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Lawmakers look to boost economy

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POSTED: March 30, 2009 9:47 a.m.
As the 37th legislative day comes to an end on Thursday, we are now officially one week away from the end of the 40 day session.
With just a few legislative days remaining, the final session day (no more than 40 days) is set for next Friday, April 3.
In addition to voting on numerous pieces of legislation on the House floor, this week has also been full of committee meetings as we are trying to get bills out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.
The House passed out the FY 2010 Budget (HB 119) last week. We are still waiting to finish up the official finalized budget for next year. The concurrence of both chambers is needed and the Senate is still working on their version of the budget. Once the House receives the Senate version, leaders from both chambers will meet to come up with a final reconciled version of the budget.
As stated in previous weeks, the budget is one of the most important tasks we have as legislators. Due to the economy, the budget for this year and next has been incredibly difficult and, depending upon the revenue figures for March, the budget may once again have to be reviewed and adjusted.
In response to regulations by the Federal Accounting Standards Board, we passed a bill which would split the Georgia Retiree Health Benefit fund into two funds, the Georgia school personnel post-employment and Georgia state employee’s post-employment health benefit funds. The House passed SB 122 on Monday by 161 to l. The newly-created funds will be created on Aug. 31 and will provide post-employment health insurance benefits for their beneficiaries.
Under this bill, the state employee and school employee retirement funds will be protected by ensuring that the amount the employer places into the fund goes into the correct fund, by separating the school funds from the state funds.
As legislators, we realize that the housing industry plays such a key role in our economy and it is currently in a slump. In an effort to encourage home buying in the state, the House introduced and passed HB 261 and on Thursday the bill passed the Senate. This bill will allow a one-time tax credit to buyers of single-family homes.
HB 261 was slightly changed by the Senate, as they added two amendments to include the addition of condominiums and other documentation. The amount of the tax break would be the lesser of 1.2 percent of the purchase price or $3,600. The housing industry is an essential part of our economy and we need to take the steps to promote it. By providing a tax credit to homebuyers, especially during economic times like we are in now, it creates an incentive which could hopefully increase real estate sales in Georgia.
The “Super Speeder Bill,” HB 160, has passed both chambers and if the Senate changes are approved by the House, the bill will be sent to the governor. This bill would increase the fees on those who are excessively speeding. The fine will be $200 for those who are driving over 75 mph on a two-lane road and 85 mph on a four-lane. The revenue, approximately $23 million, will be used to help fund trauma care.
Although this bill helps, we still need a permanent and reliable solution to fully fund trauma care. Funding statewide trauma care in Georgia is essential and we need to come up with a solution. This bill is a start in the right direction. However, it will only provide approximately one-fourth of the funding needed to fund trauma care.
On Wednesday, the House unanimously passed SB 13. This bill will ensure that those accused of crimes may be sentenced to life without parole, even if the prosecutors choose not to seek the death penalty. This legislation will not apply to offenses committed on or before June 30, 2009.
In an effort to promote Georgia-based companies and products, the House passed SB 44 by 157-5 on Wednesday. We are trying to come up with solutions to stimulate our economy, especially here in Georgia. With the passage of this bill, it would require purchasing decisions by the state, departments, agencies, commissions, local governments, and public schools to give preference to certain Georgia-produced goods in the bidding contracts and/or with their purchasing decisions.
This bill would apply to large scale contracts and purchases to an amount that exceeds $100,000. Our intentions with this piece of legislation are to promote the purchase of Georgia products, supplies, and food.

Do not hesitate to let me know your thoughts on issues that concern you. 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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