A Message From Jan

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) introduced legislation refining the HOPE scholarship

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) introduced legislation refining the HOPE scholarship to reward Georgia college students for taking rigorous science, technology, engineering, and math courses.

The legislation directs the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to select bachelor-level science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses to receive extra weight for purposes of calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA while a student attends college. Identified core and major courses must be determined to be academically rigorous and required by or lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields. “This initiative will encourage our young people to develop the 21st century skills demanded in STEM fields and make Georgia even more competitive in attracting high tech companies to locate and expand in our state,” said Rep. Jones.

The north Fulton legislator said she drew inspiration from Governor Nathan Deal’s earlier creation of the Strategic Industries Workforce Grants, which rewards students entering high demand programs offered by state technical colleges. Similarly, this legislation will encourage students attending public and private colleges to enter STEM fields in which Georgia has a workforce shortage.

Under the legislation, a student completing a class selected for extra weight would receive .5 added to his or her grade for purposes of calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA. No extra weight would be given for an A or F. The weighting is consistent with current HOPE weighting for AP/IB/dual enrollment courses in high school. For example, the Regents could select calculus and chemistry courses to qualify for extra weight because the demanding courses are required for certain college majors and as prerequisites for certain post-graduate degrees in STEM fields, including healthcare.

Rep. Jones said that providing additional GPA weight is intended to encourage students to shoulder the additional academic risk of losing the HOPE scholarship that is inherent in demanding academic courses. Additionally, the bill is designed to help the state in preparing future computer scientists, nurses and engineers as well as college graduates qualified for further study as physician’s assistants and doctors.The legislation will afford the Regents the necessary flexibility to make changes to the courses that qualify for additional weight to meet the workforce needs of a dynamic economy.

Representative Jan Jones represents the citizens of District 47, which includes portions of Fulton County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and currently serves as the Speaker Pro-Tempore. She also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Education, Ethics, Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment, Regulated Industries, and Rules committees.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/23/2016

State of Georgia Budget: How your tax dollars are spent

Click here to download the State of Georgia Budget

Posted by Beth in Uncategorized on 4/29/2015

2015 Top 40 Bills

The following legislation passed the Georgia General Assembly during the 2015 legislative session:

HB 76 – 2016 Budget
The Fiscal Year 2016 budget effective for state spending beginning July 1, 2015, is set by a revenue estimate of $21.8 billion. This reflects an increase of $992 million, or 4.7%, over the original Fiscal Year 2015 budget. Budgeting priorities include enhanced funding for transportation, maintaining State Health Benefit Plan coverage for non-certificated school employees, full funding for Equalization grants for low-property tax wealth public schools, salary adjustments for critical positions in state agencies, support for rural hospitals and provider rate adjustments for doctors that serve Medicaid patients.

K-12 education received an infusion of $574.7 million, or 58% of all new revenue.  It provides $165.1 million to fully fund Quality Basic Education (QBE) enrollment growth of 1.33% as well as training and experience for teachers, charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements.  The bill also includes an adjustment in Local Five Mill Share of $9.4 million to recognize the decline in local property tax digests.  12.5% of all new revenue is assigned for higher education needs.

It also provides an additional $5 million for grants to expand the state’s accountability courts and provide additional funding for community-based treatment options for juveniles. It also includes $914,691 for 11 additional assistant district attorneys to support accountability courts and $1,247,305 for 15 additional assistant district attorneys to support juvenile courts across the state. The bill also supports a $6,000 annual supplement to the salaries of all Superior Court Judges, District Attorneys, and Public Defenders in circuits with an accountability court.

The bill includes $3 million to support the work of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee in order to improve the financial health of struggling rural hospitals and leverage technology to improve patient outcomes.

The Governor included, and the General Assembly agreed, to allocate $12.5 million to annualize funding for 103 caseworkers and to add 175 additional caseworkers within the Division of Family and Children Services, and $12.7 million in new state funds for improvements to the delivery of child welfare services.

The State pension obligations for both the Employees’ Retirement System and the Teacher’s Retirement System are fully funded with an additional $139.7 million across all agencies.

The bond package for the Fiscal Year 2016 budget totals $1.1 billion. This package provides much needed funding for education, public safety and economic development projects while still maintaining a debt service ratio for the state of 6.4% - well below the constitutional limit of 10%.  The 2015/16 Budget contains a sizeable investment in transportation, $190 million, or 17%, including $100 million to repair, replace and renovate bridges and another $75 million to be used for transit systems statewide. The budget also includes $15 million for rail rehabilitation; seawall construction; and dike improvements along the Savannah River.

HB 1 - Use of Medicinal Cannabis Oil
This bill is intended to provide these Georgians with aid, and bring families back home.  It allows immunity for possession of cannabis oil with a maximum amount of 5% THC for 8 qualifying conditions (Cancer, MS, Seizure disorders, ALS, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, Mitochondrial disease, sickle cell disease) for those who have obtained a registration card from the Department of Public Health upon a recommendation from their physician.  The bill will only allow registered users, or their caregiver, to possess a maximum amount of 20 ounces, otherwise possession above that amount will be a felony.  It also clarifies that hospitals and healthcare providers shall not be subject civil liability if the registered individual receives cannabis oil while staying in a hospital. 

It creates of the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis to make a recommendation to the Governor and General Assembly by Dec/2015 of what is the best regulatory infrastructure for creation of in-state growth/distribution model of medical cannabis.  This commission will be made up of medical professionals, law enforcement, Dept of Agriculture leadership, pharmacist, and head of GA’s Drug and Narcotics agency, among others.

HB 170 - Transportation Funding
This bill is a comprehensive restructuring of Georgia’s motor fuels taxing structure with the explicit purpose of generating revenue to support currently existing roads, bridges, and transit networks and new projects.  Total transportation funding per-mile-driven has declined yearly for decades because of increasingly fuel efficient vehicles.  The state excise rate on a gallon of gas will be 26 cents; the rate on a gallon of diesel fuel will be 29 cents per gallon. This rate will be adjusted annually based on an aggregate of fuel efficiency standards (CAFÉ) and the Consumer Price Index beginning on July 1, 2016.  LOST, HOST, MOST, SPLOST and ESPLOST are untouched. The local sales taxes will not be levied on any price per gallon above $3.00. Alternative fueled vehicles will be assessed an annual fee upon registration of $200 for non-commercial vehicles and $300 for commercial vehicles because they do not currently contribute to user fuel taxes.  It also establishes a new fee of $5.00 per day for hotel stays with an exemption for extended stay lodging to be used on transportation purposes.  The bill provides for accountability for GDOT by requiring that there be submitted to the General Assembly a ten year strategic plan that outlines the use of department resources for upcoming fiscal years.  It also creates the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure to review future tax reform initiatives.  The measure also eliminates the $5000 tax credit for electric vehicles ($50 million yearly cost) and the jet fuel sales tax exemption ($24 million yearly cost), which Delta and other airlines had previously qualified for.

HB 233- Georgia Uniform Forfeiture Procedure Act  

This bill increases transparency and oversight in the civil forfeiture process by strengthening the mandatory reporting requirements of all law enforcement agencies, standardizes civil forfeiture procedure statewide, and collects the disparate provisions into one uniform procedure to be followed for almost all civil forfeitures.

The bill provides for due process safeguards to assist innocent owners in recovering seized property and simplifies the standard for initiating a claim to recover wrongfully seized property, reducing the likelihood that procedural pitfalls will deprive innocent owners of an action. The bill allows the judge in a forfeiture action to grant either party additional discovery, and eliminates imposition of the State's litigation costs on an unsuccessful forfeiture claimant.   It also requires agencies to provide an accounting of all property and funds derived from seizures and forfeitures and defines the specific purposes for which law enforcement agencies may use forfeited proceeds.  The bill resolves ambiguities in reporting procedure by authorizing the creation of a standardized reporting form and placing the duty to submit the form annually on all law enforcement agencies.  The bill also disqualifies certain individuals involved in pending criminal cases from serving on a grand jury.
   
SB 133/SR 287 - Opportunity School District
This bill establishes the "Opportunity School District"(OSD) within the Office of Student Achievement.  The superintendent of the OSD is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate.  The OSD may select up to 20 failing schools per year to administer, with no more than 100 schools under its supervision at any time. Failing schools are those which have earned an F rating for three consecutive years. The rating system used to determine grades is based on the state accountability system approved by the State Board of Education. 

Schools under the oversight of the OSD may be taken over for:  direct management by the OSD; shared management with the local board; reconstitution as an OSD Charter School; or closed if the school is not enrolled at full capacity, the enrolled students will be reassigned to other schools.  The OSD superintendent is given the ability to retain or dismiss any leader, teacher, or staff member at an opportunity school. Any teacher who is not retained will still be an employee of the local board.  This Act begins with the 2017-2018 school year, upon ratification of the Constitutional Amendment.

HB 3 – Sanctions for Transactions Involving Student-Athletes
This bill prohibits a person from soliciting a student-athlete to engage in a transaction which could cause the student-athlete to permanently or temporarily lose athletic scholarship eligibility, the ability to participate on an intercollegiate athletic team, or the ability to participate in one or more intercollegiate sporting competitions as sanctioned by a national association for the promotion and regulation of intercollegiate athletics.  It also creates a cause of action against any person who attempting to solicit student-athletes under these conditions.

HB 17 - Hidden Predator Act

If the childhood sexual abuse was committed before July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date which the plaintiff reaches the age 23.  If the abuse was committed on or after July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date that the plaintiff turns 25.

The bill also provides a two-year retroactive window to allow revival of civil cases that have been time-barred by Georgia's current five-year statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. Such actions may only be filed against the individual alleged to have committed the abuse; no claim may be brought under the revival window against a third-party “entity” described above. A revival action may not be brought if any claim has already been litigated to finality on its merits or if a written settlement agreement has been entered into between the plaintiff and defendant if the plaintiff was represented in the prior case by an attorney licensed to practice in Georgia.  It also allows access for victims of child abuse or their guardians to investigation files after criminal cases have been closed.  

HB 57 - Solar Technology for Residences and Small Business
This bill legalizes financing of solar technology for residences and small business. The financing may be based on the amount of solar power generated.  It does not contain any tax breaks or credits.  It does not change any regulations for existing solar installations or cash purchases.  There are limits on the installations sizes that can be financed. The intent is that the financed solar is for use on an individual’s private property.  This bill does not change any existing requirements dealing with the sale back to the utility of any excess electricity generated by solar.  It does not alter any rights of local or county governments to make zonings.  This bill is the cumulative result of 9 months of careful negotiations between Georgia Power, EMC's, MEAG’s, and the solar industry.

HB 63 - Employer’s GED Tax Credit Program
This bill revises the basic skills education program’s income tax credit for employers.  It provides a $400 tax credit to employers for each employee who passes the basic skills education test (GED) when such test is paid for by the employer. It also provides employers a tax credit of $1,200 for each employee who passes the GED and whose employer provides 40 hours of paid time off for the employee to complete a basic skills education and training program.  This tax credit is capped at $1 million per calendar year and no single employer can receive more than $100,000 per year in tax credits.
   
HB 72 - Measures to Protect Disabled Adults and the Elderly

This bill expands certain measures designed to protect disabled adults and elderly persons. Specifically, the bill includes "investment companies" and their employees as mandatory reporters for suspected abuse or exploitation of the elderly.  Once suspected abuse of elderly or disabled persons is reported to a law enforcement agency, the law enforcement agency must forward the report to the Director of the Division of Aging Services within the Department of Human Services.  In addition, the bill requires the prosecuting attorney to request “preferred scheduling” to expedite trial in certain circumstances. Venue for such criminal prosecutions includes the county where the violation is committed or the county in which the victim resides.   Further, the bill authorizes the commissioner of Community Health (or his designee) to request a warrant to make inspections.  

In addition, current law provides civil immunity for any person who renders emergency care to a person at the scene of an accident.   This bill adds to the definition of “emergency care” the rescue of an incapacitated or endangered person from a locked motor vehicle.   This bill also states that a person providing emergency care in these situations will have a defense of justification to a criminal prosecution.
   
HB 91 - Eliminating GA High School Graduation Test Requirement                                    
This bill allows for students who did not receive a high school diploma because they failed to pass the now-obsolete Georgia High School Graduation Test to receive a diploma.  The Georgia High School Graduation Test was ruled by the State Board of Education to be an invalid test, and is no longer administered.  This will allow over 8,000 former Georgia high school students to get their diploma.

HB 110 – Sale of Fireworks

This bill legalizes and sets parameters for the distribution, transportation and retail sale of consumer fireworks. Use of consumer fireworks is permitted without a license between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m. in any location not prohibited by law. Locations specifically prohibited by law include locations indoors, locations where the user is a trespasser, locations where law specifically prohibits such use, and locations within 100 feet of a gas station/refinery or a nuclear power facility.

The legislation also outlines requirements for the sale of consumer fireworks.  Retailers must have a valid license as a distributor.  Individuals ages 16 or 17 may sell or transport fireworks if they are serving as an assistant to a licensed distributor, but they are not permitted to transport consumer fireworks by interstate.  The initial fee for distributing fireworks will be $5,000, with a $1,000 annual renewal fee, payable to the Safety Fire Commissioner. Each distributor must carry a minimum of $2 million dollars of liability insurance. Temporary fireworks stands may be operated by distributors or non-profit groups if they are licensed and located within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant or co-located within a permanent store. No licensed distributor can operate more than two temporary stands per license. In counties without a permanent store, a licensed distributor located within 75 miles of the county’s border may operate one of their two allotted temporary stores in that county. The license fee for operating a temporary fireworks store is $500 per year, per location and must expire 90 days after the license is issued. The legislation also imposes an excise tax on the sale of consumer fireworks at a rate of five percent per item sold.

HB 152 – Regulation of Bouncers/Bar Employees
The bill prohibits persons under the age of 21 from serving as a bouncer at a bar.  The bill also prohibits individuals under the age of 21 from entering a bar unless he or she is accompanied by his or her parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years or older unless to attend a musical performance or concert or presentation of the performing arts.  It also requires bars to report any disciplinary action, such as a citation or arrest that arises out of a violation of any liquor license law/regulation.  This bill also prohibits the use, manufacture, sale, offer for use, purchase or possession of powered alcohol, except for bona fide research purposes.

HB 190 - Automobile Insurance for Uber/Lyft Drivers
This bill establishes the standards and requirements for automobile insurance for transportation network companies (TNC)(Uber, Lift) and their drivers.  The bill recognizes and separates coverage minimums based on the phase of the TNC experience.  It requires TNCs to maintain a primary motor vehicle insurance policy that recognizes the driver as a TNC driver and explicitly covers the driver's provision of TNC services.  The policy must also provide for certain levels of coverage for passengers during the time a driver is logged on to the TNC's digital network and available to accept a ride request until the driver is logged off.  Finally, the policy must provide a minimum of $1 million for death, personal injury, and property damage per occurrence and provides uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage of at least $1 million per incident during the time a driver accepts a ride request on the TNC's digital network until the driver completes the transaction or the ride is complete, whichever is later.

HB 198 – Suicide Awareness and Prevention Training

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.  This bill is intended to help teachers recognize signs and know how to refer a student for help, it does not mandate any specific training materials.  There is no cost to implementing these provisions.

HB 202 – Comprehensive Ad Valorem Valuation Reform
This bill significantly revises the process of appealing an ad valorem tax valuation. The bill authorizes the use of electronic tax bills with consent of the tax commissioner and the taxpayer, requires the 5-year history and proposed millage rate(s) to be published on the local government's website when one is available, and reduces the minimum time period between the notice of the proposed millage rate and five-year history published in the paper and the adoption of the millage rate from two weeks to one. It adds sheriffs to those with whom it is illegal to interfere with when attempting to execute a tax sale, and allows for multiple counties to form a regional assessor's office, to share staff and resources but additionally prohibits contractors providing valuation services to the Board of Assessors.
 
The legislation provides for "Manufacturer's HQ" tag which precludes a TAVT fee.  Any car owned and placed into service by a manufacturer or its affiliate whose headquarters is located within the state may apply for the tag.  The bill also provides for a one-year tax exemption on construction materials for construction projects at a private college.

HB 213 - MARTA Half Penny 
This bill removes from the 'MARTA Act' the 50/50 capitol/operations expenditure restriction on 1 penny sales tax proceeds collected in Fulton and DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta.  Currently, 40% of expenditures pay for debt service so the practical effect will be negligible.
 
MARTA must file with the governor, state auditor, and chair of the MARTOC committee a report of findings of an independent management audit every four years.  If MARTA fails to file that report then the 50/50 restriction resumes for the four-year period following the year when the audit report was due but not submitted.

HB 225 – Taxicab and Uber/Lyft Bill   

This bill prevents counties and municipalities from requiring certificates of public necessity and convenience and medallions for taxicabs, but grandfathers in all those who already have such requirements.   The bill also establishes that the General Assembly will fully occupy and preempt the entire field of administration and regulation over ride share network services, transportation referral services, transportation referral service providers (i.e. Uber and Lyft).  Each transportation referral service provider doing business in this state must register with the Department of Public Safety to obtain a license on an annual basis.  These service providers must make sure that its drivers possess and maintain proper state and federal licenses, have a proper background check, have a zero tolerance policy regarding drugs and alcohol for drivers while on duty, have proper commercial indemnity and liability insurance.  Ride share networks doing business in this state must register with the Department of Public Safety and maintain a current list of all drivers enrolled in their network who are doing business in this state.  Such records are not to be disclosed to the public, but can be used by law enforcement or other government agencies. 
   
HB 237 – Extend the Angel Investor Tax Credit   

This bill extends the Angel Investor tax credit, at the current capped amount of $5 million, for calendar years 2016-2018.  These credits may be claimed after two years have passed once the credit has been created.

HB 259 - "Georgia Business Act"

This bill provides an exemption for certain automobiles manufactured in Georgia from competitive bidding procedures.  Specifically, new automobiles manufactured by a company that constructs or assembles within this state any light duty motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than12,500 pounds are exempt from competitive bidding procedures when purchased by the state.   In addition, this bill increases the exemption threshold for competitive bidding procedures from $5,000 to $25,000.

HB 268 - Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse
This bill requires individuals who are employees or volunteers where their duty is to attend to a child, such as a school, hospital, or social agency, to report to the person in charge of that facility whenever they receive reasonable cause to believe that child abuse has occurred. The individual in charge of the institution or the designated person who receives such notification may not exercise any control, restraint, or modification or make any other change to the information received from the reporter, although he/she may be consulted before the report is made.  In addition, reports may be made by telephone, email, or facsimile, but oral reports must be followed up with a written report. The initial report must be filed within 24 hours from the time there is a reasonable suspicion of abuse. 

HB 310 – Department of Community Supervision

This bill creates a Board of Community Supervision (BCS) to provide oversight and coordination of a new Department, the Department of Community Supervision (DCS). DCS’s creation will merge the felony adult and juvenile designated felon probation and parole caseloads under one community supervision officer.  Additionally, the proposal moves the oversight and management of private and municipal misdemeanor probation from the Council and Municipal Probation Advisory Council (CMPAC), which is a part of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), to the new Board.  Lastly, it statutorily creates the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support, and Reentry (GOTSR) and administratively attaches it to the new Department and under the new Board for oversight and coordination between the new Department and GOTSR.  The goal is to consolidate all community supervision oversight under one board to provide consolidated, centralized, case management for felony supervision in the community through one Department rather than multiple entities managing individual caseloads in the same household or neighborhood.

HB 339 - Digital Production Tax Credit

This bill is a three-year extension to the Qualified Interactive Gaming tax credit.  The credit is capped at $12.5 million and is available through an application process with the Commissioner of Department of Revenue.  The bill also requires companies that qualify for this tax credit to report the number of their employees to the Department of Revenue who will then deliver the information to the Chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

HB 342 – Nursing Homes; What Constitutes Negligence
This bill provides that no violation by a nursing home of any regulation pursuant to the federal 'Nursing Home Reform Act' or any Georgia regulation shall constitute negligence per se.  However, courts in a civil action shall still take judicial notice of these regulations and admit them into evidence if the court finds the regulations to be relevant to the harm alleged in the complaint.  It also states that results or findings of a federal or state survey or inspection of a nursing home facility shall not be used in an advertisement or solicitation, unless the advertisement includes information about the survey such as the date of the survey and general statements from DCH about survey practices.

HB 362 - Asthma Medication in Schools

This bill allows school systems to stock asthma medication. Any school employee trained in recognizing symptoms of respiratory distress may provide the medication or administer it to a student. This bill also allows schools to purchase asthma medication directly from manufacturers and allows physicians to prescribe the medication to schools.
There are no mandates in this bill, other than having local boards of education adopt a policy authorizing school personnel to administer levalbuterol sulfate or albuterol sulfate inhalers.
Any school personnel who in good faith administers (or chooses not to administer) the medicine to a student has immunity from civil liability.

HB 393 – Allowing Tesla in Georgia

This bill allows manufacturers of zero emission vehicles that were doing business prior to January 1, 2015, to sell factory direct to consumers. This is a narrowly-crafted exception to Georgia's dealership law.  Manufacturers who qualify for this exemption are allowed to build up to five brick and mortar facilities licensed as new vehicle dealerships and any number of maintenance facilities. 

HB 397 – State Soil and Water Conservation Commission
This bill attaches the State Soil and Water Conservation Commission to the Georgia Department of Agriculture.  Commencing with the appointments for 2015, the governor shall appoint one at-large member from each of the five soil and water conservation district regions to serve on the commission.  The bill also creates the Erosion and Sediment Control Overview Council.  The council will approve the Manual for Erosion and Sediment Control in Georgia prior to publication by the commission.  The manual is a published guidance of the commission governing the design and practices to be utilized in the protection of the state's natural resources from erosion and sedimentation.   The overview council will also provide guidance on the best management practices for implementing any erosion and sediment control plan. If a dispute arises concerning the requirements of this Code section, the overview council shall mediate the dispute.

HB 429/SB 1 – Ava’s Law

This bill provides that no health benefit plan shall restrict coverage for treatment of a terminal condition when such treatment has been prescribed by a physician as medically appropriate.  This bill also incorporates SB1, “Ava’s Law,” requiring any individual or small group health insurance policy sold in this state to provide coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders.  This coverage shall be for covered individuals six years of age or younger.  Although the policy or contract shall not include any limits on the number of visits, the policy or contract may limit coverage for applied behavior analysis to $30,000 per year.  Beginning January 15, 2017, and every January 15 thereafter, the Department of Insurance is required to submit a report to the General Assembly regarding the implementation of the this insurance coverage, and such reports shall include the total number of insured diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the total cost of all claims paid out in the proceeding calendar year, the cost of such coverage per insured per month, and the average cost per insured for coverage of applied behavior analysis.

HB 439 – Georgia New Markets Jobs Act

This bill allows insurance companies to make investments in qualified small businesses in low-income communities.  It allows for the regulation and sale of $55 million of tax credits to qualified companies.  The purchaser of a tax credit owns a vested right to credit against the taxpayer's state premium tax liability.  The revenue derived from the sale of these tax credits will be used as venture capital in qualified start-up companies in Georgia.

SB 2 – “Move On When Ready”

This bill allows local boards of education the ability to award a high school diploma to dual enrollment students who meet certain qualifications.  It seeks to allow more individualization of high school graduation via post-secondary learning opportunities.  The students must be 16 years or older and have adequately completed their ninth and tenth grade years of high school, completed the required coursework at a post-secondary institution that qualifies for the HOPE scholarship and grants, and received a score of admission acceptable on the readiness assessment required by the postsecondary institution.  The student must have also completed an (a) associate degree program, (b) a technical college diploma program, or (c) at least two technical college certificates of credit programs in one specific career pathway.

SB 8/SR 7 - Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund

This bill restructures and revises the statute of limitations period for bringing a civil action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse.  If the childhood sexual abuse was committed before July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date which the plaintiff reaches the age 23.  If the abuse was committed on or after July 1, 2015, this bill requires the action to be brought on or before the date that the plaintiff turns 25.

The bill also establishes the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission and creates a separate fund in the state treasury—the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.  The 8 member commission may allow money from the fund to be disbursed for the purposes of providing rehabilitative and social services to sexually exploited children. 
   
SB 63 - Retail Sales of Alcoholic Beverages by Distillers and Brewers
This bill allows for manufacturers or distillers who are issued a distiller's license and issued a permit by the commissioner to conduct distillery tours, for a fee or free of charge.  If conducting these tours, the distiller may provide a free souvenir of a complimentary sealed container of distilled spirits, free food and free, limited tastings.  The free souvenir must be a single bottle of distilled spirits manufactured by the distiller of not more than 750 milliliters.  The free souvenir must be provided after the tour, and the recipient must be 21 years of age or older.  Also, brewers of malt beverages may also conduct brewery tours in the same manner as distillery tours.  However, the free souvenir from a brewery tour is a sealed container or containers of malt beverages not to exceed 72 ounces.  All fees for tours must be collected prior to conducting the tour.

SB 89 - "Digital Classroom Act"

This bill allows local boards to use digital and electronic software instead of physical textbooks. The bill also encourages local boards, by July 1, 2020, to purchase all instructional materials in digital or electronic format and to provide an electronic device for students starting in 3rd grade.  The bill also creates the 'Student Data Privacy, Accessibility, and Transparency Act' to require the Department of Education to create a centralized data system that would be available to students and their parents, authorized staff, and authorized teachers and administrators. The bill allows parents the right to review their child's education record including the student data recorded but provides protocols to insure the student’s information is kept safe.

SB 94 – Body Cameras

This bill provides a comprehensive revision and modernization of Georgia’s search and seizure laws to accommodate a police officer’s use of a body camera.  It moves code sections relating to the procedures governing wiretapping, eavesdropping and surveillance out of several sections within Title 16 and into Title 17 because the actions are procedural rather than criminal.  It permits requests to seal and delay disclosure of search warrants under limited circumstances.  It also establishes that District Attorneys and Solicitor General’s investigators are peace officers with the power to obtain search warrants. 

SB 101 – Establishment of Marsh Buffers
This bill establishes a 25-foot buffer along coastal marshlands and provides exceptions to when such buffer must be established.  The exceptions include the discretion of the Director of the Department of Natural Resources when other portions of the O.C.G.A. allows that discretion.  Exceptions include certain maintenance projects including landscaping and hardscaping, accommodating drainage structures, the maintenance of man-made storm-water basins, and certain sizes of utility lines.  Most exceptions to the 25-foot buffer zones still require adequate soil erosion control measures to be fully implemented.

