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Governor ignores issues

Weekly legislative update

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POSTED: January 20, 2010 10:14 a.m.
Usually, during the first week of each year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly, the governor addresses a joint session of the House and Senate to lay out his proposed fiscal year budget and legislative agenda. Unfortunately, Gov. Perdue’s “State of the State” message on Jan. 13 was long on historical quotations, nostalgia and sentimentality and devoid of any plans for solving our state’s current problems.
I am disappointed the governor chose not to address any plan to help the one in 10 Georgians who are out of work right now, the thousands of small businesses on the verge of failure, or the educators and other state workers who are affected by furloughs and layoffs. I am disappointed he failed to address state budget cuts that have dramatically reduced services to Georgians in the areas of health care, human services, public safety and our justice system.
The devastating economic recession and slow recovery have had a major impact on state revenues and the ability to balance the budget. But at the same time, this governor and some in the legislative leadership have refused to take any action to address the revenue side of the problem. Georgia is leaving $1 billion “on the table” in sales tax proceeds each year by not allowing those revenues to be collected at the local government level, as well as $450 million that could be generated by a $1 tax increase on cigarettes, while continuing to pass tax breaks for special corporate interests.
We have huge problems facing Georgia as we begin this legislative session. I am greatly concerned by the lack of leadership displayed so far by the governor in his final year in office.
House speaker: On the other hand, I am very optimistic about the new leadership in the House. On Jan. 11, Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) was elected as speaker, replacing Glenn Richardson, who resigned in disgrace in December following revelations concerning his fitness for office. Ralston has already made good on his pledge to change House rules in such a way that will foster more debate and dialogue, regardless of political party, as we deal with the budget and other important issues.
Ethics legislation: Speaker Ralston is also committed to passing stronger ethics rules for the legislative branch of government in the wake of the Richardson scandal. Proposed legislation would restrict lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers in an effort to reduce the influence of special interests and give more power to the State Ethics Commission to investigate conflict-of-interest cases against legislators.
In the district: On Jan. 7, I was very pleased by the turnout of more than 150 citizens, including many educators, for a meeting at the Liberty County Courthouse to discuss the upcoming session. Meanwhile, I want to express condolences to the families and friends of longtime board of education member and community activist Mattie Hicks, as well as Sammy Fox of Riceboro, Adam Bacon of Freedmen Grove and Brother Haskell, husband of longtime gospel music promoter Mamie Haskell from Midway. Also, congratulations to new Midway Mayor Clemontine Washington on taking office and to former city councilman Henry Stephens on his retirement. Finally, thank you to Liberty County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Parade Committee for selecting me for the honor of serving as grand marshal.
Budget hearings: The General Assembly is in recess this week, first for observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and then for Appropriations Committee hearings to begin drafting budgets for the remainder of the current fiscal year as well as fiscal year 2011. The governor was scheduled to make his budget recommendations to committee members Jan. 19.

Williams represents the 165th District (Liberty County) in the Georgia House. 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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