The Georgia General Assembly is approaching the final stretch, and the finish line is in sight for the 2013 legislative session. With the last day of session tentatively set for March 28, legislators could return to our districts before April.
The Georgia General Assembly, unlike our United States Congress, is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget during every legislative session. The amended fiscal year 2013 “little” budget has been passed by both chambers and is awaiting our governor’s signature, and the “big” budget for fiscal year 2014 was passed recently by the House.
The “big” budget, House Bill 106, passed 159-15 out of the House on March 12. This proposed budget totals $19.8 billion and covers July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014.
Gov. Nathan Deal sets the budget and gives recommendations for it; however, the House and Senate ultimately determine the exact path for balancing the budget and ensuring that the state does not spend more than it receives in revenues. Although our economy is improving slowly, most state agencies still were required by Deal to make cuts to their budgets for 2014.
Even with the cuts, the current proposal includes an additional 10 days for the pre-kindergarten program, which will restore it to a full school year of 180 days.
The House budget proposal also includes a reduction of the cuts recommended under the governor’s budget proposal to the Technical College System of Georgia. This appropriation bill for fiscal year 2014 is now in the Senate for review, modifications and approval. Working alongside our fellow legislators in the Senate, we will balance the “big” budget for Georgia by funding the essential and necessary programs and services, while ensuring that the priorities are met.
Many pieces of local legislation passed the House last week, although none of the bills pertained to our district. I will continue to follow the legislation I have sponsored and co-sponsored or signed, as well as attend Senate committee hearings to answer any questions other legislators may have. If the legislation is passed through the Senate committee(s), each bill will be sponsored or carried by a senator, who will present the legislation on the Senate floor. The same procedure is followed for Senate bills that are now being considered in the House.
Debate on the House floor declined significantly as Senate bills are just now making their way through the House committee process and onto the House floor. After crossover day, there is a bit of a “starting-over” period as bills passed by the Senate must be vetted through our House committees before being presented to the whole House for consideration.
Senate Bill 193 passed unanimously last week and would update the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which provides a procedural framework for family support orders among states. SB 61 passed, 159-4, and would make changes to the Georgia Self-Service Storage Facility Act, such as updating options for communication by adding electronic notifications, such as email, between the occupant and the owner of the storage-unit facility. It also changes how auctions are held for failure of payment, changes publishing requirements for intent to sell contents by allowing one ad instead of individual ads, and shortens the time the occupants can be locked out for non-payment by reducing it from 10 days to seven.
Our primary task through the end of the session is to vote on “agrees or disagrees.” If the Senate changes a House bill or vice versa, the bill must go back to the original chamber for approval. If the original chamber disagrees with the changes, a conference committee is appointed to work out the differences. Before a bill can be sent to the governor to be signed into law, both chambers must approve it with the exact same language.
The Georgia General Assembly will continue day 35 of the 2013 Legislative session today.
Contact me with your ideas and opinions or let me know if I can be of service to you in any way. It is your input and common-sense ideas that develop into the best legislation and potentially becomes laws in our state.Call me at 404-656-5099 or write to me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.