georgia.  A member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Widespread Panic has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support high school music programs across the State of Georgia with the purchase of instruments and computer music labs through their charity, Tunes for Tots, A Benefit for the Arts.  They have also generously contributed time, effort, and art to charities benefitting local food banks through Panic Fans for Food, which has collected over 15 tons of food in 28 cities for the Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, and the Make It Right Foundation of New Orleans for post-Katrina recovery efforts. SR 145

Senator Jeffares Co-Sponsors

February 18, 2011 by  
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Senate Press Office
RELEASE

For Immediate Release:
February 8, 2011

For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Director
Natalie.strong@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

Senator Jeffares Co-Sponsors   “Taxpayer Protection Act”

ATLANTA – (February 8, 2011) State Senator Rick Jeffares (R-Locust Grove) has Co-
Sponsored Senate Resolution 20 – “Taxpayer Protection Act of 2011.” The proposed
Constitutional Amendment would limit how many tax dollars the state of Georgia can
spend in any given year.

“The Taxpayer Protection Act will limit the size of government down to its necessary
functions and will ensure that wasteful spending doesn’t make it in the budget. It will
give taxpayers the assurance that the legislature is spending their dollars wisely and at the
same time putting aside tax dollars in a rainy day fund,” said Senator Rick Jeffares.

“Senator Jeffares understands that we owe it to the taxpayers of this state to control
spending. I appreciate his leadership on this important issue. The Taxpayer Protection
Act will protect future generations of Georgians from government growing too large,”
said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, the sponsor of the Resolution.

Senate Resolution 20 would restrict the state from spending any money in excess of the
previous year budget adjusted for inflation and population. Any additional revenue
beyond the spending limitations would be required to go into the Rainy Day fund until it
reaches a point of 15% of the previous year spending. Once the rainy day fund is at 15%
additional revenue would be used to slowly phase-out the state income tax.

The Amendment was approved Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee in a
unanimous bi-partisan vote.
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Sen. Rick Jeffares represents the 17th Senate District which includes Newton county and
portions of Henry, Rockdale and Spalding counties.

Budget at top of the list for Sen. Ramsey

February 12, 2011 by  
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Posted: 10:32 PM Jan 22, 2011
Reporter: By Alena Parker, Staff Reporter
Email Address: alena.parker@rockdalecitizen.com
Democrat also working on bill to address foreclosures

CONYERS — State Sen. Ronald Ramsey spoke with the Citizen last week about the 2011 General Assembly and his plans to propose a foreclosure registry law.

Legislators were in recess this week for budget hearings.

The Democrat attended the mayor’s State of the City address Wednesday and talked with the Citizen after the event.

He said Georgia’s budget shortfall will be a big issue this year, quoting an expected $1.5 billion to $2 billion deficit.

“It appears that the new governor has a clear focus on his strategy for reaching a balanced budget,” Ramsey said, mentioning proposals to streamline government and reinvest in education. “I’m really pleased to hear what he said thus far and look forward to working with him in keeping those commitments.”

Ramsey said “the deterioration of our communities by the blight of foreclosures” is one key concern of his and he is working on draft legislation to address the issue.

He wanted to see a foreclosure registry where cities and counties could have the authority to take over foreclosed properties after trying to work with banks and other finance companies. The governments would be able to resell the properties to make up for the fees that have accrued, according to Ramsey.

His draft legislation would also require someone to be responsible for the property.

“That agent would be the one that’s accountable to the cities and the counties for keeping that property in responsible condition, and when they fail to do that, then the code enforcement agents can take that issue to court, the judge will rule, impose fines and the fines will accrue until it gets to a set amount,” Ramsey said. “Then the city or the county, in my view, should have the authority to say, ‘You’ve abandoned this property. Now, we own it and we’ll keep our communities going forward and thriving.’”

Ramsey was recently selected as the Urban Affairs Committee chairman, a position he said will benefit the local community. The committee will serve as “a catch-all committee for any issue that needs to be streamlined,” he said.

The transportation bill, passed in part last year, is another issue on his radar. The bill will split the state into regions to work on transportation projects and it will levy a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects within newly defined special tax districts. His concerns about the bill include possible double taxation for counties and whether any of the projects funded through the tax would benefit District 43.

“So if I don’t see it’s going to benefit us, I can’t ask our citizens to vote for it,” Ramsey said.

The senator said he was pleased to represent Conyers, “an award-winning city with extraordinary leadership.”

“I mean, it’s just been consistent,” Ramsey said of the city government. “Clearly, I think it’s a model for the state and the nation.”

