Archive for February, 2011

Senator Tolleson Reports from the Capitol

By Sen. Ross Tolleson

PERRY (February 18, 2011) – This week, I introduced legislation to help our state maintain adequate water resources.  While we continue to negotiate with our neighbors in Florida and Alabama, everything must be done at the state level to establish a framework for future water planning.

Known as the Georgia Public/Private Water Supply Act of 2011, Senate Bill 122 creates new options for financing water projects by allowing state and local governments to voluntarily partner with private investors on the construction of reservoirs and other water infrastructure projects.  This gives local governments control over their water resources and allows them to tailor future water planning to meet their individual community’s needs.  I look forward to working with my colleagues as this bill begins to move through the legislative process.

We welcomed a special visitor from Perry this week in the Senate Chamber, former Representative Larry Walker, one of the most highly respected members of the General Assembly who served in the legislature from 1972 to 2004.  He was elected House Majority Leader in 1986 and later was elected to serve on the Department of Transportation Board from 2007 to 2009, representing Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District.  A lifelong Perry resident, Rep. Walker has been a regular columnist in the Houston Home Journal for over 10 years and has recently published a book called Life on the Gnat Line, a composition of his widely read columns.  I was honored to welcome my friend and colleague back to the Capitol to recognize him for his many achievements and celebrate his most recent literary success.

Through our partnership with the Medical Association of Georgia, a physician volunteers every day at the Capitol to take care of legislators’ medical needs while they’re away from home.  The Doctor of the Day is also introduced in both the House and Senate at the beginning of the legislative day.  This week, I was proud to host Dr. Rebecca Tarlton of Laurens County as Doctor of the Day.  Dr. Tarlton earned her medical degree from the University of Western Ontario and completed her residency at Duke University.  She was the first female radiation oncologist in Georgia and has played an integral role in the development of a unique and successful technique used in the treatment of prostate cancer.

We celebrated Rural Health Day to raise awareness of the need for quality health care in the state’s rural areas.  Georgia has 109 rural counties encompassing over 2 million residents, and is experiencing a continuing decline in the availability and quality of health care services.  These geographic areas have the highest cancer and cardiovascular mortality rates and infant mortality, child abuse, and teen pregnancy rates.  The growing uninsured population and elderly population with multiple diseases far exceed the area’s health care resources.  The Georgia Rural Health Association plays an important role in working with state officials to address the health care needs of our state’s rural communities.

Also this week was the legislative appreciation luncheon for Georgia’s Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO) and the Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education (GACTE).  The technical student organizations provide opportunities for student leadership, competitive events and community service and work alongside GACTE to provide educational leadership in developing a competitive workforce.  One of our local students, Laurie Beth Nix who is a senior at Houston County High School, participated in the event.  A number of other local students were honored for their equestrian achievements during Equine Youth Day, including Colby Upshaw (Cadwell), Beth Langston (Elko), Colleen Wright (Adrian) and Megan Jones (Milan).

I was proud to join Governor Nathan Deal for a photo with the St. Patrick’s Festival Committee, which is working hard on Dublin’s 46th Annual St. Patrick’s Festival.  I was also honored to speak to the Leadership Dodge Program of the Eastman-Dodge County Area Chamber of Commerce.  I’d like to thank all of these distinguished Georgians for visiting us at the State Capitol this week.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the 20th Senate District.  Please feel free to contact me with your ideas and concerns as we work together for a better State of Georgia.

Sen. Ross Tolleson serves as Chairman of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.  He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Dodge, Johnson, Laurens, Pulaski, and Telfair counties and parts of Houston and Wilcox counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0081 or by e-mail at ross.tolleson@senate.ga.gov.

COLUMN
For Immediate Release:
February 18, 2011
For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Director
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
kallarin.richards@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028


Legislation to Strengthen Local Control Hits the Senate this Week

By Sen. Frank Ginn

DANIELSVILLE (February 18, 2011) – Georgia’s population growth is quickly outpacing the U.S. rate, adding more than 1.5 million residents since 2000.  It’s easy to see how government could expand to meet such rapid population growth, but growing government will not help our state recover from this recession.  There’s a significant push this year at the Capitol to return to the principles of limited government, namely by strengthening local control and removing bureaucracy.

Empowering local governments to make decisions in their best interest helps communities operate at a higher level of efficiency and cuts down on the waste of taxpayer dollars.  This week, I introduced legislation (Senate Bill 86) that aims to alleviate some of the unfunded mandates placed on local governments by the state.  Senate Bill 86 reduces some of the burden on local government by making it optional for cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan.  Currently, these plans are required to be developed into a rigid format with little flexibility.  I want to allow local elected officials to develop and modify plans that are tailored to their community.

I’ve been working with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Department of Community Affairs, and several senators with local government experience to reduce the burden on local governments.  In turn, this will reduce the financial burden on taxpayers.  Comprehensive plans that cost tens of thousands of dollars and sit on a shelf not being used are a waste of your tax dollars.  Completing a comprehensive plan can cost communities anywhere from $30,000 to well over $100,000.  As all property owners pay county taxes and most pay city taxes, this is a cost that is saddled on the taxpayer.

By giving local governments the option to decide when and how they need to complete a comprehensive plan, they can dedicate their resources to the most important needs in their community.  This bill effectively peels away another layer of bureaucracy and gives more control to the people who know the needs of their community best.