SB 111- Flexibility for Continuing Care Facilities  
 
This bill provides for a continuing care provider to offer continuing care in the home.  Continuing care at home means furnishing services which could include nursing care, assisted living, or personal home care.  The continuing care agreement can include providing food for the individual, but it is not mandatory.

SB 132 - "Quality Basic Education Act"
The bill allows all high school students, whether in public or private school, to apply to a postsecondary school in order to take one or more classes; if accepted, the student can get credit for the class at both the student's high school and the postsecondary institution. 

SB 134 - Speed Detection Devices
This bill extends certain speed detection practices to municipal law enforcement agencies, currently such practices are only allowed by county sheriffs.  Currently, when fines collected by counties/sheriff’s dept. from speeding citations equals or exceeds 40% of the budget of a law enforcement agency, a rebuttable presumption is created that the law enforcement agency is employing speed devices for purposes other than the promotion of the public health, welfare, and safety.  This bill lowers the percentage to 35%.  It also ensures that fines collected for speeding in excess of 20 miles per hour are not counted towards this total. 

SB 156 - State Charter School Foundation
This bill allows the State Charter School Commission to establish a non-profit foundation that will aid the commission in carrying out its mission and purpose.  Donations to the foundation may be used by the commission, but may not be used for "direct employee costs", which are defined as salary, benefits, and travel expenses.

SB 160 – Minors in Possession of Alcoholic Beverages   
This bill allows police officers the discretion to issue a citation to a minor that is in possession of alcohol.  Currently, that police officer would have no choice but to arrest the minor.  The bill still gives the police officer the discretion to affect a custodial arrest if the minor poses a danger to him/herself or the person/property of another.  The bill also makes it a crime (misdemeanor) to intentionally cause a minor to be identified as someone in an obscene depiction.  This includes giving the minor's name, address, telephone number, or email address.

Posted by Beth in Uncategorized on 4/29/2015

Fulton County State Reps File Suit Against Fulton County Commission for Property Tax Rate Increase

Fulton County State Reps File Suit Against Fulton County Commission for Property Tax Rate Increase

ATLANTA— Six Fulton County state representatives and one former state representative  announced today that they have filed legal suit to seek a preliminary and permanent injunction against the Fulton County Commission to stop a 17 percent property tax rate increase.  The legislators said that the increase violates measures outlined in House Bill 604, which they sponsored during the 2013 legislative session.

"We regret having to take this action, but the Fulton County Commission voted to increase property taxes contrary to state law and property taxpayers' best interests.  We're committed to upholding state law and the Georgia Constitution and protecting Fulton County taxpayers," said Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, primary author of House Bill 604.

Plaintiffs of the suit are State Representatives Jan Jones (R-Milton), Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell), Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), Joe Wilkinson (R-Atlanta), Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) and Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and former State Representative Edward Lindsey. 

House Bill 604, which became effective on May 6, 2013, limits Fulton County’s authority to increase the county property tax rate prior to January 2015.  The bill also required a super majority vote to increase the property tax rate after January 2015 (five of seven commissioners must vote affirmatively). 

Rep. Jones researched legislative history before writing House Bill 604.  The legislation was based upon a 1951 local constitutional amendment that gives the Georgia General Assembly broad authority on the time and place and the amount Fulton County can levy for ad valorem taxes. The amendment was reauthorized by the state legislature in 1987.  The constitutional amendment only affects Fulton County, and the Georgia General Assembly does not have similar authority on ad valorem taxes for other counties.  New local constitutional amendments are no longer allowed by the Georgia constitution, but prior local amendments reauthorized by 1987 remain in effect.  Local constitutional amendments have legal parity with general provisions of the state constitution.

Josh Belinfante, a law partner with Robbins Firm, filed suit on behalf of the plaintiffs in Fulton County Superior Court on August 6, hours after the Fulton County Commission voted 4 - 3 to increase the property tax rate. 

Representative Jan Jones represents the citizens of District 47, which includes portions of Fulton County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and currently is the Speaker Pro-Tempore.  She also serves on the Appropriations, Education, Ethics, Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment, and Rules committees.

###

Posted by Beth in Uncategorized on 8/8/2014

AJC Opinion Piece by Jan Jones regarding ObamaCare

Georgians can be proud of their generosity towards the vulnerable and needy of our state.  Individuals, churches, non-profits and governments dig deep to give relief to the less fortunate.

In fact, state taxpayers provide $3 billion annually in healthcare services through Medicaid to one-in-six Georgians.  From covering 60% of the births in Georgia, to serving as de facto long-term care insurance for many, to providing end-of-life care in hospice, the state offers 117 categories of mandated and optional Medicaid services that range from cradle to grave.

Fighting for people, though, does not mean Georgia should increase the income threshold to expand Medicaid.  The aftereffects would hurt far more people than it would help.

Last year, Governor Deal wisely declined to expand Medicaid to those earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. Under expansion 650,000 individuals would be eligible for the Medicaid rolls.  Under expansion, 650,000 individuals earning up to $16,000 could enroll as well as any family of four earning up to $32,500.

Expanding Medicaid represents a major deviation from the intent of the program, which was to provide a safety net for the neediest households with children, those in nursing homes, and the disabled.  Medicaid has never before covered able-bodied individuals based on income alone since its inception 49 years ago.

Georgia is one of few states that do not require its legislature to approve a decision of such financial magnitude. House Bill 990 would correct that. It will also make clear to Washington D.C. that our state views unsustainable and unwise proposals with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Without a comparable law, the Governors of Florida and Virginia, a Republican and a Democrat respectively, would have already expanded Medicaid. The South Dakota legislature rejected expansion just this week.

In the past 10 years alone prior to any contemplation of Medicaid expansion, Medicaid's price tag has increased 43%, far outstripping state revenue growth and the inflation rate. Obamacare will only exacerbate this trend.

If the state were to increase eligibility for Medicaid, it would hobble our state budget by costing upwards of $500 million annually in coming years, inevitably leading to reductions in funding for public education, colleges and universities and other programs for the needy. Together with Medicaid, these functions already account for more than 80% of the state budget.

Proponents of expansion have yet to volunteer which of these vital services should be cut to fund Medicaid expansion or what taxes should be raised to pay for it. Without stiff budget cuts, the higher income or sales taxes it would take to pay for expansion would affect Georgia's ability to attract and retain jobs.

At an individual level, the expansion produces perverse results. If someone works 40 hours per week, making $7.50 per hour, this person would qualify.  If he applies himself and is rewarded with a raise to $8.00 an hour, he would face an unpleasant choice: quit, work fewer hours, decline the raise, or lose health coverage through Medicaid. Expansion would trap the poor into entry-level or part-time jobs with fewer opportunities.  A Republican-majority Congress and President Bill Clinton rejected that design with welfare reform almost twenty years ago.

Medicaid reimburses hospitals and healthcare providers far less than the cost of care.  Providers and patient advocates characterize the existing system as inadequately funded and with insufficient access to care. A recent Oregon study showed that Medicaid enrollees were 40 percent more likely to inappropriately use the emergency room.  What will happen when even more people show up expecting services from even fewer healthcare providers willing to accept Medicaid?

Rather than doubling down on a flawed program, why doesn't Washington D.C. allow Georgia to construct a more effective healthcare solution for those that truly need a helping hand?

We should continue to fight for people to have brighter, more productive futures through a targeted safety net complemented with education, innovation, and job-creation. Medicaid expansion is not the answer and the Georgia legislature should have a say in the matter.

Posted by Beth in Uncategorized on 5/1/2014

Rep. Jan Jones Authors House Bill 990

Below are remarks Rep. Jones prepared to present HB 990 on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives and to respond to questions. 

Governor Deal signed HB 990 on April 29, 2014.

HB 990 Talking Points


HB 990 is a straight-forward one paragraph proposal that would require a vote of the legislature prior to any increase of the income threshold to expand Medicaid eligibility, which was mandated under the Affordable Care Act or ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that provision.  

The intent is to protect Georgia from the long term and significant consequences of such a decision on the budget, on its citizens and the state economy. Debate and careful decision-making should be exercised by the House and Senate before Medicaid is expanded. 

In addition to straining our state budget and the delivery of healthcare to our most vulnerable citizens, expansion would establish disincentives for businesses to create higher paying jobs and for individuals to seize opportunities for prosperity and success, part and parcel of the American Dream.

Let me say, Georgia is a generous state to the vulnerable and needy.  Individuals, churches, businesses, non-profits and governments give relief to the less fortunate with their time, donations and tax dollars.

In addition to funding $3 billion annually in healthcare services through Medicaid to one-in-six Georgians, including paying for 60% of births, our state funds another $2 billion for services for the aged, developmentally disabled, addictive diseases, behavioral and mental health and public health.  Georgia citizens pay $500 each in state funding for Medicaid and other programs for the vulnerable or $2000 per family of four.  That is very generous.

Last year, Governor Deal wisely rejected Medicaid expansion and has made it clear he doesn’t intend to change his mind in his second term.  What many of us in this chamber did not appreciate until ObamaCare is that Georgia is one of only a few states that rely solely on the Governor to make that decision.  If not for their state legislatures, Florida’s Republican governor and Virginia’s new Democrat governor would have already expanded Medicaid. 

HB 990 is important for the long term and to make clear to Washington D.C. – our governor and our legislature demand more flexibility in solving our state’s healthcare problems, not one-size-fits no-one, expensive mandates that take us back down the path of old style welfare, a model that was rejected almost 20 years ago.

Mr. Speaker, I could conclude my explanation of the measure here and yield for questions, but I expect we will have a discussion of the merits of the expansion of Medicaid, so I will take a few minutes to expound upon HB 990 and its implications on that topic.

1. Georgia cannot afford to expand Medicaid on many levels, but cost is the most obvious
·    HB 990 provides an additional safeguard for the Georgia taxpayer. According to the Office of Planning and Budgeting, even without expanding Medicaid, ObamaCare will increase state Medicaid costs by $145 million in FY 2015 from increased enrollment and service mandates and increase the State Health Benefit Plan costs by $226 million for mandates alone. The total cost of Medicaid to the state under ObamaCare is projected to cost an additional $4.5 billion over ten years of which $2.8 billion would come specifically from an increase in the income threshold alone. 100% federal funding is a myth.

·    Expansion would require either cuts to other areas of the budget or increases in tax revenue. K-12 education, our colleges and universities, Medicaid and other services to the vulnerable and needy account for 80% of our state budget.

·    Medicaid in Georgia has increased in cost 40% in 10 years before expansion and ObamaCare, far outstripping the inflation rate or general state budget growth.  

·    Congress can always reduce the federal portion 90/10% match.  It is illogical and unlikely to leave the match for the expanded population at a 90/10 match when the match for the more needy – those currently enrolled in Medicaid - is 65/35      

In fact, President Obama has already included “blended” federal contribution rates in his previous budget proposals.  “Blended” is a euphemism for shifting costs to the states, which would be catastrophic for our state should Georgia expand Medicaid.

2.  HB 990 fits within our state’s tradition of budgetary decision-making.
·    HB 990 is not a new concept: current law requires legislative approval for federal waivers for significant Medicaid reform (Section 1115 waiver). HB 990 expands that existing concept to include income threshold eligibility increases.
·    The Georgia House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve SB 572 in 2006, which instituted the legislative approval requirement for Medicaid reform. It passed 139-15, and every member of the Democratic caucus voted for it.

·    The Constitution places taxing and spending power with the House of Representatives. Medicaid represents approximately one-in-six dollars in the state general budget, and it is within our Constitutional tradition that the popularly elected legislature should have a vote on such a substantial policy change.

·    3. Medicaid expansion would harm the most vulnerable

·    Georgia Medicaid currently serves 1.7 million of our state’s more vulnerable people - the aged, blind, disabled, pregnant women, new mothers, and children.

o    Medicaid expansion would add up to an estimated 650,000 new recipients, 38% more. They would be primarily able bodied adults without dependent children under age 65.  I say “able bodied” because the disabled population on Medicaid is not means-tested.

·    The current Medicaid program is in a precarious state and providers consistently argue that Georgia Medicaid pays too little to cover costs, and advocate for rate increases.

·    Additionally, for many specialty and sub-specialty professions, current Medicaid enrollees have limited access to care, especially for pediatric care. There are 9,961 of individuals on waiting lists for Medicaid waiver services and 29 counties with shortages of primary care physicians in the Medicaid network. Already, at least one-third of doctors do not take new Medicaid patients.

·    Additionally, because married income is counted, but income from co-habiting adults is treated separately, expansion would reward low income Georgians for not marrying, including those with children between them.   


4. Medicaid expansion would “crowd out” private coverage
The most conservative estimate I have seen shows for every 1.4 new Medicaid enrollee in expansion, only 1 would have been previously uninsured.  In other words, 30% of new enrollees would drop existing insurance to enroll. While these individuals will still have “coverage,” they will not decrease the ranks of the uninsured.

·    5. The “donor” state argument for expansion is baseless
Contrary to what the president believes, borrowing money from China through greater debt to expand government spending is not economic development.  We’ve heard the argument, “Well, if we don’t grab these federal dollars, our tax money will go to Medicaid expansion in other states.”  Might sound logical, too bad it is 100 percent false.
 
Medicaid is an entitlement program, and therefore there is no fixed amount of federal Medicaid spending to be reallocated from state to state.  Unlike certain infrastructure grants, states that choose to participate do not have the opportunity to receive extra dollars when other states decline to participate.  Every dollar we refuse to spend on Medicaid expansion is one dollar less that we have to borrow from China, not one dollar more that goes to another state.  Our refusal to expand Medicaid does in fact help to reduce the growth in federal spending, which is yet another reason why every state should do the same.

Doubling down on faulty, unsustainable federal programs is what got this country into its current fiscal mess.

·    6. Once you let the genie out of the bottle, you had better like the genie

Some have suggested that if Medicaid expansion proves unworkable, we can always roll the eligibility back.  First, when was the last time Georgia took benefits away from more than half a million people? There is a practical difficulty, if not impossibility, of taking benefits away.

This ignores the federal government’s history of imposing maintenance of effort mandates on states, such as the more recent president’s stimulus spending.  The history of government welfare programs is overwhelmingly biased towards expansion; hence, President Reagan’s quote about a government program being the closest thing to eternal life we will see on earth.  Federal government programs almost always, if not always, end up being more expensive than originally planned, and the federal government is already mortgaged to the hilt.

This is likely a one-time, irrevocable decision.  Once the genie is out of the bottle, we will not be able to put it back in.  That is why it is so important that the legislature have a say in this.

CLOSE

Georgia faces even more significant financial challenges in healthcare in the future.  Specifically, there are the aging Baby Boomers.  Georgia’s Medicaid program already pays for over 75% of the $1 billion in nursing home care expense in the state.  These costs will rise at an accelerating rate as the largest population group ages.  Our severe physician shortage will be difficult enough to address with 40% of counties lacking a pediatrician or general surgeon and half without an OB/GYN.

Expanding Medicaid will exacerbate our current problems before we even get to tomorrow’s.  HB 990 does not purport to offer a solution, but rather resists making it worse, and certainly, our state could make great progress if given the opportunity by Washington D.C. to devise our own solutions.  

I’ll close by letting you get to know Brendan Mahoney whose experience was tweeted out by a senior White House communications director (Tara McGuinness) who focuses on outreach for ObamaCare.

Brendan is a 30-year-old, third year law student at the University of Connecticut.  He’s actually been insured for the past three years – in 2011 and 2012 by paying for a $2400-a-year school-sponsored health plan and in 2013 through a high-deductible, low-premium plan that cost about $39 a month through a UnitedHealthcare subsidiary.  But Brandan wanted to see what ObamaCare had to offer.

After going on the federal exchange, he obtained insurance through ObamaCare with an even lower premium than the $39 he was currently paying.  How low? Zero.  After filling out the application online, he discovered he was eligible for Medicaid.  In 2014, ObamaCare transformed a future lawyer who was already paying for insurance into a welfare case.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I’d be happy to answer questions if there are any.

Q and A

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE UNINSURED POOR IF WE DON’T EXPAND?

As many as 30 percent will continue with their current coverage.  Some will leave their part time or entry level jobs and move to jobs with insurance or purchase their own.  

·    And whether you agree with the federal exchange subsidies or not, many can obtain coverage and subsidies now, those between 100 and 138% of the Federal Poverty Rate, through the federal health insurance marketplace.

But I can say this, means-tested, job trapping Medicaid expansion is not the solution for the rest.

Five in six new enrollees would be between the ages of 19 – 54, prime working years for most Americans and 90% would not have dependent children.  An able-bodied adult, working full-time at 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year at a job paying $8 per hour would earn $16,000 annually, just placing that individual above the 138 percent Federal Poverty Level cutoff for Medicaid eligibility. Sadly, Medicaid expansion will exacerbate the existing poverty trap by providing benefits to adults able to work.  And by the way, Georgia offers PeachCare to children with family incomes up to $46,000 yearly for a family of 3 and $55,000 for a family of 4.

Rather than perpetuating a law that includes perverse incentives that discourage work, Congress and the President should reform America’s tax and welfare system to encourage initiative and hard work.  Expand work requirements for able-bodied adults.  Reaffirm the importance of marriage by eliminating marriage penaties in all entitlement programs and restore Medicaid’s focus on the neediest citizens.

·    RURAL HOSPITAL CLOSURES
But, let’s talk about the rural hospital issue briefly, because it is a good example of how Obamacare is presented as the solution to a problem that it is actually making worse. We have heard a lot recently about the lamentable hospital closures in four rural communities.
o    Charlton Medical Ctr. – Folkston
o    Stewart-Webster Hospital - Richland
o    Calhoun Memorial - Arlington
o    Lower Oconee Community Hospital – Wheeler Cty.

These closures are tragedies for these communities and present real hardships for those Georgians who now have to travel great distances to access care.

To suggest that expanding Medicaid is the silver bullet that will solve this problem is a false promise.  Just as there is no single cause to the issue of rural hospital closures, there is no single solution.

3 of the 4 closures occurred prior to any opportunity for expanded Medicaid, and the 4th occurred less than two months after expansion could have happened, so to suggest that not expanding Medicaid is responsible for these closures would strain credulity. Rather, another facet of Obamacare has directly contributed to the financial strain that faces Georgia hospitals – declining Medicare payments  and Disproportionate Share Hospital cuts by the feds.

The federal government is leaving rural hospitals to wither on the vine, in part because of ObamaCare.

Heritage data analysis shows that over time, Medicaid spending will accelerate and dwarf any projected uncompensated care savings.  These savings are also contingent on states enacting legislation to further reduce uncompensated care funds DSH payments on top of the $18 billion of federal cuts enacted under ObamaCare.

A quick look at recent Georgia history demonstrates the General Assembly has been supportive of rural healthcare.  

Currently, rural hospitals receive state-authorized tax-favored status and are reimbursed at higher rates through the Critical Access Hospital designation.  In the budget this House just passed, we included additional support for medical education in rural areas, provided funds for emergency air ambulance transport for the critically injured, increased loan repayment awards for doctors to practice in underserved areas, and increased funding for the trauma system.  These are Georgia specific solutions for Georgia problems and represent the fruits of the hard work of governing – not at all like one size fits all solutions from Washington, D.C.

The solution involves jobs and economic development for these communities, not dumping more people into a strained system.  I reject the suggestion that we must accept this Obamacare money to fill the hole that Obamacare punched in the local hospital’s balance sheet.

JOBS
I do not support treating a government-funded healthcare program as a wildly inefficient jobs program.  The Medicaid expansion would simply transfer economic decisions on how to spend money in the private sector to Washington D.C.

In fact, expanding Medicaid would reinforce and increase the job losses estimated by the Congressional Budget Office due to individuals working less hours and for lower wages to qualify for Medicaid or federal exchange subsidies.  Additionally, businesses will have a government-induced incentive to create more entry level, lower paying jobs and for fewer hours so their employees qualify for Medicaid, thus relieving them from assuming the federal mandate to provide insurance.


FINAL REMARKS AFTER DEBATE CONCLUDED
On matters of great consequence that require state intervention, financial and otherwise, the Georgia General Assembly should be at the table.  HB 990 pulls up a chair for the legislature.

HB 990 would create a much more arduous path for Georgia to increase the income threshold to expand Medicaid.  More thought and consideration, more transparency and more popular representation in decision-making is a good thing.
 
Expansion would change Medicaid’s historical nature in Georgia from a safety net for the vulnerable to a means-tested entitlement that would establish disincentives for higher paying, full-time jobs, disincentives for marriage, and burden the state budget increasingly over time and long after each one of us are sitting in this chamber is gone.

Georgia should preserve its ability to cut taxes, invest in roads, invest in safety and invest in education.  Expanding the program would make it harder to invest in programs that will grow the private sector, not the government sector, and reduce our tax burden. 

Given the results of several studies, which at the very least raise serious doubts about whether expanding Medicaid will result in the promised health benefits, states should be given the flexibility to design their own programs for their own populations rather than implementing a one-size-fits-no-one Washington mandate.  The Obama administration has denied multiple requests by states to target expansion, impose stricter anti-crowd out policies, require more robust cost sharing, allow feasibility on benefit design or the use of premium assistance, or otherwise mitigate an unnecessary displacement from the private sector to the public sector.  We should design our policies so that more people are pulling the cart than riding in the cart.  We should measure success by reducing the number of people on public assistance, not more.  We need policies that grow the economy, not simply redistribute a shrinking pie.

For these reasons, I ask that you join me in voting for HB 990 and allow the legislature to assume its responsibility on this very important issue.  With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield the well.

Posted by Beth in Uncategorized on 3/5/2014

Largest Budget Categories

I prepared a one-page snapshot of the Georgia budget to give you perspective on how your tax dollars are spent.

http://www.janjonesforgeorgia.com/downloads/Largest_State_Budget_Categories.pdf

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 10/21/2013

Fulton County – 2013 Legislation

Fulton County – 2013 Legislation
 
By Representative Jan Jones
Speaker Pro Tem

The message to Fulton County residents is clear: Our county needs reform.

In response, the Georgia General Assembly recently passed a package of thirteen reform bills that pertain only to Fulton County.  Several others that affect north Fulton cities were also approved.  

Republican House members crafted, introduced and passed the legislation as part of a reform package designed to improve Fulton County’s efficiency and effectiveness.  Republican Senators carried the last of the bills to final passage on Day 39 of the 40-day legislative session.  

One important measure that would increase the county homestead exemption passed the House by the required two-thirds majority but was not put to a vote on the Senate floor.  Hopefully, it will pass the Senate next year in time for a referendum to be put before the voters in 2014.

Since Fulton County is Georgia’s capitol county and home to 10 percent of the state's population, its shortcomings have a disproportionate effect on the entire metro-Atlanta region.

Recently, mismanagement and inefficiency have plagued many services that Fulton provides. Some examples: The county jail lacked 1300 secure cell door locks for a decade, despite warnings from three consecutive sheriffs. Mishandled elections last November led to an investigation by Secretary of State Brian Kemp and an historic number of provisional ballots cast due to elections staff errors.

Fulton spends 121 percent more per capita in its budget than neighboring, similarly sized Gwinnett County and 68 percent more than Cobb. And that's after excluding expenditures on Grady Hospital and MARTA.

The message to Fulton County government is clear, too:  Get to work on cutting the waste and improving services.

See below for a description of the bills.

Fulton Reform Legislation - Passed

HB 171 -  Reapportionment of Fulton County Commission Districts
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Redistricted the Fulton County Commission into equally populated districts following the 2010 census.
-    Created six districts and one at-large chair and staggered the terms.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/171

HB 347 - Fulton County Board of Registrations and Elections Revise Appointment
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Changed the appointment of one of the five board members.  
-    Two will continue to be nominated by the Democrat Party and two by the Republican Party.  The final member will be nominated by the Fulton County combined House and Senate Legislative Delegation.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/347

HB 380 - Fulton BOE retirement plan – revise governance provisions
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Requested unanimously by the Fulton County Board of Education.
-    Gives more accountability and control to the Fulton County Board of Education.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/380

HB 435 - State Court of Fulton County – Chief Judge Duties
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Spells out duties for Chief Judge and adjusts salary to reflect increased responsibilities.
-    New duties will include: scheduling regular judge’s meetings, managing available court space, making determinations of divisions, selection of jury clerk and oversight, and developing a personnel system.
-    Requested by bipartisan judicial commission
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/435

HB 437 - Superior Court of Fulton County – Chief Judge Duties
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Spells out duties for Chief Judge.
-    New duties will include: scheduling regular judge’s meetings, managing available court space, making determinations of divisions, selection of jury clerk and oversight, and developing a personnel system.
-    Requested by bipartisan judicial commission
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/437

HB 441 - Superior Court of Fulton County – Budget Oversight
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Fulton County Superior Court will operate more efficiently with ability to control budget.
-    Requested by Fulton judges
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/441

HB 442 - State Court of Fulton County – Budget Oversight
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Fulton County State Courts will operate more efficiently with ability to control budget.
-    Requested by Fulton judges
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/442

HB 443 - Magistrate Court of Fulton County – Appointment of Chief Judge
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    The chief magistrate will be a nonpartisan, elected position.  
-    Fulton County is the only Georgia County where the magistrate court is operated and administered under the state court and the chief magistrate is appointed by the state court judges.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/443

HB 444 - Superior Court of Fulton County – Judge Salary Supplements
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Supplements the salaries of Superior Court judges in order to bring them in line with those of other counties. The Fulton circuit is currently ranked eleventh on the list of Georgia superior court salaries.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/444

HB 594 - Fulton County Personnel
Primary Author: Rep. Chuck Martin
-    Future employees will have unclassified status, except for public safety employees.  
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/594

HB 598 - Fulton County Superior, State and Magistrate Courts
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Employees will be unclassified.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/598

HB 604 - Fulton County Millage Rate
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Suspends any proceedings by the Fulton County Commission to increase the ad valorem millage rate in 2013 and 2014.
-    NOTE: THE ABOVE PROVISION CANNOT BE APPLIED TO ANY OTHER GEORGIA COUNTY.  ALLOWED BECAUSE OF A 1951 LOCAL CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PERTAINING ONLY TO FULTON COUNTY.
-    Requires 5 of 7 commissioners to vote to increase millage rate beginning in 2015 after the new reapportioned commission map and six districts take effect.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/604

HB 627 - Fulton County Community Improvement Districts
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Revise provisions to allow Fulton County CIDs located outside of Atlanta to renew prior to termination date. Requested by all CIDs affected.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/627  

Legislation That Passed House and Did Not Receive A Senate Vote This Session:
Note: Cannot move forward until 2014

HB 346 – Reform Fulton County Tax Commissioner Position
Primary Author: Rep. Harry Geisinger
-    Changes the office of Tax Commissioner from an elected to an appointed position.
-    Would prohibit the Tax Commissioner from personally profiting above his county salary for the performance of the duties of the office, which adds approximately $200,000 yearly to his total package.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/346

HB 541 - Fulton County Homestead Exemption – requires 2/3 majority
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Provides for a referendum to increase the homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000 phased-in over three years.  Fulton spends 121% more per capita than Gwinnett, excluding expenditures on Grady.
-    After full implementation in 2017, Fulton will still spend 100% more per capita than Gwinnett, excluding Grady.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/541

Local Legislation Pertaining to North Fulton Cities Awaiting Governor’s Signature

HB 452 - Reapportionment of City of Milton Council
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Prior to 2013 council elections, the bill redistributes the population equally into council districts as required following the 2010 census.  Council members are already and will continue to be required to live in districts, but stand for election citywide.  
-    Creates three districts, each containing two council posts to provide more flexibility.  The mayor will continue to run from and be elected citywide.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/452

HB 526 - North Fulton Regional Radio System
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Provides for development of regional communication system for public safety and public service for Sandy Springs, Roswell, Milton and Alpharetta. Requested by cities to reduce costs and privatize.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/526
    
HB 527 - City of Milton Charter Modifications
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Makes several changes supported unanimously by the Milton City Council and legislative delegation.  A number of the changes were recommended by the volunteer Charter Commission.  
-    Clarifies that a majority-vote referendum to increase the city millage rate cap for operating budget purposes would establish a new rate cap, not eliminate the cap.  
-    Requires the vote of five council members to override the mayor’s veto.  
-    Provides for the annual election of a mayor pro tem by the city council.  
-    Limits the mayor and council members to three full consecutive terms.
-    Provides a question that must appear on the ballot if the council votes to hold a referendum to increase the millage rate. The question will be 'Do you approve increasing taxes on residential and nonresidential property for City of Milton property owners by raising from [current millage rate] to [proposed millage rate] the operating budget millage rate, which was capped in the original charter for the city?'
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/527

HB 574 - Johns Creek Charter Modification
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Clarifies that a majority-vote referendum to increase the city millage rate cap for operating budget purposes would establish a new rate cap, not eliminate the cap.  
-    Provides a question that must appear on the ballot if the council votes to hold a referendum to increase the millage rate. The question will be 'Do you approve increasing taxes on residential and nonresidential property for City of Johns Creek property owners by raising from [current millage rate] to [proposed millage rate] the operating budget millage rate, which was capped in the original charter for the city?'
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/574

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/28/2013

Dear Fulton: Cut Your Waste

Fulton County – 2013 Legislation
 
By Representative Jan Jones
Speaker Pro Tem

The message to Fulton County residents is clear: Our county needs reform.

