Monday, January 28, 2008


State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update

January 25, 2008

Budget process has begun in earnest

This past week the Georgia General Assembly stood in recess during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and then while members of the Appropriations Committee gather to receive testimony on Fiscal Year 2009 budget from various department heads.  But prior to the recess, we passed a very important piece of legislation.


It goes without saying that our future is tied to water.  Without water, the results are disastrous.   With agriculture as our largest economic force, no water equals any crops.  In our cities, no water equals no growth and no new businesses.  It is imperative that we solve this problem immediately and for the long term.  That is why we passed House Resolution 1022, a bill that ratifies the state-wide water management plan.   


The 2004 Comprehensive State-wide Water Management Planning Act charged the Water Council and the Environmental Protection Division with development of a comprehensive statewide water plan for sustainable management of water quality and water quantity while supporting our state’s growth.


The State Water Plan developed by the Water Council is not a plan to address the current drought conditions being experienced in different parts of Georgia.  It is intended to guide long-term planning and will be implemented in conjunction with existing statutes and regulations that guide responses to drought or other emergency circumstances.  It identifies a set of statewide water management policies that will guide sustainable use of Georgia’s water resources.  It describes a “toolbox” of management practices (actions and activities) that can be implemented to meet current and future water needs.  Finally, it lays out a framework for regional planning.


Under the new State Water Plan, a series of regional water planning councils would be formed for eleven water planning regions.  These water planning councils would oversee regional water plans.  The regional water planning councils will each consist of at least 25 members, to be appointed by the Governor (13 members), Lt. Governor (6 members), and Speaker of the House (6 members). Water planning council members must reside within the geographical boundaries of the water planning region, and membership requirements include provisions for approximately 30% of the membership of each council to be representatives of local governments.


The plan also laid out a number of management practices (some already being widely used in our state; others yet to be fully available for use in Georgia) that comprise a 'toolbox of practices' from which local governments - through regional water councils - might select to meet their long-term, water needs.  The management practices in the 'toolbox' include categories that will allow:


·        Better management of demand for water (e.g., water conservation);

·        Improvement in managing the return of water to our rivers and streams after use, and

·        Provisions for adding water supply capacity (e.g., water supply reservoirs) to our waters.

·        Provisions for the protection of water quality and management of assimilative capacity for current and future uses and users.


This bill passed the House

One other bill of note making its way through the Georgia General Assembly is House Bill 301.  It is a bill that strengthens the current dog fighting bill that the state already has.  Due to the recent conviction of the Atlanta Falcons’ star quarterback for dog fighting, the legislation intends to strengthen the current law to felony status with a first offense punished by one to five years imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine.  A second conviction could receive a punishment of one to ten years imprisonment and/or a $15,000 fine.  Spectators also would be charges with high misdemeanors with second offenses leading to felony convictions.


Your opinions and concerns are important to me and I consider it an honor to serve you at the state capitol and in our district. 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, January 19, 2008

lunsford weekly update

State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update


January 19, 2008


Legislative Session promises to be contentious



The first week at the Georgia General Assembly proved to be full of activity as we got right down business. In the beginning of the week, Governor Perdue delivered his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly and in his speech announced three new initiatives that he proposed to further Georgia’s educational system and economic development. 


The governor announced his intention to create a State Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which allows local governments to fast build transportation projects using matching federal and state funds. Many of you may remember this original concept was one I passed through the house several years ago and I have been working on it for approximately 4 years, I am excited about the Governors intentions to Sheppard, support, and fund this important program.


 The first plan that the governor touted is the “Very Important Parent” (VIP) Recruiter Program which will target elementary, middle and high schools with high absenteeism rates. This initiative will provide a grant for a VIP recruiter in each school to ensure that parents, who might otherwise not be involved, become engaged in their child’s education.  It has been proven that parent involvement is the key to successful students and schools. The second program is Georgia’s Education Scoreboard which is a website that provides education stakeholders with a straightforward indication of student achievement in Georgia


The Education Scoreboard, developed by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, provides data for Georgia’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and technical colleges. Information on a particular school can be compared with data against school systems in Georgia, southeastern states, or the nation. Finally, Governor Perdue also announced his vision for the Georgia Research Alliance Venture Capital Fund. This fund will allow the state to partner with the private sector to provide early stage financing for businesses formed around intellectual property developed in Georgia’s research universities.


While the Governor addressed many other issues that legislators also view as vital to the state including water, transportation, tax reform, and trauma care, we will undoubtedly have differing views and  offer opposing potential solutions as we take into consideration the needs and concerns of our constituents. 


