Sunday, January 31, 2010

1-30-2010 weekly update

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update

Just into the session


January 30, 2010


On Thursday, January 28th we adjourned after our eighth legislative day of the 2010 session.  This week consisted of short days of legislative action followed by committee hearings reviewing legislative initiatives.  Bills are currently being drafted and introduced by legislators and the committee process is beginning to take full swing as we debate introduced legislation before it is presented on the House floor for votes.  The budget is continuing its process and the House Appropriations Subcommittees are continuing to meet to discuss and debate the specifics of how the state revenues are to be used and where spending cuts can and should be made.

One piece of legislation was voted upon this week, House Resolution 1168, and it was unanimously passed by the House. This Resolution amended some changes to the rules governing how we operate in the Georgia House of Representatives.  One change is the elimination of the Hawk System.  The new leadership, and some  of the legislators, have questioned the role of the Hawk system that was implemented in previous years.  Although the Hawk System has been in place for almost 5 years, Lunsford resigned last year as the senior Hawk and the Speaker of the House decided not to replace that position.  Another change now allows the media outlets access to the House floor after our morning devotional.  Previously, the media were restricted in the House chambers.  Also, although more of a formality, is a change which allows substitutions to be made on Bills within the Rules Committee if an error is found.  As legislators, we are always improving the process by which the legislature and committees work, it is a continuous cycle. 

Jobs and business development continue to be a focus for the General Assembly.  The creation of the Small Business development and jobs creation committee, whereas John Lunsford was tapped to chair this important new committee. The House and the Senate are working together for the Jobs, Opportunity, and Business Success Act of 2010 (JOBS Act of 2010 by Rep. Tom Graves Ranger Ga. ). The jobs act of 2010 legislation has been placed into this new committee.   Ensuring that Georgians are employed, and that business owners have incentives to hire those unemployed, are one of our priorities.  With unemployment numbers reaching 10.3% for the state of Georgia, we are committed to helping people once again become gainfully employed.  According to the Georgia Department of Labor, over the last year Georgians lost approximately 175,000 jobs.  Much of this can be contributed to the economy; however, legislators must do our part to ensure that we are encouraging businesses and helping the citizens of the state.  Legislation will be introduced next week which is similar to the legislation the General Assembly passed last year which was vetoed by Governor Perdue.  This legislation, the JOBS Act of 2010, would help in numerous ways by:  waiving state fees for new businesses, giving quarterly tax credits for unemployment to those businesses that hire someone currently receiving unemployment benefits, a tax credit of $2,400 for businesses employing the unemployed for 24 consecutive months, a fifty percent reduction in the capital gains tax, a tax credit for investments made to small businesses, and a gradual phasing out of the sales tax deposit required for businesses.  These incentives will encourage businesses in Georgia, and in return, individuals and the economy benefit as the steps are taken toward recovering from this economic recession.  We have a lot of other great ideas that will be vented in the coming weeks. 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, 505 Clob, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at






weekly for 1-21-2010

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's

Weekly Capitol Update     

 January 21, 2010

Many legislators filled the Capitol this week although we were not in session.  Our agenda consisted of Joint Appropriations Committee hearings.  During these joint hearings, each state agency presents their budget to both the Senators and Representatives of the Georgia General Assembly.  Now that the agencies have presented their budgets, the House and Senate Appropriation Subcommittees will individually resume working on their version of budget, to be approved by each chamber, and the differences will be worked out later in the session with the Appropriations Conference Committee.  On Monday, January 25th, all legislators from across the state will join together at our State Capitol as we begin our 5th legislative session day. 

Last Friday, Governor Perdue released his amended budget proposal for 2010 and for Fiscal Year 2011.  The Fiscal Year 2010 Amended Budget figure released was reduced to $17.4 billion.  This includes between an eight and nine percent cut on most state agencies.  Three additional furlough days for all state employees has been requested by the Governor in the amended recommendations.  An option for the individual school boards across the state is the choice to offset the furloughs by either using surpluses or cutting the budget in other areas. The Fiscal Year 2011 estimated revenue figure is projected at $18.2 billion.  The “Rainy Day Fund” still has roughly $103 million and this money is used to help ease the burden when the state experiences revenue shortfalls.  As I have mentioned before, the Governor’s budget is the recommendation for how the incoming revenue will be appropriated; however, legislators ultimately decide funding for the state agencies, programs, and services and the Governor’s budget is used as a guide in the decision making process.

Transportation is a topic that arises every session.  Especially now with declining budget figures, we must continue to improve transportation infrastructure and also come up with a transportation funding plan.  This week, the Governor stated that he would support a referendum on a regional sales tax to support transportation.   The House and Senate lawmakers will continue working together and in cooperation with each other to find a solution.

