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Water, ethics also hot topics
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On Jan. 28, the House adjourned after our eighth legislative day of the 2010 session. The week consisted of short days of legislative action followed by committee hearings reviewing legislative initiatives. Bills are being drafted and introduced by legislators and the committee process is beginning to take full swing as we debate introduced legislation before it is presented on the House floor for votes. The budget process is continuing. We meet as the Appropriations Committee to discuss the specifics of how state revenues can best be utilized.

One piece of legislation was voted on this week, HR 1168, and it was unanimously passed by the House. This resolution made some changes to the rules governing how we operate in the House of Representatives. The seldom used “hawk” system was abolished. Another change now allows media outlets access to the House floor after our morning devotional. Previously, the media were restricted in the House chambers. We also took away the Rules Committee’s ability to offer a substitute to a bill. Now bills can only be corrected for technical errors in the Rules Committee. As legislators, we strive to improve the process by which the legislature and committees work.

While passing a balanced state budget is still our number one priority, other vital issues remain at the forefront during this year’s legislative session. Among those are securing a sustainable water supply for all Georgians, helping small businesses grow, creating jobs, and ensuring we make the necessary improvements to our state’s ethics laws.

As a result of increased water needs by our state, water rights have become a serious issue in the South. In 2008, the House passed sweeping legislation in an effort to create a more sustainable water supply for the state. While that legislation has helped, the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee continues to look for more ways to insure a sufficient water supply for our growing state. Last week, I took part in a meeting with experts regarding the state’s status in the current litigation over access to water resources between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and to discuss legislation to promote water conservation.

Under the leadership of Speaker David Ralston, the House has committed itself to helping small businesses grow and create jobs for Georgians. We have a new committee specifically designed for that purpose: the Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation. This committee will hear and review legislation intended to promote small business and job creation before sending it to the House floor for debate.

Also, the House Ethics Committee held a joint hearing with the Senate Ethics Committee this week to gather information and hear from leading experts on ethics laws. These committees will use the findings from this week’s hearing to help them improve Georgia’s stringent ethics laws, which currently place Georgia as the seventh-highest ranked state on the Center for Public Integrity’s ethics report card.  

Finally, I would like you to know that I am fully aware of the sacrifices many of you are making due to the current economic conditions. Just as you and your family must balance your budget so must the state. Over the past year, that has meant making difficult decisions, including furloughs for nearly all state employees. This sacrifice has not gone unnoticed.  

This is why most members of the General Assembly are voluntarily choosing to take an additional six furlough days on top of the five furlough days already taken.  

Please feel free to call me with any questions or comments that you might have regarding our state. You can reach me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-5116 or my e-mail at Your concerns matter to me!