WEEKLY LEGISLATIVE REPORT

Representative Barbara Massey Reece

Week of April 12, 2010

 

Gov. Perdue announced last week that for the first time since November 2008, the monthly collection of state revenues reflected an increase in March. Net revenue collections grew by $10.5 million last month, to $998.2 million from $987.9 million in March 2009.

 

While representing only a 1 percent increase, it was the first positive piece of economic news in well over a year for Georgia lawmakers and is hopefully the sign the downturn in state revenues is beginning to level off. Year-to-date collections through nine months of FY 2010 are still down by $1.3 billion, or 11.5 percent.

 Election Board Delayed

It has been my hope to have a local bill completed during the current legislative session.  Legislation to create a Board of Elections in Chattooga County was requested by County Commissioner Jason Winters and Probate Judge Jon Payne.  Since Senator Jeff Mullis could not attend working sessions with local officials, I met with Judge Payne, Commissioner Winters and the County’s legal counsel several times in an effort to design a bill to ensure a smooth transition, fairness in the makeup of the board and the method by which board members would be chosen.

 

Several discussions with Sen. Mullis on provisions of the bill were positive.  The local officials and I believed all issues were resolved, resulting in House Bill 1479 being ready to move forward.

 

At the end of the 33rd day of the 40-day legislative session, I received a letter from Sen. Mullis explaining his intention to amend the bill after he had “…taken the time to discuss this bill with my base of support.”  The Senator proposes numerous, substantial changes to the bill.  The elected officials who requested and agreed to the first bill have not been contacted about these changes.

 

At this point, resolving these additional issues appears to be impossible, given the hectic few days left in the session.  The necessity of still passing two state budgets and other high-priority bills will not allow adequate time for parties to meet to resolve differences.

 

Local officials have asked that Sen. Mullis and I meet with them during the summer to discuss revisions to the bill.  I look forward to continuing to work with them on legislation to benefit Chattooga County.

 Seat Belt Law Expansion

Earlier this session, the Senate approved SB 458, which would end the exception to the state’s seat belt laws for drivers and passengers in pickup trucks. The bill would exempt trucks’ off-road use and involvement in agricultural operations. Sponsors of the legislation say that Georgia is losing out on millions of federal highway dollars each year because of the pickup truck exemption. SB 458 is currently pending in the House Health & Human Services Committee and has not yet come up for a vote in the House.

 Ethics Legislation

Still under consideration in the House of Representatives is an ethics reform package approved by the Senate. The legislation would establish new reporting and fee requirements for lobbyists, stiffen penalties for bribery and put in place a new abuse-of-power provision to target officials who engage in harassment and coercion. But the bill stops short of placing a cap on lobbyists’ gifts to legislators and does not require lawmakers to report the cost of meals or transportation provided by lobbyists. I am a co-sponsor of a separate ethics bill, HB 920, and I am hopeful that some provisions of our proposal will be added to the Senate bill before final passage.

 English-Only License Exams

Legislation that would require Georgia driver’s license exams to be conducted only in English is facing increasing opposition from the immigrant community. While promoted by its sponsors as a public safety measure, opponents say the enactment of SB 67 would deter international investment and economic investment in our state, as well as hamper the ability of immigrants and refugees to travel to and from work due to a lack of public transportation in many areas. SB 67 awaits final approval by the House of Representatives.

 

Rep. Reece may be reached at 404-656-7859 or barbara.reece@house.ga.gov.  Rep. Reece serves on the Education Committee, State Institutions and Properties Committee, Science and Technology Committee, and the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee.  She is also Secretary of the Rural Caucus.