Sunday, April 22, 2007

this week at the capitol 04-20-07 lunsford

This Week at the Capitol with State Representative John Lunsford

 Weekly Capitol Update


April 20, 2007


It’s over!  The clock has run out on the 2007 General Assembly session and we have completed the people’s business.  It has been a tough session with highs and lows for all members as we have watched the legislative process.  Our forefathers had it right when they designed our system of government with many checks and balances that allows usually only well vetted legislation to be passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Even to the most casual observer, it is difficult to pass any legislation and have it signed into law. The separation of powers portion of Georgia’s constitution got a real workout this session  the 2007 session of the Georgia General Assembly was my toughest ever.


In the closing days of the session, we have passed some very important legislation. We overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow optometrists to prescribe and administer oral antibiotics to treat ocular surface disease and lid disease.  The bill, Senate Bill 17, was passed 155-2 and now goes to the Governor for his signature.  Another bill heading to the Governor is House Bill 357, a tax code reform bill that would update the Georgia tax code to be more inline with the federal tax code.


We have passed the Georgia HERO Scholarship bill, H.B. 131, the bill that would allow the surviving spouse of a Georgia national Guardsman or reservist to be entitled to attend a state school on a HERO (Helping Educate Reservists and their Offspring) scholarship.  This was particularly important as one of the father’s of a Georgia Guardsman who paid the ultimate price in Iraq, promised his son that he would look after his wife.  He walked the halls of the capitol with his son’s boots over his shoulder talking to legislators about the importance of passage of this bill.  It too goes to the Governor for his approval.


We passed S.B. 60 that would establish the Georgia Trauma Commission.  This is extremely important as this legislation comes from an exhaustive 2006 study committee that reviewed the State’s trauma care network.  This is the first step in finding a way to enhance Georgia’s hospitals for trauma care.  The bill passed 158-1.


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 in the house and the senate.. Rep Lunsford the  author of this bill  had worked on this for almost 3 years.


In an effort to insure that prescription narcotics are carefully controlled, we passed Senate Bill 205, a bill that would create the “Prescription Medication Integrity Act.”  The act requires that each person engaged in the wholesale distribution of prescription drugs maintain inventories and records.  It will also conduct a study of the distribution of prescription drugs and will establish a mandated implementation date for electronic pedigrees.  The pedigree will include all necessary identifying information on each sale from the manufacturer to the sale to the pharmacists.


We passed a bill that will keep more serious offenders of our laws in prison.  By passing H.B. 197, we have terminated the defendant’s ability to have a three-judge panel review the prison sentence on all sentences of 12 years or more.  Current law allows for the review but we believe that the review process only weakens the original process of the judicial proceedings.  This bill now goes to the Governor for his review and signature.


Now that the session is over, I will do an end-of-session review article that will highlight the key legislation that was passed and sent to the Governor for his approval. 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



Saturday, April 14, 2007

This week at the capitol april 13 2007

This Week at the Capitol with State Representative John Lunsford

 Weekly Capitol Update


April 13, 2007


The end is near for the First Regular Session of the 149th General Assembly.  We have completed 36 days and have no more than four days to complete the business of the state.  We have set the schedule and expect to adjourn Sine Die on Friday, April 20th.  We have completed a budget deal on the Fiscal Year 2007 mid-year budget changes and now are in negotiations with the Senate on the Fiscal Year 2008 budget.


We reached an agreement on the Fiscal Year 2007 mid year reconciliation budget late in the night on Tuesday.  The mid-year budget is one of two budgets the General Assembly reviews each year.  In January, we began to review that budget to see if we are short money for mandatory programs like education and healthcare.  In this year’s reconciliation budget, we agreed to spend $81 million to fund our successful PeachCare for Kids program that provides health insurance for children of low-income families.  We also spent $8 million for the public defenders program and $40 million to aid the start up of a new Kia auto manufacturing facility. 


But the best news was that we agreed to send some excess revenues back to the providers of the funds, and that would be you, the taxpayer.  We are giving back $142 million in a one-time tax refund of property taxes.  That will amount to almost a $100 refund on the average to Georgia homeowners.  That is good news for many of us.


