We began the 2013 legislative session under the Gold Dome in the Georgia General Assembly on Monday. My focus is on our district. Many different items and topics are on the agenda — a balanced budget for Georgia, school safety, gun-related proposals and ethics reform.
Balanced and responsible state budget
In Georgia, as you may know, we are constitutionally required to balance the budget for the state. During every legislative session, the budget is at the top of our priority list. With our economy still recovering, the state budget — like many of our family budgets — faces a revenue shortfall that requires some additional belt-tightening. As more people request assistance and help from state agencies, the cost of providing for those needs exceeds revenue collections.
Gov. Nathan Deal has released his budget recommendations, which include spending cuts from state agencies and Medicaid programs. Just as families and businesses across the state develop a budget and live within their means, Georgia must do the same.
School safety long has been a concern for many, and with the tragic school shooting in Connecticut last month, it has become a top priority for parents, teachers and school systems around the state and the nation.
We’ll focus on how to improve and ensure the safety of children in schools. Many school systems already have taken preparatory measures to ensure that administrators and teachers have plans in place, should an emergency arise. Some schools also already have added armed officers on school property.
Discussion of Georgia gun laws
Along with the discussion of school safety, lawmakers will focus on current gun laws. Some legislators want to expand our gun laws and others want to restrict them.
Expect this session to include gun-related proposals and know this: I firmly support our Second-Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and I will fight to protect the rights of gun owners in our district and all around our state.
Expect some discussions and changes this session to our ethics laws in Georgia. Our goal is transparency within all levels of government and among all elected officials.
Some of the proposals so far include a cap on lobbyist gifts of $100, a total ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials and expanding who is required to register as a lobbyist.
Currently in Georgia, there is no limit on what lobbyists spend, as long as it is disclosed and listed publicly. A person must register as a lobbyist in Georgia if they seek to promote or oppose the passage of any legislation, regulation or ordinance and spend more than 10 percent of their monthly working hours doing so, or if $1,000 or more per calendar year is spent in an attempt to influence.
Please contact me with your ideas and opinions or if I can be of service to you in any way.
Call Stephens at 404-656-5099, email firstname.lastname@example.org. or send mail to State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334.