Feb. 3: The Georgia General Assembly’s 2012 Legislative session is moving along quickly — we now are more than one-third of the way through this session.
The Legislature was in session for five days last week and completed its 14th day of session Feb. 3.
The Georgia General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget, and the House accomplished the first step of the process last week.
On Feb. 3, the House unanimously passed the amended fiscal year 2012 budget, which will end June 30.
Due to an increase in state revenue, the midyear budget was increased by $255 million.
An increase indicates that our economy is slightly improving in comparison to last year. However, we still have a long way to go. The amended fiscal year 2012 budget now goes to the Senate for consideration.
On Jan. 30, we only passed local legislation, but none affected our district.
The Legislature often drafts bills to clarify current law and/or previously passed legislation. In an entire bill, one word can change the entire legislation. Therefore, many of the bills we passed last week were to clarify and modify certain laws already passed.
On Jan. 31, House Bill 675 passed unanimously. It would revise the criteria for approved nursing education programs.
We also passed House Bill 337, which relates to the retired members of the Sheriffs’ Retirement Fund of Georgia. The legislation, which passed 95-58, would allow retired members that currently receive spousal benefits to revoke that in the event of a divorce. It also would allow spousal benefits to be reinstated if the member remarries.
On Feb. 1, House Bill 706 passed unanimously. It revises, clarifies and repeals many code sections relating to elementary and secondary education.
We also passed House Bill 542, which relates to retirement, by a vote of 160-1. This bill allows any member of the Employee Retirement System who formerly was a member of the Judicial Retirement System to have their contributions transferred by notifying the board of trustees by Dec. 31, 2012.
The House also passed two bills Feb. 2.
House Bill 763 passed unanimously and would modify HB 415, which was passed last year. The new legislation relates to certain people being ineligible to serve as a juror.
For instance, a person who was convicted of a felony and has not had their civil rights restored would not be able to serve as a trial juror. House Bill 475 passed 132-28, and it would change the Development Authorities Law by amending the definition of what is classified as a project by including those facilities that are owned by the public or a private entity.
On Feb. 3, as I previously discussed, the House unanimously passed the amended fiscal year 2012 budget.
We also unanimously passed House Bill 806 on Feb. 3. This legislation would allow unused funds from the motor fuel tax, which already have been collected, to be rolled over from one fiscal year to the next year. This will speed up the process of transportation projects by allowing the unspent balance to be carried forward and used the following year.
The General Assembly continued its work Monday at the state Capitol for the 15th day of session. I will continue to keep all of you informed throughout the 2012 legislative session. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, thoughts or concerns. It is both an honor and privilege to continue serving you in the Georgia General Assembly.
If you would like to reach me, call me at 404-656-5099, write me at State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, state Capitol, Atlanta, Ga., 30334, or email me at email@example.com.