The Georgia General Assembly convened on Jan. 9, 2012 for the first day of the 2012 legislative session. As I have done in years past, it is my intention to write periodic update columns while the legislature is in session in the weeks ahead to help ensure the citizens of Fayette County are up to date on the important issues that are pending before the General Assembly.
Before I turn to 2012 I did want to provide an update on the recently concluded redistricting process, which dominated much of 2011.
Every state is required to reapportion its state House, Senate and U.S. Congressional districts the year after the decennial census to ensure they are all in population balance.
The legislature met in August for a special session called by Governor Deal and promulgated maps for each of these bodies after an exhaustive process which gave the citizens of Georgia unprecedented transparency and opportunity for comment as these maps were developed.
Georgia is one of several states still under the requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires Georgia to submit its proposed maps to the Department of Justice to be “pre-cleared” before they become law. I am happy to report on Dec. 23 the U.S. Justice Department cleared the maps and they are now the law of the State.
The big news of the first week of the legislative session is always the release of the governor’s budget and agenda which coincides with the annual State of the State address.
As was expected, much of Gov. Deal’s address and his agenda is focused on job creation and improving the economic climate in Georgia.
He has led on this issue since coming into office through the creation of his economic competitiveness initiative aimed at bringing the government and private sector together to develop policies aimed at ensuring Georgia remains at the forefront as we compete with other states for business expansion and business investment opportunities. Because, as we all know, that means more and better jobs for our citizens.
Among Gov. Deal’s proposals were an elimination of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing (which all of our surrounding states exempt), a modernization of our jobs creation tax credit program and other initiatives aimed at creating an environment for small and large businesses to flourish in our state.
I look forward in the months ahead to reviewing these and other proposals while working with my colleagues in the House and Senate and the governor to ensure our economic climate is such that Georgia continues to successfully navigate out of the difficult economic times of the past four years.
The General Assembly is historically not in session the week of the Martin Luther King holiday so that the House and Senate can hold budget hearings to review the governor’s proposed budget.
As a member of the Appropriations Committee I spent the week attending these hearings and reviewing the governor’s proposed budget. The governor proposed a balanced budget without any tax increases.
To put into perspective the decrease in the size of our state government over the past four years, the FY 2013 proposed budget, when adjusted for inflation, is 20.5 percent less per capita than the spending in the FY 2002 budget.
In addition, the state continues to maintain its status as one of only a small handful of states with a AAA bond rating.
In addition, despite a 1.5 million-person increase in population between 2000 and 2010, Georgia’s state government workforce has decreased by 7.7 percent between FY 2001 and FY 2011 illustrating how the state is doing much more with less, just as families and businesses all over the state have done through these difficult economic times.
As we continue to work on the budget this year I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure Georgia continues its efforts at improving efficiency in our government and focusing resources on critical state functions such as public safety and education.
In the months ahead I hope to hear often from the citizens of this community on matters of importance to them pending before the Georgia General Assembly. I welcome and appreciate questions and dialogue. Please know how honored I am to serve the citizens of our great community at the state Capitol.
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org.]