LEGISLATIVE REPORTRep. Barbara Massey ReeceHouse District 11Week of February 2nd – 6th Adjournment Resolution – All states, including Georgia, are waiting to see how much money they will get from the $800 to $900 billion federal stimulus plan working its way through Congress right now. With this in mind, the House voted 165-0 on Friday to adopt a new schedule for the remainder of the session that is intended to provide enough time for federal money to be factored into this year’s state budget. Currently Georgia faces a $2.2 billion shortfall because of the economic recession but federal stimulus money for the state could be as much as $5.6 billion which could be used for healthcare, roads and bridges and education. To slow the session down lawmakers are going to take Mondays and Fridays off each week to dedicate to committee work. That schedule will run through March 25th which would be the 35th day. Lawmakers would then return June 27th for the last five days allowing one week before the beginning of the new fiscal year which would start July 1st. The schedule gives the General Assembly the flexibility it needs to write a state budget during our current economic crisis.     HOPE Scholarships — Georgia’s lottery is the envy of all lotteries around the country. Known as one of the best performing year after year it is able to provide thousands with the Hope Scholarship and Pre-K. With that said, the House voted on Thursday for HB 157, 159-0.  In 2004 the General Assembly passed legislation that requires that book allowance for the HOPE Scholarship to be cut in half if the state has to use reserves to pay for the programs. The fear was that expenses would outpace lottery revenues. But HB 157 changes that by saying that book allowances would only be cut after lottery revenues dropped well below the cost of the program. The hope is to keep

the 2004 law from going into effect and denying books for HOPE scholars. Some students can pay as much as $400 for books per semester.            HB 157 is needed because projections indicate there will be a $55.8 million increase in HOPE and Pre-K expenses and current lottery revenue figures cannot keep up with this pace. Consequently, this would wipe out books.             Governor Perdue vetoed similar legislation last year.  State of the Judiciary — Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Leah Ward Sears gave her final State of the Judiciary speech on Wednesday before a joint session of the General Assembly. Justice Sears was the first African American woman appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court, by then Governor Zell Miller. She was also the youngest Supreme Court Justice appointed having been named to the state’s top court at the age of 36. Justice Sears will be retiring this summer and will be replaced as Chief Justice by Justice Carol Hunstein. Governor Perdue will name her replacement to the bench.  Many women in our district have met these judges since both Chief Justice Sears and Justice Hunstein have been guest speakers for our Women’s Day at the Capitol. In Justice Sears’ speech she said, “We are frequently reminded that government cannot do everything.  And that is true.  Government cannot do everything, and in times like these, government cannot afford to do everything.  But there are some things that only government can do, and these things it must do well.  Administering justice under the law is a function that only government can fulfill.  The determination of guilt and innocence, property rights and parental rights, legal privileges and power are judgments only government can make.  Administering justice is one of the reasons governments exist.  If we neglect this fundamental obligation to the people, we break trust with them, and ultimately, lose their confidence. And for government, public trust and confidence is everything.” Transportation Funding Legislation — Two big transportation funding bills now appear headed for a collision. House Republican leaders introduced legislation calling for a one cent state-wide sales tax increase, subject to approval by the voters in 2010, to go for transportation projects. Included in the legislation is a list of projects on how the funding would be spent. This is expected to raise $25 billion over 10 years and then end at that time. It would be managed by the State Road and Tollway Authority and an oversight committee would be charged with making sure the money is spent on the approved projects. The Governor would have three appointments and the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House would each have four appointments.   The Senate has passed legislation that would allow counties to band together, with voter approval, and implement a one cent sales tax in their region to go to dedicated transportation projects.            Last year the General Assembly failed to pass a much needed transportation funding measure on the last day of the session because House and Senate leaders could not come to a compromise. 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