The House convened this week on Tuesday, February 26th, for the 23rd day of our 40 day legislative session. On the floor, we adopted legislation addressing our continued transportation funding problems, education and local school boards and an adoption tax credit.
Several education bills were considered this week that will impact education in our state. New charter schools are opened every year in Georgia and House Bill 1065 was adopted allowing local education sales taxes to be used for a local charter school’s capital outlay projects. In communities that do not have the luxury of excellent public schools like we have in Fayette County, charter schools can sometimes be a life line to students. Unfortunately sometimes, educating our children means doing more than providing schools. It can also mean ensuring ‘bad apples’ aren’t teaching in the classroom. This week we adopted House Bill 250 enabling the Professional Practices Commission to more quickly and efficiently investigate complaints against educators involving illegal substances and sexual offenses.
Earlier this week I joined several colleagues in sponsoring House Resolution 956, The Taxpayer Protection Amendment. The Resolution proposes to cap state spending at the rate of inflation, adjusted for population increases. Families across Georgia are being forced to tighten their belts as our economy hits a soft patch and I strongly believe the state government needs to engage in some belt tightening of its own. This measure and House Resolution 1218, the Taxpayer Dividend Act, which I also cosponsored, would put some common sense back into the budget process and revolutionize the way our state treats taxpayer dollars. HR 956 would permanently cap the growth of spending in our state and HR 1218 would constitutionally require surplus dollars be returned to Georgia’s citizens in the form of a heightened tax exemption, rather that sitting in a bank awaiting someone in government to figure out how to spend it. I will work diligently to encourage the passage of these important measures.
With more children every year entering our foster system, I believe it is important that we do everything we can to support those families that give them a permanent home.
This week, I supported the adoption of House Bill 1159 providing a state income tax credit for families who adopt foster children. I hope that this measure will encourage more Georgians to open their hearts and provide these children with a permanent home.
As we continue to debate transportation proposals offered by our House and Senate Transportation Committee Chairmen, the House Transportation Committee passed several measures that I look forward to supporting. SR 781 calls on the Georgia Department of Transportation to create a state-wide strategic transportation plan and present it to the General Assembly by December 31, 2008. This is a necessary step to provide Georgia with a comprehensive map to address our transportation needs. HB 1189 would require the DOT to make an annual report to the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker and chairs of the House and Senate Transportation Committees. The report must include progress made on the Statewide Strategic Transportation plan plus a list of projects realistically expected to begin in the next 5 years, the cost of those projects, and the source of funding for those projects. I think it is vital that the Department of Transportation get its house in order and this reporting will help ensure all steps are being taken to efficiently deliver needed infrastructure projects to Georgia’s communities.
Last week, I told you about House Bill 455 which will help law enforcement officers track the over prescription of dangerous drugs. The measure was introduced in part as a result of the Chris Benoit tragedy that profoundly affected Fayette County. This week, that measure was adopted by the full House. The legislation will now be assigned to a Senate committee for hearing and hopefully passage by that body.
Local Note**** This past week I was once again reminded how lucky we are in Fayette County to have such responsive and diligent law enforcement agencies in our community. My ever curious one year old son grabbed our cordless telephone on Saturday morning and dialed 911 on our speed dial feature before my wife or I could get the phone away from him. In a matter of seconds the 911 operator called our house back and we confirmed that it was not an emergency that prompted the call, but rather a mischievous toddler. Despite our best efforts to assure the operator all was well at our house, an extraordinarily courteous and professional Peachtree City police officer responded to my house in less than five minutes to make sure we were all safe and sound. This kind of rapid response should give all of us comfort in the event a real emergency occurs that affects our families. Due to their record of success, we have come to expect this kind of service from our Sheriff’s Department and the Peachtree City and City of Fayetteville Police Departments and we sometimes take it for granted. I just wanted to again say thank you to all of these men and women that are on the front line in the effort to keep our community safe.
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.