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Consumer-driven legislation headlines the week in session

POSTED: February 17, 2010 4:00 a.m.

Georgia consumers and businesses stand to benefit from two bills that have already received final passage by the full legislature this session. Banking customers in good standing, notably businesses and homeowners, now have a greater chance of getting their loans renewed.

  

Current state law restricts state-chartered banks from lending more than 15 percent of their capital to any one borrower. With the recent pressure on bank capital levels, current law has had the unintended consequence of preventing banks from renewing loans, even with great customers.

  

This hurts banks by kicking out some of their paying customers, and it hurts borrowers who are meeting their obligations. House Bill 926 gives more flexibility to state-chartered banks whose legal lending limit has been lowered because of declining capital on their balance sheet. 

  

Experts predict this will help Georgia consumers, businesses and large borrowers in addition to state banks. Every day, Georgia businesses depend on these loans to stay afloat. This will help keep the door of more businesses open, and helps keep banks in business. As Georgia continues to lead the nation in bank failures, this legislation could not have come too soon. 

  

As I’ve said before, the legislature’s responsibility is to create an atmosphere across the state that encourages economic growth.

  

Part of our effort to achieve such an atmosphere includes reforming telecommunications throughout the state to encourage free-market competition.

  

We passed a vital telecom reform package (House Bill 168) that levels the playing field between carriers by reducing regulations and lowering access charges that applied to some telecommunications companies and not others, typically rural carriers.

  

Rural customers will benefit in the balancing of rates, as their carriers typically must charge more for service. Regional carriers who may lose revenue while trying to reach financial parity will be temporarily compensated from a special Universal Access Fund. Best of all, this bill does not burden the consumer with new fees or taxes. 

  

In a state that’s severely financially strapped, we are doing all we can this session to make state government as efficient as possible, while continuing to provide core services. Sometimes this requires utilizing creative tools.

  

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Boy Scouts of America have come up with just such an idea to keep our state parks in top condition.  Georgia’s state parks are a huge asset to the state’s economy, particularly our tourism industry. They have suffered from painful budget cuts, requiring maintenance and improvement projects to be put on hold. Cuts have been made to staff, losing valuable jobs for the state and vital personnel for the parks.

  

The Scouting for State Parks initiative represents the ingenuity and creativity of Georgia citizens that make our state a great place to live. Through this partnership, state parks will receive maintenance and care at no additional cost to taxpayers by enlisting many of Georgia’s 200,000 scouts, volunteers and alumni. 

  

Each of Georgia’s 13 Boy Scout chapters has committed to undertake a service project for a local state park during this year.

  

Additionally, councils will encourage youth pursuing Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest rank, to perform their capstone community project in a Georgia State Park.

  

Annually, 1,200 Georgia Boy Scouts earn the Eagle Scout rank.

  

The partnership comes during the centennial anniversary of scouting, and I was honored to welcome scouts from across Georgia to Boy Scout Day at the Capitol and recognize this notable milestone.   

  

Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at chip.pearson@senate.ga.gov.

 

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