Although the 2011 Legislative Session ends on April 14, we will be called back into Special Session this summer to handle redistricting of state Senate, House and Congressional districts based on the 2010 census.
This week we passed few bills of local interest. The three most important bills of the year are still tied up in discussions between the House and Senate. It seems the Senators can’t agree among themselves what they want in the bills.
Of course, I am talking about the FY 2012 Budget, Immigration Reform and Tax Reform.
Last week in Congress, the House of Representatives passed legislation to “deem” its federal budget as law—Senate approval or not. Under the bill, the budget already passed by the House and rejected by the Senate becomes law if the Senate does not reverse course and approve it by April 6.
The current budget, which pays for the government, runs out two days later.
The Georgia House passed the FY 2012 Budget early in March after joint hearings with the Senate. They heard everything we did, so it may be time for the Georgia House to pass legislation to “deem” its version of the budget as law.
All three of these measures (FY 2012 Budget, Immigration Reform and Tax Reform) were introduced early in the session and have been online for perusal and comment. Of the 1,000 plus e-mails sent to my office on these three issues, most of them were form letters. You get my attention with personal e-mails — not what some special interest group sends out in your name.
A great example of attention grabbing e-mails came from constituents expressing opinions about the proposed Dawsonville Airport Authority.
I want to thank the more than 300 folks who attended the public hearing last week at the Dawsonville City Hall.
All levels of government are supposed to represent the people, and occasionally we need to be reminded. Nationally, that is what the tea-party is doing. Locally, it is falling to those who want to be heard concerning the proposed airport authority and the proposed Calhoun Creek reservoir. When constituents are unhappy, then I am unhappy, and vice versa.
As stated at the airport authority public hearing, that overreaching bill has been put on hold till next year’s session, at the earliest. The only way it could be considered this year is if Senator Steve Gooch voted it out of the Senate for signature by the Governor.
Gooch said that is not going to happen.
We passed two pieces of legislation worthy of mentioning. Senate Bill 94 is aimed at increasing the safety of Georgians.
The bill creates a limited exception to criminal liability for service providers that knowingly harbor runaway youth. The exception allows the service provider to offer the runaway child necessary care and protection without the risk of criminal liability. To fall under this exception, the provider must have reasonable cause to believe the minor has been abused or neglected and must report the child abuse.
Additionally, the service provider must either attempt to inform a guardian of the child or contact the Division of Family Services within 72 hours after assisting the child.
Further, these service provider organizations must register with the Department of Human Services or a child welfare agency. Ultimately, this measure will allow young victims of abuse to receive the help they need without fear of being turned away by organizations limited by legal liability.
We also passed Senate Resolution 312, which is designed to help promote greater economic growth in our state.
The measure promulgates the General Assembly’s support for the harbor deepening efforts in Savannah. With the expansion of the Panama Canal expected in 2014, the joint resolution is necessary because ports in the Southeast must be deepened so that they can accommodate larger container ships that require deepwater ports. The large ships have already begun looking for accessible ports along the U.S. East Coast and will bring jobs and economic development in their wake.
Georgia is working to secure its place in the growing global market through harbor deepening efforts in Savannah. The General Assembly passed SR 312 to assist in securing out-of-state funding for the project and to let the world know that we fully support the continued growth and economic well-being of our ports.
Last week’s column was about what was not going to be in the Tax Reform bill.
As of today we do not have an agreement upon which to vote.
We adjourned on Thursday because it made no sense to waste a day (Friday) without agreed on legislation.
We will return on April 11 for Day 38; April 12 is Day 39 and April 14 is Day 40.
The joint conference committees have the responsibility to work out their differences before the current session ends.
My last Saturday morning breakfast with constituents for this session will be at 8 a.m., April 16 at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone (404) 657-8534; fax (404) 463-2044, e-mail email@example.com.