Tracking a Bill Through The General Assembly

February 12, 2011 by  
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We all hear about bills being introduced, discussed, debated, passed and voted down under the GOLD DOME, but do you understand the process for a bill to pass or be voted down?

Below I found on the GEORGIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY website that may help you to understand.  At this website you can also find the various bills in their various stages.  Also, you can find how your Senator or Representative voted on any particular bill.

Click HERE to directly to the site.


TRACKING A BILL

IDEA
Legislator sees need for a new law or changes in existing law and decides to introduce a bill.

DRAFTING
Legislator goes to Office of Legislative Counsel. There, attorney advises legislator on legal issues and drafts bill.

INTRODUCTION AND FIRST READING
Legislator files bill with the Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate. On legislative day after filing, bill is formally introduced. In chamber, bill’s title is read during period of first readings. Immediately after first reading, presiding officer assigns bill to a standing committee.

SECOND READING
In the House only, on next legislative day, Clerk reads bill’s title (second reading) in chamber, although actual bill is now in committee. In Senate, second reading comes after bill is reported favorably from committee.

COMMITTEE ACTION
Bill considered by committee. Author and other legislators may testify. If controversial, public hearings may be held. Final Committee action reported in a written report. Committee options are:

  • Recommend Bill or Resolution Do Pass;
  • Recommend Do NOT Pass;
  • Recommend Do Pass with changes (amendments or substitutes);
  • Hold Bill.

THIRD READING AND PASSAGE
Clerk or Secretary prepares a General Calendar of bills favorably reported from committee.

  • Legislation which was second read the day before is placed on a calendar in numeric order for floor action prior to the the Rules Committee meeting to choose bills for consideration.
  • After a certain point, set by rule, the Rules Committee meets and prepares a Rules Calendar for the next day’s floor consideration from bills on General Calendar.
  • The presiding officer calls up bills from the Rules Calendar for floor action in order as they appear on this calendar.

Once presiding officer calls bill up from Rules Calendar, Clerk or Secretary reads bill’s title (third reading). Bill is now ready for floor debate, amendments, and voting. After debate, main question is called and members vote. if bill is approved by majority of total membership of that house , it is sent to the other house.

TRANSMITTAL TO OTHER CHAMBER
Bill is passed if:

  • If second chamber passes bill, it is returned to chamber where bill was introduced.
  • If first chamber rejects changes and second chamber insists, a conference committee may be appointed. Committee report is accepted by both chambers.

Bill is enrolled and sent to the Governor (if requested). Otherwise, all enrolled bills sent to Governor following adjournment sine die.

GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE/VETO
Governor may sign bill or do nothing, and bill becomes law. Governor may veto bill, which requires two-thirds of members of each house to override.

ACT
Act and other laws enacted at the session are printed in the Georgia Laws series. Also, act is incorporated into the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Act becomes effective the following July 1, unless a different effective date is provided in act.

HB 72 – Drivers’ licenses; examinations only in English language; provide

February 12, 2011 by  
Filed under STATE NEWS

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HB 72- Let me know your thoughts.

HB 72 was debated on the floor Wednesday and would require driver’s license exams to be taken ONLY in English; it is currently offered in several languages.

You can look at the full text of the bill at http://www.legis.state.ga.us. This measure has been tabled for a full vote but consider the following information:

  • The road sign test is already in English; if you cannot read English signs, you WILL NOT receive your driver’s license.
  • There is no provision in the original bill to address illiteracy, which is the heart of the problem and why there are so many accidents on Georgia roads.
  • The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is opposed to this measure because of the affect it will have on attracting businesses and a labor pool to Georgia.

House of Representative voted on this bill February 9 results are as follows:

Yeas 115   Nays 050

Districts in Rockale County

92 – N
93 – N
94 – N
95 – Y

Legislators to hold town hall meeting

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under LEGISLATIVE NEWS

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Rockdale Citizen
Posted: 9:57 PM Jan 5, 2011
Reporter: By Jay Jones, News Editor
Email Address: jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com

CONYERS — Residents will have the opportunity to meet state legislators Saturday during a town hall meeting planned before the start of the 2011 Georgia General Assembly.

The Rockdale delegation of the Georgia General Assembly will hold the town hall meeting from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Rockdale Career Academy auditorium, located at 1064 Culpepper Drive in Conyers. The format for the meeting was not released, but legislators in past town hall meetings updated residents on issues facing the General Assembly this year followed by a question and answer session.

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