This has been an extremely long session, but I am honored and grateful to represent the people of House District 165. Although the General Assembly adjourned our 2007 session at midnight April 20, all indications are that Gov. Perdue will call lawmakers back for a special session in the near future.
The governor vetoed HB 94, the supplemental budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2007, which ends June 30. Although the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (163-5) to override the veto and avoid a special session, the Senate did not take similar action.
The governor has said he will announce this week when he will call the Legislature back to revisit the supplemental budget that included a $142 million property tax cut.
The special session is expected to cost taxpayers at least $250,000.
The legislature’s failure to accomplish our one constitutional mandate — adopt a state budget — in 40 days, actually about 100 days, counting the lengthy recesses we have had, is very disappointing.
The Republican leadership came into power with plenty of promises of a “new day in Georgia.” Instead, we have had nothing but constant in-fighting between House and Senate officers, and a governor who has supplied no leadership at all until he decided to take an active role on the 39th day.
My colleagues who are now in the majority have discovered how easy it is to sit in 50-yard line seats and talk. But when you are put into the game, the true quarterbacks, ball carriers and linemen are identified.
This state government is at this point a rudderless ship, and it is a terrible position. All the time we’ve spent up here at this point has been a waste of money, playing games with the budget — at taxpayer expense — and posturing to run for governor in 2010. We’ve done everything but what the people asked us to do, and now the governor wants to come back and try again.
On the 40th and final day of the session, the House and Senate agreed on HB 95, for the $20.2 billion annual budget for fiscal year 2008 that begins July 1.
After a long, odd day of discussions private and public, both chambers unanimously approved compromise legislation, HB 214, to extend the lease of the Jekyll Island’s governing body and, possibly, its residents for an additional 40 years.
The legislation includes provisions to prevent the arbitrary sale of any land, establish an important oversight committee, and protect the south end of the island so untold generations can enjoy the pristine natural resource.
One of my top priorities of this session was protecting Jekyll Island from overdevelopment. I am very pleased with the bipartisan cooperation that took place in both the House and Senate to bring about the improvements to this legislation.
The Senate adopted HB 100 I cosponsored to revise various rules and regulations relative to the shrimping and commercial fishing industries.
With regard to local legislation, the Senate adopted HB 767 I sponsored. The bill would provide a homestead exemption from Liberty Count ad valorem taxes for county purposes.
The Senate also adopted HB 768 I sponsored to provide a homestead exemption from Liberty County School District ad valorem taxes for educational purposes.
A resolution I introduced (for consideration in 2008) apologizing for Georgia’s role in slavery was introduced before the end of the legislative session. This resolution has become more relevant considering the information uncovered by Theodore Kornweibel, Professor Emeritus in Department of Africana Studies at San Diego State University. Based on his research, a Georgia state-owned railroad rented hundreds of slaves a year for nearly two decades. This history follows other reports the state bought — and later sold — about 190 slaves who worked on road and river projects.
Lawmakers also agreed upon language for HB 147. The bill requires that in all cases in which a woman is seeking an abortion, a medical provider must offer her a chance to view the fetal image and hear the fetal heart before the pregnancy is terminated.
The legislature almost approved a last-ditch compromise on a Senate substitute bill for HB 340, but the Speaker, who sponsored the initial legislation to limit enrollment in the PeachCare for Kids insurance program, did not allow the House to vote on the substitute bill. As a result, the eligibility level for PeachCare will remain at 235 percent of the poverty level instead of being cut to 200 percent.
The House adopted SB 10 by a vote of 91-84. If signed by the governor, parents would be able to use state money to send their special needs children to private schools. Opponents of this measure believe K-12 education has already endured too much of a decline in funding and vouchers will take away even more needed dollars from public schools.
The House passed legislation that would give developers the power to build planned communities with tax-exempt bonds without the authority to tax homeowners. House members removed “taxing” language from SB 200 and its companion constitutional amendment, SR 309. Yet, lawmakers preserved another section in the legislation giving the so-called infrastructure development districts the authority to raise a flat fee from homeowners.The districts could use the “special assessment” revenues to pay off debt on bonds issued to build roads, sewers and other infrastructure supporting their communities.
Finally this week, I want to personally send my condolences and prayers to the Virginia Tech University community.
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 email at email@example.com