LEGISLATIVE REORTREPRESENTATIVE BARBARA MASSEY REECEFebruary 5, 2009  I was delighted to have Reverend Jack Gillespie from Oak Hill United Methodist Church serve as Chaplain of the Day for the House of Representatives on Thursday, January 29th.  While he was here he visited the Senate and the Governor’s office.  My family and I attend Oak Hill UMC. Drug Abuse – I recently spoke at the dedication of the Northwest Georgia Regional Substance Abuse Treatment Center at Walker County Prison.  This facility operated by Department of Corrections opened January 1.  It houses 200 offenders who have been ordered by courts throughout Georgia to complete the six month intensive program.  In 2001, as chairman of the corrections committee, I attended the opening of the first treatment center in Bainbridge.  Due to the success of the program, the center in Walker is the fourth to be built in the state. Peanuts – As you may know, peanut based products are being blamed for giving Salmonella Typhimurium to more than 500 people.  Testing by officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have enabled the FDA to confirm that the outbreak was caused by the Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) Blakely, Georgia processing plant.  This has led to a massive international recall of all PCA bulk containers of peanut butter ranging in size from 5 to 1,700 pounds.  Please be aware that these recalled products are not sold directly to consumers.  The major national brands of jarred peanut butter that we buy at the grocery stores are not affected by this recall.  For a complete list of recalled products, please visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/.In light of this recall, it is important for everyone to know that this outbreak was caused by a manufacturing problem, not an agriculture problem.  Georgia crops are safe and should not be blamed for making people sick. Members of the House Rural Caucus have discussed legislation to insure that contaminated products are reported quicker than previously required. Tax Relief – Due to the economic crisis Georgia is facing, Governor Perdue made the decision to withhold the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant (HTRG) this fiscal year.  The legislature, having committed to fund the program, passed HB 143 on Day 10 of the legislative session.  This bill commits the General Assembly to fully fund the HTRG program for the current fiscal year.  It also puts legislation in place for funding the grant in future years. Nothing in this bill guarantees the funds will be included in the budget every year.  Also, the Governor may veto budget funds for the Tax Relief Grant.  Since Governor Perdue eliminated funds for the tax grants in his recommended budget, I feel the House sent an important message that we should honor this promise for this year so as not to cause undue expense on local governments and hardship on property owners. 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.