In coffee shops, diners, and community meetings, much has been debated about the 2008 Georgia General Assembly session that concluded two week ago. Some have criticized, some have ballyhooed, some jumped for joy, while others registered indifference. The reality is that it was a successful session.
Let’s start first with the fact that we passed a balanced Fiscal Year 2009 budget and amended the 2008 budget in a time when revenue projections for the state have been downsized. We returned $50 million in austerity cuts to education and we gave teachers, state employees, and law enforcement officers pay increases. We also funded eight new or expanded libraries, funded Georgia’s first dental school, and additional new community health centers. Close to 50 hospitals received increased funding for indigent care and set aside $10 million for land conservation.
One of the most important bills passed was Senate Bill 342, a bill designed to help alleviate future water problems by developing and expediting the building of additional water reservoirs.
We protected our children by passing Senate Bill 1, a bill that prohibits sex offenders from photographing minor children without parent or guardian consent. We also passed a bill, S.B. 474, which would provide greater protection for children from sexual predators using the internet to try and lure our children. We also cracked down on habitual drunk drivers by making their fourth DUI conviction in ten years a felony with the necessary penalties.
We helped protect our 2nd Amendment rights by allowing Georgians licensed to carry concealed weapons in parks, historic sites, recreation areas, wildlife management areas and prohibiting employers from searching employee vehicles and conditioning employment on regulation of firearms. This was done through House Bill 89.
We passed a major reform of our medical care system by passing S.B. 433. The Certificate of Need reforms relaxed outdated regulations that limited health care options available to Georgia citizens by increasing access and competition. The bill also allowed for a new state-of-the-art cancer hospital to open in Atlanta.
We continued our Republican effort of bringing transparency to our state government by passing S.B. 300 creating a free, publicly accessible website providing information on state expenditures. With our efforts to reform the Department of Transportation, we passed two bills that will make them more accountable to the citizens of Georgia. The first bill, House Bill 1189, will require the Department of Transportation to report on a Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan. The second bill, S.B. 417, will require DOT to develop and publish benchmarks to provide a time frame for the completion of transportation projects.
We passed House Bill 948 which continues the popular back-to-school sales tax holiday set for July 31 through August 3 and the energy efficient products sales tax holiday set for October 2-5. We passed H.B. 1019, a bill that allows communities to fund new road construction using the newly created Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank. We created a law in H.B. 1159 that will give families a $2,000 tax credit for adopting a child in the Georgia foster care system.
With these remarkable legislative initiatives passing the General Assembly, with too little fanfare in our media, I think many of us would say that this session was a success.
In conclusion, it has been my privilege to serve as your state representative carrying your needs and beliefs to our state’s capital. I am honored to be your public servant.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Stephens represents South Bryan in the Georgia House.