After four full days of session, the Georgia General Assembly finished its 28th legislative day Friday. With only 12 days of session left, the Capitol is full of activity as members of the legislature continue with our responsibility of completing the people’s work.
Much of our time is consumed with preparing for legislation. Whether the bills are within our committees or to be voted upon on the House floor, reading, considering and debating the bills and their impact on those in our district and the people statewide is a detailed process.
In addition to those responsibilities, legislators also follow the legislation we have sponsored throughout the committee process, which includes attending additional committee meetings, presenting our bill to fellow legislators and answering any questions that may arise.
Last week, the amended Fiscal Year 2011 budget passed both chambers and now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal. The Fiscal Year 2012 budget also was passed by the House, and numerous pieces of other legislation were passed through the Georgia House of Representatives.
Last week, the budgets for the state of Georgia crossed many obstacles. On March 7, the Amended Fiscal Year 2011 budget, HB 77, which already had passed by the House and then was passed by the Senate, went to Deal for his signature.
On Friday, the House passed the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which begins July 1. HB 78 includes a budget of $18.25 billion and was passed by a vote of 132- 33. With a loss of nearly $1 billion in federal stimulus money, difficult decisions regarding cuts to our budget once again had to be made.
Overall, the state revenue requires nearly 55 percent to be directed toward education, 22.5 percent for healthcare and 8.5 percent for public safety. This bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Health care is a topic discussed throughout our country and people have differing opinions on it. Overall, one thing we can agree on is that maintaining our health and obtaining affordable health care is a priority.
The House passed several measures last week relating to health care. One was HB 47, which passed 111- 47 and would give consumers more choices in purchasing insurance. This legislation would allow insurers to offer individual accident and sickness insurance policies in Georgia that have been approved in other states.
Also relating to health care, HB 147 passed 150-20 and would allow patients to check whether or not their doctors carry malpractice insurance. If passed, this information could be requested by letter, e-mail or phone and also would be placed on a website owned by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
As a protection and notification to law enforcement officials, the House passed legislation to allow a designation to be placed on licenses or other state ID cards for those convicted of certain felonies. This legislation, HB 91, passed 97-46 and would require a demarcation be placed on licenses until the expiration of their sentence for those convicted of any of these seven felonies: murder, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery. This legislation is a safety precaution and allows law enforcement officials to be made aware as soon as the person shows them identification.
In recent years, we have faced a shortfall of rain and experienced a severe drought. Some areas of our state were more affected and had tougher restrictions than others; however, we want to make certain that we have an adequate water supply for all of the citizens in our state.
The House passed SR 15 by a vote of 152-2. This legislation would extend the Joint Committee on Water Supply for another year. The members of the General Assembly want to ensure that our water needs are met for our future, regardless of the weather. This committee is composed of five members from the House and five members from the Senate and will continue to study and analyze the reservoir system within our state to determine the best approach for additional water supply in Georgia.
Stephens, R-Savannah, serves the 164th District, which includes South Bryan, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.