This past week the legislature reconvened for legislative days 21-24 after being in recess for two weeks of budget hearings. It was a busy week both on the floor of the House and in committee rooms all around the Capitol.
There are only six more legislative days until day 30 of the legislative session, which is referred to as “Cross-Over Day.” Day 30 is the last day that a bill originating in the House or Senate can be passed and considered by the other body prior to the end of the session. In that regard, members of both bodies are working in earnest to move their sponsored legislation through the process before the clock runs out.
This past week several important pieces of legislation were considered on the floor of the House. On Wednesday the House passed one of Governor Perdue’s top legislative priorities for this session, HB 1094, a measure aimed at comprehensively promoting water conservation in the state of Georgia. The bill passed by a vote of 166-5.
Chairman Lynn Smith (R-Newnan), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and I presented the bill on the floor of the House. The legislation is the product of months of work by a diverse group of stakeholders in Georgia’s water resources and will give Gov. Perdue and our state water negotiators an additional tool they can use in negotiations with Florida and Alabama and in future court filings, if necessary.
In fact, in recent weeks one of Alabama’s largest newspapers printed an editorial urging their state’s legislature to follow Georgia’s lead in promoting a statewide culture of water conservation.
The House last week also debated SB 84, legislation aimed at improving the quality and accountability of local school board governance. The measure was introduced last year in the wake of the Clayton County school system’s loss of accreditation. Since that time another Georgia school system has lost its accreditation, Warren County.
The reports by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools issued in conjunction with both systems’ loss of accreditation largely focused on gross mismanagement by members of these counties’ school boards as the primary reason for their decision.
As residents of Fayette County we have all been shocked and dismayed as the true scope of Clayton County’s school system mismanagement has come to light in the aftermath of their loss of accreditation.
This measure clarifies and standardizes conflicts of interest policies and ethics codes and gives the state greater authority to intervene when systems are placed on probation by the accrediting agency. The bill passed the House 137-33 and now goes back to the Senate for what will hopefully be final approval.
This past week we were also met with more bad news on the state’s budget. There had been hope among various Georgia economists that February revenues would begin to show a leveling out, as opposed to a further decline.
Last week when the February revenue numbers came out, that, unfortunately, was not the case. February 2010 revenue collections were down 10 percent from February 2009 revenue collections, which was down 35 percent from February 2008.
Revenue collections have now been negative for 22 out of the last 24 months, a statistic not seen since the Great Depression.
These new budget numbers required Gov. Perdue to lower the FY 2011 revenue estimate, which will require an additional $1.1 billion dollars in budget reductions out of a budget that has been reduced by nearly 23 percent over the past two years.
The House and Senate budget committees continue to work through the process of developing a balanced FY 2011 budget document for consideration by the full House and Senate.
We will continue to work through this process to ensure the most critical state-funded functions such as public safety and education are the least impacted by reductions that will touch every facet of state government.
As I’ve said before, the alternative to balancing our budget is tax increases, which, in my opinion, would only serve to further prolong our economic slump by heaping greater burden on families and businesses that are already struggling to make ends meet. I will continue to report as the budget process moves forward.
Thank you again for the honor of allowing me to serve on behalf of this great community at our state Capitol. Please never hesitate to contact me if I may be of service.
[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City. His email is email@example.com.]