We also are moving into the point of the session where we agree or disagree with the Senate on bills that we have passed and they have amended.  Motions to Agree, Motions to Disagree, or Motions to Insist become part of our lexicon as we determine whether we will accept the Senate changes.  If a Motion to Agree is approved by the House, the bill is sent to Governor for his signature and approval.  Of course we can also amend that bill and send it back to the Senate.  A Motion to Disagree essentially sends the bill back to the Senate with a message that we are not accepting their changes.  This is the point where the author of the legislation in the House will work with the Senate author to try and reach a compromise.  A Motion to Insist basically is a message that we insist on our position and ask the Senate to approve the legislation without changes.


We have many Motions to Agree, Disagree, and Insist on our calendars and while it seems somewhat dysfunctional, it is a good thing.  By going through a rigorous approval process, the bill is properly vetted by all parties before becoming law. 


We passed Senate Bill 70 this week, a bill that would update state banking laws to fall in line with new federal laws regarding banking.  The biggest change is it excludes the value of good will in certain transactions to minimize its impact on limits of loans, investments and fixed assets.  This bill more closely follows federal agency rules and regulations regarding real estate loans.  It also incorporated requirements that sellers of bank checks be subjected to background checks on their employees and agents.  The bill passed 157-4.


The final week of the session will prove to be an arduous time as we will work long hours to pass the Fiscal Year 2008 budget and other important pieces of legislation.  I look forward to reporting to you next week on what we passed and the highlights of the 2007 legislative session. 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




Sunday, April 8, 2007

Under the Gold Dome lunsford 04-07-07

This Week at the Capitol with State Representative John Lunsford

 Weekly Capitol Update


April 07, 2007

This past week the Georgia General Assembly was recessed in observance of the holy holidays of Easter and Passover. I hope this was a time of rest and reflection for families across the state, as many schools also recessed for spring break. We are all so blessed to live in a country that not only allows religious freedom, but supports setting aside time away from work and school to express and celebrate our faith and beliefs.


As I thought about the meaning of this time, and looked out my window and observed the initial burst of spring color and splendor, my thoughts couldn’t help but turn to the many things we are working on in the legislature, and how we are truly working for the good of the people we represent in an effort to better the lives of all Georgians. As you know, this is not an easy task and there are many outstanding issues that we face when we reconvene next week.


The biggest issues that we face when we reconvene are the issue of the Fiscal Year 2007 Mid-Year Budget and the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget.  The FY 2007 Mid-Year Budget is a reconciliation budget to move more funds to where shortfalls occur.  This usually occurs in the areas of education spending and Medicaid spending.  Both are required by federal law and due to an increasingly growing population base in our state, we usually have to allocate additional funds to the various required spending programs.  We also use the budget to help fund emergency issues like the shortfall in PeachCare funding and relief help for the tornado-ravaged Americus area.


We have passed our version of the mid-year budget and have sent it to the Senate for their approval or modifications. 


The FY 2008 Budget or what we call “the big budget” each year is currently being vetted by the House and Senate Appropriations Committee.  Much of the funding requests come from the Governor’s Budget with education is one of the biggest programs that we are required to fund.  The Governor has requested $152.5 million in funds for the Quality Based Education formula to recognize a 2.65% enrollment growth in our schools.  He also requested $417 million in bonds to build more schools.  There was a line item of $178 million for teacher pay raises keeping Georgia’s teachers the best paid in the Southeast.  That is a 3% pay raise across the board beginning September 1, 2007.  He also requested $89.5 million for step increases, with an additional 3% pay raise for our best teachers.  It also included an additional $228 million for construction at higher education facilities.


Healthcare is the other big spending program with much of it s spending dedicated to federally-mandated programs.  The state budget for just state employees’ healthcare is $176 million with an additional $100 million set aside to help fund state employee retirements.  The budget also requested an earmark of $16 million to fully fund the purchase of antiviral medications to treat a pandemic flu and $9 million for additional operating costs at state hospitals.


To help spur economic development which in turns creates jobs, the Governor has set aside $40.5 million for the West Point Development Authority to be used on expenses for the new Kia car assembly plant in West Georgia.  His budget also seeks to expand the state’s overseas marketing budget by 135% by investing $1.5 million in marketing initiatives. 


In the law enforcement arena, the Governor has asked for $15 million to fund an additional 1,200 prison beds and an additional $24 million in bonds to fund an additional 1,000 beds.  He also wants $1.4 million to add 15 new Georgia Bureau of Investigations Meth Force agents.  He also has asked for an additional $50 million for undeveloped land under the Land Conservation Act.  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