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Assembly did have accomplishments

The people's business

POSTED: April 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The end of session has finally come and gone.  Legislators have returned to their families, homes and communities.
A lot has and will continue to be written and said about the 2008 session.  In this modern era of reality TV and American Idol, pundits and our friends in the media like to focus on all of the drama surrounding our differences and disagreements. This just serves to pit people and personalities against each other.
In the process, the stories of our true success and accomplishments seem to fall through the cracks.  There are many examples of hard work, deliberation and compromise that resulted in completing the people's business this session and I am proud of our accomplishments.   
As gas prices rise and the housing market continues to be unpredictable, many people's thoughts are on the economy.  The Senate passed legislation that will help protect homeowners by lengthening the notice period for foreclosures.  We also passed targeted tax breaks for key industries to encourage growth and new jobs.  Also, the Senate put in $500 million in the budget for local property tax relief.
Investing in our education system is an important responsibility.  The key to success in education is local control, parental involvement, flexibility and choice. HB 881 establishes the Georgia Charter Schools Commission that will authorize and provide full funding for start-up charter schools across the state.  This will give school districts more flexibility and parents and students more choices.  This is a great start to reforming our school systems.
Many people erroneously believe you can fix problems just by throwing more money at them. Not only is this not true, but studies have shown that the reverse is often the case.  That said though, we have significantly increased the funding for education this session. The budget includes $50 million in new education funding to repay austerity cuts.  Also, the budget includes $10 million in bonds targeted to low wealth school districts and $92 million total in general school construction money.    
Trauma has also been an issue that we have worked very hard on.  The Senate allocated $60 million to the State Trauma Commission to expand the network. The FY 09 budget included a $17.3 million increase in reimbursements for service provided at trauma hospitals.  FY 09 also includes $98 million in state funds and $341 million total to fully fund PeachCare for Kids.  $3 million in new funds were allocated for community health centers and $13.6 million in new funding for mental health hospitals.
I am pleased to announce that legislation I've been working on since 2006, SB 433, received final passage last Friday.  These reforms will allow patients to have more choices and maximize the full potential of healthcare providers.  The legislation also allows Cancer Treatment Centers of America to finally apply for a CON so that they can build a destination cancer treatment facility in Atlanta.   This is terrific news for our economy and great news for cancer victims, who will now have more options available to them.  I am extremely proud of this legislation.
Many of the pundits will point out all of the differences and disagreements that took place, but will barely even mention the hard work, deliberation and compromise that took place under the gold dome this session.  SB 433 is a great example of just that.  A small group of legislators from both chambers put in long hours to create the best policy.  We put aside all of the special interests, and put principles over politics to do the right thing.
I am happy to report that the General Assembly has reinforced our laws on sexual offenders in 2008 with SB 1. It restores the 1,000-foot rule for those who rent property or work near a child care facility, church, school or area where minors congregate.  In addition, SB 1 prohibits convicted sex offenders from photographing minors without parental consent.
To make sure that government is good stewards of the people's money, we are instituting "zero-based budgeting" in all of the state departments.  This will require departments to show how each penny is being used and justified.  As Ronald Reagan once said, "The closet thing to eternal life we will see on this earth is a government program."  Reagan was right, and this is an effective tool to ensure that programs are needed and spending tax dollars is justified.
Throughout this year's session, I have been impressed with the Senate's efforts to work in a bi-partisan fashion to pass influential and comprehensive legislation for the benefit of every Georgian.  It was an honor for me to serve you once again in this distinguished body.  As always, please contact me on the issues that are affecting you and your interests.
 
 
Williams is Senate majority leader and represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Long County and part of Liberty. He can be reached at (404) 656-0089 or by email at tommie@tommiewilliams.com.
 

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