Looking back over the 2012 session of the Georgia General Assembly, we legislators worked hard to achieve the goals that we set.
My pre-session weekly column discussed our priorities as we started the new year. Our agenda during the 2012 session was to focus on a fiscally responsible and balanced budget, education, reforming the tax code and job growth and economic development.
All of the legislation — which includes 172 bills, in addition to local legislation — that passed both the House and Senate this session now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal. Within 40 days from the end of session, the governor either can sign the legislation and make it law, he can leave the bill and the legislation automatically will become law without his signature or he can veto the legislation. To stay informed on which bills Gov. Deal has signed, go to http://gov.georgia.gov and click on the “legislation” tab, followed by “2012 bills signed.”
The state budget is of importance during every legislative session. Fortunately in Georgia, we are constitutionally required to have a balanced budget, unlike our federal government. Just as we as families sit at our kitchen tables and discuss our bills and plan our budget accordingly by making sure that our expenses do not exceed the amount of money that we have, the same takes place in regard to the budget for our state. Gov. Deal already has signed House Bill 741, which is the supplemental budget covering until July 1. Also passed was HB 742, which included a fiscally conservative budget that includes $19.3 billion in state funds that begins July 1 year and runs through June 30, 2013.
During challenging economic times such as these, we all tighten our belts and concentrate on the essentials. That being said, education is and always will be a priority in Georgia. So many areas relate to education: our budget, our laws and our future leaders. With the small increase in revenue, our budget also included an increase in education spending. Over the past three months, I discussed some of the bills that help ensure a quality education for the hundreds of thousands of children that pass through our classrooms annually. Our commitment to education this session through both the budget and legislation cut across many areas, such as: improving education programs, ensuring technology advancement, improving graduation rates, enhancing skills, increasing student achievement and teacher-friendly policies. As we continue to teach our future leaders, workers and business owners of our great state, our commitment to education remains vital in the process to successful outcomes and brighter futures.
As we began the 2012 session, tax reform was one of our top priorities and necessary to help spur economic recovery and job creation. Our goal was to encourage businesses to locate in Georgia and hire our citizens while increasing revenues to our cities, counties and state. The first step in this process was passing HB 386 which is pro-family, pro-business and pro-jobs.
Now that the session has ended, I want to remind each of you that it truly is a privilege and my honor to serve as your state representative. Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement. Please contact me with your ideas and opinions. It is your input and common-sense ideas that develops into the best legislation and potentially becomes the law of our state. If you would like to reach me, call 404-656-5099; write to: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.