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General Assembly half way through session

Capitol update

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POSTED: February 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The 2008 Georgia General Assembly session is in mid-stream as we have completed its 14th day (Friday).
The House and Senate Appropriation committees put the final touches on the fiscal year 2008 reconciliation budget and are currently preparing the FY '09 state budget.
The reconciliation budget, called the "little budget" is the document that looks at where the state stands, especially with federally-mandated Medicaid and education funding.  If we are short, usually due to unanticipated growth, the General Assembly must infuse new funds to offset those required expenses.
The House of Representatives took the lead in adding $53 million to help establish a state trauma care network; $6.5 million was added for indigent care trust fund, a federally mandated program; and $15 million for the PeachCare health insurance program that assists working families who cannot afford health insurance.
Because of the ongoing drought conditions, we added $40 million for the development of new reservoirs.
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law, House Resolution 1022, the Statewide Water Management Plan.  The bill was created to guide Georgia in managing its water resources. The newly enacted plan will utilize the state's water resources in a sustainable manner, will support the state's economy, will protect public health and natural systems and will enhance the quality of life for all citizens.
The plan lays out statewide policies, management practices and guidance for regional planning. The provisions of this plan are intended to guide river basin and aquifer management plans and regional water planning efforts statewide.  This was a priority of the Members of the House and was overwhelmingly passed the first week of the session.
We unanimously passed House Bill 926, legislation that adopts the changes to federal Internal Revenue Code were signed into law in 2007 for tax year 2007.  The bill will provide about $38 million in tax relief from 2008 through 2012.  We also overwhelmingly passed legislation that would help tenants that belong to a homeowners association or a condominium association, that a judicial foreclosure cannot be placed on the owner unless the dues exceed $2,000.  Those under $2,000 can be collected by way of a lien or judgment.  The bill passed 139-19.
We overwhelmingly passed HB 296, a bill that establishes the times that a special election can be held.  In odd-numbered years, any special election would only be allowed on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  In even-numbered years, any special election shall only be held on the date of the general primary on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the bill would not take effect until 2010. The reason for the legislation is to pre-establish guidelines for special elections to save counties money from special elections set to avoid when most voters are used to voting.  The bill passed 165-4.
We passed 167-1, HB 333, that weapons confiscated in connection with committing a crime, will be turned over to the chief of police or other department executive officer of the law enforcement agency that took the weapon.  This will aid a municipality police chief to dispose of weapons, as current law only allow county sheriffs to dispose of weapons.
We also passed HB 387, legislation that stipulates that the 12th day of February of each year will be considered "Georgia Day."  It was the day that Georgia's first colonists, led by Gen. James Oglethorpe landed on the banks of the Savannah River on what is now downtown Savannah. The bill passed unanimously.
As each issue comes before the state legislature, I will keep you informed through weekly updates. Your opinions and concerns are important to me and I consider it an honor to serve you at the state capitol and in our district.
Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues that  concern you. If you would like to reach me, please call (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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