In response, the Georgia General Assembly recently passed a package of thirteen reform bills that pertain only to Fulton County.  Several others that affect north Fulton cities were also approved.  

Republican House members crafted, introduced and passed the legislation as part of a reform package designed to improve Fulton County’s efficiency and effectiveness.  Republican Senators carried the last of the bills to final passage on Day 39 of the 40-day legislative session.  

One important measure that would increase the county homestead exemption passed the House by the required two-thirds majority but was not put to a vote on the Senate floor.  Hopefully, it will pass the Senate next year in time for a referendum to be put before the voters in 2014.

Since Fulton County is Georgia’s capitol county and home to 10 percent of the state's population, its shortcomings have a disproportionate effect on the entire metro-Atlanta region.

Recently, mismanagement and inefficiency have plagued many services that Fulton provides. Some examples: The county jail lacked 1300 secure cell door locks for a decade, despite warnings from three consecutive sheriffs. Mishandled elections last November led to an investigation by Secretary of State Brian Kemp and an historic number of provisional ballots cast due to elections staff errors.

Fulton spends 121 percent more per capita in its budget than neighboring, similarly sized Gwinnett County and 68 percent more than Cobb. And that's after excluding expenditures on Grady Hospital and MARTA.

The message to Fulton County government is clear, too:  Get to work on cutting the waste and improving services.

See below for a description of the bills.

Fulton Reform Legislation - Passed

HB 171 -  Reapportionment of Fulton County Commission Districts
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Redistricted the Fulton County Commission into equally populated districts following the 2010 census.
-    Created six districts and one at-large chair and staggered the terms.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/171

HB 347 - Fulton County Board of Registrations and Elections Revise Appointment
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Changed the appointment of one of the five board members.  
-    Two will continue to be nominated by the Democrat Party and two by the Republican Party.  The final member will be nominated by the Fulton County combined House and Senate Legislative Delegation.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/347

HB 380 - Fulton BOE retirement plan – revise governance provisions
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Requested unanimously by the Fulton County Board of Education.
-    Gives more accountability and control to the Fulton County Board of Education.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/380

HB 435 - State Court of Fulton County – Chief Judge Duties
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Spells out duties for Chief Judge and adjusts salary to reflect increased responsibilities.
-    New duties will include: scheduling regular judge’s meetings, managing available court space, making determinations of divisions, selection of jury clerk and oversight, and developing a personnel system.
-    Requested by bipartisan judicial commission
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/435

HB 437 - Superior Court of Fulton County – Chief Judge Duties
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Spells out duties for Chief Judge.
-    New duties will include: scheduling regular judge’s meetings, managing available court space, making determinations of divisions, selection of jury clerk and oversight, and developing a personnel system.
-    Requested by bipartisan judicial commission
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/437

HB 441 - Superior Court of Fulton County – Budget Oversight
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Fulton County Superior Court will operate more efficiently with ability to control budget.
-    Requested by Fulton judges
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/441

HB 442 - State Court of Fulton County – Budget Oversight
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Fulton County State Courts will operate more efficiently with ability to control budget.
-    Requested by Fulton judges
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/442

HB 443 - Magistrate Court of Fulton County – Appointment of Chief Judge
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    The chief magistrate will be a nonpartisan, elected position.  
-    Fulton County is the only Georgia County where the magistrate court is operated and administered under the state court and the chief magistrate is appointed by the state court judges.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/443

HB 444 - Superior Court of Fulton County – Judge Salary Supplements
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Supplements the salaries of Superior Court judges in order to bring them in line with those of other counties. The Fulton circuit is currently ranked eleventh on the list of Georgia superior court salaries.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/444

HB 594 - Fulton County Personnel
Primary Author: Rep. Chuck Martin
-    Future employees will have unclassified status, except for public safety employees.  
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/594

HB 598 - Fulton County Superior, State and Magistrate Courts
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Employees will be unclassified.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/598

HB 604 - Fulton County Millage Rate
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Suspends any proceedings by the Fulton County Commission to increase the ad valorem millage rate in 2013 and 2014.
-    NOTE: THE ABOVE PROVISION CANNOT BE APPLIED TO ANY OTHER GEORGIA COUNTY.  ALLOWED BECAUSE OF A 1951 LOCAL CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PERTAINING ONLY TO FULTON COUNTY.
-    Requires 5 of 7 commissioners to vote to increase millage rate beginning in 2015 after the new reapportioned commission map and six districts take effect.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/604

HB 627 - Fulton County Community Improvement Districts
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Revise provisions to allow Fulton County CIDs located outside of Atlanta to renew prior to termination date. Requested by all CIDs affected.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/627  

Legislation That Passed House and Did Not Receive A Senate Vote This Session:
Note: Cannot move forward until 2014

HB 346 – Reform Fulton County Tax Commissioner Position
Primary Author: Rep. Harry Geisinger
-    Changes the office of Tax Commissioner from an elected to an appointed position.
-    Would prohibit the Tax Commissioner from personally profiting above his county salary for the performance of the duties of the office, which adds approximately $200,000 yearly to his total package.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/346

HB 541 - Fulton County Homestead Exemption – requires 2/3 majority
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Provides for a referendum to increase the homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000 phased-in over three years.  Fulton spends 121% more per capita than Gwinnett, excluding expenditures on Grady.
-    After full implementation in 2017, Fulton will still spend 100% more per capita than Gwinnett, excluding Grady.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/541

Local Legislation Pertaining to North Fulton Cities Awaiting Governor’s Signature

HB 452 - Reapportionment of City of Milton Council
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Prior to 2013 council elections, the bill redistributes the population equally into council districts as required following the 2010 census.  Council members are already and will continue to be required to live in districts, but stand for election citywide.  
-    Creates three districts, each containing two council posts to provide more flexibility.  The mayor will continue to run from and be elected citywide.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/452

HB 526 - North Fulton Regional Radio System
Primary Author: Rep. Wendell Willard
-    Provides for development of regional communication system for public safety and public service for Sandy Springs, Roswell, Milton and Alpharetta. Requested by cities to reduce costs and privatize.
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/526
    
HB 527 - City of Milton Charter Modifications
Primary Author: Rep. Jan Jones
-    Makes several changes supported unanimously by the Milton City Council and legislative delegation.  A number of the changes were recommended by the volunteer Charter Commission.  
-    Clarifies that a majority-vote referendum to increase the city millage rate cap for operating budget purposes would establish a new rate cap, not eliminate the cap.  
-    Requires the vote of five council members to override the mayor’s veto.  
-    Provides for the annual election of a mayor pro tem by the city council.  
-    Limits the mayor and council members to three full consecutive terms.
-    Provides a question that must appear on the ballot if the council votes to hold a referendum to increase the millage rate. The question will be 'Do you approve increasing taxes on residential and nonresidential property for City of Milton property owners by raising from [current millage rate] to [proposed millage rate] the operating budget millage rate, which was capped in the original charter for the city?'
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/527

HB 574 - Johns Creek Charter Modification
Primary Author: Rep. Lynne Riley
-    Clarifies that a majority-vote referendum to increase the city millage rate cap for operating budget purposes would establish a new rate cap, not eliminate the cap.  
-    Provides a question that must appear on the ballot if the council votes to hold a referendum to increase the millage rate. The question will be 'Do you approve increasing taxes on residential and nonresidential property for City of Johns Creek property owners by raising from [current millage rate] to [proposed millage rate] the operating budget millage rate, which was capped in the original charter for the city?'
-    http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/574

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/28/2013

Dear Fulton: Cut Your Waste

Dear Fulton: Cut Your Waste
 By Jan Jones
Speaker Pro Tem
Georgia House of Representatives

Note: An abbreviated version of the following editorial appeared in the Friday, 3/22 edition of the AJC.

As a 30-year Fulton resident both in Atlanta and north Fulton, I've shared my neighbors' frustration with an unwieldy county government lacking competence on critical services only it can perform - and that nearby counties perform well.
No wonder residents voted for A Government of Their Own by margins of 85 percent not long ago to create Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills. The result: better service levels at lesser cost.

These stunning, swift changes bear a message for all Georgians: thoughtful but bold change and a strong stomach can fix vexing problems in our communities.
Alas, when it comes to Fulton courts, elections, jails and other county services, citizens continue to have marginalized voices - and marginal services at staggeringly disproportionate costs.

Since Fulton takes the spotlight as the capitol county and home to 10 percent of the state's population, its failures also disproportionately affect the entire metro-Atlanta region. In response, multiple pieces of state legislation are in process to improve Fulton through changes that can only be carried out legislatively.

 In an effort to rein in out-of-control spending and give homeowners a little tax relief, the Georgia House recently gave a two-thirds approval to a higher homestead exemption. I crafted the legislation after a 2008 Democrat-sponsored bill that the House approved almost unanimously, but was later scaled back in the Senate.
Five of seven county commissioners have protested, with dramatic exclamations that a modest display of fiscal responsibility will lead to drastic cuts in Grady Hospital funding. The facts simply do not support that conclusion.

And those facts are glaring: Fulton spends 121 percent more per capita in its budget than neighboring, similarly sized Gwinnett County and 68 percent more than Cobb. And that's after excluding expenditures on Grady Hospital and MARTA. After the homestead exemption is fully phased in, Fulton would still spend 100 percent more per capita than Gwinnett – once again, excluding Grady’s cost.

In other words, the answer isn’t to cut Grady’s funding. The answer is to cut the waste that has pervaded nearly every other service Fulton offers.

A joint study released in 2009 by the University of Georgia and Georgia State University showed Fulton County grossly exceeded expenditures of comparable counties in almost every service. A few examples:

    Fulton County Commissioners spent an average of $2211 per Child Protective Service investigation in DFACS. Cobb and Gwinnett spent $148 per investigation.

    The county spent roughly double that of Cobb and Gwinnett administering each parcel in the tax assessor's and tax commissioner's offices.

    Its purchasing department costs were over double that of, once again, Cobb and Gwinnett.

Not much has changed since that study.

Today, Fulton spends 66 percent more per capita on library staffing than Gwinnett and 158 percent more than Cobb. In contrast, its circulation of library materials lags behind both counties as well as the statewide average.

Commissioners enjoy a $400,000 budget for each of their personal offices and staffs, three times that of Cobb and Gwinnett, and display themselves on the county's elaborate GPTV-like television studio.

Last year, the county spent $840,000 on contract and in-house lobbyists.

And yet, a constitutionally required service, the county jail, has operated without 1,300 secure locks on jail cells for a decade. The locks are finally being replaced, but long after warnings from three consecutive sheriffs. Compliance costs have exceeded $100 million for court-ordered federal oversight on dangerous, overcrowded jail conditions.

Last November, another constitutionally required service, elections, was so mishandled that it led to an investigation by Secretary of State Brian Kemp and an historic number of provisional ballots cast due to elections staff errors.

If approved by voters, the homestead exemption increase would be phased in over three years beginning in 2015. That gives Fulton plenty of time to figure out how the rest of Georgia delivers better services at reasonable costs.

A dozen other bills are winding through the Georgia General Assembly, designed as a package to bring about a new day for Fulton residents. The legislation includes modernizing MARTA; increasing the threshold required to raise property taxes; and reforming the courts and elections board. Others would end the tax commissioner's built-in incentive to pad his yearly compensation to $350,000; implement a performance-based employee system; and create six commission districts closer to the people and one countywide chairman
.
My message to Fulton County Commissioners is this: stop scaremongering, cut the waste, and improve the constitutionally-required services that residents can't get elsewhere. And quit treating Grady like the proverbial whipping boy.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/25/2013

Great Budget and Legislative Year for Public Schools by Brooks Coleman

Great Budget and Legislative Year for Public Schools

by Rep. Brooks Coleman

Chair of the House Education Committee


I am providing you with the following budget and legislative information, as passed by the House, that may be used by you to communicate with your constituents, school boards, and superintendents.

The total amount of new money appropriated for education in the Amended Fiscal Year 2013 Budget and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget combined is more than $394 million, plus an additional $244 million in bonds. The Governor has also protected the core funding formulas, QBE and Equalization, from cuts over the last two years while other agencies were required to take significant reductions.

Fiscal Year 14 Budget Highlights


 HB 106, the FY 2014 budget, provides $146.5 million to fully fund Quality Basic Education (QBE) enrollment growth of 1.4% for 23,922 students, as well as training and experience for teachers. While state agencies had to submit budget reductions of 3%, there were no reductions to QBE.

Equalization Grants, the additional funds for school districts to narrow the gap between systems in terms of property tax wealth per pupil, are increased by $38.3 million to reflect full funding of the required $474.4 million. This is the first year that Equalization has been fully funded since FY 2009.

The House version of the budget reflects the State Education Finance Study Commission’s recommendations for year two of increased state support of school nurses (an additional $3.1 million), professional development for school level administration, central office redirect to classroom technology and the corresponding hold harmless for smaller districts, and year one of a three-year plan to fund school counselors at a 1:450 ratio for all QBE programs.

The House restored the Sparsity Grant reductions ($2.6 Million) for the 21 smallest school systems that do not generate enough earnings by FTE to provide standard, required educational programs and services. Failure to restore these funds would have had a devastating impact on systems that receive these funds.

In the House version of the budget, reductions to Career/Tech and Agricultural Education, Nutrition, and RESAs were softened. Funding for the Governor’s Honors Program and Communities in Schools was restored.

The bond package that passed the House totaled $785 million of which $244.1 million, or 31%, was dedicated to K-12 education. This included $204.7 million to fully fund the new K-12 capital outlay programs (HB 760, 2012 Session). The House version of the budget also included $3.6 million for vocational equipment for new schools, $25 million for school buses statewide, and $3.8 million for needs at the three State Schools and FFA Camps. Finally the Governor recommended and the House agreed to $7 million for technology infrastructure upgrades at local school systems as recommended by the State Education Finance Study Commission. This funding is the first step in ensuring that our schools are set-up to deliver a 21st century education.

The FY14 budget also includes $12.9 million in additional lottery funds to add 10 additional days for the Pre-Kindergarten program bringing the total number of days to 180.

Amended Fiscal Year 13 Budget Highlights

HB 105, the AFY 2013 budget, included $167 million for enrollment growth and charter system adjustments.

QBE, Equalization, and State Schools were exempt from reductions. The House softened reductions to programs that directly impact students including Career/Tech and Agricultural Education, Communities in Schools, Georgia Youth Science and Technology Centers, Governor’s Honors Program and RESAs and the Senate agreed. In the final version of the Amended FY 2013 budget, reductions to School Nutrition and Sparsity were completely restored.

Legislation Highlights


The following bills have passed the House and are awaiting action in the Senate.

HB 327 – enacts the “Flexibility and Accountability Act for Student Achievement” as recommended by the State Education Finance Study Commission. By FY 2015, all school systems will have to decide which accountability model to implement – IE2, Charter System or “status quo”. At this time, a few systems have already transitioned to the IE2 or Charter System model but the majority of systems will likely remain “status quo”. Many systems would like to exchange additional accountability for flexibility, but need more of a defined path to do so. HB 327 creates a streamlined system of accountability in which systems may choose the traditional QBE model (Category 1) and advance to higher levels of accountability and flexibility (Category 2 or Category 3) as they are ready.

HB 283 – amends Title 20 of the O.C.G.A. relating to education. It implements recommendations from the State Education Finance Study Commission including enhancing ratios for school counselors and school psychologists and creating a capital outlay program for technology; renames vocational to career technical and agriculture, removes obsolete No Child Left Behind language, renames commission charter schools to state charter schools,clarifies that Charter Advisory Commission is only for charter systems, implements budget savings for charter systems, cleanup to Online Clearinghouse and implements request by governor’s office to set up a non-profit for Office of Student Achievement.

HB 244 –revises certain provision relating to annual performance evaluations. It provides for the development of an evaluation system, no later than the 2014-2015 school year, for teachers, assistant principals and principals. This bill lists the evaluation measures as well as a rating system the State Board of Education shall adopt.

HB 354 – relating to the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) and their involvement with early care and learning in Georgia. This bill would revise definitions relating to child care facilities, updates terminology in code relating to child care learning centers (which will no longer be referred to as day-care centers) and recommends that owners of any early care and learning program carry liability insurance coverage.

HB 211 – This legislation provides school systems with a two-year exemption from the motor fuel tax on fuel used in school buses. This is expected to save school systems about $5.6 - $6 million per year.

HB 116 – gives the State Board of Education the ability to transfer items that belong to the board (such as donations, gifts, property, etc.) over to the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. In doing so, it gives the authority over the administration and management of those items to the foundation.

 HB 123 – enacts the “Parent and Teacher Empowerment Act” to convert existing schools to charter schools or to impose turnaround models for low achieving schools. This bill lists those who are able to submit petition to the local school board and the turnaround models that can be imposed.

HB 131 - This bill allows “dual credit courses” to be treated in the same manner as advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses for purposes of determining eligibility.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/25/2013

2013 Legislative Blog Update 3/6/13

2013 Legislative Blog Update

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

I want to tell you about six bills that the north Fulton House members passed recently in an effort to bring greater accountability and efficiency to Fulton County:

HB 171 would reapportion the Fulton County Commission into six districts, with one at-large chair. An open seat would be created in northwest Fulton.

HB 346 would change the office of tax commissioner from an elected position to an appointed one on the Fulton County Commission. The bill also prohibits the tax commissioner from receiving any compensation other than the salary, expense reimbursements, and benefits provided by Fulton County.

HB 347 would revise the appointment method for members of the Fulton County Board of Registrations and Elections.

HB 437 would establish the selection process for the chief judge of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit and enumerate the chief judge’s duties.

HB 441 would allow the court administrator of the Fulton County Superior Court to have oversight over the court’s budget, and it would give him or her the authority to make changes to line-item appropriations, with the chief judge’s consent.

HB 442 would give the court administrator of the Fulton County State Court the same respective powers over it.  

HB 435 would change the duties of the chief judge of the Fulton County State Court.

HB 443 would establish the election process for the chief judge of the Fulton County Magistrate Court.

HB 444 would provide a modest supplement to the salaries of the Fulton County Superior Court judges to bring them more in line with other large counties.

In addition, north Fulton House members introduced further legislation this week, to be voted on soon, and several more bills are in process.

Rep. Willard introduced HB 526 to provide for the development of the North Fulton Regional Radio System, which will facilitate public safety and public service for Sandy Springs, Roswell, Milton, and Alpharetta.

I introduced a revised version of the Fulton County Homestead Exemption bill, which will provide for a referendum to increase the homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000 over three years.

As always, I look forward to hearing from my constituents, so feel free to visit me at the Capitol, call my office at 404-656-5072, or contact me through my Facebook page, facebook.com/janjonesforgeorgia.

Sincerely,

 Jan Jones

State Representative

District 47, Fulton County   

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/6/2013

2013 Legislative Blog Update 2/28/13

2013 Legislative Blog Update

2/28/13

By Rep. Jan Jones

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

As the legislative session progresses, I want to tell you about several bills that I and my fellow North Fulton legislators have been working on.

Our top priority this year is cutting Fulton County down to size and pressing for more efficient, effective services. In 2012, Fulton spent 121% more per capita than Gwinnett County and 68% per capita more than Cobb County.

Granted, Fulton is the seat of Georgia’s government, so I could understand a reasonable amount more to account for the difference in the courts and jail services. But 121% more than Gwinnett? Fulton clearly isn’t managing its taxpayer resources as well as its taxpayers deserve.

In response, I’ve introduced legislation that will increase Fulton’s homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000 over a three-year phase-in period. Not only will this reduce property taxes for Fulton homeowners, but it will also encourage Fulton to focus on best practices in service delivery.

In addition, I will champion a bill to restrict Fulton County’s ability to increase the millage rate in response to an increased homestead exemption or shift the burden to businesses.

I’ve also co-sponsored Rep. Lynne Riley’s House Bill 171, which will redistrict the Fulton County Commission to reflect changing population trends within the county, in accordance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The redistricting map eliminates one at-large commission seat.  It includes six districts and one at-large seat for the chairman. This bill will help the Commission represent the actual population and demographics of the county as recorded by the 2010 Census. It will also make sure that communities of interest are fairly represented.

To increase the accountability and efficiency of Fulton’s government, I’ve co-sponsored Rep. Chuck Martin’s House Bill 172, which will move the county to a performance-based system for evaluating its employees. This new system will reward hardworking employees and help the county to better meet the needs of its residents.

As always, I look forward to hearing from my constituents, so feel free to visit me at the Capitol, call my office at 404-656-5072, or contact me through my Facebook page, facebook.com/janjonesforgeorgia.

Sincerely,

Jan Jones

State Representative

District 47, Fulton County    

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/5/2013

2013 Legislative Blog Update 2/5/13

2013 Legislative Blog Update

2/5/13

By Rep. Jan Jones

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

The 152nd session of the Georgia General Assembly kicked off to a productive start on January 14th with 37 freshmen Representatives joining 141 returning legislators in the House. In addition, special elections for two newly vacant seats take place today.

The House began the term by overwhelmingly re-electing Rep. David Ralston as Speaker and myself as Speaker Pro Tempore. I’m grateful and excited to continue to represent your interests in this leadership position.

I’m also pleased to continue serving as ex officio of all House committees, in addition to my stated position on the Appropriations, Education, Ethics, Reapportionment, and Rules Committees.

The remaining 29 official days of session will be spread out over February and March. Although we’ve introduced several important pieces of legislation in the past three weeks, we have much more to accomplish before the session ends.

Governor Nathan Deal’s State of the State address included recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. He proposed a $19.8 billion budget that will allocate funds to juvenile justice reform, greater educational opportunities for children, and many other important initiatives. For the Governor’s complete address, visit the Latest News page of this website.

Earlier this session, House and Senate members met with the Governor and state agency heads to modify the remaining Fiscal Year 2013 budget and finalize the FY2014 budget. State revenues show a slight increase from FY2013, but greater spending requirements in important areas like healthcare and education, plus an uncertainty regarding federal funding, resulted in the majority of state agencies taking a three-percent budget cut.

Please note that our House District number has changed from 46 to 47. As always, I look forward to assisting constituents, so feel free to visit me at the Capitol, call my office at 404-656-5072, or contact me through my Facebook page, facebook.com/janjonesforgeorgia.

Sincerely,

Jan Jones

State Representative

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/5/2013

HB 264: MARTA Legislative Reform

HB 264: MARTA Legislative Reform

 Section 1: Make-up of the Board

·         11 Voting members

o   3 residents of the City of Atlanta nominated by the Mayor and elected by the City Council

o   4 residents of DeKalb County –

§  3 appointed by the board of commissioners

§   1 appointed by a majority vote of a caucus of mayors of the municipalities located wholly in DeKalb County.

o   3 from Fulton County –

§  1 must live in the portion of Fulton County south of the corporate limits of the City of Atlanta to be appointed by a majority vote of a caucus of mayors of the municipalities lying south of the corporate limits of the city of Atlanta, the chairman of the board of commissioners, and the members of the board whose districts include any portion of Fulton County lying south of the corporate limits of the city of Atlanta.

§  2 must be residents of that portion of Fulton County lying north of the corporate limits of the city of Atlanta to be appointed by a majority vote of a caucus of mayors of the municipalities of Fulton County lying north of the corporate limits of the city of Atlanta.

o   1 member shall be a resident of Fulton or DeKalb County appointed by the Governor

·         2 Non-voting members

o   Commissioner of the Department of Transportation

o   Executive Director of the Georgia Regional Transit Authority

·         Terms:

o   The 2 non-voting members will serve while holding their state offices

o   Appointed members serving 2 year initial terms:

§  2 of 3 appointments from DeKalb County Board

§  2 of 3 appointments from Atlanta

§  1 of 2 appointment by mayors lying north of the corporate limits of Atlanta

·         No later than November 1, 2013, each local governing authority or caucus shall designate which board members shall serve an initial term of 2 years.

o   Remaining appointees serve 4 year terms

o   After initial 2 year terms of the 5 members, successors shall be appointed to 4 year terms in the same manner of other appointments

§  A member may be appointed to succeed him- or herself for one 4 year term provided that board membership prior to January 1, 2014 is not considered in calculating limits on length of service.

