Last week, I was honored to be appointed by the House Democratic Caucus as ranking member of the House Transportation Committee. As a senior Democratic member of the committee, this assignment involves serving as a liaison and advising the caucus leadership on key transportation-related legislation on a daily basis throughout the session.
Also, I was pleased to be appointed to serve on the House Rules Committee for the 2013-14 legislative term. The committee controls the flow of all legislation onto the floor for ultimate votes by the full House of Representatives. In addition to the rules and transportation committees, I am serving on the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee and the Game, Fish and Parks Committee.
• Ethics legislation: The rules committee began hearings on an ethics-reform legislation package proposed by House Speaker David Ralston. If approved, House Bill 142 and HB 143 significantly would increase
the restrictions on lobbyists’ interactions with legislators.
The proposal includes a complete ban on lobbyists’ spending on individual legislators for meals, gifts and other entertainment. Lobbyists would continue to be allowed to provide food or beverages for events to which all legislators or all members of a standing committee are invited. Tickets to athletic events and concerts would be prohibited, except for Georgia colleges and universities when all legislators are invited to an event. Lobbyists could continue to reimburse legislators for travel and lodging expenses associated with attending conferences and meetings but not for recreational activities.
The legislation also would restore rule-making authority to the State Ethics Commission and require legislators to report within five days of the start of a General Assembly session any contributions they received between Jan. 1 and the first day of the session. Local officials would be relieved of their Ethics Commission filing requirement when their campaign raises or spends less than $2,500.
• Hospital-provider fee: Legislation that would renew Georgia’s hospital-provider fee for Medicaid funding was approved by the House of Representatives and now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his expected signature. The governor has pushed for renewing the provider fee, also known as the “bed tax,” representing 1.45 percent of a hospital’s net revenues, to bring in nearly $700 million per year in direct payments and federal matching funds for Medicaid reimbursement expenses.
• State budget: The House Appropriations Committee is considering Deal’s proposal for the $19.8 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014. The plan reflects an increase of $550 million over the current fiscal year’s budget and is based on a projected 4.8 percent increase in state revenues.
• GEFA loan approved: The board of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority has approved water and sewer loans totaling a combined $13.4 million for several local governments, including a $1.4 million Georgia Fund loan to the city of Hinesville for infrastructure improvements.
• Visiting the Capitol: It always is good to see home folks at the Capitol during the legislative session. Last week, it was a pleasure to welcome members of the Liberty County Development Authority, students and educators from Liberty Elementary School and realtors from Hinesville, who traveled to Atlanta to meet with legislators and other state officials.
Williams, D-Midway, represents District 168 in the Georgia House of Representatives. Write to him at 511 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; call him at 404-656-6372; or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.