The Georgia Senate has now passed all of its legislation to the Georgia House of Representatives for final passage before going to the governor for his signature. The Senate has worked hard to improve public safety, protect citizens’ health care rights, open opportunities for economic development, provide tax relief and increase government efficiency and transparency. All of this was accomplished while working to uphold our constitutional obligation to balance Georgia’s budget. As Transportation Chairman, I will continue to work diligently on a transportation plan that will help relieve traffic congestion for Georgians, create jobs, improve our economy and continue to move Georgia forward as the Empire State of the South.

 

In the final days, our focus will be on passing a balanced budget, working to pass a transportation funding package and asking the governor to sign key pieces of legislation. Last week I highlighted many of the bills that the Senate passed. Following are a few more that may be of interest to you:

Immigration Programs (SB 385): This bill provides monetary incentives for local governments to utilize U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Section 287(g) and Secured Communities programs. The legislation will help relieve financial burdens from local governments and the state by quickly turning in criminals who are identified as illegal aliens to the proper federal authorities. The bill provides a 20 percent bonus from the state to local governments that utilize the ICE 287(g) program and a 10 percent bonus from the state for those that utilize the Secured Communities program. Due to fiscal constraints, this bill will take affect when funds are available to be appropriated.

Multi-year Leases (SR 510 & SR 1231): SR 510 will save millions in taxpayer dollars and allow Georgians to have a greater voice in how their money is spent.  Through an amendment to the State Constitution, this resolution allows the General Assembly to authorize the State Properties Commission (SPC), the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, or both to enter into multi-year rental agreements. By allowing the state to enter into multi-year leases, we could save an estimated $37 million over 10 years. The resolution will only become effective upon approval by Georgians on the November 2010 ballot.

 

Another Constitutional Amendment passed that would allow multi-year performance contracts for energy efficient or conservation improvement projects.  SR 1231 allows Energy Saving Performance Contracts (ESPC) if approved by Georgia citizens on the November 2010 ballot. Performance contracts would allow state agencies to divert funds, which would normally be spent on utility bills, into building improvements that lower energy consumptions.  This would create jobs and lower energy costs at the same time.  Key areas of job creation are in engineering, electrical, construction and HVAC – all areas that have been hit hard by the recession.  If Georgians authorize ESPCs via a question on the November 2010 ballot, then Georgia could see a substantial amount of economic activity beginning in early 2011. Total numbers could easily reach the hundreds of millions.

 

Paper Reduction & Transparency Acts (SB 388 &389): The Paper Reduction Act mandates electronic distribution and publication in state government, unless printing is necessary by a legal standard.  This will provide transparency and easier access to government information as well as cut costs of printing, paper, and mailing. Every dollar counts, and reducing paper use has proven to yield cost savings for countless businesses. There is no reason why we cannot do the same in government. This bill ensures all fiscal actions of the entire legislative arm of state government are available for the general public to find.

 

Abortion (SB529): This legislation criminalizes coerced abortions and abortions performed based on race or gender. Once you devalue life at one level, you devalue life at every level.  Aborting children based on race or gender is dangerous territory and should never be tolerated in any nation that values life. Regardless of gender or race, everyone deserves a birthday and a chance at life. I want to thank Senator Chip Pearson for bringing Senate Bill 529 before the Senate to protect the lives of innocent children. 

 

Internet fraud (SB 470): This protects Georgia’s citizens from possible computer fraud by requiring software developers of file-sharing programs to install safeguards that prevent users from tapping into private data files of another user’s computer, and possibly download them illegally.  The bill states that developers must add features to uninstall the software, allow users to actively turn on file-sharing options and provide a warning when files are about to be downloaded by another user.

 

Autism Taskforce (SB161): This legislation creates a 21-member statewide Autism Taskforce within the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.  The Taskforce’s responsibilities include developing a plan to educate the parents, families and health care professionals about the advantages and methods of early screening, early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment of autism; educating parents regarding available diagnostics, as well as services and funding sources. Autism is a serious illness affecting families all over Georgia. Identifying and getting treatment as early as possible has an enormous impact in helping individuals suffering from autism. Studies have shown that getting early treatment increases the chances for these individuals to lead independent lives and become productive citizens.

I am honored to serve and represent the 53rd Senate District in the State Senate and as the Senate Transportation Chairman. I am working diligently to move Georgia forward for the citizens of this great state with an improved plan of economic development and transportation. As I work for you this session, please continue to contact me with your thoughts, questions and concerns.

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Sen. Jeff Mullis serves as Chairman of the Transportation Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate district which includes Chattooga, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Catoosa County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404.656.0057 or by email at jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov.