Saturday, March 31, 2007

State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update march 26 2007

State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update


March 26, 2007


The Georgia General Assembly has completed 29 of the constitutionally mandated not more than 40-day annual legislative session.  On Tuesday, we will begin Day 30 which for us means “crossover day.”  Crossover day is the day when any bills originating in the House or the Senate must be passed or it will not be considered for passage this year.  The days leading up to and including crossover day are very busy ones as many of us are trying to insure legislation important to us has its fair hearing and is passed out of the committee in which it was assigned, passed by the Rules Committee, and then passed by the entire House or Senate.  That is a tall order for normal legislation and that is why most legislation introduced doesn’t go any where and effectively “dies.”


Day’s 28 and 29 brought a slew of legislative initiatives that won passage.  It also brought a high profile bill that died when the requisite constitutional majority wasn’t reached.  First, the high-profile bill that failed was a bill repealing the prohibition on payday lending.  The bill would allow payday lending to be reestablished in Georgia, an action that was eliminated from the state a few years back.  The payday lending issue is a very emotional one that most of us have heard the pros and cons numerous times.  This bill, House Bill 163, was voted on by the House of Representatives and actually received a tie vote of 84-84.  Seeing it did not receive a constitutional majority of 91 votes, the bill was defeated and will be reconsidered on Tuesday.


Far too often, the legislation that we pass in the Georgia General Assembly can affect not just our lives, but actually save a life.  We did just that in H.B. 147 when we made a bold step in trying to save lives.  Far too often, women, when faced with an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy chose to abort the baby.  The legislation we passed furthers the Women’s Right to Know Act by requiring that all women who are getting advice and information on getting an abortion, be given information on receiving an ultrasound.  If an ultrasound is performed, the woman will have the right to view the active ultrasound, and hear the heartbeat of the unborn child if audible.  In addition, the quality of the ultrasound shall be consistent with standard medical practices and show the dimensions, presence of external members and internal organs of the child.  We passed this legislation 116 to 54, and hopefully it will save some lives.


We passed legislation moving our Presidential Primary to the first Tuesday of February, which in 2008 will be February 5.  The bill would allow for Georgia to play a more important role in selecting presidential nominees for both the Republican and Democrat parties.  In addition, for statewide candidates running in primaries and general elections, the threshold for avoiding a run-off was lowered to 45 percent.  H.B. 487 passed easily, 154-11.


Another high profile topic is the death penalty.  Many of us view the death penalty as a needed deterrent for pre-meditated crimes of violence.  H.B. 185 would allow a judge to impose a penalty of death or life imprisonment without parole if 10 of 12 members of a sentencing jury recommend the death penalty.  The bill passed 106-65.


Red light cameras have been a point of contention for many legislators over the years.  H.B. 77 would provide that only certified peace officers may review and issue citations based on the camera’s photos.  Further the legislation would provide a split of the fees after the cost to cover the operation of the camera, with 25 percent going to the local government and 75 percent going to the state trauma fund.  This bill passed 110-60.



We also passed a somewhat controversial bill that would allow the legislature more oversight over Jekyll Island, a state-owned island that is controlled by the Jekyll Island Authority.  The legislation would create a six-member legislative committee to review all proposed leases and extend the Authority’s oversight by 99 years, a needed step in negotiating long-term deals with hotels.  Georgia law requires that 65 percent of the island remain in its natural setting and this law does not diminish or change that requirement.  The bill, H.B. 214, passed 130-35. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-7573 or write me at: State Rep. John Lunsford, 401, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at



weekly update from the capitol

This Week at the Capitol with State Representative John Lunsford

 Weekly Capitol Update


March 31, 2007


We have completed our 33rd legislative day and the 2007 Georgia General Assembly will move in to the final weeks with some very important bills to be debated.  First and foremost, the two budgets need to be approved.  The budgets are the only constitutionally mandated pieces of legislation that the General Assembly is required to pass.  The Fiscal Year 2007 mid-year budget has been passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for their consideration.  The House Appropriations Committee, a committee in which I serve, is presently putting together our FY 2008 budget.  In addition, we finished “Crossover Day”, or the 30th legislative day.  It is the day in which if a bill hasn’t passed either the House or Senate it effectively dies for this legislative year.


Two high profile bills that received a lot of coverage in the media around the state failed to find a consensus and died.  The first bill was House Bill 163, the Payday Lending bill which would repeal the prohibition enacted by the Georgia Legislature a few years ago.  This bill was voted on once earlier this year and failed to garner a constitutionally majority of 91 votes in the House.  The author of the bill filed a motion to reconsider and the bill was brought back on Day 30.  The bill failed again, this time by an 82-77 margin.  The other high profile bill had to due with Certificate of Need issues for hospitals.  This legislation did not make it to the House floor for debate and we will continue to work out the issues dealing with CON during the summer.


We passed H.B. 340 that basically was an effort to save our PeachCare for Kids insurance program, a program that allows for low-income wage earners to purchase a federal/state health insurance for children.  The bill would lower the threshold for eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty line while granting the Board of Health the authority to revise this number between 185% and 225% of the FPL.  The bill passed 101-63.


Another piece of legislation I was very proud of was HB 394 which will bring 300-500 million new dollars to local governments around the state for 911 emergency services at no additional cost to our taxpayers this process includes a grant fund to allow the poorest counties in Georgia to provide the same level of response to emergency calls you receive in the largest cities it passed overwhelmingly. As the author of this bill I had worked on this for almost 3 years.


One bill that I am particularly proud that we passed was H.B. 311, the Georgia HERO (Helping Educate Reservists and their Offspring) Scholarship program.  This legislation amended the scholarship program to include the surviving spouse of a deceased Guard member or reservist.  We unanimously passed this legislation in remembrance of the men and women from Georgia, especially of the 48th Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard, who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their state and country.


We also passed overwhelmingly H.B. 152, a bill that provides HOPE scholarships for home schooled children, students graduating from Christian schools and unaccredited schools who score within the 85th percentile on the SAT/ACT college entrance exams.  The bill passed 164-1.   


We unanimously passed H.B. 451, the Georgia Tourism Development Act, a bill designed to promote and develop tourism attractions in the state of Georgia.  The bill would provide that companies seeking to undertake a tourism attraction project may be granted a sales and use tax refund for state and local sales taxes generated by or arising at the tourism attraction.  Georgia relies on tourism as one of its primary economic engines.  We also passed H.B. 282, a bill that provides for a two-year sales tax exemption on the sales of engines, parts, equipment and other tangible personal property use in aircraft maintenance or repair, when the aircraft is repaired or maintained in Georgia.  That bill passed 165-1. 


This coming week, the Georgia General Assembly will stand in recess for Holy Week activities including Easter and Passover.  We will return for Day 34 on Tuesday, April 10. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-7573 or write me at: State Rep. John Lunsford, 401, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at