·         Contracting with the Authority for service

o   Allow Clayton, Cobb, and Gwinnett Counties to hold referenda to allow them to enter into a rapid transit contract with the Authority.

o   Upon any approval for a rapid transit contract, the county may appoint 2 residents to the board to serve a term ending on December 31 in the fourth full year after the year in which the referendum approving said contract was held.

·         Actions by the board requiring the affirmative vote of one more than a majority of voting membership as it may exist at the time:

o   Contracts approved by the board involving construction, alterations, supplies, equipment, repairs, maintenance, or services involving $200,000 or more.

o   Any contracting involving $200,000 or more shall be awarded through a competitive bidding process.

Section 2:

·         Any new hire after January 1, 2014 will not be eligible for a defined benefit plan issued on their behalf.

Section 3:

·         The board’s ability to determine routes, types of construction, equipment, facilities to be operated, and the fares to be charged is now subject to a majority vote.

Section 4:

·         Max number of years for maturity of bonds not to exceed 30 (down from 40)

·         Total principle and interest of annual bonded debt service shall not exceed 40% of the sales tax revenues collected in the previous fiscal year beginning in the fiscal year commencing on July 1, 2016; for each fiscal year after July 1, 2019 the limit is 35% of the sales tax revenues collected in the previous fiscal year.

Section 5:

·         Adds to those given the broadest power of eminent domain any city or county government within the territorial jurisdiction of the Authority

·         Determines that the power of eminent domain lies with the city governing body if the property is located within the city’s territorial limits and to the county governing body if the property is located in an unincorporated location within the county.

Section 6:

·         In the acquisition of unique property unobtainable in the open market, if the amount involved is $25,000 or more, a majority vote of the board is required.

·         Amounts relating to acquisitions, dispositions, and contracts is raised to an amount of $200,000 for those requiring advertisement in the local newspaper of the largest circulation in the metro area at least once a week in the two weeks prior to the bid opening.

·         Contracts awarded that require aggregate payments: the amount requiring the publication of intent to award contract is raised to $200,000 (from $100,000).

·         Three written price quotes from qualified vendors required for $200,000 or more (from “less than $100,000 but more than $10,000”)

·         Allows negotiations without a competitive bidding process for acquisitions, dispositions, and contracts involving less than $200,000.

·         Expenditures to a vendor who has received $5,000 or more in a 12 month period must be reported on a schedule that is included as an appendix to the agenda at the next regular board meeting. Shall include all such expenditures for the calendar month of the last regular board meeting and any subsequent month where a full board meeting was not held. Required appendix must be posted on the Authority’s website no later than 24 hours prior to the meeting.

·         By July 1, 2018, the Authority is required to enter into contract with private contractors for the provision of accounts payable, payroll, human resources benefits administration, employee recruiting and staffing, employee data records management, telephone maintenance and support, information technology service desk, end-user computer support, workers’ compensation claims administration, customer care telephone hotline, Para transit bus service, and the interior cleaning of buses and trains.

·         Authority and its employees may serve in supervisory role for these contracts to ensure proper, efficient, and cost effective delivery thereof.

Section 7:

·         Changes the requirement for contracts entered into by the Authority which require aggregate payments of $50,000 to be reported in the annual report to $20,000.

·         Requires the annual report to be verified by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House along with the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the preceding calendar year. This report must be submitted by August 31 and must be posted in a prominent location on the Authority’s website within two weeks of submittal of the report to the parties enumerated here.

Section 8:

·         Requires the financial report to be furnished to MARTOC and posted on the website of the Authority. Electronic notification of publication shall be sent to each local government authority of each participating local government.

Section 9:

·         Proposed capital improvement budget required to show all capital improvement projects completed during the preceding ten years as compared to those that were planned and budgeted for in the budgets from the preceding ten years.

·         Operating budget reserve of 10% of prior fiscal year’s total revenues from sales and use tax. (rather than 10% of the prior year’s operating budget)

·         No later than December 31, 2016 and every four years thereafter, the Authority must do a management audit that must be approved by MARTOC. The report is required to be submitted by December 31 of each year it is required. The audit must be done at the expense of the Authority.

·         Expands reporting requirements to include all goods, services, and projects rather than services only. Report is required by August 31 of each year and must include the name of the payee, payment amount, and purpose of each payment.

o   If the payment is made pursuant to a contract, the above information must be accompanied by the date the contract was awarded, the length of the term, the award amount of the contract, the cumulative payments made toward the contract, and any related contract or project identification number.

Section 10:

·         Calls for binding interest arbitration and a Governor appointed arbitrator in the event that the Authority and authority’s representative are unable to agree to terms of the labor agreement. Removes all language relating to a fact finder and subsequent hearings and reports based on fact finder’s findings.

Section 11:

·         Removes reference to section 9 (f) of the Act in exempting the Authority from regulation by the PSC.

Section 12:

·         Suspends the split in revenues through June 30, 2016. Newly unrestricted funds must be utilized, subject to total funding, to maintain the level of service of the transit system as it existed on January 1, 2010. Other than what was contracted prior to January 1, 2010, no newly unrestricted funds can be used by the Authority to give any person or entity annual cost of living or merit based salary increases in hourly wages, increased overtime due to such wage increases, payment of bonuses, or to increase the level of benefits of any kind.

Section 13:

·         Effective Date January 1, 2014

·         Section 1 – July 1, 2013

·         Section 12 – July 1, 2013

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/1/2013

Chief Justice Carol Hunstein's remarks for State of the Judiciary

2013 STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS  THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE  CAROL HUNSTEIN

SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA
February 7, 2013, 11 a.m.
House Chambers, State Capitol


    Lt. Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Shafer, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, members of the General Assembly, my fellow judges, ladies and gentlemen:

    Thank you once again for the opportunity to deliver to this distinguished body the State of the Judiciary Address. Your annual invitation to the Chief Justice to give a candid review of our goals, accomplishments and challenges ahead is a reflection of the honor and support you have extended to the judicial branch of government. On behalf of the judiciary, I thank you for your support.

    I am privileged to stand among some of the finest judges this country has. And today, some of them are here. They include my friends and colleagues on the Supreme Court of Georgia --- Presiding Justice Hugh Thompson, Justices Robert Benham, Harold Melton, David Nahmias and our newly appointed Justice, the Honorable Keith Blackwell. Justice Harris Hines is under the weather and not here today. Also here are the esteemed judges of the Court of Appeals of Georgia, including Chief Judge John Ellington. In addition, we are honored to have in the gallery judges from around the state. Just as you have always welcomed us, we too welcome you to visit our courtrooms and our chambers at any time.

    I particularly want to welcome the legislators who are new to the Georgia General Assembly. I had the opportunity to meet some of you recently at the University of Georgia for the 28th Biennial Institute for legislators. All of us in the judicial branch look forward to working with you in our common mission to serve the people of this state to the very best of our abilities.

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    It is said that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
    I am grateful that during the almost four years I have been Chief Justice, I have had the privilege of working closely with true leaders who were elected to this body of lawmakers – people who have had a vision, and begun to translate it into reality.
    The work that has begun in this state on criminal justice reform is extraordinary. Thanks to your leadership, the leadership of our governor, Nathan Deal, and the leadership of this state’s judges, two years ago all three branches of government came together united in our effort to enhance citizens’ public safety while protecting their tax dollars from runaway prison costs.

    In 2011, Representative Jay Neal introduced legislation creating the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.  I could not be more proud of the work of the Special Council, of which I have been privileged to be an active member, along with Judge Michael Boggs of the Georgia Court of Appeals who today co-chairs the council, Senators John Crosby and Ronald Ramsey, Representatives Wendell Willard, Mary Margaret Oliver and Jay Powell, and a number of others, including co-chair David Werner, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, and Thomas Worthy, the Governor’s Deputy Executive Counsel.
 
The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform has worked diligently, and last year the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 1176, a comprehensive set of measures proposed by the council to divert non-violent and low-level offenders away from costly prison beds and into more effective drug and mental health courts and treatment programs. Our goal from the beginning has been to create a safer Georgia through lower recidivism rates while saving millions of taxpayer dollars. Less than a year later, we already have begun to see the fruits of our labor.

    Recently, Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens announced that after years of steady growth, Georgia’s prison population appears to be leveling off, putting us on track to save $264 million in five years. The number of inmates sitting in county jails as they wait for state prison beds is declining, and there has been a real reduction in the number of inmates waiting in local jails for beds in Probation Detention Centers. These are important changes that represent real savings.

One of the most significant achievements has been the beginning of a new way of handling long-term inmates who have served many years – sometimes decades – in prison. The fact is that 95 percent of this state’s 57,000 prison inmates will eventually walk out of prison; only 5 percent will die there. We want to be sure that when they come out, they remain crime-free and are prepared to integrate safely back into society as wage-earning, tax-paying citizens. Yet a significant number of our most institutionalized prisoners will “max out.” That means they will serve every day of their sentence in prison, but they will then be released into our communities with no parole officer or supervision of any kind.

That is beginning to change. Rather than turning them out the prison gate with a bus ticket, $25 and a “good luck” wish, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles has begun assigning these long-term prison inmates to transitional centers some six months before their final release date to help them transition back into society.  This change alone should significantly improve public safety by making these inmates less likely to return to a life of crime.

Also in the last year, thanks to your appropriation, 12 new drug and mental health courts have been created, along with a number of new substance abuse and mental health treatment centers.

But the best measure of our success is counted in the many individual lives that are being changed daily as a result of these accountability courts. I have been privileged this past year to participate in several drug court graduations, as I know some of you have. I have been blessed to meet families who have been reunited by the courts, mothers and fathers who are once again truly functioning as parents and as tax-paying citizens who are showing up for work, on time and sober. And I have been honored to receive personal letters from a number of the graduates. One graduate wrote: “On October 31st, I went to court and regained full custody of my 6-year-old son, Nicholas. It was the happiest day of my life other than the day he was born. I am so grateful for the opportunity of giving back when I, for so long, took away.” 
Another wrote: “I just wanted to say thank you for giving me a second chance to change my life and to start over.” And a third: “Because of Drug Court, I have my life back.”

All three were charged with crimes. All three got second chances. And all three have gone from being tax burdens to taxpayers.

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    One year ago, when I last addressed this legislature, I asked you to consider that perhaps these reforms we have begun putting into place for adults should begin with children.

    Again, I am proud of the work of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which has spent its second year studying how this state handles youths who break the law.

    Today, we as Georgians – and as a nation – stand at a crossroads in juvenile justice history. We have learned, just as we did with adult criminal justice, that cracking down on juvenile crime is not enough. We must also be smart about juvenile crime and take action to reduce it.

    Right now, nearly 2,000 children are in a Georgia facility other than their own home: They are in youth prisons, youth jails, or residential programs, such as group homes. More than half of these children were sent there for committing non-violent offenses; 40 percent are considered low risk; 25 percent are there for having committed a misdemeanor or status offense, which would not be a crime if committed by an adult.

    It costs this state $91,000 a year to house a child in a youth prison. By comparison, it costs $19,000 a year to house an adult. The difference in cost is based on young people’s educational and other needs that must be met under state and federal laws.
But consider the return we get on every dollar spent housing these juveniles: Of the 619 children in our youth prisons, nearly 65 percent will commit another offense within three years of getting out – and nearly every one of them will get out.

    If we thought the poor return on our investment in the adult arena warranted criminal justice reform, surely the poor return on our investment in children warrants juvenile justice reform. We know one thing for certain: Spending $91,000 a year to lock up a juvenile and getting 65 percent recidivism in return is not working. We can be smarter with taxpayer dollars. More importantly, we can produce a safer Georgia.
The research shows that our reliance on incarceration for young people does not reduce their likelihood to reoffend. Indeed, it may do just the opposite, exposing low-risk young people to violence and abuse, and putting some on the path to adult criminality.

    At the same time, we have evidence of what does work: community-based programs that offer mental health and substance abuse treatment, anger management programs, family counseling, education and employment programs, and probation supervision.

This year, as last, I have heard from judges across our state. Many juvenile judges have said the same thing: State budget cuts, particularly in the area of mental health, have left them with few alternatives but youth jail or prison for many of the children who come before them. As one judge explained, it is almost impossible to get mental health services for clearly disturbed youngsters unless they threaten suicide or homicide. “We wait for the explosion, and it will come.”

What does a judge do with a chronic runaway girl who comes before him with untreated mental health problems and a history of being sexually exploited while living on the streets? What does a judge do with the boy who repeatedly is charged with shoplifting but whose family is seriously dysfunctional? Most juvenile judges say they do not want to send these children to locked facilities, but with no community resources and fearing for the children’s safety, they feel they have no alternative. As one juvenile judge recently wrote, without resources at home, detention becomes a default “when the hammer is the only tool in the toolbox.”

You now have before you the final Report of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. I encourage each of you to read the report. It contains a number of concrete recommendations for your consideration. Just as with adults, we want to reserve our youth prison beds for the most serious offenders while providing alternatives for those who are low-risk and non-violent.

Just as the success of adult drug courts depends on the availability of community treatment programs, the key to the success of our juvenile courts in handling troubled youths who have not yet committed serious crimes is the availability of programs that can intervene before it’s too late.

Of course, community resources cost money, at a time when we as a state and nation are still struggling to crawl out of the most protracted recession since the Great Depression. But other states have come up with a brilliant way to reinvest dollars spent on juvenile incarceration into community-based programs.

In Ohio, counties get an annual allocation from the state for handling youthful offenders. The allocation is based on what it used to cost the state to incarcerate that county’s youths in state facilities. It is now up to the county to decide whether to use the allocation on costly out-of-home beds or to develop less costly community-based options.

Think about it. This is a wonderful financial incentive. Instead of spending $91,000 per child on incarceration, counties can reinvest that money into more economical and effective community programs. 

Under a similar program, the state of Illinois has seen a reduction in the commitment of youths to state institutions that has resulted in $11 million in savings in two years. Texas also has developed a pilot program similar to Ohio’s.

And now – under Governor Deal’s leadership – Georgia stands at the threshold of possibly becoming the next state to pilot this reinvestment of funds to make our state safer by giving communities the ability to tailor their juvenile justice programs to meet their specific needs.  The Governor has proposed allocating $5 million to the top Georgia counties that account for more than half the kids in juvenile detention.

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Those of us who are judges are sworn to uphold the law and order of this state. I want to emphasize that no one is urging Georgia to become soft on crime. Some of our juvenile offenders have committed heinous, violent crimes, and must be treated as adults and locked away from society.

 But they are the minority. For our citizens’ sake, we must do better with the majority.
The fact is, many of our juveniles deserve second chances.

When did we stop believing that some young people deserve second chances? When did we start believing that a sixth grader should be suspended because she brought a Tweety Bird wallet to school that was attached to a 10-inch chain?
When did we stop believing that children are different from adults and that teenagers do stupid things, act impulsively and consider themselves immortal? When did we forget what we were like as teenagers?
I have not forgotten what I was like. It is not a good memory.

Not all of us who are judges, or lawmakers, or leaders of government took the path our parents tried to steer us down, consistently got good grades, never got into fights at school, never drank or drove recklessly or broke the law. But for those of us who did those things, we got second chances.

Let me tell you about someone here today who got a second chance. He was 13 years old when one day during school, two friends dared him to rewire a fire door that was supposed to remain open except for an emergency. He took the dare, succeeded in overriding the system, and got the door to close. But what he didn’t realize was that once the door closed, the fire alarm would go off with a vengeance. In addition to fire trucks, police swooped down upon the school. Very quickly, they identified him as the perpetrator. He heard the police in the principal’s office saying they were going to arrest him. And at that moment, his world shattered. In his 13-year-old mind, he was certain he was going to jail, and that he would never again see his mother, father, sisters or brothers. But then he heard something else. He heard his principal urging them not to arrest him. The principal assured them the boy would suffer consequences. And at that very moment, the boy learned a lesson in mercy and forgiveness. It was a defining moment in his life.

He grew up, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, became a lawyer, and today is a juvenile judge in Clayton County where he has never forgotten a principal who once gave him a second chance. With every case that comes before him, he asks himself: “What would I do if the child before me were my own?” And whenever possible, he draws a delinquent child’s parents into the rehabilitative process.

Today he is an advocate for youth, a proponent of alternatives to unnecessary detention, and a leader in the field of juvenile justice, not only in this state but nationwide.  In his own county, to interrupt the “pipeline from school to prison,” he has brought together school leaders, police, prosecutors and social service providers to steer disruptive school children away from court and detention into cheaper, more effective alternative responses to their behavior.

As a result, from 2004 to the present, the number of kids arrested in Clayton County schools has dropped 83 percent. As he says: “The juvenile court should be reserved for children who scare us, not for those who make us mad.”

Ladies and gentlemen, if you do not already know him, it is my honor to introduce to you Clayton County Presiding Juvenile Judge Steven Teske.

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I began today by telling you that I am proud to stand beside some of this nation’s finest judges. As I said last year and the year before, the entire judicial branch operates with less than 1 percent of the state budget. That means that for every Georgia citizen’s tax dollar, less than one penny goes to funding the entire judicial branch of government.

Budget cuts have been difficult for everyone, the judiciary included. But I am proud that this branch of government has worked with the governor and you legislators to meet the demands of the budget shortfall.

As judges, we are sworn to dispense justice, uphold the law and protect constitutional freedoms. Our duties are simple but profound. They are fundamental to our democracy and a core function of government. We have no choice but to respond to all problems and conflicts that come before our courts.

Despite the economic challenge, our judges have always worked hard to move forward.

* In Barrow and Jackson counties, judges have leveraged federal funds to create not just one, but four drug and mental health courts.

* The Commission on Interpreters has forged ahead with a pilot project to provide constitutionally mandated interpreting services to courts in outlying areas.

* In the area of domestic violence, Georgia ranks a dismal 10th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women. But thanks to the leadership of Representative Edward Lindsey, prosecutors have been given more tools to hold abusers accountable. And thanks to Judges Stephen Kelley and Peggy Walker, we now have a comprehensive plan that offers a road map for how to significantly reduce family violence in Georgia.

* We also continue to make progress in the electronic filing of legal documents. Our E-Filing Committee, chaired by my colleague, Justice Harold Melton, is persevering in its goal to develop a statewide electronic filing system that is compatible with all courts.

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I have mentioned a number of things today that the judiciary has accomplished, even in the face of challenging economic times. There is one more significant accomplishment that I would like to draw to your attention. In many ways, it is tied directly to juvenile justice reform because for many juveniles, justice means never coming into the criminal justice system.

For 12 years, my colleague, Justice P. Harris Hines, has quietly chaired the Georgia Supreme Court’s Committee on Justice for Children. Justice Hines has lent rock solid support to the mission of improving the civil process involved in child abuse and neglect cases. This committee’s work, under Justice Hines’ leadership and the staff leadership of Michelle Barclay, has contributed to a reduction in the number of children in foster care who fall through the cracks and never get out of the system. With the Cold Case Project, we have improved the likelihood of finding children permanent homes before they age out of the system as adults with no families and no support. We know from research that those who age out of foster care are less likely to get an education and a job, and more likely to be homeless and enter the criminal justice system. This past year alone, the Committee reviewed the files of 245 children as part of the Cold Case Project, and it is committed to finding all of them families they can call their own.

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Just like so many of you, Georgia has among its judges many strong leaders who have managed to do more with less while translating a vision into reality.
So in conclusion, I want to say it has been an honor and a pleasure to represent these judges as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. And I want to pay special tribute to one judge in particular.

When I came onto the Supreme Court in 1992, the first Chief Justice I served under was the honorable Harold G. Clarke, Jr., who also served in the Georgia legislature. Justice Clarke is ill right now and I would ask you to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. He is not only a great jurist but he is a quiet, strong leader of principle and the kindest man I have known.

Finally, I am confident that when my term concludes later this year, my friend and colleague, Presiding Justice Hugh Thompson, will move seamlessly into the position.

 I recognize that you as lawmakers have difficult decisions ahead. But I am supremely confident in your leadership and courage.

I thank all of you for your support of the judiciary and your service to this state.
God bless you, and God bless the people of the great state of Georgia.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 2/8/2013

2013 Legislative Preview

.Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Thank you for the privilege to represent your interests in the Georgia General Assembly. It is a tremendous responsibility that I take seriously.

I was re-elected as Speaker Pro Tem on the first day of session by my colleagues from across the state. This position, the second highest ranking in the House, gives me greater ability to assure your state government works for you. I will continue to do so gratefully and with the utmost attention to your concerns.

The 2013 legislative session kicked off to a productive start. As we move forward into this term, there are a number of items that I want you to know about.

Cutting Fulton County down to size remains a priority for me. As you may know, Fulton taxes and spends substantially more per resident than other metro counties.  Its annual per capita tax revenues and expenditures are more than double those of Cobb and Gwinnett counties even after taking into account the cost of Grady Hospital.

During challenging economic times, there’s no time better than the present to assure we’re getting the best government services possible and at the lowest cost.  Although most county decisions lie within the exclusive authority of the commission, the local legislative delegation can make numerous modifications.

For background, the local delegation comprises all state representatives and senators that represent a portion of Fulton County.  After the 2010 census, the General Assembly drew new legislative maps. When those maps took effect recently, the balance of representation shifted north from Buckhead to the county border.  Now, 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats represent Fulton in the House and seven Republicans and four Democrats in the Senate. Here are a few of the ways this new north Fulton-majority delegation will be working hard to meet your needs:
    
Passing new county commission district maps:  Necessary per federal law following 2010 census counts to assure equal representation by commission districts.  Additionally, the structure of the commission and its powers will be reconsidered.

Fighting high property taxes: I will champion an initiative to double the general county homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000 and implement limitations on millage rate increases. I’m passionate about cutting the cost of government.

Cutting through Fulton’s red tape: We will work to reform library and court systems, as well as the employment system and the elections board, so you receive fair and capable services.

Re-creating Milton County: Although passing a Constitutional amendment with a two-thirds General Assembly majority remains a challenging prospect, it also remains my top priority. I will reintroduce the legislation again this session and keep you informed as we make progress over the next two-year legislative term.

I want to thank you for re-electing me as your State Representative. I’m excited to continue representing your interests this legislative session. Please feel free to contact me and share your ideas and concerns.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/29/2013

Governor Deal's State of the State Remarks

Deal: Focus on foundations that strengthen Georgia

Lt. Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Shafer, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, Members of the General Assembly, Members of the Judiciary, my fellow Georgians:

To the Members of the General Assembly, congratulations on your election. To the new members of the House and Senate, welcome! You are now part of one of the greatest and most successful experiments in the history of mankind, the process of self-governance, whereby free people entrust to us the responsibility of preserving their freedoms.

We do so if we confine our actions to those things which our constituents cannot do for themselves. Our constitution defines some of the things we shall do, as well as some of the things we shall not do. Between those goal posts of shall and shall not lies the field on which we play. It is not a Field of Dreams but a Field of Law. Like spectators in the stands of a great stadium, a cacophony of voices will tell you what play to run and agree or disagree with your performance. Just remember, we are all on the same team with you, and we share a common purpose of making Georgia the best place to work, play, get an education and raise a family.

Last year, I told you that I had a goal: To fulfill the truest purposes of government – the ones for which Georgians need their government most – “and then get out of the way so that they can live their lives in freedom and as they see fit.”

So far, I believe we have done that well. We have made communities safer, improved educational opportunities, provided for infrastructure improvements, driven workforce development, generated a better business environment and created jobs. Together, we have implemented innovative tax reform that incentivizes business growth, passed smart-on-crime criminal justice reform and saved HOPE.

This year, I challenge you to join me as we go forward with a focus on progress. While times have been tough and we have had to make difficult choices, I will not lead our state with a Doomsday mindset, reacting erratically and hastily based on fear or ignorance. Instead, we will move forward with confidence, focusing on the proven foundations of a growing Georgia, those that keep us steady during times of uncertainty but also during times of prosperity; foremost among these are public safety, education, healthcare and economic development

Just as Georgia is too big and too important to fall prey to Doomsayers’ pessimism, it is also too big and too important to be divided by race, geography or ideology. This year, let’s concentrate on the things on which we can all agree: The foundations that improve the lives of our citizens and undergird the bright horizons of tomorrow.

In the first foundation, Public Safety, let’s capitalize on the success that we have already had in criminal justice reform, in which, last year, we crafted legislation that saves both lives and taxpayer dollars. Through increased use of accountability courts – drug, DUI, mental health and veteran courts – along with other measures, this state will avoid the need to add 5,000 prison beds over five years and save taxpayers at least $264 million; these measures simultaneously decrease the number of offenders who end up back in jail after being released – and create productive, taxpaying citizens rather than more dangerous criminals. And we have continued funding for accountability courts by allocating $11.6 million toward that purpose in my budget proposal.

This year we will continue our work by bringing legislation designed to produce better results with juvenile offenders and divert them from the adult system. I want to thank the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians for their hard work over the past two years. I urge your strong consideration of their recommendations for the Juvenile Justice system. Similar to last year, we would emphasize community-based, non-confinement correctional methods for low-risk offenders as an alternative to regional and state youth centers. To get started, I will be requesting $5 million in the FY 2014 budget to create an incentive funding program that encourages communities to create and utilize these community-based options.  These options range from substance abuse treatment to family counseling and provide judges with viable, alternative sentencing options.  Just as with last year, we stand to lower recidivism and save taxpayer dollars. For example, are you aware that the cost of each bed in a Youth Detention Center is in excess of $91,000 each year? It is certainly an area where less costly options must be used. Together, we can continue to improve our state’s justice systems while keeping our citizens safe by reserving our prison beds for violent offenders.

This year provides another opportunity to bolster public safety.

This past summer, Georgia witnessed several tragic accidents on our waterways.

We know alcohol is involved in over 50 percent of all boating fatalities each year. On Georgia’s roads, if the operator of a vehicle has a Blood Alcohol content of .08 or higher, he can be charged with Driving Under the Influence. However, you cannot be charged with Boating Under the Influence unless your Blood Alcohol level is .10 or higher. The Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law that I am proposing will change that. If you are too drunk to drive an automobile, you are too drunk to drive a boat!

I will also propose, through the Kile Glover Boat Education Law, that you place age limits and educational requirements on young operators of boats and personal watercraft and that children who are 13 or younger must wear life jackets when riding in an open boat that is moving.
               
