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Lawmakers get a little quality time
Legislative update
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The Georgia General Assembly was out of session this week and enjoyed some much needed quality time with our families and in our places of full-time employment. It is always especially difficult being away from our families during session, as many of us live further away from the State Capitol and are not able to commute. All of the members were very grateful to be able to go home and spend Easter weekend and the week with our families. The week before, the days of session were shorter, and the House debated only a few pieces of legislation for the three days we were in session. The reason for the low number of legislation being voted upon was the budget and trying to allow the Senate the time to vote on and pass the "Hospital Bed Tax" which I discussed last week. For the House to move forward with the budget for Fiscal Year 2011, the members of the House Appropriation Committee had to know whether the additional revenue would be included and could be used in this budget cycle. The Senate did pass the Hospital Bed Tax; however, Amendments were added, to which the House disagreed, and sent the bill back to the Senate. Once this fee is decided, the House can move ahead with finalizing the budget and hopefully passage this week. The General Assembly will be back in session on Monday, April 12th, for the thirty-fourth legislative session day.
 Legislation the House voted on last week included many bills relating to education. As I have previously discussed, education remains a high priority to the members of the General Assembly. Improving our educational system in the state of Georgia is a continual process that we can always improve upon. One of the bills passed by the House this week was Senate Bill 319 and it would allow the local Boards of Education to use textbooks in electronic formats for students. In this technological age, our students are learning at young ages about the uses and benefits of technology. The bill would apply to those in elementary and secondary education. In an effort to increase their learning opportunities, the digital content of learning material is an asset to our eager and learning students around the state. Unanimously passed by the House was SB 341 which would require those students that receive the HOPE GED voucher to adhere to the same requirements as others receiving the HOPE scholarships. The voucher is a one-time grant of $500 awarded to students meeting certain requirements. These requirements are established by the Georgia Student Finance Commission. Lastly, we passed SB 250, which applies to the unlawful disruption of, or interference of, public schools, public school buses, or school bus stops. To clarify this existing law, we added that a person is guilty of this only if the person "knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly" disrupts or interferes. The legislature values education at all levels and will continue to enhance it throughout the state.
The tradition of the Liberty Tree began during the American Revolution with the thirteen colonies and served as the place that people went to gather and rally. In honor of this, the House passed a Resolution, SR 274, to designate the tulip poplar tree planted in Dalton, Georgia on October 18, 2006 as the official Liberty Tree of Georgia. The significance of this tree is that it was taken from a sapling from the last original Liberty Tree that was planted during the American Revolution. One descendent from the last surviving Liberty Tree was placed in each of the 13 original colonies, in addition to one sapling at Mount Vernon to honor George Washington. The legislature wanted to honor this tree as it serves as a symbol of our independence and freedom during the Revolutionary War. I will continue to keep all of you informed on our progress during the 2010 legislative session. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions, ideas, or concerns.
Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues that concern you. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens ,228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at

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