It was good to get back to work at the state Capitol after the temporary closure due to recent inclement weather. With St. Patrick’s Day about a month away, the House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 784, which I authored, allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday during St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
As we all know, St. Patrick’s Day brings thousands of visitors to Savannah, and all of Chatham County benefits from the hundreds of thousands of tourist dollars the festivities generate. I am looking forward to the county showing Southern hospitality both to locals and tourists for another safe and successful holiday.
Personal finances always are a concern for individuals trying to earn a living and support their families. Many Georgians have been frustrated with additional fees charged by local financial institutions that were vaguely annotated by banks as “interest.” The House unanimously passed HB 824, which clarifies the term “interest” and does not include certain fees, including overdraft funds and automated-teller-machine charges, as agreed upon by financial institutions and their bankers. This should alleviate any hidden fees and allow Georgians to have a clearer picture of their finances.
On Wednesday, the joint session of the House and Senate met for a “State of the Judiciary” address from Chief Justice Hugh Thompson. Thompson emphasized the need for attorneys outside the Atlanta area, especially in rural counties. He said most attorneys live in the five counties that make up the metro-Atlanta region, and only 30 percent of all lawyers in Georgia reside outside of the capital. This adversely affects the state’s underprivileged and challenges us to find a ways to provide legal representation for people.
Of particular note this week was a bill that passed in committee and could have an effect on the U.S. Constitution. HB 794 proposes to amend the Constitution by adding a balanced-budget requirement. The bill creates a compact that would bind Georgia and its Legislature with every other state and their legislatures that agree to be bound by this compact. The amendment would require that our federal government not spend more than its total receipts, unless the excess spending is financed exclusively by government-issued debt through “strict conformity with this article.”
I support our state and nation adhering to a balanced budget. I will follow this piece of legislation closely as it proceeds through the legislative process and report any progress to you.
Contact Stephens by calling 404-656-5115, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334.