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Assembly reaches halfway point
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The General Assembly is at a critical juncture as we mark the midpoint of the 2012 Legislative Session. With many bills still being reviewed and debated in committees, there is a growing sense of urgency to pass legislation prior to Crossover Day.

One bill in particular that I would like to highlight this week is SB 292, also known as the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act.

In recent years, the drastic expansion of welfare-related programs has placed an enormous strain on the economic viability of this state.

At its core, SB 292 challenges individuals to become better stewards of taxpayer money and promotes fiscal responsibility. If passed, this legislation would require recipients of welfare, specifically individuals receiving TANF or Medicaid, to comply with state mandated drug tests to determine welfare eligibility.

It is important to note that TANF and other related welfare programs were created to represent a short-term solution to help families in need.

President Reagan said it best: "Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives."

The passage of this bill would provide a bold and decisive step toward curbing government entitlement programs while also ensuring hard-earned taxpayer dollars aren't subsidizing drug-addiction.


Passed in the Senate

SB 286 - Prohibits Future Tax Commissioners from Joining the ERS

Senate Bill 286, sponsored by Sen. Bill Heath, passed the Senate on Wednesday to prohibit future tax commissioners from joining the Employee's Retirement System.

Under the current system, some county tax commissioners are receiving both county and state retirement benefits.

According to SB 286, tax commissioners could only receive pension for their service as county employees.

After July 1, 2012, any newly hired tax commissioner, tax collector, tax receiver, or employee of such an officer will not be eligible to participate in the state retirement system due to their status as local and municipal government employees.

The Bill passed the Senate by a vote of 47-5.

SB 246 - Contributions for Public School Employees Retirement System to Change

Senator Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) presented legislation that increases employee contributions for Public School Employees Retirement System members hired on or after July 1, 2012.

Specifically, this bill would increase the employee contribution for all persons who become a member of the system on or after July l, 2012 from $4 per month to $10 per month.

The bill was passed Wednesday by a vote of 52-0.

SB 331 - Insurance Bill Passes Senate

Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth) sponsored legislation that authorizes only insurers who issue title insurance policies and who are also responsible for disbursing settlement funds to issue closing protection letters. A closing protection letter is a document which protects the buyer or lessee against fraud. The bill passed Thursday with a vote of 50-0.

SB 358 - Bill Mandates Local Governments Give Preference to Georgia Contractors

Under legislation authored by Sen. John Bulloch (R-Ocklocknee), local governments in Georgia would be required to reciprocate the preferences granted by out-of-state local governments for vendors in their own states to Georgia's vendors.

This bill pertains to local governments awarding bids for goods and services produced in Georgia.

The bill passed Thursday with a vote of 51-0.

SB 366 - Bill to Reduce Violence among Department of Juvenile Justice Inmates

Sen. Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville) authored a bill which will ban potentially dangerous items from Juvenile Detention Centers (JDC) and Youth Development Centers (YDC) throughout the state.

The legislation would help eliminate violence among detainees of Georgia's JDCs and YDCs.

Sen. Grant stated before the Senate that the legislation has received approval from defense attorneys, advocates of the youth detainees and the law enforcement community.

It passed 52-0.

SB 107 - Bill to Increase Contempt of Court Fines

The maximum fine for contempt of court in a Georgia Superior Court would be increased from $500 to $1,000, according to legislation authored by Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro).

The last time this fine had been updated was approximately 30 years ago.

The bill passed Friday by a vote of 45-5.

SB 362 - "Deadhead Logs" Bill Passes Senate

In the 19th and 20th centuries, numerous quantities of lumber were deposited in Georgia's river systems. Some logs were lost while being transported down the river, and others were intentionally left for storage purposes.

Over time, these logs were protected from biodegradation due to the low oxygen content in parts of these rivers. These preserved logs are known as "deadhead logs" and are often valued for their use in furniture.

Sen. Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) proposed legislation which would authorize the state to auction off sections of Georgia's rivers to harvest these logs.

The bill passed the Senate on Friday with a vote of 37-12.

SB369 - Bill would extend expiration date of Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council

The Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council is an agency established to provide the general public with reliable geospatial data, including flood map modernization.

The maps are especially useful for FEMA and other emergency relief organizations.

The Georgia Geospatial Advisory Council is set to expire on June 30, 2012; however, legislation proposed by Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) would extend the deadline to June 30, 2015.

The bill passed the Senate 50-0.

SB 395 - Bill would change SPLOST Revenue Collection

Legislation proposed by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen) would authorize the collection of SPLOST revenues to be fractionally collected up to a full 1 percent after Jan. 1, 2013.

If enacted, voting referendums may ask to collect just a fraction of the single penny that is typically requested.

The bill passed with a 47-1 vote.

For additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly Web site at

North Georgia College & State University Day

To celebrate "North Georgia College & State University" Day at the State Capitol, I had the distinct privilege of hosting students, alumni, 50 cadets and several administrators from the college on Wednesday.

As part of the festivities, we were also joined by Dr. Bonita Jacobs, the first woman president of the university, as well as BG Joe Jarrard (alumnus) and 22 NGCSU National Guard officers.

Other groups in attendance included the White County Library Group, State Farm Agents and several of my constituents throughout the district.

Caterpillar plant moves to Georgia

Gov. Nathan Deal held a press conference Friday morning to announce the opening of Caterpillar's Orkin facility, which will be located near Athens.

The 1 million square foot facility is expected to have a substantial impact on the economy through the creation of nearly 1,400 new jobs in Clarke and Oconee counties.

Georgia was chosen over other states due its close proximity to the ports of Charleston and Savannah, the availability of a workforce with manufacturing experience, the potential for a strong supply chain and overall competitive business climate.

As your representative of the 51st Senate District, I look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to contact my office, and let me know how I can serve you best.

Sen. Steve Gooch 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 at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at