Another foundation block for growing a more prosperous Georgia is education. Since we are talking about foundations, let’s talk about our earliest learners, who build upon what they learn today for the rest of their lives. We have an outstanding pre-K program that has been nationally recognized. This past year, the National Institute for Early Education Research awarded Georgia its first 10 out of 10 in measures of quality; we were one of only five states to receive such a designation. 

In the budget for FY 2014, I have added 10 days to the pre-K school year, thereby restoring it to a full 180 days and increasing the salaries of deserving teachers.

Last year, we focused on literacy by designating $1.6M to establish a reading mentor’s program that was designed to grow the percentage of Georgia’s children who are reading on grade level by the third grade. Early indicators are proving it a good investment. We must not let our children fall behind, for that is a path toward remediation and delayed success. As such, I have included $1.6 million in this year’s budget to continue the reading mentor program.
               
While most state agencies have seen their budgets for the remainder of this fiscal year and for the FY2014 reduced by an average of 3 percent, K-12 education was not subject to these reductions. In fact, the budget will give $156M in additional funding for enrollment growth in K-12 schools in FY2013.  For next year, there will be $147 million for enrollment growth and salary increases for teachers based on training and experience. There is also an additional $41 million to fully fund the revised Equalization formulas adopted last year.

We must continue to make K-12 education a top priority, because Georgia recently ranked 45th out of the 47 states that reported graduation rates under the cohort method. This is unacceptable! We can do better! We will do better!

The people of Georgia spoke loud and clear when they adopted the Constitutional Amendment on Charter Schools by an overwhelming margin. The message they sent was this – They are not satisfied with the status quo! And neither am I!

We have been funding public education under the Quality Basic Education legislation, QBE. This is a 1985 formula that does not meet the needs of a 21st century classroom. While adjustments have been made, as recently as last year, more needs to be done. As we finalize the pilot projects and reforms being produced by our Race To The Top initiative, I look forward to modernizing the way we spend tax payer dollars so that we can produce more positive results in our public schools. Public distrust emanates from poor graduation rates, excessive remediation expenses and substandard test scores. Dedicated educators deserve to have this stigma removed. If we don’t do that, we will discourage the bright college students who want to be teachers from choosing that profession. We cannot afford that loss!

Georgia has had too many school boards placed under the sanctions of potential loss of accreditation. While this is a very serious matter, it is somewhat ironic that the loss of accreditation can only be based on governance issues and not on substandard academic progress of the school system. Unless this is addressed by state legislation, we will continue to have thousands of Georgia’s children trapped in underperforming schools through no fault of their own. I look forward to working with you to solve this problem. In education, as in most areas of life, poor outcomes are most often not the result of lack of money, but lack of vision and leadership.

One of the primary reasons for getting an education is to get a job. To the parents of children who contemplate dropping out of school, you should remind them that they are condemning themselves to the lowest rung on the employment ladder, and you should prepare them to continue to live at home because the jobs that will be available to them will be few indeed.
               
Since employment is a primary goal of education, I want to commend the Chancellor of our University System and the Commissioner of our Technical College System for evaluating and refocusing their programs of study to give priority to those educational paths that have a proven record of employability. It is a tragedy when a young person works hard, accumulates debt for student loans and then graduates with a diploma in a field where there are no jobs.

My budget proposes to focus more funds within our HOPE Grant Program toward occupations where we know jobs are available and shortages actually exist. Currently, there are several thousand jobs available for individuals with a commercial driver’s license. There are similar shortages in the areas of nursing and early childhood education. In order to fill these vacancies we suggest directing additional funds within our Technical College HOPE Grants so that over 90 percent of the tuition costs in these programs will be provided. That’s Putting Your Money Where The Jobs Are!
               
Two years ago, we worked together to save our HOPE Scholarship program. As a result, it remains one of the most generous state run scholarship programs in the nation. It is also keeping our best and brightest students in Georgia. In FY2011, more than 97 percent of entering in-state freshman at both the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech received the Hope Scholarship.

Today, I am happy to say that my budget will increase the Hope Scholarship by 3 percent over last year, bringing the total funds going to Hope in FY 2014 to nearly $600 million.

This is quite a contrast to the proposed bankruptcy of HOPE that was projected to occur this year. That’s why I say, together, we saved HOPE!

Also, in keeping with our emphasis on results based funding, I would like to thank the Higher Education Funding Commission for its hard work over the past year to provide us with a solid recommendation that will be the starting point for change from enrollment-based funding to outcomes-based funding in our university and technical colleges. I encourage you to join me in fully considering their recommendations.

Another foundation block for a growing and prosperous Georgia is healthcare.

I want to thank the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health for their efforts to keep our citizens healthy and thereby minimize the need for expensive healthcare. Commissioner Black has launched the Georgia Grown program in which he is promoting agricultural products grown in our state. He is working with local farmers and school dieticians to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by our school children. Commissioner Fitzgerald is one of the individuals leading the Georgia SHAPE program, which is educating and encouraging children regarding the importance of exercise. Both of these efforts will keep young people healthier and will reduce the scourge of obesity that abounds in our state.

As a result of a downturned economy and the provisions of federal legislation known as Obamacare, we are seeing a growth in our Medicaid rolls. As you know, I have elected not to expand our eligibility limits for Medicaid. At the State Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues Breakfast yesterday, I elaborated upon the reasons for that decision. I did not judge it prudent to expand the eligible population of an entitlement program by adding an additional 620,000 new enrollees since our state is already spending approximately $2.5 billion in state taxpayer funds annually.

Even without expanding the eligible population base, we expect our Medicaid rolls to grow by an additional 100,000 individuals. This new population of Medicaid recipients, along with other mandates of Obamacare such as the extension of the time between the review of eligibility, will raise our Medicaid costs by nearly $1.7 billion over the next 10 years.

For FY 2014, I am requesting that you authorize the Board of Community Health to apply a provider fee for hospitals, just as they currently do for nursing homes. Unless this is done, there will be a shortfall in revenue to support the Medicaid program of nearly $700M. Since we cannot adjust benefits, the reduction in reimbursements to hospitals would be the only way to keep the program solvent. Those reductions would be approximately 20 percent, which would seriously jeopardize many of our state’s hospitals. Therefore, I urge your favorable consideration of this legislation.

Last year, we appropriated $1.2M to expand residency programs for doctors in our state. I want to thank Dr. Ricardo Azziz, the President of Georgia Regents University Augusta, for leading this effort and the participating hospitals for making it possible for us to develop 400 new residency slots. We believe this is one of the best ways to retain medical doctors in our state. And the FY 2014 budget includes $2M in additional funds to further increase the number of health professionals practicing in the state.

The last foundation block for a prosperous Georgia that I will address today is economic development. For the last 2 years during this State of the State Address you have heard me say, “The state of our state is strong.” That statement is no less true today then it was for each of the two preceding years. In fact, it may be more true now when you consider employment numbers, increased job opportunities, revenue growth and the expanding prestige of our state in the international marketplace.

We currently have the lowest unemployment rate we have experienced in nearly 4 years. It is still too high. That is why we must insist that every young person get a high school diploma; otherwise, they become the fuel that stokes the fires of the unemployment furnace.

We are continuing to see promising job growth and many of these jobs are paying substantially above the average wage in our state. Since I stood before you last year at this address, we have announced more than 10,000 jobs, and many of these are on the high end of the employment scale. More and more businesses are deciding to make Georgia their home.  Some of the reasons for these decisions are government policies of low taxes and reasonable regulations. Together, we are showing the world that we are running state government the way it should be: in an efficient, common sense and businesslike manner. And clearly businesses are taking note of this!

We have spent taxpayer dollars wisely.  Using 2012 dollars, our per capita spending of government money is 17 percent less that it was a decade ago. And we currently have more than 9,000 fewer state employees than we had five years ago.
               
We have saved taxpayer dollars. The Revenue Shortfall Reserve, better known as the Rainy Day Fund, has been increased by 226 percent since I became Governor.

We have reduced the burden on Georgia taxpayers. The Tax Foundation in an article published last month confirms that our state has decreased its state tax collections per capita over the last decade the most of any state in the nation, “collecting 25 percent less in real dollars than it did ten years earlier.” And last year, with tax reform, you lowered that burden again by increasing the deduction for married couples filing a joint return, bringing the total deduction to $7,400, thus virtually abolishing the so-called “marriage tax penalty.”

There is good reason to believe our job base will continue to grow. Employers like to locate in a state that operates its own affairs in a businesslike manner. But it is not only businesses that pay attention to the fact that we have downsized state government and kept our budget balanced while not raising but actually lowering taxes. Others are watching our state operations, as well, like the three major bond rating agencies that have once again awarded a Triple A rating to Georgia. This comes at a time when some states and the federal government have experienced a downgrade in their ratings. This saves us taxpayer money by reducing the interest rate on our state bonds.

The goal I have set for us is to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the country in which to do business. With Commissioner Cummiskey and his superb team at the Department of Economic Development, we are well on our way to achieving our goal. For two years in a row, we have ranked in the top five for business climate by Site Selection Magazine, and we ranked No. 3 for doing business in 2012 by Area Development Magazine.

Our state is blessed to have the busiest airport in the world in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. This provides us with rapid access to and from about 80 percent of the U.S. population within two hours. It is also one of the reasons certain businesses are coming to our state.

Another asset is the Port of Savannah, the fourth largest container port in the country and the second largest on the East Coast. As you know, we have worked for many years to expand the Savannah Harbor and deepen the channel in order to allow the larger vessels that will soon be coming through the Panama Canal to dock in our state. We are very pleased that last fall we succeeded in getting a positive Record of Decision from the federal government. This is a major milestone on this project.
               
My budget includes an additional $50 million in the bond package for this project. This will bring our total state contribution to $231 million. That is almost the state’s entire contemplated share of the costs of this project; the remainder of the cost is to be paid by the federal government. While that is a sizable amount of money we expect the benefits to be $5.50 for every dollar spent—Not a bad return on investment!

I will conclude my remarks on a topic that does not require the recitation of statistics, but is one that is recognized in both the public and private domains as a cornerstone of success – that is ethics. We can build the strongest foundations of frugality, efficiency and competitiveness upon which our state government will rest; but if the citizens of Georgia don’t trust us, it will all be in vain, for the vibrations of distrust will crack even the strongest foundations. There will always be those in the media and elsewhere who thrive on sowing the seeds of doubt and distrust and who will never recant their sinister innuendos and malicious accusations even when they are vanquished by Truth.  And while you will never silence those voices of discord, nor should you try to do so, you can bolster the confidence of the public that might be tempted to listen to them by simply establishing clear rules under which you and those who deal with you in your capacity as elected officials must operate. If there is to be an expansion of the code of ethical conduct for members of the General Assembly, it should apply equally to all elected officials at the state and local levels.

We have laid our foundations for a strong and successful Georgia—public safety, education, healthcare, economic development and ethics. I look forward to working with each of you this session as we continue to grow Georgia in these most crucial areas.  And together, we will run a state rather than its citizens’ lives.

May God give you wisdom in your deliberations, and may he continue to bless this great state of Georgia.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/23/2013

Governor Deal's Remarks as prepared for Eggs and Issues Breakfast

Deal: 'Free' health care will cause a crunch

Members of the Georgia Chamber, Lieutenant Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, state legislators, elected officials, judges, justices, ladies and gentlemen:

Let me begin by congratulating you. We have had one of the best years of economic development in quite some time. A few notable companies that have chosen Georgia include Baxter, General Motors, and Caterpillar, along with numerous others. We did this with your help, with both the private and the public sector doing their parts!

Several weeks ago, the lieutenant governor, along with Sandra and I hosted a reception at the Governor’s Mansion to honor Georgia’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes who competed at the London Olympic Games. This was an outstanding group of young people of whom we are extremely proud.

One of the men in the group was Aries Merritt, a native of Atlanta and a graduate of Wheeler High School in Marietta. Aries won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 110 meter hurdles.

Unlike sprinters who travel in a straight line with no obstacles other than the lane markers assigned to them, hurdlers, as the name implies, must jump over obstacles that are placed in their path.

Making analogies between sports and government is always risky, but I want to suggest to you that the business of governing our state is somewhat similar to running the hurdles.

As governor, my goal is to see Georgia become the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business. I have made that clear from the beginning, because I believe that is the best path to economic growth and the quickest way to get Georgians into jobs.  And we are not all that far off from reaching our target: For two years in a row, we have ranked in the top five for business climate by Site Selection Magazine, and we ranked No. 3 for doing business in 2012 by Area Development Magazine. But we certainly still have some hurdles that we must overcome before we get there. 

This morning I will focus my remarks on one of the highest hurdles facing state government, that of healthcare. In Georgia, we have had many successes in the realm of healthcare. With rising healthcare costs, we have worked to keep Georgians healthy so that they can avoid some of these expenses rather than react to them when they become ill.

We have launched the Georgia SHAPE program as a way to combat childhood obesity, a growing problem in our state. I proclaimed this past September “Georgia SHAPE Month,” during which we emphasized physical activity and proper nutrition for our state’s children. In its inaugural year, the Governor’s SHAPE Honor Roll had 39 schools achieve Gold Medal status for their dedicated work in making our state’s youth healthier.

These healthier young people generally perform better in the classroom, and many will continue their healthy lifestyles into later years, making these programs an investment in the economic and cultural well being of our state.

The State Health Benefit Plan just finished the first year of its Wellness Program—the largest such program in the country, with more than 245,000 enrollees. We would like to take the next step by growing and developing it; we want to see employees taking responsibility for their own health through preventative action … and receiving lower premiums as a reward.

Even with all of these cost-saving approaches, it still costs approximately $10 million per day in claims to provide health benefits to active and retired employees and teachers. Those costs have and will increase because of Obamacare’s mandated benefits; in FY2014, the State Health Benefit Plan is projected to incur $106M of additional costs due to Obamacare. And because our State Health Benefit Plan is classified as a Self-Insured Plan, it is subject to the three-year Obamacare reinsurance tax. This means we would pay an additional $35M in 2015.

Of course, even among the healthy, not all illness can be prevented; so last year, we grew graduate medical education by adding funding in the budget for the development of 400 new residency slots in hospitals throughout the state, helping keep Georgia’s doctors in Georgia.

These are just a few of the great things we have going for us in healthcare. 

But we also face hurdles that we must overcome, like how to fund the state’s responsibility for Medicaid. Right now, the federal government pays a little under 66 cents for every dollar of Medicaid expenditure, leaving the state with the remaining 34 cents per dollar, which in 2012 amounted to $2.5B as the state share.  

For the past three years, hospitals have been contributing their part to help generate funds to pay for medical costs of the Medicaid program. Every dollar they have given has essentially resulted in two additional dollars from the federal government that in part can be used to increase Medicaid payments to the hospitals. But the time has come to determine whether they will continue their contribution through the provider fee. I have been informed that 10 to 14 hospitals will be faced with possible closure if the provider fee does not continue. These are hospitals that serve a large number of Medicaid patients. I propose giving the Department of Community Health board authority over the hospital provider fee, with the stipulation that reauthorization be required every four years by legislation. They have experience in this area, having had authority over a similar fee for the nursing home industry since around 2004. Of course, these fees are not new. In fact, we are one of 47 states that have either a nursing home or hospital provider fee—or both. It makes sense to me that, in Georgia, given the similarity of these two fees, we should house the authority and management of both of them under one roof for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. 

Sometimes it feels like when we have nearly conquered all of our hurdles, the federal government begins to place even more hurdles in our path. 

I am, of course, referring to the various mandates of Obamacare that put a strain on our state, its businesses and its citizens.

As most of you are well aware, the United States Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate as a tax. Therefore, most Georgians, beginning in 2014, will be forced to get insurance coverage or else pay a minimum of $95 (and potentially far more) in penalties. So what does this mean for us? It means that Georgians must pay out dollars to either an insurance company or the federal government—whether they want to or not.

But ultimately there still is a choice, albeit a rock-and-a-hard-place kind of choice. As more individuals enter the marketplace, younger, healthier Georgians might begin deciding they would rather pay the penalty than deal with the potentially much higher cost of coverage, causing the price of insurance for everyone to climb; this increase will drive even more healthy individuals out of the market, further swelling the cost. This potential cycle is one of the inherent flaws in the federal law.

The employer mandate means that businesses with 50 or more employees must provide affordable health insurance to their workers or else pay the rather large penalties. Costs can increase here, as well, as the pool of insured becomes less healthy.

These costs stand to hurt our state’s private sector. Because as all businessmen and women know, the higher your input costs, the lower your profits; the lower your profits, the less you operate, expand or employ. But whether it’s through fewer employees and less equipment purchases or higher costs, this mandate will negatively impact many of our state’s businesses and, of course, the would-be employees themselves.

Georgians who have already received a paycheck this January have no doubt noticed that their payroll taxes went up and their take-home salary went down. This is the cost of entitlements. If you think your taxes went up a lot this month, just wait till we have to pay for “free health care.” Free never cost so much.

The individual mandate has a second tier of impact involving Medicaid and its cost to the state. I have said clearly that Georgia will not expand Medicaid under the federal government’s guidelines. Even so, in Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014, Medicaid and SCHIP funding will be the second largest portion of the state funds budget with more than 13 cents of every dollar going straight to one of these programs. And with just the portions that our state must do, Obamacare is expected to add more than 100,000 new individuals to our Medicaid rolls and mandate other requirements, costing our state nearly $1.7B over the course of 10 years—and that’s on top of the $2.5 B we already pay annually. The reason: These Georgians qualify for Medicaid under the current system but have yet to enroll in it.  With the individual mandate requiring either insurance or a hefty fee, they will likely think that Medicaid looks like a pretty good option.  And since they fall under the current system, the state of Georgia and its taxpayers must pay the current rate of 34% and not the 0 to 10% rate proposed for the expanded population group.

We constitutionally must balance our state budget—a wise requirement instituted by those who have come before us. This increase in costs to the state means we have to find that money somewhere in our already tight budget; we cannot simply create more. As such, I have instructed the Department of Community Health to reduce its budget by at least three percent in Amended Fiscal Year 2013 and by five percent in Fiscal Year 2014—a difficult but necessary task. They have already identified $109M in cost-saving measures between the two years. But this hardly covers the additional nearly $500M in needed funds caused by growth in Medicaid expenses during the same time frame. That means we must make necessary cuts in other agencies and core functions of government since raising taxes is not an option I will accept! 

As I have indicated, I have rejected the Medicaid expansion in Georgia already, but let me emphasize that the expansion would have put our additional costs over 10 years closer to $4.5B—and that’s operating under the dubious assumption that the federal government, with its ever-growing national debt, would have fulfilled their promised share. The 620,000 new enrollees would have stretched our resources and our state to the limit. But whether the cost to our state would have been $2B, $4B or $6B, it does not make much sense to ask for more hurdles when you are already utilizing every muscle in your state’s body to overcome the ones you currently have before you and that you must face. So unless the federal government changes it to a block-grant program and allows Georgia to design the benefit plan, I cannot justify expanding Medicaid.

The irony to me is that there are those in the medical community who are urging the expansion of the Medicaid program while at the same time, we are seeing more and more medical providers refusing to accept Medicaid patients. Their reason for doing so is that they claim the reimbursements for their services are below their costs. It is for that reason that the previously discussed provider fee is so important since that revenue is used to pay providers. If providers are already having difficulty covering their costs for care to Medicaid patients, how will they accommodate 34% more people on the Medicaid rolls? If you are losing money now, how do you reconcile the number of patients on whom you will lose even more money? Add to that the fact that the new enrollees would be higher on the economic scale, and some will be leaving their higher-paying, employer-provided health insurance plans to enter the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program with its lower reimbursements for the providers. If we have to depend on provider fees now to keep our reimbursements to Medicaid providers at a “tolerable” level, just imagine the pressure that will come when hospitals and doctors are losing more money on a larger portion of their patient base. Expansion of the Medicaid rolls does not solve the problem, it only exacerbates the one we already have.

As many of you know, I also turned down the federal government’s offer to let us put our name on their insurance exchange program. I have no interest in seeing our state’s name, or its taxpayer dollars, used on something that we would have very little input in designing. If the purpose is to let those closest to and most knowledgeable about the population design the program, then we should be allowed to do so. It does not appear that is the pattern for the exchanges. I see no benefit to our citizens to have a program bearing the name of the State of Georgia over which our elected or appointed officials have little if any say so. While many federal programs come with strings attached, these strings turn states into marionettes to be manipulated by federal bureaucrats. If there is one thing we don’t need, it is another puppet show directed from Washington, D.C.! 

We cannot always determine what obstacles will be laid in front of us, but we can decide how we deal with them, and whether we approach them with anger, indifference or decisive action. The first two provide very little in productivity, but the latter offers opportunity to grow our state (and our businesses) in spite of newfound hurdles. Therefore, we must choose to work diligently. We must choose discernment over acquiescence, which is what I have aimed to do in my decision-making. And we must choose to confront these hurdles together, because discussion and determination, without bitterness, lead to the greatest forward progress.

Despite all that is in front of us, we will still make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business.

One last note: For those of you not attending in person, tune in tomorrow at 11 a.m. as I outline the rest of my plan for Georgia in this year’s State of the State Address, or go to my Twitter account, where my staff will be live Tweeting my remarks or at least the good parts.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/17/2013

Proposed New Fulton County Delegation Rules

PROPOSED NEW RULES OF THE FULTON COUNTY HOUSE DELEGATION
   
ARTICLE I

ORGANIZATION

Section 1: Membership.  The membership of the Fulton County House Delegation (the “Delegation”) in the Georgia House of Representatives shall consist of the duly elected Representatives whose geographic districts contain any portion of Fulton County, Georgia.

Section 2: Officers.  The Officers of the Delegation shall be the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Secretary, who shall be elected by roll call vote from the membership at the organizational meeting. The Chairman shall preside at all meetings of the Delegation. The Chairman shall sign the certification that legislation has been considered in conformity with the rules of the Fulton County House Delegation.  The Vice-Chairman shall preside at all duly called meetings where the Chairman is not in attendance.  The Secretary shall keep the minutes of the Delegation, and serve all notices of the Delegation.

Section 3:  Rules of Order.  The Delegation shall be governed by the rules adopted and included herein.  In the absence of specific rules, the rules of the House shall apply and, in the absence of specific rules in both the Delegation and the House, Robert's Rules of Order Revised will be followed.

Section 4: Voting.  Voting on matters other than final passage of legislation and elections shall be by voice vote unless a member of the Delegation requests a roll-call vote. No voting shall occur unless a quorum is present.

Section 5: Rules.  The Delegation shall adopt rules at the organizational meeting held during the first week of each term of the General Assembly. The rules shall be adopted by a vote of a majority of the Delegation.  Each member shall be provided a copy of the proposed rules at least 48 hours prior to the organizational meeting.  The foregoing rules may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the Delegation.  No amendments shall be acted upon until each member of the Delegation shall have been presented a copy of the proposed amendment in writing at least 48 hours prior to the time he is called upon to vote on same.

ARTICLE II

MEETINGS


Section 1:  Notice.  Meetings of the Delegation shall be upon the call of the Chairman or upon the request of a majority of the members of the delegation.  When the General Assembly is not in session, notice of meetings shall be issued two days prior to the date of the meeting.  When the General Assembly is in session, notice of meetings shall be issued no less than two hours prior to the time of the meeting,

Section 2:  Quorum.  The presence of a majority of the members of the Delegation in person shall constitute a quorum in the presence of the Chairman.

Section 3:  Open Meetings. All meetings of the Delegation or any committee thereof shall be open to the public.

ARTICLE III

LEGISLATIVE PROCEDURES


Section 1:  Official Requests for Legislation by Governmental Bodies.  Legislative requests of a governmental body within Fulton County must be presented to the Delegation and be accompanied by a resolution of the governmental body. A fiscal note must be made available for all salary and pension legislation prior to any consideration by the Delegation.

Section 2:  Procedure for Local Legislation.
(a) It shall be the responsibility of the Delegation Secretary to obtain the bill number of each local bill or resolution assigned by the Clerk of the House to the Fulton County House Delegation.  The Delegation Secretary shall secure a copy for each member and docket the bill for delegation consideration.

(b)  The sponsoring member may request a hearing and a vote for passage and solicit the requisite number of signatures for passage.

(c)  Upon receiving the local bill with the requisite number of signatures for passage, the Chairman may confirm the signers' affirmative support and may call a meeting of the Delegation for the purpose of final discussion and vote.

(d)  Legislative action by the Delegation shall be reported to the House Committee on Intragovernmental Coordination. No Fulton County House Delegation local legislation shall be reported by the House Committee on Intragovernmental Coordination unless it bears certification by the Chairman of the Fulton County House Delegation that said bill has been considered in conformity with the rules of the Fulton County House Delegation.

(e) It shall be the responsibility of the sponsoring member to insure that the requested local legislation conforms to state laws.

 Section 3: Required Signatures on Local Legislation.  

(a)  All members of the Fulton County House Delegation shall be eligible to sign legislation affecting Fulton County. A majority of those delegates eligible to sign must sign in order for any Fulton County legislation to pass.


Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/16/2013

Speaker Pro Tem Acceptance Comments

PRO TEM ELECTION ACCEPTANCE COMMENTS

Thank you for allowing me to serve you as Speaker Pro Tem of the People’s House.  I value your support, friendship and commitment to our great state.  Together, we’ll position Georgia to lead the nation in economic growth, education excellence and job creation.

I want to thank the gentleman of the 134th from Columbus, Richard Smith, for his generous words.  And I want to thank the gentle lady of the 170th from Nashville, Penny Houston, for her kind words.

I’m grateful to serve by the grace of God; with the support of the good people of the 47th District; and because my family stands by me patiently as your families do for you. I want to thank Kalin and our four children, including Kalin and Peyton who are here today.

I’m also grateful to this body for its good judgment in electing David Ralston as Speaker.  Georgia is the beneficiary, and I’m honored to serve this House and you, Speaker Ralston.  I look forward again to Larry O’Neal’s leadership as Majority Leader.  He has my admiration.  As well, I am honored to serve with Minority Leader Stacy Abrams and I appreciate our valuable partnership in moving Georgia forward.
I want to welcome the 47 newly elected freshmen to the People’s House and into the halls of a Capital where others have served since 1889, each humbled as they pass under its dome rising 237 feet above ground.

I’m going to quote from a book I turn to from time to time to remind me how much Georgia has changed since the Great Depression. 

“The average Georgian votes the Democratic ticket, attends the Baptist or Methodist church, goes home to midday dinner, relies greatly on high cotton prices, and is so good a family man that he flings wide his doors to even the most distant of his wife’s cousins’ cousins.” 