In addition, education will continue to be a priority.  If we had the ideal perfect economic and budget situation, we would be increasing the amount of funding for education. However because of our budget situation, all departments will have to make cuts.  In the Amended 2010 budget, Perdue recommended that Public K-12 reduce their budget by an additional three percent.  Although this is difficult, other agencies faced between eight and nine percent reductions.  Perdue also mentioned a possibility of teacher compensation being based upon student performance.  This is an idea that will be reviewed; however, we must also consider that in more rural areas, teachers have fewer resources available to them.  Although the education budget will have to reduced, as will the budgets of all state agencies, education is still a main concern.  The benefits of improving education have a ripple effect that can be seen in our communities and throughout the state and country.  As legislators, we understand that we are educating the leaders of the future and that providing quality education is essential for our future.  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, 508 CLOB, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at





Monday, January 4, 2010

lunsford presession

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's

Weekly Capitol Update

The State’s Budget and Legislation

January 4, 2010


As we quickly approach the beginning of January and are embarking on the start of a new year and another legislative session, it is time for us as legislators to focus on setting our agenda for the 2010 session.  The budget will be our priority during the session.  Other areas we will focus on this year include transportation funding, education,water concerns, and ethics reform.


With declining revenue figures throughout the year of 2009, it was a surprise to many that we were not called in for a Special Session to sort out our budget shortfalls.  The budget deficits we are facing can be contributed to a weak economy and decreasing tax and revenue collections.  In Georgia, the Constitution requires that we have a balanced budget.  The revenue estimates for the upcoming budget are based partly upon the incoming revenue numbers from the previous year.  Due to revenue declining drastically throughout 2009, we have been faced with a budget shortfall.  Luckily, we were able to use Reserve Funds and some Federal Stimulus Funds to account for the nearly $2.3 billion budget deficit.  In addition to that, for Fiscal Year 2010, the state was able to save around $35 million due to a lower interest rate on bonds.  This lower bond rating saved the state, and Georgians, money.


Just as we balance our checkbook and make sure the amount we spend does not exceed the amount we have, the state also has to do the same.  Difficult choices are being made daily as the people in Georgia tighten their budgets and focus on the essentials.  The mid-year reconciliation budget for Fiscal Year 2010 and the new Fiscal Year Budget for 2011 will be some of the toughest the state has ever had to handle as we have to reduce state spending.   It is a fiscal crisis that we will have to manage.  As legislators, we are going to have to come together and decide where the cuts will be made.  The decisions are not going to be easy.  We have to decide what the essentials are in terms of programs and services and decide where cuts can be made.  As Republicans, we are committed to not raising taxes on the people of our state; therefore, cutting and reducing our state budget is the only solution to the budget shortfall.  


Water is an essential part of our life and a resource we often take for granted.  Conserving water, ensuring water supply, and developing long term solutions have become a main topic to focus on this session.  Earlier this year Georgia was facing a historic and severe drought.  In some areas, people were either banned from outdoor watering or put on watering restrictions.  Midway through the year, we were fortunate enough to receive generous rainfall and our water levels rose.  In addition to this, the U.S. District Court has limited the state’s access to water at Lake Lanier.  The Governor created a Water Contingency Task Force in September of 2009 to try and address the water issues and for the Task Force to offer recommendations.  The Task Force has recommended what it refers to as the "3Cs" in relation to water: conserve, capture, and control.  Governor Perdue met in December with the Governors of Florida and Alabama to try and come up with an agreement on how to share the water.  As legislators, we must also do our part to preserve our water resources and also to come up with long terms solutions.


Transportation is always a priority that the Georgia General Assembly focuses on.  Last year, there were two different transportation funding bills, but neither passed. Although both pieces of legislation intended to fund transportation, an agreement could not be made on whether it should include a regional or a statewide one-cent plan. We need a solution for funding transportation statewide.  Especially since we are facing a budget dilemma, transportation policy and funding is at the top of our list.  Alternative means to funding transportation will be explored, especially as our state budget continues to decrease.  Traffic and congestion continues to be a problem, especially in metro Atlanta.  We also need a broader road system to allow rural communities to create economic development opportunities.  In Georgia we need solutions, not only for metro Atlanta, but statewide.  Transportation is something that affects everyone.  As legislators, we have to prioritize transportation projects across the state but also remain fiscally conservative.


The Republican members of the House Caucus have implemented new leadership and our new leadership team will set and implement new priorities for the session.  The changes in House leadership include: a new Speaker of the House, Rep. David Ralston; Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Jan Jones; and Majority Whip, Rep. Edward Lindsey.  As legislators, it is our obligation to both our constituents and the citizens of the State of Georgia to uphold and maintain both our ethics and our values.  Unfortunately, the actions of a few can sometimes look poorly on the whole.  Personally, I believe that the poor actions of some legislators should not reflect on the rest of the legislators.  We are all individuals and we are all accountable to ourselves, our families, and our constituents. Therefore, we are going to take the steps to ensure that ethics is upheld by the members of our General Assembly. 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