Archive for February, 2011

Sen. Butterworth Announces GEFA Loan for Water Improvements in Franklin County

ATLANTA (Feb. 28, 2011) – Today, State Sen. Jim Butterworth (R-Demorest) announced the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority has awarded a $582,290 loan to Franklin County along with a $500,000 subsidy under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

“This loan demonstrates a committed partnership between the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and the county to improve access to safe and clean water for the citizens of Franklin County,” said Butterworth. “A reliable water source is one of the most fundamental necessities in life. I’m proud to be a part of this and any effort to improve access or water quality for Georgians.”

The purpose of the loan is to connect residents to the county’s water system and to remove residents who are on individual wells that are contaminated.

Sen. Jim Butterworth serves as chairman of the State High Education Committee. He represents the 50th Senate District which includes Towns, Rabun, Habersham, Stephens, Banks, Franklin, and Hart counties along with a portion of White County. He can be reached by phone at 404.463.5257 or by email at jim.butterworth@senate.ga.gov.    

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release:
February 28, 2011
For Information Contact:
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
Katie Wright, Communications Manager
katie.wright@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

South Georgia at the State Capitol

 

By State Sen. Greg Goggans

Bills Passed This Past Week in the Senate

 

  • SB 8: Requires a third party audit of state agencies and allows for contracted collection for overpayments.

 

  • SB 36: Establishes an electronic database of written and filled prescriptions of controlled substances in Georgia to help doctors and pharmacists identify prescription drug abusers.

 

  • SR 20: Constitutional amendment that would limit state spending based on previous years, adjusted for inflation and population growth.

 

  • FY2011 Amended Budget: The Senate passed its version of HB 77 on Thursday, and will begin the process of conferring with the House.  (more…)

Hamrick Reports from the Capitol

By Bill Hamrick

As legislators, we are faced with difficult decisions everyday. During the past couple of sessions, these tough choices have mostly been financial. Facing huge revenue gaps, we’ve had to reduce and sometimes cut government programs. But with this pain, comes an opportunity that we must not overlook. Now is the time to get the size of government under control. By increasing efficiency and reducing wasteful spending, we can ensure that each tax dollar spent is only used for essential programs.

The Senate passed the Taxpayer Protection Act of 2011 this week, which proposes a Constitutional Amendment that would limit growth in state Government. The resolution had overwhelming bi-partisan support. You have a right to say ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to state spending. If approved, the resolution will restrict the state from spending any money in excess of the previous year budget, adjusted for inflation and population. Any additional revenue beyond the spending limitations would be required to go into the Rainy Day fund until it reaches a point of 15 percent of the previous year spending. Once the rainy day fund is at 15 percent, we will reduce debts and start making cuts to the state income tax. If it is approved by the House of Representatives and Gov. Deal, the Constitutional Amendment will be on the next General Election ballot in 2012

We passed the amended FY 2011 budget, which lays out the state’s spending plan through the rest of the fiscal year ending June 30. The main strategy in balancing this budget was to share reductions between the Amended FY 2011 budget and the FY 2012 budget. This will ensure that vital programs aren’t completely cut in either year, but will face a smaller budget for both years. We are creating a baseline that we can grow from in the future.

Even though January was our eighth straight month of revenue growth, we had to be cautious because we are still facing big revenue gaps from over a year of low collections. The shortfall totaled $400 million in the amended budget. K-12 enrollment growth and less-than-anticipated federal matching for Medicaid expenses were the biggest contributors to the shortfall. We also began paying our settlement with the Department of Justice for mental health improvements in the state. The gap was filled with an average of 4 percent cuts to all agencies. Education, because it’s a firm priority in Georgia, was not hit as hard. The final amended budget totaled $18 billion.

In addition to producing a balanced spending plan for the state, another of our top priorities this session is to overhaul the HOPE scholarship program to ensure its sustainability for future generations.  If we do nothing, HOPE will be unable to meet its obligations in just two years.  The governor introduced legislation this week that maintains the current merit-based scholarship for students with a 3.0 GPA, but adjusts the amount annually based on lottery revenues. Providing more than $5 billion to more than 1.2 million students, this program is one of the most generous in the nation and continues to be a model for other states.

