Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feb. 7 Update

It seems like only last week the 2008 legislative session got underway and here we are now in February. Our committee work on the Amended Fiscal Year 2008 Budget is now complete and we are ready to move forward with our proposals. On the House floor this week, we expanded the Georgia Higher Education Savings Plan, changed the dates allowed for special elections to increase participation, and officially recognized February 12th as ‘Georgia’s birthday.’

As legislators, our one constitutional obligation is to provide a budget for the state of Georgia. I have worked diligently with my colleagues to ensure that we employ conservative fiscal principles in this process. This year, we were presented a budget that used an “income factor” inconsistent with current education funding mechanisms as a basis to reduce education funding to schools across Georgia. These reductions would have had a negative impact on 16 of our school systems and nearly 30% of our student population statewide. If the cuts are not restored, the negative impact grows to effect 134 school systems and 62% of our student population.

This was unacceptable to the House and in the Amended FY 08 budget, we were able to restore $30.7 million to our schools. There will always be differences of opinion among elected leaders as to how tax dollars can best be spent, but the members of the Georgia House remain steadfastly committed to funding education in Georgia.

House Bill 1014 is a win-win for grandparents and their college bound grandchildren. We expanded the Georgia Higher Education Savings Plan to allow grandparents to make tax deductible donations to qualified 529 college savings plan.

Special elections in Georgia to approve local tax increases for specific projects have historically been held on various dates throughout the year with often low turnout. By requiring that special elections to present a question to voters, such as to approve a local option penny sales tax, must be held on the primary or general elections dates, House Bill 296 will hopefully increase turnout for these important ballot questions.

On a lighter note, the House did adopt House Bill 387 officially recognizing February 12 - ‘Georgia Day’ - as the anniversary of the landing of General Oglethorpe and the first colonists in Georgia. Without the bravery and wisdom of these early Georgians, that once small colony would not have become our now great state.

This week, I received the honor of being named a Deputy Whip for the House Republican Caucus. Deputy Whips are assigned to receive input from members of the Republican Caucus. When key legislation is presented for consideration on the House floor, Deputy Whips will assist the Majority Whip in gathering information about the leanings of caucus members.

I will continue to keep you up to date on our actions as the legislative session progresses. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at my Capitol office at (404) 656- 0109. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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