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Burns: New roads board plan stirs interest
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As the fifth week (the 21st legislative day) of Georgia’s legislative session came to an end, numerous pieces of legislation were discussed. Activity has picked up significantly as the budget requirements were made clearer with the addition of $465 million in federal funding for Medicaid. This additional funding has taken some of the pressure off the Medicaid funding parts of the budget which have federally-mandated requirements.

This week the first bill passed out of the General Assembly and was signed by the governor and will fund the Homeowner Tax Relief Grants (HTRG) for 2008. This legislation, in place for almost a decade, provides state funding to local government taxing districts to help keep property taxes lower. By passing this legislation and the Governor signing it, we make good on our commitment to homeowners to continue to fight for lower property taxes thus keeping citizens in their homes, especially during this economic crisis.

For this legislative session, House Bill 143 was the first bill to be passed out of the Georgia General Assembly and signed by the governor. Citizens will not receive additional property tax bills for 2008 and this bill further states how the funding will be appropriated in future years.

In a press conference, top leadership in the General Assembly unveiled their plans for the Transforming Transportation Investment Act. Transportation is a statewide issue that comes up every legislative session. In a joint effort to try to improve transportation projects, Gov. Perdue, Lt. Gov. Cagle, and Speaker Richardson introduced the Transforming Transportation Investment Act.

The transportation plan would create a new State Transportation Authority (STA) composed of an 11-member board with five members chosen by the governor, three by the speaker, and the other three chosen by the lieutenant governor. It would incorporate the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the State Road and Tollway Authority into a new State Transportation Authority responsible for overseeing state and road project funding.

Once this piece of legislation comes to the House, we will take an in-depth look at it and will make an informed decision on whether or not it is the most effective solution for our transportation needs.    

Legislation this week that also was passed by the House includes HB 59. This bill would exempt the sales tax on free drug samples provided by physicians and also on the samples used in clinical trials and research.

As legislators, we want to encourage physicians to continue to provide free drug samples to their patients, especially those that might be unable to pay for a prescription. During hard economic times, people often cut back on medications and we need to ensure that the option of being able to use free drug samples is available and that the physicians continue to disperse it to the people. This bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

In addition we passed HB 217, a bill that will allow pharmacists and nurses to administer flu shots through the use of a written protocol formed between a doctor and either the pharmacist or nurse. This is extremely important in rural and inner-city areas where doctors are less prevalent. The legislation passed 160-3.

We unanimously passed HB 237, legislation that provides financial assistance for adoptive parents who adopt children classified as “hard-to-place.” The legislation expands financial assistance to families that adopt hard-to-place children through private adoption agencies. This includes children with mental, physical or emotional disabilities. This legislation is designed to make Georgia more adoption-friendly.

Contact Rep. Burns at or at (404) 565-5116.