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Going through the motions
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The end is near for the first regular session of the 149th General Assembly. We have completed 36 days and have no more than four days to complete the business of the state. We have set the schedule and expect to adjourn Sine Die on April 20. We have completed a budget deal on the Fiscal Year 2007 mid-year budget changes and now are in negotiations with the Senate on the Fiscal Year 2008 budget.

We reached an agreement on the Fiscal Year 2007 mid year reconciliation budget late in the night on Tuesday. The mid-year budget is one of two budgets the General Assembly reviews each year. In January, we began to review that budget to see if we are short money for mandatory programs like education and health care. In this year’s reconciliation budget, we agreed to spend $81 million to fund our successful PeachCare for Kids program that provides health insurance for children of low-income families. We also spent $8 million for the public defenders program and $40 million to aid the start up of a new Kia auto manufacturing facility.

But the best news was that we agreed to send some excess revenues back to the providers of the funds, and that would be you, the taxpayer. We are giving back $142 million in a one-time tax refund of property taxes. That will amount to almost a $100 refund on the average to Georgia homeowners. That is good news for many of us.

We also are moving into the point of the session where we agree with the Senate on bills that we have passed and they have amended. Motions to agree, motions to disagree, or motions to insist become part of our lexicon as we determine whether we will accept the Senate changes. If a motion to agree is approved by the House, the bill is sent to the Governor for his signature and approval. Of course we can also amend that bill and send it back to the Senate. A motion to disagree essentially sends the bill back to the Senate with a message that we are not accepting their changes. This is the point where the author of the legislation in the House will work with the Senate author to try to reach a compromise. A motion to insist basically is a message that we insist on our position and ask the Senate to approve the legislation without changes.

We have several motions to agree, disagree and insist on our calendars and while it seems somewhat dysfunctional, it is a good thing. By going through a rigorous approval process, the bill is properly vetted by all parties before becoming law.

We passed Senate Bill 70 this week, a bill that would update state banking laws to fall in line with new federal laws regarding banking. The biggest change is it excludes the value of good will in certain transactions to minimize its impact on limits of loans, investments and fixed assets. This bill more closely follows federal agency rules and regulations regarding real estate loans. It also incorporated requirements that sellers of bank checks be subjected to background checks on their employees and agents. The bill passed 157-4.

The final week of the session will prove to be an arduous time as we will work long hours to pass the Fiscal Year 2008 budget and other important pieces of legislation. I look forward to reporting to you next week on what we passed and the highlights of the 2007 legislative session.

As always, please feel free to contact me at (404) 273-1340 or by email at