2/16/2011 ~ by Rick Jasperse - Our work at the Georgia Legislature has really sped up. Legislators have introduced 235 bills at this point. They cover a very wide range of subjects and causes. For debate this past week was the bill that would make English as the only language given for our Georgia driverís license test. I received many emails and calls from you voicing your opinion on this important subject. I was disappointed as were many of you that this issue was put on the table (on hold) after much debate on the House floor. I do expect the House to revisit this issue again soon.
I have been glad to see all of the different groups and individuals from the Twelfth District at the Capitol. It is great to see a familiar face. Leadership groups from Gordon and Bartow counties, veterinarians, young people who are pages for the day, Farm Bureau members from Pickens and Gordon counties, insurance agents, optometrists, FFA and Young Farmer members from Gordon county, community leaders, and the mayor of Jasper, John Weaver. Some are there for recognition, find out information or to make sure we are listening to their needs. I hope you feel at ease calling on me anytime.
This week we elected Georgia DOT board members. These positions are very important as these people represent us at the state level on where and how the DOT spends our dollars. There is one representative for each congressional district, and they are on staggered terms. State Senator Steve Gooch was on the DOT board before he was elected this past November, so we had an election to replace him. We elected Emily Dunn from Blue Ridge as our 9th District representative on the DOT board. Since my district is quite large I also had the opportunity to vote in the 11th District race. Jeff Lewis from Cartersville was elected in a very spirited race.
Our attention has been on what is called the Amended Budget since we convened a few weeks ago. There have been many meetings and discussions concerning revenue and spending by our state. Last year, on April 29, 2010, the General Assembly passed House Bill 948, the original budget for Georgiaís Fiscal Year 2011 (FY 2011). Totaling $17.8 billion, that budget directs all state spending from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. However, as we all know, things change, and budgets must be adjusted. Just as you and your family regularly update your personal budgets, the General Assembly must update the state budget each year. This week we did just that when my colleagues and I passed House Bill 77, the Amended Fiscal Year 2011 (AFY 2011) state budget.
To meet our constitutional mandate of a balanced budget, there was a four percent budget cut across all agencies and departments in our state except for in education. Along with a bit of improvement in revenue we were able to secure funding for some of our stateís most vital programs. In fact, we added $152 million to K-12 education alone. The House version of HB 77 also includes an extra $149 million for Medicaid, $31 million for HOPE, $13 million for community-based mental health services, and $10 million for economic development. Additionally, this AFY 2011 budget gives an added $21.7 million to fully fund Disproportionate Share Hospitals, which are hospitals that treat a high number of uninsured individuals. Further, the amended budget maintains the integrity of our benefit and pension programs for Georgiaís civil servants and ensures our continued AAA bond rating, a key to securing low interest rates for the state.
HB 77 will now be considered by the state Senate, who will pass their own version of the AFY 2011. If you are in need of details concerning the amended budget, please donít hesitate to call me, they are on my desk always or online. Next week I will go over some of the popular bills like immigration reform and Sunday alcohol sales. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding our State. You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0188 or at email@example.com Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Representative.