Senate Bill 86 also addresses getting the right information to the right people at the right time.  Currently, the Development of Regional Impact (DRI) process is to have the regional commission review a significant project and render an opinion that carries no significance.  I propose that in the event of a significant project, it is much better to give notice to all local governments in the region.  Leaders and interested individuals would then work with the elected officials in the appropriate jurisdiction to inform them of consequences to the region.  This would allow information to be available and to be processed and used in the most effective way.  I strongly believe elected officials will make the best choice for their community.

Having served as both a county and city manager, I understand the strain that some of these unfunded mandates can place on local governments.  This session, I’ll continue working with my colleagues in both the Senate and House to remove the burdens and bureaucracy of government in both local and state tax dollars.  Please feel free to contact me to let me know how I can best serve you. 

Sen. Frank Ginn represents the 47th Senate District, which includes Barrow, Madison and Oglethorpe counties and portions of Clarke, Elbert and Jackson counties.  He can be reached at 404.656.4700 or by email at frank.ginn@senate.ga.gov.

COLUMN
For Immediate Release:
February 18, 2011
For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Director
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
kallarin.richards@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

Sen. Tolleson Offers New Mechanism to Fund Water Projects

ATLANTA (February 18, 2011) – Sen. Ross Tolleson (R-Perry) has introduced a bill that creates new options for financing water projects in communities throughout the state.  The Georgia Public/Private Water Supply Act of 2011 (Senate Bill 122) will allow state and local governments to voluntarily partner with private investors on the construction of reservoirs and other water infrastructure projects.

“As we establish a framework for how Georgia’s going to meet its future water needs, local governments must maintain control over their water resources.  This legislation aims to strengthen local control by allowing local governments to identify, propose, negotiate and award public/private water supply and water treatment projects,” said Tolleson.  “In such difficult economic times, it’s imperative that we utilize our private sector partnerships to help expand Georgia’s water supply.  The future of Georgia businesses, local governments and the state all depend on maintaining adequate water resources.”

The process outlined in the bill is similar to the public/private procurement code that has been successfully implemented at the Georgia Department of Transportation and would provide a new, viable option for financing as local governments and the state continue to face significant budget challenges.  The legislation aligns with Governor Nathan Deal’s efforts to ensure that Georgia will be able to meet its long-term water needs.

State leaders are working to ensure that any legislation regarding Georgia’s water supply meets the recommendations of the Water Contingency Task Force, a group of government, business and environmental leaders from across the state.  Early last year, the task force recommended that any future water planning focus on statewide conservation, capture and control of the state’s water supply.  As continued access to adequate water resources remains in question for future use, Tolleson’s bill could be used to accelerate access to the creation of future water supplies for needy areas of the state.

As chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Tolleson passed the most comprehensive water conservation bill in Georgia’s history last year, which outlines proactive steps in planning for water enhancement during future extreme drought conditions and additional water emergencies.

Sen. Ross Tolleson serves as Chairman of the Natural Resources and the Environment Committee.  He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Dodge, Johnson, Laurens, Pulaski, and Telfair counties and parts of Houston and Wilcox counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0081 or by e-mail at ross.tolleson@senate.ga.gov.

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release:
February 18, 2011
For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Director
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
kallarin.richards@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

Sen. Jones Introduces Bill to Give Juvenile Offenders the Opportunity for Parole

ATLANTA (February 17, 2011) – Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) has introduced legislation to give juvenile offenders the opportunity for parole.  Senate Bill 105 establishes a three-person juvenile parole panel within the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) that will have the authority to establish and maintain parole guidelines for designated felons.

“With limited financial resources and the severe overcrowding in our jails, we must begin looking at alternatives to incarceration.  This bill is aimed at juvenile offenders who have committed only designated felonies, a step down from those charged with a serious offense,” said Jones.  “A rehabilitation-focused approach to juvenile justice will help improve our public safety while also saving taxpayer dollars.”

Panel members will be appointed by the DJJ commissioner, and will decide which designated felons are eligible for parole.  If granted parole, they will remain under the supervision of the DJJ until their maximum sentence expires.  Only those who have demonstrated good conduct and completed the educational and program requirements will be considered.  The panel will also be responsible for any parole violations, aiding parolees in finding employment and determining which designated felons are fit for relief from the panel.

The law currently requires all children convicted of a designated felony to be confined to a youth development center (YDC) for 12 to 60 months, with no option for parole. This bill deletes any mandatory minimum time of confinement and allows for parole.

Georgia has the fourth highest incarceration rate in the nation, costing taxpayers $1 billion a year.

Jones has noted that the overall purpose of the legislation is geared toward helping children become productive members of society.  The bill is a follow up to the law Jones passed last year that curbs the abuse of zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools.

Sen. Emanuel Jones represents the 10th Senate District, which includes portions of DeKalb and Henry counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0502 or via e-mail at emanuel.jones@senate.ga.gov.

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release:
February 17, 2011
For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Director
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
kallarin.richards@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028

Legislative Black Caucus Heritage Dinner Tomorrow

ATLANTA (February 16, 2011) – The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) will host its annual Heritage Dinner at the Georgia Freight Depot tomorrow, February 17.  The Caucus will honor Dr. Joseph E. Lowery with the Man of the Century Award, the highest honor the GLBC has ever bestowed on a member of the community.

WHEN: Thursday, February 17, 2011
6:00 p.m.

WHERE: Georgia Freight Depot
65 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Media will be asked to sign in at will call

Sen. Emanuel Jones serves as chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. He represents the 10th Senate District, which includes portions of DeKalb and Henry counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0502 or via e-mail at emanuel.jones@senate.ga.gov.

ADVISORY
For Immediate Release:
February 16, 2011
For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Director
Kallarin Richards, Deputy Director
kallarin.richards@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028