March 8 marked the 30th legislative day of the 2012 session. Due to Crossover Day, the House worked long hours, debating and voting on lengthy lists of pending legislation. Below is a highlight of some of the highly debated and significant legislation passed last week. There were a number of other bills that passed that are important; if you would like to see other legislation, go to www.house.ga.gov and click on the clerk’s office/legislation at the top of that page, followed by house calendars on the left side of the page.
Of all the legislation passed on Crossover Day, the most important was House Bill 742, the fiscal year 2013 (FY 2013) state budget. As passed by the House, the FY 2013 budget will direct spending for all state agencies, departments and programs from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. While the $19.2 billion state budget reflects a slight increase from the FY 2012 state budget, it should be note that the FY 2013 budget proposes state operations at over 20 percent less per capita than a decade ago.
I am committed to education in our community and recognize that it is one of our most important funding priorities. With this in mind, I am happy to let you know that the FY 2013 budget includes an increase in funding for state education programs. Thanks to this added funding, we were able to bring back 10 days of instruction to our Georgia Pre-K program that were cut in the FY 2012 budget, bringing the Pre-K year to 170 days of instruction and nine professional learning days.
We followed Governor Deal’s proposal in funding a reading mentor program and included $3 million in differentiated pay for newly certified math and science teachers. The House budget plan includes $112.5 million to fully fund K-12 enrollment growth and pay increases for teachers based on their training and experience. It includes an additional $3.5 million for the school nurse program. Additionally, the FY 2013 budget allows every free or reduced lunch student to take one AP exam.
The FY 2013 budget expands funding for important health programs, such as the state medical student residency program. Through this funding, the state will attract future doctors to Georgia with nine new osteopathic residency slots and 214 additional residency slots.
We passed legislation this week to ensure children in need receive the care they deserve and are not robbed of the public benefits meant to provide basic necessities by drug-addicted parents. House Bill 861 would require applicants seeking cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to pass a drug test before receiving public funds. If a TANF recipient who has dependent children fails the drug test, the funds for the children would be reallocated to another caring adult who will ensure the children’s needs are financially covered by the TANF funds.
We passed legislation to protect Georgians from the growing problem of metal theft. The goal is to deter people from stealing and taking the stolen property to metal recyclers by not allowing quick cash as a form of payment; by requiring more personal information to be given by the seller; and provide for a means of tracking the property back to the person who sold it. I encourage you to visit stopmetaltheft.com to learn how you can protect your home from metal theft.
House Bill 1198 passed unanimously and would give grandparents the right to appeal to a court for grandparent visitation rights. This would apply in cases where the court finds the child would be harmed without visitation rights of the grandparents.
The remaining 10 legislative days of session will be used to consider legislation already passed by the Senate. You can reach me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-5099 or through email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.