The bill also creates the Zell Miller Scholarship program to reward Georgia’s best and brightest students with full tuition coverage. It will be awarded to students with a 3.7 GPA or higher and who received at least a 1200 SAT score or at least a 26 ACT score.

The Pre-K program is a successful universal program to help ready 4-year-olds for school. Under the proposed legislation, 5,000 slots are added to address the lengthy waiting list. $4.2 million is included to increase quality for the programs. We’re proposing a move from a six hour day to a four hour day but by reducing time for routines, rest and meals, the decrease in instructional time will be minimized. Georgia’s program is one of the largest and most comprehensive Pre-K programs in the nation and it continues to be a model for other states. The tough choices we have to make are balanced by increasing efficiency.

Sen. Bill Hamrick serves as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He represents the 30th Senate District which includes portions of Carroll, Douglas, and Paulding counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0036 or via e-mail at bill.hamrick@senate.ga.gov.

COLUMN
For Immediate Release:
February 25, 2011
For Information Contact:
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
Katie Wright, Communications Manager
katie.wright@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

Sen. Albers to Host Alpharetta Town Hall Meeting

ATLANTA (February 22, 2011) – Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) will host a town hall meeting in Alpharetta on Saturday, Feb. 26, where he will deliver a presentation of legislative updates.  Attendees will then have the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session.  All residents of the 56th Senate District are invited to attend. 

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Alpharetta City Hall
2 South Main Street
Alpharetta, GA 30009

Sen. John Albers represents the 56th Senate District, which includes parts of North Fulton County.  He may be reached at 404.463.8055 or by e-mail at john.albers@senate.ga.gov.  

ADVISORY
For Immediate Release:
February 22, 2011
For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Director
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
kallarin.richards@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

State of the Judiciary

By Bill Hamrick

CARROLLTON (February 21, 2011) – Each year, the legislature is visited by the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who delivers an update on Georgia’s judiciary. As an attorney and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I find Chief Justice Carol Hunstein’s comments to be a fresh perspective on the future of Georgia’s judicial system.

Georgia’s prisons operate at 106 percent of prison capacity. Rather than lock up drug addicts and the mentally ill, Justice Hunstein encouraged us to more efficiently use prison space. We must prioritize prison beds for serious criminals like those who commit violent crimes and those who commit crimes against children.

It costs more than $1 billion annually to operate our prisons, probation and parole systems and Georgia has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation. Chief Justice Hunstein said that one of every 13 Georgians is behind bars or on probation or parole. These are staggering figures that must be addressed. The State Bar of Georgia’s BASICS program has helped by training inmates about to be released in the skills necessary to become contributing members of society. This is an example of how we are working to reduce the recidivism rate and reserve our prisons for dangerous and violent offenders.

Hunstein outlined one of the greatest successes in the Judiciary: specialty courts. She said that if we hope to save taxpayer money while protecting the public’s safety, the criminal justice system must change the way it handles offenders with drug and alcohol addictions and mental illness. Georgia’s drug courts, DUI courts and mental health courts have become a national model. She explained that these are not “feel-good, soft-on-crime alternatives to prison.” They keep the public safer by reducing the number of repeat-offenders through treatment for non-violent offenders and strict accountability measures.

Speaking to the future, Hunstein commented on a new way of compiling lists of citizens who are eligible to serve on juries. The purpose of this change is to protect everyone’s constitutional rights to equal protection and a jury of his or her peers. Technological advances have allowed us to improve the quality of data about people eligible to serve. The new system, she explained, would use voter registration lists that may not completely represent society and vital statistics and drivers’ records that would help fill in the holes to ensure fair and impartial juries.

Justice Hunstein emphasized that the entire judicial branch receives less than 1 percent of the entire state budget but they generated more than $544 million in fees last year, and almost $90 million of that was returned to the state general fund. The legislature must continue to support the Judiciary and the important work they do. I look forward to working with Chief Justice Hunstein and the rest of the judges, attorneys and staff that make up the Judicial Branch.

Sen. Bill Hamrick serves as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He represents the 30th Senate District which includes portions of Carroll, Douglas, and Paulding counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0036 or via e-mail at bill.hamrick@senate.ga.gov.

COLUMN
For Immediate Release:
February 21, 2011
For Information Contact:
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
Katie Wright, Communications Manager
katie.wright@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028