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Budget prompts break
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Both Houses of the Legislature recessed this week to consider the implications of the continued downward revenue trends on the FY2010 and FY11 budgets. Members of both appropriations committees will be meeting together in an unusual move to iron out major budget issues before the FY11 budget is produced by either body.  

The shortfall in FY10 is expected to range from $200 million to $500 million by the end of June, which presents a double problem in 2011. If federal stimulus funds are drafted from the FY11 budget to fill the FY 2010 deficit, not only is the FY11 budget short that amount, but the hole is doubly large because the FY11 budget starts where the previous budget ends. A shortfall of $350 million or so in FY10 will create a $700 million hole in the FY11 budget. Of course the issues discussed in last week’s column still apply as well.     

Senate action last week
The following legislation has passed the Senate:  
• SB 148: Requires periodic review of all existing regulatory boards to ensure viability in the current business climate.
• SB 341: Sets Georgia residency as a requirement for eligibility for the HOPE GED voucher.
• SB 344: Provides sovereign immunity protection to physician assistants working in safety net clinics that participate in the “Health Share” Volunteers in Medicine Act.  
• SB 374: Creates the Legislative Economic Development Council to evaluate the state’s overall economic development strategy.  Gives Council the authority to appoint a citizen advisory committee to be made up of business and industry leaders.  
• HB 172: Prevents individuals who are receiving state workers compensation benefits from receiving an income greater than they were previously making.  
• HB 926: Allows banks to renew or restructure certain loans to a single person or corporation that would normally exceed lending limits to match federal banking regulations.  

Under Senate consideration:
Bills of interest that have recently been introduced in the Senate:
• SB 254: Allows the State Properties Commission to enter into multi-year rental agreements.  
• SB 371: Specifically authorizes the Georgia Bureau of investigation to investigate residential mortgage fraud cases.
• SB 373: Requires employers to disclose all employment related information when an investigation is conducted for the purpose of hiring, certifying, or continuing the certification of a peace officer.   
• SB 380: Grants the GA Environmental Facility Authority’s Water Supply Division (WSD) the power to make loans and grants to local governments to pay all or any part of the cost of expanding and increasing the capacity of existing permitted reservoirs.  
• SB 387: Provides for web based career counseling and advisement for students in grades six through 12.
• SB 403: Would require a probationer or parolee to waive his/her fourth amendment rights regarding search and seizure.
• SB 407: Authorizes the Commissioner of Insurance to offer individual medical and surgical health insurance policies in Georgia that have been approved for issuance in selected other states.
• SB 416:  Requires any bank or lending institution serving as a depository for the state to offer and accept gold and silver coin for deposit.
• SB 421: Increases the Revenue Shortfall Reserve ceiling to 15 % of the previous year’s net revenue.  
•  SB 429: Increases the number of Georgia Supreme Court Justices from seven to nine and increases the number of Court of Appeals judges from 12 to 15.
• SB 397: Establishes the “Blue Alert” system which is activated when a suspect involved in the death or serious injury of a peace officer has not been apprehended.
• HB 665: Provides for a pilot project authorizing the electronic transmission of absentee ballots by military and overseas citizens in the 2010 general primary and general election.
• HB 908: Would allow local school systems to waive expenditure controls for direct instructional costs, media center costs, and staff professional development costs without penalty for the next three years.  

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