Monday, February 22, 2010

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's

Weekly Capitol Update     

February  20, 2010

The Georgia General Assembly convened on Thursday, February 18th after day 20 of the 2010 legislative session.  The General Assembly has decided to take a two week break from the legislative session to work on the daunting task of balancing the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.  Although labeled a “break,” it is far from what will actually be taking place for the next few weeks.  The General Assembly will hold joint House and Senate Appropriation Committee meetings.  The input from all of the members is both necessary and essential as we make difficult choices and decisions.  Working together with all of the members of the General Assembly, on both sides of the aisle, we will make it through these difficult budgetary times.  This allows us to wait on the incoming February revenue figures and then make the decisions for how much more must be cut from the budget.  All of our options are difficult and reducing the budget and making choices about where the cuts will be made is never an easy task.  The budget outlook is distressing and alarming.  For the month of January, revenue declined for the fourteenth consecutive month, falling 8.7% for the month, compared to January of 2009.  The legislators are looking at every option available to us for balancing the state budget.  The burden is heavy, but it is a job that must be done.  As legislators, we want to assure the citizens that we have the best interests of the state and the taxpayers in mind when we make the decisions of how best to cut the current budget, while continuing to ensure that we are looking at every means possible to save money and reduce spending. 

Transparency within government is a fundamental principle which the Georgia General Assembly will continue to uphold. On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed House Bill 122 which requires counties and municipalities with an annual budget larger than $1 million to make their annual budget and report available online for the public. 

Voting is a right guaranteed to the citizens of the United States.  Through elections, we get to make our own choices about who we believe would be the best candidate to represent us.  With the advancement of technology, the election process for those that are in the military and overseas should be a simple, yet effective, process.  The House passed House Bill 655 which establishes a pilot program beginning with the 2012 general and primary elections to allow the electronic transmission of absentee ballots by those in the military and for overseas citizens.  By established a pilot program, we will be able to test the process, improve upon it, and make voting easier, especially for those in the military and/or are out of the country.

Due to tough economic times, our school systems are also making cuts and tightening their budgets.  Unanimously passed by the House, House Bill 977 makes some changes to the Quality Basic Education Act in regard to the salaries of local school administrators and/or superintendants.  Although most school boards have good intentions, we want to ensure fairness and equality for all employees.  The bill prohibits the use of state funds for salary increases for administrators’ pay during a year in which the local board of education has had to furlough teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, support staff, or any other non-administrative position.  In regards to fairness, this legislation is needed.  If the school boards are forcing those within the school system to take furlough days, we want to make certain and prevent administrators from taking salary increases when other employees are losing money.  When appropriating cuts in the budget, all levels of education should continue to be mindful of all of those it could have the potential of affecting.  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) 656-0213 or write me at: State Rep. John Lunsford, 508 CLOB, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at




Monday, February 8, 2010

lunsford weekly update 02-08-2010

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's Weekly Capitol Update

Second Week of the session


February 5, 2010

Following a full week of session, the legislature adjourned on Friday for our thirteenth legislative day.  The session is quickly picking up and we are anticipating many more important discussions regarding the House version of the budget as we continue to work through this difficult budget year.  The amended 2010 budget will be ready within the next two weeks and then we can center our attention on balancing the 2011 "big" budget.  Many bills passed by the House of Representatives this week centered on education which is a main focus for legislators. 

Legislation was passed out of the House this week related to education.   The members of the House passed several pieces of legislation this week to amend the Quality Basic Education Act.  This change involve the organization of middle schools and removes the current legislation which states, if a school housed one of the middle school grades in another building, they would lose funding.  The House passed House Bill 907 to revise and correct this problem.  Also passed was House Bill 923, another revision of the Quality Basic Education Act.  This bill extends the time period for those teachers currently in a leadership program, although they have not yet completed the program, to be able to receive and become eligible for earnings under this Act.  Another change we passed, House Bill 905, involves extending the original sunset provision within the Act for Capital outlay projects for school systems.  The legislators chose to make these changes in part due to the stress many of our local school systems are experiencing with their budgets and this will allow them more time and flexibility.  In an effort to save money, the House passed House Bill 910, to allow the Department of Education to send the participation rate by gender for sporting activities in electronic format to the members of the General Assembly, thus saving on printing expenses.  

                In an effort to protect our children and our animals against the effects of consuming antifreeze, we passed House Bill 219 by a vote of 142 to 25.  One of the concerns that was brought to our attention is that because of the sweet taste of antifreeze, it could potentially be mistaken for something else by small children.  It is common for animals to consume antifreeze because of the sweet smell and taste, also.  By requiring that manufacturers, packagers, distributors, recyclers, or sellers add a substance called denatonium benzoate to antifreeze; this will make the substance taste bitter and will hopefully prevent people and animals from consuming it by alarming them by taste.  It is our hope that this precaution will save lives.

Legislation was also passed this week that regarding retirement.  To clarify existing legislation, the House passed House Bill 916.  This legislation requires that state employees who have not reached the normal retirement age on the date of their retirement are required to wait two consecutive months before returning to work. The House unanimously passed House Bill 54 which will allows the members of the Georgia Judicial Retirement System to receive spouses benefits although the member had previously rejected it.  By doing this it allows an individual to reapply for the benefits by contacting the Board of Trustees and paying a specified amount.  The restriction is that the member must have had at least 10 years of membership. 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) 656-0213 or write me at: State Rep. John Lunsford, 508 Clob, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at