Day 14 (Feb. 8): As we head back into session today, we are greeted with the disappointing news. The January revenues are down 8.7 percent over those in January 2009. Combined with the losses from a year ago, this means January revenues are a whopping 23 percent lower than January 2008. More importantly, the governor’s proposed amended FY10 budget called for a $1.44 billion shortfall with the expectation that the remaining six months revenues would be flat.
With January’s bad news, we now will be looking at making another $160 million in cuts in order to balance the budget.
Also today, legislation is introduced that would tie teacher and principal salaries to classroom performance. SB386 would require the State Board of Education to adopt an evaluation standard to assess teachers and administrators based on student improvement as well as peer observation of planning and instruction.
Day 15 (Feb. 9): We welcomed a new member to the Senate today as my former House colleague Hardie Davis from Augusta joins us. He replaces Sen. Ed Tarver, who resigned his seat after being confirmed as the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District. Unlike the House, the Senate tends to have a high turnover.
After much work in the Regulated Industries Committee, today the full Senate approved HB 168, the Telecom Jobs and Investment Act that will increase telecommunications competition by eliminating subsidy mechanisms. This bill is one of the final pieces of legislation dealing with the court ordered breakup of AT&T many years ago and is designed to give businesses incentives for telecommunication job creation. Also introduced today is SB 388 that will cut the cost of government by reducing its paperwork. The bill will require state agencies that disclose public information to stop printing it out as a paper document and start publishing it in an electronic format.
Day 16 (Feb. 10): A bill intended to save taxpayer money and time by improving processes within the Department of Transportation passed unanimously today. SB 305 will authorize the DOT to increase the design-build procedure (contract with one company to design and build a structure) from the current 15 percent of the total amount of construction projects to 30 percent. It is believed that the savings from this change will mean more projects and more jobs. SB 404 also passed today and aims at assisting veterans to further their education by exempting them from certain coursework and allowing them to receive class credit for instruction while they are in the military. Likewise SB 405, which also passes unanimously, will allow veterans getting an education from the federal Veterans Administration to pay tuition in installments.
Day 17 (Feb. 11): Today is very busy as we experience the rare occasion of passing a bill that is immediately transmitted to the governor’s office and signed into law by the governor later in the afternoon. HB 926 gives Georgia banks more flexibility in renewing loans for customers in good standing by putting them under similar guidelines with those on the federal level. This will keep Georgia banks from having to turn down loans to customers with good credit histories because of decreasing bank capital and help the much maligned banking industry in our state. We also welcome Georgia Boy Scout troops to the Capitol today for the 100th anniversary of scouting during our annual Boy Scouts of America Day. In a packed gathering on the Capitol steps the Department of Natural Resources announced the “Scouting for State Parks” initiative that will engage thousands of scouts and volunteers to help maintain Georgia’s state parks.
Editor’s note: State Sen. Buddy Carter (R- Pooler) has been reporting each week during the Legislative Session. Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109.