So began the first chapter of Georgia, the American Guide Series published in 1940, a mere 73 years ago.

We’ve changed since then, becoming a state of tremendous diversity and with a complex economy.  Our unemployment rate, although still too high, is lower than the 15% rate in 1940.

Advancing our state with innovative thinking in the salad days, but more significantly, in the lean times, is part of Georgia’s rich history.  I’m confident we will continue to do the same this session. 

We’ll assure our state lives within its means and maintains its coveted AAA bond rating.  We’ll make Georgia even more jobs friendly.  And we’ll continue education improvements to assure we have a 21st century educational system from kindergarten through college that is student-focused, innovative, efficient, flexible and effective.

None of this can be accomplished without each of us – Democrat and Republican; rural, suburban and urban – working together and focusing on what is truly important.
 I’m confident we’ll find the “good” in these challenging times, including opportunities to do things differently and better across all 59,265 square miles and for our almost 10 million people. 

I appreciate you as the People’s representatives and your role in moving Georgia ever forward. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it as your Speaker Pro Tem.  

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/15/2013

Georgia Snapshot: Ten years ago and now.

Click here to download the Georgia Snapshot Spreadsheet.

Posted by admin in Uncategorized on 10/30/2012

Charter Schools Give Students Opportunities

Charter Schools Give Students Opportunities
By Jan Jones
As a mother of four children currently enrolled in or graduates of Fulton County Schools, I care deeply about public education in my community and Georgia.  I know public education changes lives by giving young people opportunities to fulfill their potential and achieve the American dream.

In this regard, I support Amendment One on the Nov. 6 election ballot to give Georgia's students more educational options through public charter schools. I support all the ways that our young people can get a leg up, including charter schools, traditional schools, dual enrollment at technical schools and colleges, virtual schooling, homeschooling, and private schools. I trust parents more than I trust government to make the best decisions for children.

You see, real accountability can only reside with parents and students who live with the outcomes of a child's educational success or failure.  And parents know one-size-does-not-fit-all children, including in educating them to thrive in a challenging global economy.  Not all learn in the same way.

Consider this: Our state's 67 percent graduation rate ranks 47th nationally.  Georgia's eighth grade students place 41st in math proficiency.  Among the 14 southeastern states, Georgia ranks dead last in graduates. But we rank first in average teacher salaries because we value our educators.

Clearly, we need more effective and efficient strategies, including educational options like charter schools.  And frankly, I'm troubled that the education establishment is misleading parents and educators and fighting so hard against giving them more choices and authority instead of celebrating another tool to reach students.
I'm not scared of education reforms that have been tested here and elsewhere; I'm scared of accepting more of the same, including graduating a lower percentage of students than Mississippi.

Predictably, the education establishment that regularly lobbies against reforms in Georgia and elsewhere finds it uncomfortable.  But if Georgians approve Amendment One, students will benefit with opportunities that cannot always be pigeonholed within narrow school attendance lines.

The charter amendment would assure that local school boards or the state could approve independent public charter schools to give parents more options when local communities request them.  The amendment is needed after a controversial 2011 court decision overturned charter school policies in state law.

A public charter school opens its doors only if parents choose to send their children to it and closes if the school does not meet achievement requirements spelled out in a charter, which is simply a five-year contract.  Most students, though, like my own children, will likely continue to attend the local public school because it works for them.
Public charter schools are run by local non-profit boards comprised of parents, teachers and community leaders and offer free, open enrollment to children.  Furthermore, charter schools hire only public school teachers that qualify for state retirement and health benefits just like teachers at traditional schools.  Next to the family, teachers matter most in students' academic achievement.

Additionally, not one dollar of local property tax dollars is used to fund state-authorized charter school students.  This is also true for high school students that take dual enrollment classes at technical schools and colleges.  The state pays for these classes to supplement educational options, but not with local property tax dollars.
Oftentimes, state- and system-authorized charter schools contract with private providers for up to 25 percent of services performed outside the classroom, such as back office accounting, administrative and maintenance functions.  This allows schools to funnel more funding into the classroom where real learning takes place.

As an analogy, the new cities of Milton, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs operate similarly.  They hire policemen and firemen directly as government employees with benefits, but competitively bid out many non-essential services to keep costs down.
Thirty-two other states allow a variety of charter schools to be approved by the state and school systems. It's been tried and true nationally as well as for 10 years in Georgia to complement system schools, increase parental choice and allow students with diverse needs more options to succeed.

Some charter schools primarily serve students at risk of dropping out; others may offer a smaller or more structured, challenging environment.  The bottom line is they have a record of getting results.

Our state's future and that of our children and grandchildren depend on a vibrant array of educational opportunities that together meet the needs of all students.  It's critical so Georgia can attract well-paying jobs that rely on a well-prepared workforce, not high school dropouts.

Our state's priority must be what's best for our young people, not preserving the status quo, even when it is uncomfortable to the education establishment.Enter text here...

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 10/29/2012

Early Voting Begins

 
Early Voting Begins
 
Statewide early voting begins today. Locations for North Fulton are listed below. Remember to vote early!

GA Secretary of State - My Voter Page Link    
 
     
Fulton County Government Center    130 Peachtree St., SW
Suite 2186
Atlanta, GA 30303   
MON - FRI: Oct. 15, 2012 - Nov. 2, 2012    7:00 AM  -7:00 PM      

Fulton County Government Center    130 Peachtree St., SW
Suite 2186
Atlanta, GA 30303
SAT: Oct 27, 2012    9:00 AM - 4:00 PM      

North Fulton Annex    7741 Roswell Rd, NE
Sandy Springs, GA 30350   
MON - FRI: Oct. 15, 2012  -Nov. 2, 2012     7:00 AM -7:00 PM      

North Fulton Annex    7741 Roswell Rd, NE
Sandy Springs, GA 30350
SAT: Oct 27, 2012    9:00 AM - 4:00 PM      

Ocee Branch Library     5090 Abbotts Bridge Road
Johns Creek, GA 30005   
MON - FRI: Oct. 15, 2012 - Nov. 2, 2012     7:00 AM - 7:00 PM      

Ocee Branch Library    5090 Abbotts Bridge Road
Johns Creek, GA 30005   
SAT: Oct 27, 2012    9:00 AM - 4:00 PM     


Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 10/15/2012

What are the facts about the charter school referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot?

Georgia Charter School Referendum Information
August 2012

- The constitutional amendment on the November ballot would provide Georgia with the same ability to authorize state charter schools that it had exercised for the previous 11 years. The Georgia Supreme Court sharply limited that ability and jeopardized it going forward in a 4-3 decision in 2011.

- 32 other states allow alternate authorizers of charter schools, including state boards and commissions. States that do not allow an alternate authorizer have the fewest public charter schools because school systems are generally more resistant to opening them.

- The state authorizes and holds accountable state charter schools, but it does not run them.  An individual non-profit organization located in a community and generally comprised of parents, teachers and civic leaders enter into a “charter” with the state - a binding contract - and governs a school, as the contract requires.

Similarly, Georgia has a long history of providing services funded and overseen by the state, but delivered more efficiently and locally within communities by non-government entities. Examples include private Pre-K programs and contracted roadwork, non-profit services for aging and disabled citizens, and families opening their homes for foster care. The result is more choice for Georgians than government alone can offer.

- Parents choose whether their children attend optional public charter schools putting “local control” where it counts the most – with parents. Charter schools serve as a choice and complement to traditional schools that have an attendance zone. Even in states with a robust array of charter schools, though, the majority of students continue to attend traditional, system-controlled schools.

- The state would be able to only consider authorizing charter school applicants that have a defined attendance zone after the respective school system(s) denied the application, offering an appeal as an alternate authorizer. Charter schools with a statewide attendance zone would be allowed to apply directly to the state for authorization, such as a virtual charter school.

- Public school educators teaching public school students at public state charter schools receive state health benefits and participate in the teachers state retirement plan per current state law.

- Total funding (for operations and facilities) per student is lower at state charter schools than for students in all but two of the 180 school systems in Georgia.
* State charter school funding is tied to the average total funding per student of the five lowest wealth school systems as defined by the “equalization formula.”
State charter schools are treated in the same manner as system schools with regard to austerity reductions and “five mill share calculation” reductions. No school system property tax or SPLOST monies can be used to fund state charter schools per the state constitution.

- 75% of the existing “bricks-and-mortar” state charter schools operate in a school system that does not have a single district-approved charter school. For most parents, the only available public school choice is the school located in their respective attendance zone. Since the majority of school systems have never approved a charter school and few “bricks-and-mortar” state charter schools exist, the state virtual charter schools offer the only public alternative available to most Georgia students.

- There are 11 bricks-and-mortar state charter schools and two virtual ones. The previous Commission approved only the highest caliber applications during its several years of operation (2008-2011), creating a high bar.** When the Commission began, strong pent up demand for charter schools existed among parents desiring choice because few systems had approved charter applicants. For example, systems denied all charter applications in 2007 and 25 of 27 applicants in 2008.

- State charter schools are governed by Georgia non-profit boards as required by state law. They may purchase the services of non-profit organizations, such as KIPP, or for-profit companies to provide assistance with back room accounting, maintenance, or day-to-day management.

Likewise, the Georgia Department of Education and individual school systems also purchase services from non-profits and for-profits on a daily basis. For example, one for-profit consulting company, Ombudsman Educational Services, has a contract with 23 Georgia school systems with a total contract of $15.5 million or an average of $673,000 per system. The DOE and districts also purchase the services of non-profits, such as Communities in Schools to provide management of alternative education programs. Some systems purchase management services for system-approved charter schools.

- Authorization and oversight costs will be borne by state charter schools through an administrative fee deducted off the top from their state revenues. Because the authorization and oversight of state charter schools is similar to the services already provided by the Georgia Department of Education for all other charter schools, there is no need to duplicate the majority of these services.

The previous charter commission operated on an amount equal to 2% of state charter schools' funding (state law caps  at 3%). The Commission would be comprised of volunteers appointed by the Governor, Speaker and Lt. Governor and serve under the authority of the State Board of Education. The previous Commission operated similarly and successfully.

- In contrast, school systems spend an average of 5.5% of operations funding on system central offices, not counting the cost of the DOE, which provides oversight over all school systems. Atlanta School System spends 21%, or almost $3000 per student, on its central office. Gwinnett School System, the largest system in Georgia with 10% of the state's students and teachers and an enormous ability to achieve economies of scale, ranks in the top 20% of expenditures per student on central office at $579.

- The National PTA now supports all types of public charter schools and no longer opposes alternate authorizers. The organization recently amended its position crafted in 1995 on charter schools. The National PTA no longer differentiates its position between school system-authorized and state-authorized charter schools. In its recent letter to state PTAs, the national organization stated that almost half of charter schools nationally were not authorized by school districts.

Georgia devotes 43% of its General Budget*** to K-12 public education, or $7 billion. On average, (system) public school operations are funded through 48% state, 41% school system and 11% federal monies. The proportion of funding that school systems provide has remained the same over 10 years (up 1%). The incremental funding amount the state currently devotes to state charter school students(to assure adequate funding and without system tax dollars) is less than one-fifth of one percent of the Georgia General Budget ($18 million). Every time a student chooses to attend a state charter school, his or her share of local property and SPLOST dollars remain behind to fund students at system-controlled schools.

*Sixth lowest when operations and facilities funding are considered. **The earlier Commission approved 13 new schools and five pre-existing state charter schools. After the Court decision, some failed to open; others temporarily shifted to system-approved schools.

 ***Not including tax monies constitutionally dedicated to specific purposes, primarily lottery and gasoline tax revenues.

Posted by Jan Jones in Uncategorized on 9/17/2012

How are state-authorized public charter schools funded?

The proposed constitutional amendment ensures state charter schools will not take local tax dollars from existing, traditional public school systems either directly or indirectly. The total funding for state charter schools will be lower than the average in all but two school systems in the state.

Download the full financial impact pdf here.

Posted by admin in Uncategorized on 9/17/2012

May/June Results from Constituent Newsletter Reply Card

Thank you to the many constituents that filled out a Reply Card from my May newsletter and mailed it back with answers to questions of interest to House District 46.

House District 46 covers northwest Fulton, including parts of Milton, Roswell, Alpharetta and Mountain Park. The district will be re-numbered to House District 47 in January as a result of re-districting.

Property Tax Rate Cap

Do you support capping the property tax rate for Fulton County as the average rate of all counties bordering it? It would result in a 20% reduction and would not affect city or school board rates.

99% in favor

Public Charter Schools

Our November Ballot will ask voters to amend the Constitution of Georgia to allow state or local approval of public charter schools when the communities request them. Do you support more educational opportunities through charter schools?

78% in favor

County Government Reform


Until sufficient votes exist in the legislature to recreate Milton County, do you support scaling back the responsibilities and spending of Fulton County?
99% in favor.

Other

What is THE most important state-related issue to you and your family?

Constituents penciled in the following responses as THE most important issue to them. Almost two-thirds of respondents listed one of the first two issues as the most important.

1. Re-create Milton County - 34%
2. Lower taxes - 30%
3. Economy- 10%
4. Illegal immigration - 7%
5. Education - 7%
6. Transportation - 7%
7. State's water rights - 3%
8. Ethics - 1%
9. Atlanta airport concession process - 1%.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 6/20/2012

Q & A on HB 797 and HR 1162

House Resolution 1162 and House Bill 797
Q & A

Why does Georgia need a constitutional amendment on public education this year?


A divided 4-3 Georgia Supreme Court decision in 2011 jeopardized Georgia's ability to establish statewide K-12 public education policy.  Secondarily, the decision also narrowed the state's general ability to authorize public charter schools, an authority it had exercised for 10 years.  
 
If challenged in court, the decision calls into question whether state government has any meaningful role in public education, except, perhaps, for putting a check in the mail.  State taxpayers cover half the cost of K-12 public education through sales and income taxes. The court decision has placed state taxpayers in the questionable position of taxation without being able to demand accountability from the recipients of state monies. K-12 education accounts for almost half of the state's $18 billion yearly budget.

Without a constitutional amendment, many laws on the books that teachers and parents rely upon could be subject to successful litigation as pointed out in the Supreme Court’s minority opinion, by the Attorney General and the legislature's education attorney.

What led to the Supreme Court decision?

The Court decision resulted from several school boards challenging the constitutionality of 2008 state legislation, which revised how the state approved and funded charter schools.  Initially, a Fulton County Superior Court judge threw out the school boards' case, ruling it was without merit. The school boards appealed to the state supreme court, which ruled 4-3 in their favor.

The broad Court opinion explicitly stated that school boards have exclusive control over general K-12 education.  For emphasis, the opinion re-stated that local boards have exclusive control six separate times, even though the word "exclusive" does not appear in the state constitution.

Why is it important that the state and local school boards have a shared partnership in public education?

Most people agree that local school boards play a critical role in public education. Most people also agree, however, that local school boards should not have exclusive control over public education. The broad court decision deviated sharply from the state’s historically significant role in public education, including funding half its costs, imposing class restrictions, establishing graduation standards and providing a teacher pay scale and retirement system. 

Businesses considering relocating to Georgia place a top priority on an overall educated workforce. Clearly, we have a state education brand to foster and protect in attracting jobs. This is why the Georgia Chamber of Commerce supported passage of HR 1162 as one of its highest priorities.

How would the constitutional amendment fix this?

House Resolution 1162 would re-assert the state’s partnership role in public education through a constitutional amendment. The resolution says, “the General Assembly may…provide for the establishment of education policies for such public education.”  HR 1162 would clarify the Constitution in the way most people thought existed prior to the Court’s action. 

What does this have to do with the state authorizing public charter schools?

The headline-grabbing issue is that the constitutional amendment would give the state the same latitude to approve charter schools that it possessed previously.
The Court decision narrowed the state’s ability to authorize public charter schools, a practice exercised prudently for over 10 years. Since 2008, only 12 state charter schools opened.

The constitutional amendment says, "Special schools may include charter schools; provided, however, that special schools shall only be public schools."  As background, special schools are already included in a provision in the state constitution and refer to schools that are not approved and operated by local school boards.

A substitute to HR 1162 explicitly prohibits a reduction in state funds to a specific school system as a result of a student within that school system’s geographical boundary attending a state charter school. The resolution also provides a definition of a state public charter school.

House Bill 797 spelled out how charter schools will be authorized and funded by the state going forward. 

What's compelling about optional public charter schools?

Optional public charter schools bring additional educational opportunities to students and communities. For example, technical colleges covering several counties, as is typically the case in rural Georgia, can partner with charter schools to offer vocational certification while students are still in high school. Charter schools, in some instances, place added focus on science and math, vocational or International Baccalaureate certification, or the arts. They may offer a longer day and extra tutoring.
Parents, though, choose whether their children attend optional public charter schools putting “local control” where it counts the most – with parents. A public charter school puts decision making in parents’ hands recognizing that one-size-fits-all education is not suitable for all children.

The state would only authorize public charter schools that would be run by non-profit organizations. Local citizens and parents would comprise the non-profit boards.
The same flexibility is offered to public school teachers that choose to teach in public charter schools. They can choose to teach in traditional schools or public charter schools.  In both cases, Georgia teachers are included, by current law, in state retirement and health plans.

Why should the state authorize public charter schools in addition to local school boards?

History has shown that charter schools are better performing, stronger and more apt to grow if school districts are not the sole authorizer allowed by law.  Most states allow the state to authorize public charter schools.

The problem is that local school boards often do not choose or want to approve charter schools, even when quality applications with strong community support are offered.  Cherokee County denied an application last year despite strong local support. Parents requesting space for their children exceeded the openings twofold. In fact, the first public charter school in Georgia and located in Statesboro was approved by the state 10 years ago after being denied four years in a row by the local school board.  Gwinnett County recently denied Ivy Prep charter school for a second time, even though it is one of the most successful middle schools in the state and has a highly diverse, mostly low income student population.  Another, Pataula Academy, in southwest Georgia attracts students from six counties.

In 2007, local school boards denied every single start-up charter school application. In 2008, 25 of 27 were denied. Since 2008 only four have been approved.  Less than two percent of Georgia students have access to a public charter school even though polls show many families would like the option. Of 16 state-authorized schools (either approved by the state board or former charter commission), six are physically located in rural areas outside the metro Atlanta area.  Additionally, the two virtual schools and the Department of Juvenile Justice school have statewide draws. State charter schools have a more diverse student population and more students qualify for free or reduced lunch than the state average.

Charter schools often do not fit within attendance lines attracting students across multiple school districts. A Georgia research university has expressed interest in partnering its school of education with a charter school and would serve students from a broad geographical region. This would not be possible without state authorization.

How will state charter students be authorized and funded under House Bill 797?


The legislation spells out conditions under which the state could approve charter schools. 

The legislation clearly re-states that local funding may not be used. The legislation also clearly forbids state funds from being deducted specifically from the respective school district in which a student lives.  This is different from how state funds were allocated in the 2008 legislation. It spells out a funding formula utilizing only state funds, and it will be the same for all state charter students regardless of their geographical home.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 6/8/2012

The Rest of the Story on School Systems Cuts

Here is an evaluation performed following AJC articles regarding proposed teacher and teacher salary reductions and class size increases by Gwinnett and Atlanta Public Schools.  It demonstrates that even in these difficult economic times, Georgia students and teachers would benefit significantly if school districts with large central office staffs would redeploy funds to schools where actual learning takes place.

The evaluation is based on information contained in AJC articles; federal, state and local expenditure data reported by school districts and compiled by the Georgia Department of Education; Georgia Department of Revenue millage rate, tax digest and SPLOST data; and other information compiled by the Georgia DOE, such as K-12 capitol construction bonds and graduation rates.

Gwinnett Example

The AJC recently published an article with the headline, “Gwinnett schools to furlough teachers again and increase class sizes.”

The article said these two budgetary efforts would result in $43 million in savings to the Gwinnett district.  The district intends to continue eliminating two days of pay for teachers through furloughs and maintain larger class sizes by two students each.  Additionally, the school system will save $7.8 million by eliminating raises that teachers earned based on training and experience. 

These raises, called step increases, are funded in the state budget.  About 60% of all teachers qualify each year for three percent step increases based on training and experience.  Gwinnett has the authority to exercise flexibility in state expenditure controls on items like step increases because it sought and was awarded flexibility by the state board of education through a contract. Most school districts exercise flexibility in certain state expenditure controls.

The projected savings to the system for all three measures will total about $51 million.

Here’s the rest of the story and a suggested alternate budget scenario for Gwinnett School System as it adjusts to difficult economic times.

Gwinnett County School System's superintendent and school board could support teachers and students by cutting the district's spending level on central office (also called General Administration) to the state per-student average.  Gwinnett spends 26 percent more per student ($579) than the state average ($460, not including Atlanta, which is an extreme outlier). 

Or even better, Gwinnett could reduce its spending on central office to Cobb County School System's per-student average.  Gwinnett and Cobb rank first  and second out of 180 school systems in student population size serving 160,000 and 108,000 respectively. 

If Gwinnett would trim its $579 per student spending on central office to Cobb's $228 level, Gwinnett could afford to reduce class sizes by two students, eliminate the two-day teacher furloughs and pay the $7.8 million its teachers earned for training and experience increase.*

Larger school systems can achieve economies of scale that smaller school systems cannot achieve as supported by ranking school districts according to the amount spent per-student on central office.  Of school districts that rank in the top 20 percent of all districts (37 districts) in per-student spending on central office, 31 districts have total student populations below 3000 students.   Of districts that rank in the bottom 20 percent (37 districts) in per-student spending on central office, the inverse is true; three districts have student populations below 3000 students.

 Central office expenditures do not include costs associated with instruction or school-level services and management, such as teachers, counselors, bus drivers, principals, asst. principals, media specialists, school custodians, school nurses, or textbook costs.

As the largest school system in Georgia (and serving 10 percent of the state's public school students), 10 percent of Georgia's teachers and students alike would benefit if Gwinnett Schools put teachers and students first, not its central office.

Atlanta Example

The AJC recently reported that Atlanta Public Schools has decided to eliminate 350 teacher positions and furlough its remaining teachers for two days to reduce spending by $47 million.

Here’s the rest of the story and another option for Atlanta Public Schools to consider during these difficult economic times:  

APS could reduce its central office spending of $2969 per student to the state average of $460 (state average, excluding Atlanta, which is an extreme outlier).  Atlanta spends six times the state average per-student on central office.  APS in and of itself raises the state average per-student spending on central office by $13 per student.  

 Central office expenditures do not include costs associated with instruction or school-level services and management, such as teachers, counselors, bus drivers, principals, asst. principals, media specialists, school custodians, school nurses, or textbook costs.

If Atlanta reduced its spending on central office staff to the state average per-student spending on central office, APS would save $123 million.**   This would allow APS to restore 350 teacher positions and eliminate two-day teacher furloughs ($47 million total, according to AJC).  The district would save enough to also reduce its millage rate by two mills ($47 million).***  The district could additionally provide each of its 3577 teachers with a $5000 raise ($18 million).  

And finally, APS would have $11 million leftover to target students most at risk of falling behind or dropping out.  By targeting $11 million to one-quarter of APS students, each of these students would receive $900 in additional tutoring and recovery efforts.  With a four-year 52 percent graduation rate, who needs the funding more, central office or at-risk students?

In an even more productive alternative, APS could reduce its per-student spending on central office to the $371 average of the largest 10 school districts in student population (excluding Atlanta in the calculation).

APS exercises local decision-making, or what is often termed "local control," by spending $2969 on central office for each of its 49,032 students.  This leads one to ask:  Is this budgeting in the best interests of APS students and teachers?  Is this in the best interests of 500,000 Atlanta citizens and taxpayers and 10 million Georgia citizens and taxpayers that fund an average of $13,944 per APS student?  

Note:   APS central office expenditures represent 21 percent of APS's total operational budget, or $145 million total.  Next in ranking statewide is Baker County Schools, which spends 16 percent of its operational budget on a per-student basis ($1753) on central office, or $582,000 total.  As distinct, though, Baker County has only 332 students to spread the costs over.


*Gwinnett- $579 minus $228 = $351 per student savings
$351 x 160,000 students = $56,160,000 in savings

**Atlanta- $2979 minus $460 = $2514 per student savings
$2514 x 49,000 students = $123,431,000

***Each mill in Atlanta Public Schools is valued at $23.6 million.  APS levies 21.64 mills, has the 4th highest school district millage rate and has one of the highest value per-capita tax digests.


Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 6/8/2012

News Summaries on School Board Scandals

News Summaries on School Board Scandals

1. “Leasing ends up costing millions” – Gwinnett County, AJC on June 12, 2011

    In June of 2011, the AJC continued their reports on Gwinnett County’s school board. They found that the county paid $12.5 million in November of 2004 for their new headquarters, which was double the amount of money the owner had paid for it a year prior. The board then sold the property for $17 million to allow the former manufacturing plant to be renovated, although Gwinnett decided to lease the property for $300,000 per month while this was taking place. In the deal, Gwinnett agreed that they would buy back the property in 2013, and even pay for all of the renovations that had occurred after they sold the property, which totaled $26.9 million. Essentially, the school board paid $73 million for a project, when it could have been completed for just $39.4 million, which is the cost of the property and renovation of the building. Therefore the Gwinnett school board could have saved $34 million if they had held onto their property and completed the renovations on their own.

2. “Former DeKalb schools chief, three others indicted” – AJC on May 27, 2010

    In 2010, the AJC reported on the indictment of the DeKalb School Superintendent Crawford Lewis on the charges of racketeering, bribery, and theft by a government employee. The report says that more than $80 million in contracts were given out by Lewis to companies associated with DeKalb’s Chief Operating Officer Patricia Reid and her then-husband Tony Pope, who is an architect. In exchange for the contracts, Lewis received cash, $35,000 in sports tickets, and other perks which were given to him through his secretary Cointa Moody. The report does not give an exact figure on the amount of taxpayer money that was lost in these transactions but does recognize that at least $2 million in profit was made by members associated with the DeKalb School Board.

3. “Land flips sting taxpayers” – Gwinnett County, AJC on March 6, 2011

    In an investigative report by the AJC, Gwinnett County was found to have overpaid on contracts by around $23 million between 2004 and 2008. The Gwinnett School Board agreed to buy land from 4 different developers, who had all purchased their respective land on the same day as they sold it to the county. Two of the developers made $1 million by selling land that they had bought the same day to the Gwinnett school district. Another two developers made $840,000 and $340,000 by selling land to the school district the same day they bought it. The report notes that the developers who profited the most from these transactions were David Bowen and David Jenkins, who were both prominent and politically connected. Those two developers had also been involved in past land deals that were investigated by a Grand Jury.