The other significant news this week is that there were twelve veto overrides by the House of Representatives on the first legislative day. Some of the legislation included:


HB 69 is a bill which allows for individuals to get a copy of their driving record from the Department of Driver Services’ website, free of charge. 


HB 91 is legislation that provides detail on state agency spending by requiring each agency to submit certain annual reports to the Lt. Governor, the Speaker of the House, Senate and House Appropriations Committees, the House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee, the House Budget Office, and the Senate Budget Evaluation Office as well as make the reports available for the public, press, and other media .


HB 218 is a bill related to the Georgia Ports Authority. This bill intends on changing certain provisions for the application of traffic laws and enforcement by security guards employed with the Georgia Ports Authority. It will change the designation of security guard to peace officer and those with this designation will be subject to the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.


HB 229 will establish a true measure of decreasing lottery reserve funds prior to eliminating student funding. Under current law, students are in jeopardy of losing their book allowances if there is any decline in lottery funds for education. 


HB 441 is a bill to repeal provisions of legislation passed in 2005 dealing with the tax liability computations on interest or dividends earned from US obligations, interest derived from international banking, and income from off-shore banking. Current law stemming from the 2005 legislation requires corporations to subtract direct and indirect expenses attributable to the production of income from US obligations before taking a deduction. This bill will provide for only direct expenses to be subtracted from the deduction, as was the law before the 2005 legislation was enacted.


HB 451 provides for the promotion and development of tourism attractions in Georgia. The bill provides 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.


HB 549 would simplify the process of application and approval of medical therapy services for children with disabilities. Such services are entitled under the Medicaid Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment Program. This bill would also simplify the paperwork which occupational, speech, and physical therapy services are applied for and received by eligible citizens.  


HB 559 relates to health insurance plans for teacher and other school personnel in elementary and secondary education, so as to provide for teachers and employees of charter schools to be considered employees for purposes of participating in the health insurance plans for teachers and other school personnel.


As the legislative session continues, I will keep you updated and informed about these issues and other pending legislation that comes before the Georgia House of Representatives. Your opinions and concerns are important to me and I consider it an honor to serve you at the state capitol and in our district. 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, January 13, 2008

lunsford weekly update before session

State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update

January 13, 2008

Legislative Session Prepares for Busy Year


The 2008 Legislative Session officially gets underway on January 14th and there are many substantial issues that will be on the agenda this year. This is a departure from typical years when one or two big issues dominate the headlines and the attention of lawmakers. The issues that will be at the forefront of legislators’ consideration are:


In many parts of our state, a drought-like situation became a paramount concern as a poll identified water as the top concern for Georgians. The State Water Council has drafted a plan that creates regional panels and states that $30 million in research on water needs is necessary. In separate legislation, funding is expected for a network of reservoirs.


Taxes, or the concern of higher taxes, are always on the minds of hard-working Georgians. This session, House Speaker Glenn Richardson is proposing to increase the state sales tax in exchange for the elimination of property taxes for schools. Although this proposal has met opposition, it is expected to get to the House floor for a vote. This plan calls for a constitutional amendment, so it would require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate before it could be included on voter’s ballots in November.


A gubernatorial task force is expected to present a plan for revising how the state allocates funds to local school systems. The recommendations are expected to include rewarding schools with high student performance by relaxing spending requirements.

Health care

There are two separate, but complementary proposals from the Governor and Lt. Governor that have proven so far to be non-controversial.  Gov. Perdue’s plan would allocate money projected to be saved by Medicaid’s switch to managed care and use those funds to subsidize the premiums to private insurers paid by small businesses.

Lt. Cagle’s plan would fund additional local health clinics, create a Web site for comparing private insurance policies, and work to stimulate more contractual services by private clinics and physicians. The Governors plan at this time looks more promising.

Sunday alcohol sales

This issue is in its second year and convenience and grocery stores are attempting to get state lawmakers to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, much to the chagrin of package stores and most churches. A similar proposal stalled last year.

Sexual predators

House Majority Leader Jerry Kean, R-St. Simons, intends to restore some restrictions on where those convicted of sex crimes can reside. This would correct constitutional flaws the Supreme Court recently cited in invalidating the original restrictions by legislation several years ago.


Along with the above we will be dealing with a vast list of other issues such as criminal justice, Medicaid, illegal immigration, prisons, transportation and the list goes on and on. As each issue comes before the state legislature, I will keep you informed through weekly updates. Your opinions and concerns are important to me and I consider it an honor to serve you at the state capitol and in our district. 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