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Bipartisan support for state contrition
Legislative update
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I am honored to be working with Senate President Pro-tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), in true bipartisan spirit, to introduce a resolution calling for the state to apologize for its complicity in supporting the institution of slavery, legalizing segregation and forcing Native Americans off their historic lands.
I too am in favor of moving forward and focusing my efforts in securing PeachCare funding, improving our education systems, and protecting the interests of Georgia workers, but we as a state can never forget our past.
In doing so, we would compromise our future.
The supplemental budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2007 was adopted by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, but there was a motion later in the evening to reconsider, so the bill remains in the House due to a conflict with the Senate leadership.
As adopted, HB 94 earmarks $194 million for a 2.65 percent jump in K-12 school enrollment.  Addressing the federal funding shortfall in the popular PeachCare for Kids Program, which now provides over 273,000 children with health insurance, HB 94 contains $81 million for the program to keep it up and running giving Congress time to pay their portion and reimburse the state.
By a vote of 106-65, House members approved HB 185, which gives a judge the option to apply the death penalty if at least 10 out of 12 jurors in capital cases vote for that recommendation. I voted against this legislation in favor of current law, which requires a unanimous jury to apply the capital punishment. We have had too many cases in Georgia recently where it was determined years later the wrong person had been sent to prison for certain crimes, and we cannot afford to lower the standard for condemning a defendant to death row.
The House also adopted HB 214, authorizing the redevelopment of Jekyll Island, by a vote of 130-35.  HB 214 states that 35 percent of the island can be developed and that 65 percent must be protected as natural areas, but it leaves the door open as to where that development can occur. I voted against this measure because of its failure to specifically protect certain parts of the island.
HB 77, which passed 110-60, requires counties and municipalities to conduct a traffic study prior to utilizing red-light cameras in law enforcement.  It also requires that 75 percent of the money collected as the result of the devices, after cost of incurred for operation has been taken out, to be used to fund a trauma care system in Georgia.
Other legislation approved by the House this week includes:
• HB 487, which would change the date of Georgia’s presidential primary from March 3 to Feb. 5, 2008. It also would reduce the requirement to win an election and avoid a runoff from the true majority to a plurality of 45 percent.
• HB 16, which would ensure the same whistleblower protections that state employees enjoy, who file a complaint of fraud, waste, and abuse in state programs and operations, would be extended to all employees at the local level.
• HB 147, which would require that women seeking an abortion have to be offered an opportunity to first see a sonogram of the fetus.
• HB 429, which would require physicians who provide prenatal care or delivery to test mothers for HIV unless the mother specifically declines the test.  The bill requires that a woman be informed of the test and of her right to refuse.
• HB 102, which would authorize the Department of Corrections to compensate Robert Clark, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years, in the amount of $1.2 million over a 15-year period.
• HB 227, which would establish a state-level franchise authority for cable television service, allowing providers to obtain a single franchise rather than having to apply for local government franchises in each community served.
There is growing opposition to two bills under consideration, namely HB 610, which would allow for excessive tree-cutting around billboards along Georgia’s interstates, highways and roads, and HB 340, a plan to reduce eligibility for PeachCare from 235 percent of the poverty level to 200 percent, thus keeping thousands of children of Georgia’s working families out of the program.
Legislation that would have repealed the state’s prohibition of “payday lending,” and strictly regulating the practice, failed to receive the necessary 91 votes for approval. The House vote on HB 163 ended in an 84-84 tie.
Tuesday will be the 30th legislative day of the 2007 session. That is “cross-over” day, the final day in which legislation can be moved from the House to the Senate, or vice versa, for consideration by the other chamber before the end of this year’s session.
Finally, it is with great sadness that we mourn the death of Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ. He will be funeralized in Memphis, Tenn., next week. As chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, I have forwarded a resolution of sadness and sympathy to the family and the national church.

Williams (D-Midway) represents the 165th District (Liberty County) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 511 Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, GA  30334; by phone at 404-656-6372, 404-326-2964, 912-977-5600 or by e-mail at
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