4. “Atlanta fires first teacher in cheating scandal” – APS, AJC on March 14, 2012

    After four years of cheating in the Atlanta Public School System, the first teacher was fired from the scandal. This follows up the state investigation and the 400 page report that was published in 2011. The AJC’s article notes that APS is still paying $1 million a month to about 110 teachers who have been accused and put on administrative leave. Only 11 educators have had formal steps taken to fire them, and 4 of those educators resigned in order to avoid formal hearings. Damany Lewis was the first teacher fired, but 180 other educators have been named in the investigation. The investigation also noted that the cheating took place at 44 different schools and was helped by some of the district’s top officials. The article concludes by mentioning that Lewis was given immunity to criminal charges, but that the other educators who were involved still could face criminal charges when their cases came up.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 6/8/2012

House Bill 797 gains final passage

Legislation passed today, HB 797, spelling out how state charter schools will be authorized and funded if a constitutional amendment, HR 1162, is approved in November.

The bill, that I authored, and an explanation that I wrote are posted below.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/29/2012

House Bill 797 gains final passage - explanation of bill

HB 797 – Charter Schools

HB 797 spells out how HR 1162 would be implemented if Georgia voters approve the constitutional amendment in November.

HB 797 carefully and more narrowly than in the past will provide for additional educational opportunities for Georgia students through state charter schools.  Numerous restrictions not contained in previous law are included.

Line 44
Establish a state charter schools commission under the authority of the state board of education. 7 members nominated by the Governor (3), Speaker (2) and Lt. Governor (2) and appointed by the state board.
Line 81
Limitations on lobbying of commission members (not in previous law).
     - Extensive code of ethics and disclosure requirements pertaining to members of commission contained in state law, Chapter 10 of Title 45.

Line 93
State board may overrule petitions approved by the commission by a simple majority vote (2/3 vote in previous law).

Lines 98-142
Duties and authorities of commission, including assuring best practices and high standards of accountability for state charter schools and monitoring financial aid and academic performance(similar to previous law).

Line 115
Requires the commission to review the citizenship and immigration status of each individual that works at a state charter school and aggregate the information by school on an annual basis.

Line 143
Requires commission to establish rules and regulations to require stare charter schools to provide adequate notice to the public on enrollment and lotteries (not in previous law).

Line 148
Requires the commission to provide adequate notice to school boards on meetings, agendas and actions (not in previous law).

AUTHORIZATION
Line 153
Two avenues for approval as a state charter school.  (Previous law did not contain the restrictions below, and a petitioner was able to go directly to the commission without a statewide attendance zone or a local denial).
Line 165
1. A charter petition for a school with a statewide attendance zone may seek approval directly from the commission. Petition must also be submitted to the school district in which the charter school would be physically located for informational purposes.
Line 170
2. A charter school petition with a defined attendance zone must be submitted to all school districts from which the attendance zone would draw.  The commission cannot consider a petition unless the school district within which the charter school would be located denies the petition.

     - If the school district violates current law and does not approve or deny a petition in 60 days, it will be                           treated as a denial.  The petitioner may request an extension from a school district per current law.

Line 179
A local board that has denied a petition shall be permitted to present to the commission in writing or in person the reasons for the denial (not in previous law).

Line 185
State charter schools shall give preference to hiring U.S. citizens and nationals.  If a state charter school seeks to hire employees other than U.S. citizens, nationals or other protected classes of legal residents (such as resident aliens), it must show the commission that it sought to hire qualified personnel with these immigration status classifications and none were available, except for foreign exchange teachers.  In all cases, federal hiring procedures shall be followed.

     - Immigration status language was reviewed and approved by two immigration lawyers. (not in previous law).

Line 199
State charter schools shall give preference to Georgia businesses in contracting and the purchasing of goods and services (not in previous law).

Line 204
Restrictions on state charter school governing boards (not in previous law).  Must be U.S. citizen, resident of Georgia and cannot be an employee of the charter school.

Line 209
Ethics restrictions on governing boards, including members cannot serve on the board of directors of any organization that sells good or services to the school (not in previous law).

Line 229
Requires members of governing boards to participate in annual training conducted by commission (not in previous law).

Line 232
Individuals that work at or have administrative oversight at a state charter school cannot serve on a board of directors for an organization that sells goods or services to the state charter school (not in previous law).

Line 236
Allows an existing charter school to request approval from the commission provided the authorizer (state board or local board) votes to allow it.  

Line 249
Requires the commission to make information available to all parents in Georgia through a website.

FUNDING

Line 268
The earnings for a student in a state charter school shall be equal to the earning for all students in state charter schools with the same student characteristics regardless of the local school system in which the student resides or the school system in which the school is located, except for earnings for a virtual school may be less.

Line 274
Students earn QBE (which varies for all Georgia students according to whether he or she qualifies for extra funding for special and gifted education); grants such as transportation and nutrition, only if offered and earned; an increment to make up for the lack of local funding and tied to the lowest 5 property tax wealth school systems in the state; an increment to make up for the lack of local funding to pay for facility leases and tied to the state facilities average.

     -No charter school students, locally approved or state approved, in Georgia earn central office funding (superintendent, school board and central office staff) per this legislation and current law.  

     -A "bricks and mortar" state charter high school student without special needs will earn $6400.  The same Atlanta Public School student would earn almost $15,000, including state, local, federal, and SPLOST funding. The same Sumter County student would earn about $9000.

Line 294
Virtual schools will earn less.  The commission will determine if a virtual school should earn any funding for facilities in the event they are a hybrid utilizing a facility part-time.

     -Virtual funding will average $4000 for a high school student without special needs.

Line 311
The Department of Education may withhold up to 3 percent out of each state charter school students' earnings to pay for expenses of the commission (such as staff to evaluate petitions, conduct training for governing boards, update website, answer questions, provide oversight, etc.).  

     -The previous commission reduced the 3 percent deduction to 2 percent after one year.

Line 316
As stated in the constitutional amendment, no deduction shall be made to any state funding which a local school system is otherwise authorized to receive as a direct consequence of the enrollment in a state charter school of a specific student who resides in the geographical area of the local school system.

Line 334
As with all agencies and programs in the state budget that are not constitutionally dedicated, state charter schools shall be subject to appropriations by the General Assembly.  All schools shall be treated consistently with respect to statutory funding formulas and grants (so austerity reductions will be applied to state charter students in the same manner as other public school students).


Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/29/2012

Important legislation for residents of new north Fulton cities

House Bill 990 received final passage yesterday and is headed to Governor Deal's desk.  I authored the legislation to wrap up outstanding items between Fulton County and Milton, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs. Sen. John Albers carried the bill in the Senate.

The bill assures transfer of 42-acre Providence Park to Milton upon completed remediation of a limited hazardous waste site (oil barrel leakage into soil and water).  It transfers approximately $100,000 to each of Milton and Johns Creek and resulting from prior taxes owed when the areas were unincorporated. 

And finally, the legislation facilitates the transfer of eight cell tower contracts to the new cities.  The towers are located on fire station and park properties in Milton (1), Johns Creek (3), Sandy Springs (5).  Within five years and after all contract renewals, the total revenue to the cities will be about $250,000.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/28/2012

Gwinnett Tech Satellite Campus in North Fulton approved in FY 2013 budget

 

Project:  North Fulton Satellite Campus

Project Type:  Renovation

Total Square Footage:  259,136

Number of Student Served:  10,000 to 12,000 individuals annually at full capacity in credit programs, adult education, and continuing education with business and industry training

Project Description:  Acquiring an existing facility and renovation with LEED EB Certification

Projected Programming: 
Adult Education
General Education
Early Childhood Education
Computer Information Systems Technology
Business Sciences
Logistics
Public Safety
Sustainable Technologies (HVAC, Solar, etc.)
Criminal Justice
Health Sciences
Culinary Arts

(including general classrooms, large lecture halls, labs, specialized science rooms, administrative and academic areas, faculty offices, stock and equipment rooms, and common areas for students)
     
Justification: 
·    Increase in Service Delivery Area (SDA) to include North Futon (land area north of I-285)

·    One main campus and no satellite campuses in which to serve over 1M residents of Georgia

·    Service to nearly 23,000 people in FY10 through three educational delivery systems - adult education, credit, and continuing education 

·    Major increase in enrollment over the last four years serving an additional 4,000 students bringing FY10 credit enrollment to 10,684 in Lawrenceville – campus is near capacity

·    Interim adjustments already made to attempt to serve the continued growth due to demand and parking limitations: 

o    Opened the International Education Center, leasing 32,000 sq. ft within Gwinnett Place Mall, September of 2008   
o    Moved English as Second Language offerings to five high schools and several community-based and religious locations, FY09 & FY10

·    Intense economic demands in SDA:
o    Encompasses one out of every five residents of Atlanta and one out of every nine Georgians
o    Incorporates over 35,000 businesses (Gwinnett- 21,000/North Fulton- 14,000) and the top 23 of 25 high tech firms
o    Houses nine major medical facilities - healthcare training in demand from an institution with a proven healthcare training record
o    Boasts large and growing populations (Gwinnett County - 53% increase, North Fulton - 77% increase)

·    Lack of an accessible technical college in the North Fulton area - heavy traffic patterns and high congestion in metro Atlanta makes attending a nearby technical college almost impossible

·    Growing concern from local businesses, community leaders, and the state of woefully inadequate technical education availability for the growing community of citizens in North Fulton

·    Intensely engaged community in the development of a satellite location

·    Necessary training needed for sustainability of the economic base and added vitality of this community and state

·    Need for Adult Literacy training (North Fulton  -15,000 residents who do not have a GED)

·    Cause for enriching the lives of students, increasing students’ lifetime income, generating more tax revenue for the state and federal government, reducing the demand for social services, and contributing to the growth of the state’s economy 

Local Contributions:  The Gwinnett Tech Foundation in conjunction with the College is currently in a Major Capital and Operating Campaign to provide funding assistance for the North Fulton Campus. Funding for this project will involve a mix of funds- private, city, county and state funding. 

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/27/2012

HR 1162 Q & A

House Resolution 1162
Q & A


Why does Georgia need a constitutional amendment on public education this year?

A 4-3 Georgia Supreme Court decision last May jeopardized Georgia's ability to establish statewide K-12 public education policy.  Secondarily, the decision also narrowed the state's general ability to authorize public charter schools.  
 
If challenged in court, the decision calls into question whether state government has any meaningful role in public education, except, perhaps, for putting a check in the mail.  State taxpayers cover half the cost of K-12 public education through sales and income taxes. The court decision has placed state taxpayers in the position of taxation without being able to demand accountability from the recipients of state monies. K-12 education accounts for almost half of the state's $18 billion yearly budget.

Without a constitutional amendment, many laws on the books that teachers and parents rely upon could be subject to successful litigation as pointed out in the Supreme Court’s minority opinion, by the Attorney General and the legislature's education attorney.

What led to the Supreme Court decision?

The Court decision resulted from several school boards challenging the constitutionality of 2008 state legislation, which revised how the state approved and funded charter schools.  Initially, a Fulton County Superior Court judge threw out the school boards' case, ruling it was without merit. The school boards appealed to the state supreme court, which ruled 4-3 in their favor.

The broad Court opinion explicitly stated that school boards have exclusive control over general K-12 education.  For emphasis, the opinion re-stated that local boards have exclusive control six separate times, even though the word "exclusive" does not appear in the state constitution.

Why is it important that the state and local school boards have a shared partnership in public education?

Most people agree that local school boards play a critical role in public education. Most people also agree, however, that local school boards should not have exclusive control over public education. The broad court decision deviated sharply from the state’s historically significant role in public education, including funding half its costs, establishing graduation standards and providing a teacher pay scale. 
Businesses considering relocating to Georgia place a top priority on an overall educated workforce. Clearly, we have a state education brand to foster and protect in attracting jobs. This is why the Georgia Chamber of Commerce supports passage of HR 1162 as one of its highest priorities.

How would the constitutional amendment fix this?

House Resolution 1162 would re-assert the state’s partnership role in public education through a constitutional amendment. The resolution says, “the General Assembly may…provide for the establishment of education policies for such public education.”  HR 1162 would clarify the Constitution in the way most people thought existed prior to the Court’s action. 

What does this have to do with the state authorizing public charter schools?

The headline-grabbing issue is that the constitutional amendment would give the state the same latitude to approve charter schools that it possessed previously.
The Court decision narrowed the state’s ability to authorize public charter schools, a practice exercised prudently for over 10 years. Since 2008, only 12 state charter schools opened.

The constitutional amendment says, "Special schools may include charter schools; provided, however, that special schools shall only be public schools."  As background, special schools are already included in a provision in the state constitution and refer to schools that are not approved and operated by local school boards.

A substitute to HR 1162 will explicitly prohibit a reduction in state funds to a specific school system as a result of a student within that school system’s geographical boundary attending a state charter school. The resolution also provides a definition of a state charter school.

A substitute to another bill, House Bill 797, will explain how charter schools will be authorized and funded by the state going forward. 

What's compelling about optional public charter schools?

Optional public charter schools bring additional educational opportunities to students and communities. For example, technical colleges covering several counties, as is typically the case in rural Georgia, can partner with charter schools to offer vocational certification while students are still in high school. Charter schools, in some instances, place added focus on science and math, vocational or International Baccalaureate certification, or the arts. They may offer a longer day and extra tutoring.
Parents, though, choose whether their children attend optional public charter schools putting “local control” where it counts the most – with parents.

Why should the state authorize public charter schools in addition to local school boards?

History has shown that charter schools are better performing, stronger and more apt to grow if school districts are not the sole authorizer allowed by law.  Many states allow the state to authorize charter schools

The problem is that local school boards often do not choose or want to approve charter schools, even when quality applications with strong community support are offered.  Cherokee County denied an application last year despite strong local support. Parents requesting space for their children exceeded the openings twofold. In fact, the first charter school in Statesboro approved by the state and still operating today was denied four years in a row by the local school board.  Gwinnett County recently denied Ivy Prep charter school for a second time, even though it is one of the most successful middle schools in the state and has a highly diverse, mostly low income student population.  Another, Pataula Academy, in southwest Georgia attracts students from six counties.

In 2007, local school boards denied every single start-up charter school application. In 2008, 25 of 27 were denied. Since 2008 only four have been approved.  Less than two percent of Georgia students have access to a charter school even 10 years after the first state-approved charter and, separately, the first locally-approved charter opened. Of 16 state-authorized schools (either approved by the state board or former charter commission), six are physically located in rural areas outside the metro Atlanta area.  Additionally, the two virtual schools and the Department of Juvenile Justice school have statewide draws. State charter schools have a more diverse student population and more qualify for free or reduced lunch than the state average.

Charter schools often do not fit within attendance lines attracting students across multiple school districts. A Georgia research university has expressed interest in partnering its school of education with a charter school and would serve students from a broad geographical region. This would not be possible without state authorization.

How will state charter students be authorized and funded if House Bill 797 passes this year?

The draft legislation will spell out conditions under which the state could approve charter schools.  The language in that bill was introduced February 21 in the House Education Committee.

The legislation will clearly re-state that local funding may not be used. The legislation will also clearly forbid state funds from being deducted specifically from the respective school district in which a student lives.  This is different from how state funds were allocated in the 2008 legislation. It will spell out a funding formula utilizing only state funds, and it will be the same for all state charter students regardless of their geographical home.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 2/23/2012

Consitutional Amendment for Charter Schools and the Georgia Supreme Court Decision

I introduced HR 1162 last week, a constitutional amendment to allow state or local authorization of charter schools and provide for adequate funding. Parental influence and a classroom teacher are the most significant factors in a student's academic success.  In that regard, I support providing parents and teachers with public school options that are best suit them. A link  to the bill:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20112012/HR/1162

After several school boards filed suit, the state Supreme Court struck down HB 881 in a sharply divided 4-3 opinion in May 2011, saying it violated the principle of exclusive local control of general public education in Georgia's constitution. 

A link  to the Supreme Court opinion:

http://www.gasupreme.us/sc-op/pdf/s10a1773.pdf

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/30/2012

Making Georgia More Attractive for Businesses Editorial- 4-26-2011

Making Georgia more attractive for businesses to expand jobs or locate here dominated the state legislature's agenda during the recently concluded session.

We walked into the Capital each day committed to give confidence to the jobs creators that Georgia is open for business.  We strengthened the underpinnings of a healthy business climate through legislation and budget decisions that foster workforce-ready citizens, plentiful water and energy, cash for small businesses to expand, increased freight infrastructure and low taxes.

At a time when Washington D.C. has fostered economic uncertainty among citizens and businesses, we chose a decidedly different path.

Without fanfare, we acted with the calm conviction that creating jobs through a strong business environment beats "stimulus" checks or government programs in moving Georgians towards prosperity.

First, we made sure the state lived within its means with no increased taxes. The state budget is 14 percent smaller than last year's. Our unwavering message to businesses considering expansion or relocation is that Georgia stands ready to support their efforts to provide jobs, not tax them into insolvency or the arms of another state.

Simply look to Illinois for what happens when you raise taxes to fill a shortfall. Overnight, companies with long standing ties to the state like Caterpillar, Inc. publicly entertained the idea of taking thousands of jobs with them to a new home.  

To further a workforce-ready citizenry, we made the difficult, but necessary changes to preserve the HOPE Scholarship and Grant programs. These signature initiatives help keep the best and brightest at home while providing broad access to technical colleges for skills development and re-training.

In that regard, the House added $3 million in bond funding to the state budget for design and planning for a future technical college branch in north Fulton. Broadly supported by the area's city councils, school board members, and Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, it will offer associate degrees and career certifications to those seeking additional job skills or re-training.

Prospective students of all ages and without a college degree will be able to utilize the HOPE Grant to help pay for tuition. The future branch is projected to cost $42 million and encompass 240,000 square feet to serve north Fulton's 350,000 population.

Acting to maintain a strong bond rating - only eight states, including Georgia, have maintained a Triple-A bond rating through the recession - and prudent budgeting allowed us to invest $32 million towards deepening the Savannah Harbor.  We are committed to keeping Georgia with the most productive port on the Eastern seaboard, prepared for giant container ships steaming through an expanded Panama Canal beginning in 2014.

We carved out funding for public-private partnerships with local Commercial Improvement Districts (CID'S) to improve infrastructure in business corridors around the state. And to strengthen our freight rail network, the state devoted increased funding for short rail line improvements to help distribute goods from the port and to population centers.

We passed legislation to streamline financing for reservoir projects while putting $80 million in bond funding towards reservoir construction.  As we stare down the barrel of a pending federal court decision in the tri-state water wars, Georgia continues to push towards a secure water supply for its citizens and businesses.

Additionally, to drive down costs for businesses providing employee health insurance, we eliminated the ban on purchases of health insurance plans across state lines.  

By making jobs as the highest priority, Georgians from all corners of the state will benefit from initiatives, mostly unheralded, championed by my fellow legislators. In particular, the north Fulton delegation worked hand in hand to assure our area's unique interests were considered when decisions were made.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 4/26/2011

Registration for Golf Tournament - 4-22-2011

REGISTRATION FORM
Speaker Pro Tem Golf Tournament
Monday, May 23 – Atlanta National Golf Club
350 Tournament Players Drive
Milton, Georgia 30004

Registration table open: 10:00 a.m. / Shotgun Start: 11:00 a.m.

Sponsor or Player Name: __________________________________________

Company Name or Occupation: _____________________________________________________

City: ___________                         State: __________  
Postal Code: ______________________

Business phone: ___________              Email: _____________________ Fax Number: ___________

Sponsorship Level:
Corporate team: $2,000
Individual team: $1,000
Individual player: $250.00

Hole Sponsorships:
$1000 per hole
Name for hole sponsorship signage: _____________________

Player’s Name: _____________________      Handicap:      ___________
Player’s Name: _____________________      Handicap:  ___________
Player’s Name: _____________________      Handicap:  ___________
Player’s Name: _____________________       Handicap:  ___________

? Although I will be unable to attend the golf tournament, I want to help with your re-election campaign.
Enclosed is my donation in the amount of $___________.


Fax completed to 678-363-1641
or
Mail to Friends of Jan Jones
12850 Hwy 9 Suite 600-356
Milton, GA 30004

All checks payable to Friends of Jan Jones

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 4/22/2011

Jan Jones Golf Tournament - 4-22-11

You are invited to join

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones

for a Golf Tournament at

Atlanta National Golf Club
750 Tournament Players Drive Milton, Georgia 30004
Monday, May 23, 2011

Registration 10:00 a.m. with a shotgun start at 11:00 a.m.

Sponsorship Levels
Corporate Team - $2,000
Individual Team - $1,000
Individual Player - $250

Cocktail Reception
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Golfers and Non-golfers invited
Main Dining Room

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 4/22/2011

Madam Speaker Pro Tem: Jan Jones moving up state GOP ladder

Madam Speaker Pro Tem: Jan Jones moving up state GOP ladder
Intelligence, drive, purpose fuel Jones’ rise to top echelon

by Hatcher Hurd

January 24, 2011

MILTON – As Jan Jones begins her fifth term in the state House of Representatives and second as speaker pro tempore, this businesswoman and mother of four has made a remarkably quick rise from community advocate to the fourth-highest elected position in the state.

Jones has made it her mission to steer her North Fulton community out of the clutches from what she saw as an uncaring at worst and incompetent county government based in Atlanta, which paid little heed to the needs and wishes of constituents so far removed.

She stood out to others as a leader in Milton. Karen Thurman, another community activist now serving on the Milton City Council, said Jones always impressed her as straightforward and businesslike.

"She always went in a direction because she thought it was the right thing to do, not because it might be the politically right thing," Thurman said. "She clearly understood how to handle the political side of things, but she would have her mind made up first."

George Ragsdale worked closely with Jones during Milton's campaign for cityhood. He said what impressed him was how she delivered on everything she promised.

"She also has the ability to bring people to her view without any sort of strong-arm tactics. She has a way of capturing and retaining information and data, and then using and analyzing it to support her point of view," Ragsdale said.

With a political base nurtured from her activism, she ran and won the 46th District House seat in 2002 in her first-ever political race, and has followed up with re-election four times.

She used a heady combination of native intelligence, laser focus, tremendous energy and bulldog determination to become one of the highest ranking women in state government and the second-ranking figure in the state House of Representatives.

Jones got noticed quickly down under the Gold Dome. In only her second term, she was named the first female majority whip in the House, managing 10 deputy whips and publishing a daily update on the status of action in the House.

"I think that got the attention of my colleagues," Jones said. "I rented a condo near the Capitol and just camped out down here. When I get involved in something, I tend to become driven by it. And I know my way around a budget [she has an MBA in Finance from Georgia State University], so I could explain the details fairly clearly," she said.

In her fourth term, her peers tapped her to replace outgoing Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter.

"It is one of only two elected posts in the House. I decided to run for it against six other men. After each vote, if no one gets a majority, the one with the fewest votes drops off the ballot. I won on the second ballot," Jones said.

She said her work as majority whip gave her visibility, and so did budget analyses she would write for the members.

"So they knew me," she said.

Of course, it did not hurt that she also spent time fundraising and campaigning for Republicans in other districts. But it also shows the confidence she retains from her peers.

Among her duties, Jones acts as one of the conferees on the budget, participates in choosing committee assignments and takes a lead role on issues where her expertise can lend a hand.

"But the job is defined in part by the person who sits in this office and by the speaker," Jones said. "And we define our jobs to fit our strengths. The job has been pretty much what I expected. Mark [Burkhalter] was a friend and mentor to me, so I knew what to expect."

Jones and Speaker David Ralston, the Blue Ridge attorney, have a good working relationship, she said.

"It has been more of a 24/7 job than I expected, but I like that. It's not easy to turn off the switch and go home," she said.

The role has thrust her on the statewide stage and has made her arguably one of the most powerful women in Georgia politics today. Asked if she feels like she has broken a "marble ceiling" down at the Capitol, she says no.

"I don't think they look at gender in the House. They don't care if you color your hair. It is all about the work and getting the job done," Jones said.

But there were no guideposts for a woman in the House when she got there, Jones said. There were no role models. She was breaking ground for women as she went along in her career.

"I never met a female at a higher elected post when I came here," she said. "When I was younger, it never occurred to me to run. I didn't think I would see a woman in my position [speaker pro tem] during my tenure here."

Now, it is a constant challenge, but it is the job she asked for, she said.

"This is truly a lifelong opportunity," she said. "It is a chance to see my state from a different perspective and hopefully to make a difference."

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 4/14/2011

Freedom is not free

Freedom is not free.  I occasionally have to remind myself, even as the daughter of a career solider. Our young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan are living proof that our precious freedom is not free.

Freedom means more than casting a ballot to shape government, although each election cycle, we choose to weaken or strengthen freedom.  It also means choosing your own doctor.  Having meaningful influence in your child’s education.  Deciding whether or not to drive a car, telecommute, carpool or take the bus.

These are a few, inadequate examples of something as big as freedom.
Freedom means the ability to make the wrong choice – and bear the consequences.  It also means the freedom to make the right choice – and reap the rewards.
As our country continues to transition to an information-based world in which businesses compete globally, some seek a government that soothes with, “There, there, don’t worry.  We’ll take care of you.”

It might be comforting to imagine someone with all the answers making sure the right choices are made on your behalf.  It might appeal when imagining a disappeared job.  Or spiraling medical costs. 

As conservatives, though, we appreciate the truth behind the saying, “A government that has the power to give you everything also has the power to take everything.”
The most common theme I hear as I talk with constituents and the hundreds of Georgians who visit the capitol every day during our legislative session is the economy - it’s jobs, it’s spending and it’s taxes.

Many are angered that the Federal Deficit will top $1.6 trillion this year alone, bringing our national debt to over $14 trillion.  In the current economy, it's alarming.  Each citizen's share of this debt now totals over $45,000.

There’s no question that the Federal Government’s reckless spending cannot go on forever.  I take comfort in the quote, “If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.”  
Our President would do well to learn that low taxes are the result of low spending.
On the other hand, your Republican majority at the state capitol will conclude this legislative session with a balanced budget.  We'll make cuts, even tough ones, to keep the tax burden low. 

The state budget this year is 20% smaller on a per capita basis than when Sonny Perdue, the first Republican governor in modern history, was elected in 2003.  Georgia's state budget ranks 49th per capita in the nation.  We're proud to be at the bottom of the barrel in that regard.

President George H. W. Bush said it best when he said, “I don't hate government. A government that remembers who is its master is a good and needed thing."
That’s why a Government that’s closest to the people is best. One that is accountable, transparent and relevant.  One that will listen because the people have a firm grasp on needs versus wants. 

