Wednesday, March 8th, marked the 30th legislative day of the 2012 session.
Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical point in the session marks the last chance for most bills to pass the legislative chamber where they are introduced.
This is because by the end of Crossover Day, all legislation passed by the House must “cross-over” to the Senate, and vice versa.
As a result, any House bill that has not passed the House by the end of Crossover Day will have little chance of becoming law this year.
Due to this deadline, the House worked long hours this [past] week, debating and voting on numerous pieces of pending legislation.
Of all the legislation passed on Crossover Day, the most important was House Bill 742, the Fiscal Year 2013 (FY 2013) state budget.
The Georgia Constitution requires only one thing of the General Assembly, to pass a balanced state budget. As passed by the House, the FY 2013 budget will direct spending for all state agencies, departments, and programs from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.
The $19.2 billion state budget that we passed for FY 2013 represents state funding levels of over 20 percent less per capita than a decade ago. This is evidence of our state’s commitment to balancing its budget via belt-tightening, rather than tax increases.
The budget measure provides funding for critical state services such as education, healthcare and public safety.
In the area of education the budget provides funding for enrollment growth and to support Governor Deal’s initiative aimed at getting all third-grade students up to grade level in reading.
In addition, the measure seeks to address one of the greatest healthcare problems facing our state, which is a lack of doctors, particularly in rural areas.
The FY 2013 provides funding to expand the state’s student residency program. Through this funding, the state will attract future doctors to Georgia with nine new osteopathic residency slots and 214 rural Southwest Georgia and Suburban Metro-Atlanta.
The FY 2013 budget also provides the funds necessary to meet Georgia’s public safety needs. One of the pressing needs we met by providing additional funding for fuel our State Patrol, which will help keep our troopers patrolling our roads despite rising gas prices.
One of the measures that I helped author as co-sponsor that passed the House on Wednesday was HB 861, which will require applicants seeking taxpayer-funded monetary assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to pass a drug test before receiving any public funds.
This simple measure would ensure drug addicts do not abuse taxpayer dollars to support their illicit habit.
If a TANF recipient that has dependent children fails the drug test, the funds for the children would be reallocated to a trustee who will ensure the children’s basic needs are met by the TANF funds as they are intended, rather than used to subsidize a drug habit.
Another measure that I worked on as a co-sponsor and author was HB 872, which aims to protect Georgians from the growing problem of metal theft.
With metal prices at an all-time high, many criminals have begun stealing appliances, cables, copper wiring, and other recyclable metal to sell for a quick profit.
Even Georgians that have not been a direct victim of this crime are impacted because all of our insurance premiums rise because of the significant losses resulting from these criminal acts.
HB 872 would combat metal theft by requiring metal sellers to show a valid ID and a work order or receipt to prove the metal was not stolen.
Metal recyclers must also maintain a record of all purchases, so that police may more easily investigate metal theft incidents.
As HB 872 makes its way to the Senate and our law enforcement officers continue to fight metal theft throughout Georgia, I encourage you to visit stopmetaltheft.com to learn how you can protect your home from metal theft.
Now that Crossover Day has passed, the FY 2013 state budget and all other House bills are now in the Senate.
While there, House legislation will once again go through the committee process before making its way to the Senate floor for consideration.
Only if the House and Senate can agree on identical versions of the legislation will they be sent to the governor for consideration.
The remaining 10 legislative days of session will be used to consider legislation already passed by the Senate.
Please let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding any Senate legislation that is now in the House.
As the Senate bills begin to make their way through the House committee process I welcome and encourage input from citizens in this community.
As always, thank you for allowing me the honor of serving Fayette County 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 email@example.com.]