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Libert DFCS building in state budget

Legislative report

POSTED: March 16, 2009 10:21 a.m.
A narrow majority of members of the House of Representatives unfortunately took another step backward when it comes to education in Georgia on Thursday by eliminating the year-long, rigorous program of National Board Certification for public school teachers and the 10 percent salary increase incentive that goes along with it.
HB 243, pushed by the Perdue administration, is another assault on public education as it would force Georgia to become the only state in the U.S. not to offer National Board Certification for our educators. Approximately 2,500 teachers throughout Georgia have gone through this rigorous program because they know it will improve their skills in the classroom and benefit our students.
This legislation threatens to further weaken our public schools and sends the wrong message to educators and those who plan to become teachers. This governor and his supporters in the legislature have already cut nearly $2 billion in local school funding during his time in office, while our students’ test scores have continued to fall.
HB 243 received only one vote more than the needed majority. It now moves to the Senate, where hopefully it will be defeated.
Both the House and Senate approved final versions of the supplemental budget for fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30. The $18.9 billion proposal reflects approximately $2 billion in spending cuts due to a severe downturn in revenues over the past year. Additional cuts would have been necessary if not for the federal stimulus funding making its way to Georgia. Funding for the Liberty County DFCS building is included in the budget.
The new budget restores the $428 million in homeowner tax relief grants that had been cut by Gov. Perdue, saving the average Georgian $200 to $300 in property taxes. Also, $145 million in federal stimulus money was included to offset the governor’s cuts to local school funding. HB 118 now goes to the governor for his signature, while work continues in the legislature on the annual budget for fiscal year 2010.
Thursday was the 30th day of the 2009 legislative session, also known as “cross-over” day because it was the deadline for legislation to pass the House and still be considered by the Senate this year, and vice versa. Some of the measures receiving House approval this week were:
• HB 23, which would ban teenage drivers from sending text messages or making calls on their cell phones while driving.
• HB 160, which would put an additional $200 fine on “super speeders,” motorists who are convicted of driving more than 85 mph on a four-lane highway or more than 75 on a two-lane road. The revenues from the extra fees would go toward trauma care funding.
• HB 228, which would reorganize the massive state Department of Human Resources by moving Public Health and Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases to a new Department of Public and Behavioral Health Services. The Department of Community Health would continue as a regulatory and payer agency for Medicaid, PeachCare and the State Health Benefit Plan. The remaining Department of Human Services would oversee the Department of Family and Children Services and Aging.
• HB 261, which would provide up to $3,600 in income tax credits for buying homes over a six-month span. This measure is aimed at reducing the inventory of unsold homes in the state.
• HB 381, which addresses the salmonella outbreak resulting from problems at the Peanut Corp. of America plant in Early County. The bill would authorize the Department of Agriculture to deputize county health inspectors to conduct inspections and report any contamination immediately.
• HB 388, which would create a legal mechanism for the “adoption” of embryos. I voted against this bill because of the chilling effect it would have on life-saving stem cell research in Georgia.
• HB 480, which would eliminate the yearly ad valorem tax on automobiles that is due on the owner’s birthday and replace the tax with a one-time title fee of 7 percent of the purchase price, not to exceed $2,000.
• HB 481, which would provide a tax credit for businesses that hire unemployed workers and temporarily suspend the fees charged to new businesses for filing incorporation papers and similar business documents.
• HB 482, which would eliminate the state inventory tax charged to businesses.
• HB 484, which would exempt the one-year residency requirement for HOPE Scholarship eligibility for the children of active duty military personnel.
House members are scheduled to return to the Capitol on March 24. The final day of the session is now scheduled for April 3.

Williams represents the 165th District (Liberty County) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him during the legislative session at 511 Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, Ga., 30334; by phone at 404-656-6372; or by e-mail at al.williams@house.ga.gov.
 

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