 Winston Churchill said about democracy, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  The same holds true for taxes – none are desirable, some are necessary.  We need roads and schools.  As a compassionate people, we believe in a safety net for foster children and for those that truly cannot provide for themselves.

And we need  jail cells for the criminal.  But we are weary of providing a hammock for the lazy or a cushion for what citizens can ultimately do for themselves.   Laws and taxes piled on year after year quietly erode qualities like initiative and self-sufficiency that have made America what it is.

As conservatives, we want a jobs friendly business climate, one that promotes entrepreneurs and small businesses that will in turn create jobs for our families.   We know an anti-business climate stifles the ability for businesses to prosper, or even fail on their own. Much is learned in both our successes and our failures.

As conservatives, we want education that promotes innovation and creative thinking.   One that allows those nearest to the student to have the most input.  Not an education system that is a one-size-fits-all with no regard for the needs of the individual.
As conservatives, we know burdensome mandates and high taxes threaten innovation.  When America shifted from burning wood in ovens and fireplaces and mule-pulled wagons to get to town, no brilliant politician mandated how and when Americans would retrofit to coal, natural gas, and petroleum.  Scarcity and price drove innovation.

Imagine if we had told Apple Computers in the 70’s they could only produce certain types of computers that were energy efficient.  Do you believe the rapid growth from the massive mainframe computers to the IPads we have today would have occurred?   Imagine if we had tried to prop up the beeper industry when consumers stopped buying them after moving on to the cell phone.

As conservatives, we want heath care that encourages people to take responsibility for themselves knowing they will pay more if they do not. The alternative is a model that creates Britain-like lines and bureaucratic rules that decide when and how you'll receive health care.

As conservatives, we value the Rule of Law above political correctness. In that regard, the Georgia House of Representatives passed strong illegal immigration reform last week. 

Never forget, we are a really generous country and state.  The U.S. has welcomed more legal immigrants for each of the past 30 years than the rest of the entire world combined.  Our country is comprised of immigrants and it benefits from the diversity they add.  In fact, in recent years, half of all new legal immigrants have come from Mexico.  We welcome them as citizens.

But we cannot afford to take in all those who want to come here. 10 percent of Mexico's population already lives illegally in our country, and Georgia ranks 6th in illegal immigrants, higher than Arizona.  Georgia spends over $1 billion each year on public schooling for 64,000 illegal immigrant children and 90,000 U.S. born school-aged children of illegal immigrants at an average cost of $7400 each.  
Half of all illegal immigrants did not finish high school as compared to 20% of natural born and legal immigrants.  We can’t afford to take on this burden. 

As state legislators, we don't have the authority to enforce our country's borders.  We can, though, take a stand in making Georgia less attractive as a haven for illegal immigrants.

As conservatives, and as Fulton County Republicans in particular, I know we'll continue working to preserve and expand the fundamental qualities that have made Amercia the greatest country in the nation, one we’ll be proud to pass on.  Freedom is not free, but it is worth every dime of effort by each one of us.

Thank you for all you do to keep Georgia and our country moving forward.  God bless you and God bless our country.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/22/2011

Comments on Fiscal Year 2012 budget

Dear Constituents:

Here is information for context on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which the House voted on last Friday.  The budget will continue to undergo medication before it is finalized.  The state Senate will make changes and then a six-member conference committee will reconcile the differences.

I will serve as one of the three House members on the conference committee.

In our leadership role, the Republican majority will fulfill its budgetary obligations to the state, and we’ll do it with Georgians’ best interests at the forefront.

Chairman Terry England and the Appropriations subcommittee chairs have done an outstanding job in managing the most challenging budget since the Great Depression.

Jan Jones


General Funds as distinct from Dedicated Funds

·    General funds are allocated among 40 agencies and the three branches of state government. Dedicated Funds can be appropriated only for designated purposes.  
·    General funds account for 87 percent of the budget; the remainder is restricted.
·    Dedicated Funds are comprised of Motor Fuel taxes; Tobacco Settlement; Lottery for Education; and Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund.  Nursing Home Provider Fees and the Hospital Provider Payment is dedicated in practice for Medicaid drawdown.

General Fund Composition

·    The Department of Education accounts for 44%.  Of this portion, more than 90% is distributed to systems and schools through the per-student QBE formula, Equalization formula and a small amount for three state schools for the deaf and blind. The bulk pays for salaries at the school-level.

Snapshot of FY 2012 Budget compared to FY 2011 Budget

·    General tax revenues are derived from state taxes only.
   
·    General tax revenues are slightly higher than last year by 2%.  On a per capita, inflation adjusted basis, General tax revenues are one percent less. 

·    On a per capita, inflation adjusted basis, the FY 2012 Budget is more than 20% percent less than when Governor Perdue took office in 2003.

·    Total revenues include state tax collections, dedicated tax collections and federal funds.

·    Total funds allocated to state agencies from all sources are $1.6 billion lower, primarily due to reductions in federal funds and lower projected lottery receipts.
            1.    The $1 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds Georgia received for each of the past two years have ended.
            2.    ARRA funds were distributed to several agencies including Community Health, Behavioral Health, Medicaid and Public Safety.

·    Most agency budgets will be reduced an average of 8% from last year; K-12 Education was largely protected.

·    Several significant appropriations to the FY 2012 budget were driven by population growth, a court agreement or maintenance of the state’s AAA bond rating:
        -    $90 million – increase in K-12 per student funding to school systems with increased enrollment.
       -    $54 million – additional funding required by agreement with the Justice Department to assure adequate mental health funding and support of state mental health hospital.
       -    $35 million – additional funding for three separate state retirement systems to meet actuarially required contributions and maintain state’s AAA bond rating.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/15/2011

What Tax Reform legislation means - and doesn't mean

Dear Constituents:

I want to clarify what led to the introduction of House Bill 385, what it means and what it does not mean.

In 2010, the Georgia General Assembly passed HB 1405, creating a citizen-led tax council to make recommendations to the legislature on possible changes to tax laws that would make Georgia more jobs friendly.  HB 1405 required the legislature to introduce legislation comprising all of the council’s recommendations.  The bill does not require the legislature to pass legislation that comprises all or some or any of the council’s recommendations.

HB 385 is the product of the requirements spelled out in HB 1405.

Legislation pertaining to taxes must originate in the House, not in the Senate, according to the state constitution. This explains why HB 385is a house bill.

The bill, as written, is tax neutral and would result in a one-third to one-half reduction in the state income tax rate in exchange for levying the state sales tax on some services and eliminating certain sales tax exemptions. 

I expect that many of the tax council’s recommendations will not remain in HB 385 when, or if, it is passed.  Remember – the requirement was that the legislation as introduced would contain all recommendations. 

I certainly do not foresee repeal of the state sales tax exemption on Girl Scout cookies or imposition of the state sales tax on veterinary services just to make a couple.

I am sure, though, that the final bill, if it is ever passed, will continue to be tax neutral and that the final product will make Georgia more jobs friendly.  Some of the proposals submitted by the council are worthy of consideration while others are non-starters.

I will continue to push for low taxes and a “flatter tax” system that will encourage businesses to locate, expand and thrive in Georgia.  Jobs are the best stimulus for the economy, not government spending or subsidies.

Below, please see a commentary from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the only free market and conservative think tank in Georgia, that provides further information.

Let me be clear, I do not support increasing the overall tax burden on Georgians.

Best Regards, Jan Jones

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/9/2011

Commentary by Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Commentary – Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Tax Reform Council Delivers a Promising Package

By E. Frank Stephenson

When Georgia’s Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness released its recommendations on January 7, headline writers trumpeted the council’s proposal to eliminate the sales tax exemption for groceries. That proposal is but one part of a far-reaching reform that would enhance the state’s economic competitiveness and streamline Georgians’ taxes.

The council wisely began by adopting a set of “Guiding Principles.” These principles include creating a tax system that is more stable during changing macroeconomic conditions; does not distort individual behavior; is easy for taxpayers to understand and for the state to administer; levies roughly equal tax burdens on similarly situated taxpayers and, per the council’s mandate, is growth-enhancing. All are worthy goals.
Applying the guiding principles led the council to call for significant changes to Georgia’s sales, income and other taxes.

 The personal and corporate income taxes would be phased down to a single rate of 4 percent. Marginal tax rates affect economic behavior, so this reduction should foster more commercial activity, especially because many small businesses are taxed at personal income tax rates.

The council also proposes that existing credits, exemptions and deductions be largely eliminated. Only an exemption for dependents and a low income credit would remain. Federal adjusted gross income would become the starting point for Georgia’s income tax, thereby eliminating the page of additions and subtractions from tax returns. The resulting tax code should be simpler for both taxpayers and tax administrators.
Similarly, the council recommends ending many current sales tax exemptions, including groceries, and broadening the sales tax base to cover many untaxed personal services. These are all worthwhile suggestions. Many existing exemptions have no proven economic benefit and some appear to be sops to politically favored industries. Exempting groceries made sales tax revenue more volatile during economic downturns. (Both the proposed low income tax credit and the continued exemption of food purchased with food stamps would prevent the taxation of groceries from unduly burdening low income citizens.) And the base broadening modernizes the sales tax to reflect shifting consumption patterns over time.

The recommendations also call for avoiding taxing business inputs. Thus current exemptions for business inputs would remain and new exemptions would be created for energy used in manufacturing, mining and agriculture. This would make Georgia’s business climate more attractive and avoids the tax compounding that arises from taxing both inputs and outputs of firms with multi-stage production processes. These changes should also reduce businesses’ cost of tax compliance.

On gasoline taxation, the council calls for a straightforward cents-per-gallon gasoline levy to replace the current combination of 7.5 cents per gallon plus 3 percent of the selling price. Today’s odd structure makes it difficult to forecast available revenue for road construction and has the perverse effect of increasing gasoline taxes as gas prices rise. Regarding cigarette taxation, the council recommends a modest increase but correctly avoids a large hike that would spur Georgians to buy their smokes from neighboring states with lower taxes.

Past governors’ pet tax provisions did not escape the council’s examination. The council proposes eliminating both Gov. Barnes’ sales tax holidays and Gov. Perdue’s exemption for retirement income. The former merely shifts the timing of purchases while there is no proof of a positive economic impact arising from the latter.

The council also calls for eliminating many “economic development” credits that favor specific industries. It recommends that the General Assembly create a new economic development fund instead. The transparency and fixed dollar amount of the new fund would be an improvement over existing policy while recognizing that modern industrial recruiting often requires financial incentives in addition to a good overall business climate.

The recommendations do produce one cause for concern: The council calls for the broadening of the sales tax to become effective July 1, 2011, with the income tax reductions being phased in beginning January 1, 2012. The net effect appears to be a significant tax hike over the short run that diminishes somewhat as the income tax cuts are fully phased in. Immediately implementing all of the income tax cuts and adding a tax-expenditure limitation to the council’s recommendations would help reassure Georgians that these tax reforms are not a stealth tax increase.
Overall, the council has put forth a commendable plan that is pro-growth, less complicated and less riddled with special exemptions and credits. If implemented so it avoids a large tax increase, it will be an improvement over Georgia’s existing tax structure.
 
E. Frank Stephenson is chairman of the Economics Department at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and is a senior fellow with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians.

Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.

© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (January 14, 2011). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/9/2011

My Remarks on the Immigration Bill, House Bill 87

I rise today in support of House Bill 87.

We are a generous country and state.  The U.S. has welcomed more legal immigrants for each of the last 30 years than the rest of the entire world combined. Our country is comprised of immigrants, and benefits from the diversity they add. In fact, in recent years, half of all new legal immigrants have come from Mexico. We welcome them as fellow citizens.

This is not merely an illegal immigration issue.  This is an education problem that goes to the heart of our ability to provide a quality education to our state’s children. How can we afford not to address the economic burden placed on core services by those that come to our nation in circumvention of federal law?

There are more than 64,000 school-age illegal aliens and 90,000 U.S. born school-aged children of illegal aliens in Georgia’s public schools.  We are funding them at an average $7,433 per student in state and local taxes.

Without raising taxes by one cent, Georgia could devote 10% or more in per pupil funding for public school students if not for illegal immigration. 

Additionally, 50 percent of illegal immigrant adults have not completed high school.  85% of adult Americans over the age of 25 have completed high school.

Illegal immigration is costing state taxpayers, our public schools, and local property taxpayers.

It’s compromising our state’s prosperity, and we cannot afford it.  As state legislators, we don’t have the authority to enforce our country’s borders.  We can, though, make Georgia less attractive as a haven for illegal immigrants by voting for HB 87.

I urge you to vote for HB 87.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/3/2011

Teach for America

George F. Will

Teach for America: Letting the cream rise


"I knew college students would do it - I had just been a college student." What was needed, she thought, was a high-status service organization with an aura of selectivity.

Raised in comfortable circumstances in Dallas, Kopp precociously understood not just the importance of education but the educational importance of where one is born. TFA's first recruiting was done by fliers shoved under dorm room doors. Her Yale recruiter had 170 messages on his answering machine in just three days. TFA's first cohort totaled 500 teachers. This year TFA will select 5,300 from 48,000 applicants, making it more selective than most colleges.

This school year, there are 8,000 TFA teachers. Of the 20,000 TFA alumni, two-thirds are still working full time in education. Of those, only one in six says that even without TFA he or she might have gone into K-12 teaching.

TFA has become a flourishing reproach to departments and schools of education. It pours talent into the educational system - 80 percent of its teachers are in traditional public schools - talent that flows around the barriers of the credentialing process. Hence TFA works against the homogenization that discourages innovation and prevents the cream from rising.

Kopp, whose new book ("A Chance to Make History") recounts her post-Princeton education, has learned, among much else, this: Of the 15 million children growing up in poverty, 50 percent will not graduate from high school, and the half that do will have eighth-grade skill levels compared to those from higher-income families and neighborhoods.

Until recently - until, among other things, TFA - it seemed that we simply did not know how to teach children handicapped by poverty and its accompaniments - family disintegration and destructive community cultures. Now we know exactly what to do.
In government, the axiom is: Personnel is policy. In education, Kopp believes, "people are everything" - good ones are (in military parlance) "force multipliers." Creating "islands of excellence" depends entirely on finding "transformational leaders deeply committed to changing the trajectories" of children's lives.

We do not, she insists, have to fix society or even families in order to fix education. It works the other way around. The movie "Waiting for Superman" dramatizes what TFA has demonstrated - that low-income parents leap at educational opportunities that can break the cycle of poverty. Teaching successfully in challenging schools is, Kopp says, "totally an act of leadership" by people passionately invested in the project.
Speaking of leadership, someone in Congress should invest some on TFA's behalf. Government funding - federal, state, local - is just 30 percent of TFA's budget. Last year's federal allocation, $21 million, would be a rounding error in the General Motors bailout. And Kopp says that every federal dollar leverages six non-federal dollars. All that money might, however, be lost because even when Washington does something right, it does it wrong.

It has obtusely defined "earmark" to include "any named program," so TFA has been declared an earmark and sentenced to death. If Congress cannot understand how nonsensical this is, it should be sent back to school for remedial instruction from some of TFA's exemplary young people.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 3/1/2011

Hope Is Here to Stay

                                      HOPE IS HERE TO STAY

As a parent of four children, two who received HOPE in college and two currently in high school, I’ve seen firsthand the impact the HOPE scholarship program has on Georgia families.

For some, it’s the catalyst that propels them to work harder in high school and graduate with higher academic achievement.  For others, it makes a college education financially affordable. 

HOPE is currently at a crossroads due to the program’s popularity outpacing lottery revenues.

The nearer-term struggling economy and farther-term changing workforce demands have driven record college enrollments in recent years. Georgia's 35 universities and colleges enrolled six percent more students in 2010.

Program costs will surpass lottery revenues this year, dipping into the reserves $300 million.  Without changes, "checks" for future scholarships will bounce.

As the Speaker Pro Tem of the House, parents often ask me this very real question: Will HOPE be around for my kids? The answer is a resounding Yes.

Our goal is simple: to preserve and strengthen HOPE for tomorrow's students and generations to come. This will not be achieved without tough decisions, though.

The first HOPE scholarship was awarded fall 1993.  The original program included numerous restrictions, primarily due to unknowns such as how much revenue the lottery would generate and how many students would participate.

Since then, HOPE's scope and scale expanded and more than 1.2 million students have been awarded a HOPE scholarship or grant. The lottery-funded Pre-K program has enrolled more than 1 million students, including 53 percent of today’s four-year-olds.  Pre-K offers more than six hours of daily instruction at a $4200 cost per child.

Changes to HOPE since 1993 include: expansion to four college years; $150 semester book allowances; mandatory fees payments averaging $420 yearly; additional chances to re-gain HOPE; expansion to include older college and home-schooled students; and increases in scholarship grants to $4000 for private college students. 

Because HOPE is most known for college scholarships, some may not realize its impact on workforce development needs. The HOPE Grant program pays tuition for Georgians seeking a technical certificate or diploma at 26 technical colleges. Enrollment increased 25 percent in 2010 alone.

Students from all across the socio-economic spectrum have been trained to compete in today's job market through the HOPE Grant.  The young man that recently passed the GED sits side-by-side in night classes with a 47-year-old single mother.  In fact, over 50 percent of HOPE scholarship and grant recipients have family yearly incomes less than $40,000.

HOPE has increased the number of students who have a college education, while also keeping our highest achievers in-state.  One study estimates the college attendance rate among all Georgia 18- to 19-year olds increased by as much as 8 percentage points due to HOPE.  More students than ever scoring in the top 10 percent on the SAT choose an in-state college.

Keeping the best and brightest here in Georgia develops a well-prepared future workforce spurring economic development.  Many businesses have touted HOPE as an incentive to recruit talent to Georgia. HOPE rounds out our state's reputation as a great play to live, work, raise a family - and gain an excellent education.

This week, Gov. Nathan Deal outlined proposed changes to the HOPE program and with strong bipartisan support.  HOPE programs will be maintained and adjusted yearly according to lottery revenues. 

Next year, merit-based HOPE scholarship students attending public and private colleges as well as technical college students will receive 90% of 2011 tuition amounts.  HOPE Scholarship will continue to require a 3.0 GPA.

The plan also creates the Zell Miller Scholarship - offering full tuition to Georgia’s public colleges and universities - for our best students who graduate with a minimum 3.7 GPA and 1200 on the SAT or ACT equivalent.  Books, fees and remedial college classes will no longer be covered.

Gov. Miller branded our state through HOPE, transforming the promise of what it means to be a Georgian.  We’ll carry it forward with carefully considered changes to preserve HOPE for a brighter future.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 2/24/2011

House Resolution and Senate Resolution to Re-Create Milton County

House Resolutions 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 were introduced in the House today and signed by Rep. Harry Geisinger, Rep. Jan Jones, Rep. Chuck Martin, Rep. Tom Rice, Rep. Lynne Riley, Rep. Joe Wilkinson and Rep. Wendell Willard.  Senate Resolutions 16, 17 and 18 were introduced by Sen. John Albers, Sen. Judson Hill and Sen. David Shafer.

1 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia so as to provide that the
2 re-creation of a previously existing county which was merged into another county may be
3 accomplished by law, subject to the approval of the voters therein and subject to certain
4 conditions; to provide for the status and effect of the implementing law; to provide for
5 submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.

6 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA:

7 SECTION 1.

8 Article IX, Section I of the Constitution is amended by revising Paragraph II as follows:
9 "Paragraph II. Number of counties limited; county boundaries and county sites; county
10 consolidation. (a) There shall not be more than 159 counties in this state.
11 (b) The metes and bounds of the several counties and the county sites shall remain as
12 prescribed by law on June 30, 1983, unless changed under the operation of a general law.
13 (c) The General Assembly may provide by law for the consolidation of two or more
14 counties into one or the division of a county and the merger of portions thereof into other
15 counties under such terms and conditions as it may prescribe; but no such consolidation,
16 division, or merger shall become effective unless approved by a majority of the qualified
17 voters voting thereon in each of the counties proposed to be consolidated, divided, or
18 merged.

19 (d)(1) Subparagraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this Paragraph shall not apply with respect to
20 the re-creation of a county which was previously merged with and made a part of another
21 county; and such a re-creation of a previously existing county may be accomplished by
22 law notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this Paragraph
23 or any other provision of this Constitution. The boundaries of the re-created county may
24 be the same as those in effect immediately prior to the previous merger or may be
25 generally similar but not identical as determined in the discretion of the General
26 Assembly in the Act re-creating the county. The law re-creating the county shall contain
27 a definite description of boundaries of the county; may provide transitional provisions for

28 the transfer over time of powers, functions, facilities, and assets and obligations to the
29 county; shall have the force and effect of general law notwithstanding its territorial
30 application; and shall not be preempted by any other general law. The law re-creating the
31 county and any amendments thereto:

32 (A) Shall not be subject to the multiple subject matter prohibition of Article III,
33 Section V, Paragraph III to the extent that such law and amendments may make
34 provisions for the re-created county and for associated governmental entities and may
35 also make provisions for any other county whose territorial limits are affected and for
36 governmental entities associated with such other county or counties;

37 (B) Shall not be subject to the population Act prohibition of Article III, Section VI,
38 Paragraph IV(b) to the extent that such law and amendments may provide for the
39 application or nonapplication of previously existing population Acts to:
40 (i) The re-created county and associated governmental entities;
41 (ii) Any other county or counties whose territorial limits are affected and
42 governmental entities associated with such other county or counties; or
43 (iii) Neither or both of the foregoing; and

44 (C) Shall not be subject to the provisions of Article XI, Section I, Paragraph IV to the
45 extent that such law and amendments may provide for the application or nonapplication
46 of previously existing local constitutional amendments to:
47 (i) The re-created county and associated governmental entities;
48 (ii) Any other county or counties whose territorial limits are affected and
49 governmental entities associated with such other county or counties; or
50 (iii) Neither or both of the foregoing.

51 (2) The re-creation shall not become effective unless approved by a majority of the
52 qualified voters voting thereon in the area of the county to be re-created, as defined in the
53 Act re-creating the county.

54 (3) The superior court of a county re-created under this subparagraph (d) shall be
55 included in the same judicial circuit as the county which previously included the greatest
56 part of the territory of the re-created county, unless otherwise provided by law.
57 (4) The territory within the re-created county shall constitute a new county school
58 district and shall be removed from any other local school district in the manner to be
59 provided by law."

SECTION 2.
61 The above proposed amendment to the Constitution shall be published and submitted as
62 provided in Article X, Section I, Paragraph II of the Constitution. The ballot submitting the
63 above proposed amendment shall have written or printed thereon the following:
64 "( ) YES
65
66 ( ) NO

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the re-creation of a
historically existing county which was merged into another county if the
voters therein approve it by referendum?"

67 All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote "Yes."

68 All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote "No." If

69 such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall
70 become a part of the Constitution of this state.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/25/2011

The Facts on Re-Creating Milton County

- The advocates to re-create Milton County want smaller, more responsive government, closer to the people.  More than leaving Fulton County, they want to eliminate a government that is too expensive, bloated and inadequate in serving its citizens' needs.

- This is the fifth consecutive year the resolution has been before the Georgia General Assembly. Seven House members and three Senators representing north Fulton individually authored resolutions allowing historically merged counties to be re-created:  Rep. Harry Geisinger, Rep. Jan Jones, Rep. Chuck Martin, Rep. Tom Rice, Rep. Lynne Riley, Rep. Wendell Willard, Rep. Joe Wilkinson, Senator John Albers, Senator Judson Hill and Senator David Shafer.

- Should the legislature approve the amendment and it successfully pass a statewide referendum vote in November 2012, it would take several additional years after that to jointly work out intergovernmental agreements and form new county charters to assure all residents have a smooth transition.

- Fulton County comprises 10 percent of Georgia's population.  It is larger in population than six individual states.  Formerly three counties, Fulton spans almost 80 miles in length.

- If Milton County (and/or Campbell County in south Fulton) is recreated and includes Sandy Springs, Roswell, Alpharetta, Milton and Mountain Park cities, Fulton would be the fourth most populous County and Milton County would rank fifth.

- Milton County would be the only (non-consolidated) county that is fully municipalized. South Fulton is almost fully municipalized.  Less than 3 percent of Fulton residents are unincorporated, all in south Fulton.

- - Fulton County taxes and spends more than double per capita that of Cobb and Gwinnett Counties, not including MARTA and Grady Hospital expenditures.

- The county's record on service delivery is so unsatisfactory, citizens in unincorporated north and south Fulton sought and succeeded in creating the first new cities in Georgia in more than 50 years.

- In 2005 and 2006, the Georgia General Assembly supported legislation to create Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills by constitutional majorities.

- The four new cities have more than doubled the delivery of services at the same or lower millage rates.  For example, each new city has more than double the number of police officers providing public safety as compared to prior to corporation.

- Several years ago, the Fulton County Commission passed a resolution opposing the creation of Sandy Springs on the grounds that it would financially harm the county.  Fulton passed similar resolutions opposing the creation of Johns Creek and Milton.  County revenues actually increased following the incorporation of each city.

- The constitutional amendment allowing the recreation of historically created counties would only affect Fulton County.  If the amendment were approved, Campbell County, Milton County or a smaller Fulton County could be reconstituted.  Additionally, Atlanta and Fulton County's consolidation could be facilitated, similar to consolidated Athens/Clark County, Augusta/Richmond County and Columbus/Muscogee County.  Bills to consolidate Macon/Bibb and Albany/Dougherty counties will be reintroduced this year.

- The Atlanta School System would be unaffected.  In fact, residents in the city of Atlanta already successfully fund and support two out of the three local governments, the city and school system.    Consolidating with Fulton would give Atlanta residents full control over local, political decisions.

- The constitutional amendment requires all parties to continue to fulfill financial obligations that were made while the counties were merged, including Grady and MARTA.  All obligations pertaining to retired Fulton County personnel and unfunded retiree obligations would be borne by all parties.

- The constitutional amendment does not require a new superior court jurisdiction.  It allows the legislature to form one at a future time if it deems it necessary.

- A new school system would be created for Milton County (fifth largest). The south Fulton County school system would continue as one of the largest in Georgia or it could be merged with Atlanta if residents so chose.

Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/25/2011

First Day of Session

I am deeply humbled to be re-elected Speaker Pro Tem of the Georgia House by a vote of 142-7.

It was an honor to be a part of Governor Nathan Deal's Inaguaration yesterday. He will serve our state very well and I was proud to hear of his committment to the HOPE scholarship. I look forward to working with him and the legislature to assure we keep our commitment to Georgia's students




Posted by Beth Green in Uncategorized on 1/14/2011