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State transportation being retooled

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POSTED: February 25, 2009 9:32 a.m.
As the fifth week of Georgia’s legislative session ended, numerous pieces of legislation were discussed. Activity has picked up 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.
The first bill passed out of the General Assembly last week and signed by the governor would fund the Homeowner Tax Relief Grants for 2008. This legislation, in place for almost a decade, provides state funding to local governments to help lower property taxes.
The legislation made good on our commitment to homeowners to continue to fight for lower property taxes thus keeping citizens in their homes. 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, leaders in the General Assembly unveiled plans for the Transforming Transportation Investment Act. Transportation is a statewide issue that comes up every 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 plan would create a State Transportation Authority composed 11 members with five chosen by the governor, three by the speaker and the others by the lieutenant governor. It would incorporate the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and State Road and Tollway Authority into the STA responsible for overseeing road project funding. Once this legislation comes to the House, we will take an in-depth look at it to decide whether it is the most effective solution for our transportation needs.
Passed by the House, HB 59 would exempt the sales tax on free drug samples provided by physicians and on the samples used in clinical trials and research. As legislators, we want to encourage physicians to continue to provide free samples to patients, especially those unable to pay for a prescription. During hard economic times, people often cut back on medications and we need to ensure the option of physicians continuing to dispense them.
This bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. In addition we passed HB 217 to allow pharmacists and nurses to administer flu shots through a written protocol from a doctor. 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 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.

Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues. If you would like to reach me, call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov
 

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