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Session racing to its closing bell
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The Georgia General Assembly has six days of session remaining in the 2013 legislative session. The focus for the remainder of our time under the Gold Dome will include finalizing and passing the fiscal year 2014 budget by both chambers, committee meetings and debating legislation on the House floor for possible passage. 

Just as families sit down together, determine their needs, prioritize their spending, and balance their checkbook, the checkbook for our state is handled the same way. Without spending more money than the household makes, families all across Georgia live within their means.  My fellow legislators, both state representative and senators, work together between both chambers (and both sides of the aisle) to balance the budget for the state of Georgia. 

In recent years with a slow economy, the focus has been where to make necessary cuts in order to balance the budget. During these tough economic times, other states across the U.S. have raised taxes on their citizens to account for the shortfall in state funds; however, in Georgia, the approach has focused on reducing the amount of money spent by the state. 

Just as many families have had to reduce their spending, our state has done the same. The fiscal year 2014 budget has now passed the House and heads to the Senate for review and approval.  The General Appropriations Bill, House Bill 106 (passed 159-15), saw passage by the full House last week. This budget, which begins July 1 of this year, totals $19.8 billion and includes a budget cut requested by Governor Deal of all state agencies by 3 percent.

 The total budget for FY 2014 includes a slight increase (2.8 percent) from the previous FY 2013 budget. 

With our economy gradually improving, this is a start in the right direction, while still balancing the budget for our state and living within our means.      

The House has started debating Senate legislation, with several bills passing the House this week. Senate Bill 66 (116-49) increases the fine amount of the penalty for contempt of court from $500 to $1,000 and would not require verification under oath for an answer to a complaint or a counter-claim in magistrate court. This fine has not been raised in 30 years. 

The House also passed House Resolution 218 with only one dissenting vote, and it would urge all local school superintendents, principals and teachers within Georgia to recognize that learning and teaching the U.S. Constitution is an essential part of their primary education.    

Also, two of my bills (HB 365 requiring seat belt use in 15-passenger vans that are primarily used to transport school age children and HB 366 that sets forth new testing, training and disciplinary standards for peace officers) continue to move through the committee and debate process. 

I presented both bills before the Senate Public Safety Committee and received a "do pass" recommendation by committee vote.  I have made my formal request to appear before the Senate Rules committee on behalf of both bills, which will be the final step, if approved, before being presented on the Senate floor for consideration.  Since a senator must present my bills in the Senate, Sen. Buddy Carter from Pooler, chairman of the Senate Public Safety committee, has agreed to carry them for me. 

Similarly, I have agreed to present Sen. Lester Jackson of Savannah›s Senate Bill 76, which organizes representatives of all seven state agencies that have purview over veterans affairs together into a veterans task force that will provide for a more unified approach to facilitating assistance to our military veterans returning to civilian life. And since the representatives are already in place, there will be no costs associated with creating the veterans task force.

The Georgia General Assembly returned to the Gold Dome on Wednesday for the 35th day of the 2013 session. I will keep you apprised of important legislation that affects your families, your freedoms, and your pocketbooks. Working with and alongside the other members of both the House and Senate, your best interests will always remain my first priority. 

Please let me know if I can ever be of assistance to you or your family. Please feel welcome to write to me at 501 Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg., Atlanta, GA 30334, email me at, or call my office at (404) 656-0178.