Midway point of Ga. legislative session

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Monday, Feb. 23, marked the 20th day, the half-way point for the 2015 legislative session. The doors of our state Capitol are always open to the people of Georgia, and I have had the privilege of meeting with multiple impressive individuals and groups from the 72nd district.

I have enjoyed the company of the Youth Equine Champions, the Fayette County Realtors, and the Newnan Youth City Council. In addition to my own district, legislators are visited by numerous associations, colleges, and departments which take the time to share their insight and expertise.

Though I enjoy meeting with Georgia citizens and hearing about the great things happening all across our state, the meat of what we do here at the Capitol is law-making. Several significant issues are currently being debated under the Gold Dome.

One bill that has earned much of the media’s attention is HB 170, also known as the Transportation Funding Act of 2015. It is an effort to study Georgia’s transportation infrastructure needs and determine the adequacy of the state funding mechanism. Legislators have been listening to feedback from Georgians and this bill is continuing to be looked at and debated as it moves through the legislative process.

In addition to the debate surrounding the Transportation Funding Act, we have already passed several bills that are awaiting further action by the state Senate. One of those pieces of legislation includes HB 65 which was authored by Rep. Michael Caldwell (R–Woodstock). Currently Georgia requires the state and most local governments to hold public hearings before they pass a budget, but we hold no such requirement for those associated with local education budgets.

This bill would establish three basic transparency measures for local education agencies: every local education agency would be required to hold two public hearings prior to the passage of their budget, every local education agency would be required to place their summary budget online, and every local education agency would be required to make their line item detailed budget available digitally within three days upon request.

We also passed HB 198 authored by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R–Rome). This bill will require all certificated public school personnel to receive annual training in suicide awareness and prevention. Local school systems must adopt a policy on student suicide prevention and identify appropriate materials to fulfill training requirements, but they are free to choose what materials best suit their needs. This measure is only intended to help teachers recognize signs and know how to refer a student for help.

Finally we waived the one-year residency qualification for children of actively serving military personnel stationed in Georgia who are seeking Georgia’s special needs scholarships. Rep. Kevin Tanner (R–Dawsonville) authored HB 62 which states that if an otherwise qualifying student’s parent is on active duty military service, and stationed in Georgia, the student would be considered a resident for the purposes of special needs scholarships.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve. I look forward to your input and questions.

[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 matt.ramsey@house.ga.gov.]