Sunday, February 24, 2008

weekly update lunsford

Under the Gold Dome with State Representative

John Lunsford Capitol Update

February 24, 2008

50 percent of the days are gone, 80 percent of the work left

We have officially completed the twentieth legislative day of the 2008 Georgia General Assembly session, which signals we have passed the half-way point of the constitutionally mandated “no-more-than” forty-day legislative session. The reconciliation budget, called the “little budget” is the document that looks at where the state stands, especially with federally-mandated Medicaid and education funding. If we are short, usually due to unanticipated growth, the General Assembly must infuse new funds to offset those required expenses.

The House of Representatives took the lead in adding $53 million to help establish a state trauma care network; $6.5 million was added for indigent care trust fund, a federally mandated program; and $15 million for the PeachCare health insurance program that assists working families who cannot afford health insurance. Because of the ongoing drought conditions, we added $40 million for the development of new reservoirs.

The House and Senate Appropriation Committees have put the final touches on the Fiscal Year 2008 Reconciliation Budget and will now go to a conference committee to iron out the differences. The reason we are insisting on a conference committee is to insure that the austerity cuts the Governor made last year are restored to our school systems.

We continued our “War on Drugs” by making trafficking of the drug Ecstasy only bailable by a judge in superior court, joining trafficking in cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine, and marijuana. Ecstasy has become a drug of choice for many of our children. This bill, House Bill 960, passed unanimously.

In our efforts to streamline the Department of Transportation, and make it more accountable, we unanimously passed H.B. 1123. The legislation will require the DOT commissioner to file annual reports to the General Assembly, as well as, the Governor. The reports would mark the progress that DOT has made in disposal of county maintenance barns and surplus equipment; the commissioner’s plan for road maintenance and the funding amount and source for the funding; and the commissioner’s plan for inspecting and maintaining existing bridges and the money’s source.

In an effort to protect our children who attend a daycare, we strengthened the law that requires daycare center directors to undergo a Georgia Crime information Center check. The new legislation would require all employees of the daycare center to undergo a background check both with the Georgia Crime information Center and the National Crime Information Center. It would also require any individual 18 years of age or older who resides in a home that operates a daycare, to undergo the required background check. This bill, H.B. 904 passed 159-1.

In an effort to help our disabled military veterans, we unanimously passed Senate Bill 369 that would allow military doctors to submit affidavits stating that a service member or a veteran is disabled, regardless if the doctor is licensed to practice in Georgia.

Another bill of statewide importance was HB969 which passed overwhelmingly in the house to clear up some oversights within the driver licenses process, this bill allowed home school parents to sign the completion requirements and attendance paperwork for first time driver training license applications ,

In the House Ways and Means Committee this week, Speaker Glenn Richardson presented his proposal to provide property tax and ad-valorem tax relief to Georgia citizens. House Bill 979 and House Resolution 1246 would eliminate the ad-valorem tax on personal vehicles, freeze property tax assessments at the 2008 level, and provide Georgians with increased tax deductions for portions of their property taxes. The Speaker’s proposal was adopted by the committee and is expected to be debated by the full House next week.

With all this talk of tax reform, it is crucial we also discuss spending reform. I co sponsored House Resolution 1216 that, if approved, would stipulate any revenue surplus be spent first to fully fund education, maintain an 8% reserve fund and all additional revenues be returned to taxpayers in the form of income tax deductions.

I am pleased with the decision of House leadership to make education a top spending priority by fully funding the $30 million in equalization grants for our schools. This action will have a positive impact on all our schools in Georgia .

The topic of taxes was also brought up this week in a House Transportation Committee meeting. There is no doubt that we have a traffic congestion problem in the metro Atlanta area or that we must address these challenges. House Bill 1139 and House Resolution 1226 would impose a 1% statewide sales and use tax with funds collected to be used exclusively for transportation projects in addition to raising the motor fuel tax by 1%.

I firmly believe that before we begin raising taxes we must first examine how we are spending the tax dollars we already collect, prioritize our spending and create greater efficiencies where possible.

Finally, one piece of legislation I am happy for us to pass is the creation of a Legislative Service Award. The bill, H.R. 1081 would allow each Representative, on an annual basis, to present a Legislative Service Award to an individual or group who has contributed to the public good. This resolution was unanimously passed.

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

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