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Budget sees adjustments
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Each year, the General Assembly is constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced state budget.

On Thursday, we were one step closer toward fulfilling this goal with the passage of the Senate's FY 2012 amended budget.

In order to meet our fiscal obligations, we must see a month by month growth rate of 4.4 percent. To sustain this, Gov. Nathan Deal had to make some additional cuts to his initial budget recommendations, which totaled $47.2 million.

The decrease was in response to a slight flattening in state revenues over the past several months. This budget substitute simply adjusts the amount of funds we are currently working with in the FY 2012 Amended budget.

After Deal's revenue adjustments, the difference between the FY 2012 Amended budget and FY 2012 Amended budget - as passed by the Senate on Thursday - is an increase of about $207 million.

Amid a recession, Georgia's budget has shown a slight increase in recent years.

In FY 2010 the Amended Budget was approximately $17.1 billion compared to this year's amended budget recommendation of $18.5 billion. For the remainder of the 2012 session, the General Assembly will continue to work together toward passing a budget that meets the essential needs of our state.

Weekly Legislative Update

SB 468, which I co-sponsored, passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday. This bill would require bicyclists to ride single file on two-lane roads when a motor vehicle is within 300 feet and is traveling in the same direction. This legislation would provide an additional measure of safety not just for bicyclists, but for motorists traveling along one of North Georgia's many roadways.

Senate bill action

Fiscal Budget Passed Back to House

Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, presented the amended fiscal budget on Thursday. The Senate passed HB 741, the FY 2012 Amended Budget. The Senate then recommended an amended budget of $18.5 billion in total state funds, slightly more than the $18.3 billion originally passed in the FY 2012 General Budget. Since the House version of the bill includes line items different from the bill passed by the Senate in a 51-1 vote, members from both chambers will now determine a mutually agreed-upon bill. -HB 741

Online Education Legislation

Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, introduced legislation on the Senate floor that will require high school students, beginning with those who enter the ninth grade in the 2014-2015 school year, to complete at least one online learning course during their high school career. Sen. Rogers said the bill is intended to benefit the taxpayers, the schools and the students. The bill passed with a vote of 36-15. -SB289

Statute of Limitations Extended for Report of Sexual Abuse

Under legislation sponsored by Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, individuals who were victimized by a sexual crime as a child are given until their 28th birthday to report the crime. For cases involving childhood rape, the individual is given until their 33rd birthday to report the crime. Under current law, some individuals are not given enough time following their maturation to adulthood to report their crime. The bill passed with a vote of 53-0. -SB316

Documentation for Teachers and Administrators Terminated for Financial Reasons

Legislation introduced by Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) would require that written documentation be provided to employees of the education system, such as teachers and administrators, detailing the reason for their termination if the termination was due solely to financial reasons. The bill passed with a vote of 51-0. -SB153

Increase in Employee Wages Taxed for Unemployment Insurance

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, sponsored a bill that will increase the amount of employee wages that are taxed for unemployment insurance and reduce the maximum number of weeks a claimant may receive benefits from 26 to 20. The bill passed 34-13. -SB 447

Increase the Transparency of SPLOST Projects

Sen. Ligon introduced legislation to the Senate on Wednesday which would increase transparency in Special Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax projects. In addition to the current requirement to publicly report expenditures for all projects funded by SPLOST, the bill would require the disclosure of estimates of the maintenance and operation costs for all projects, including a statement of surplus funds, as well as the estimated date and cost of completing these unfinished projects. The bill passed with a vote of 48-6. -SB332

Annual Controlled Substances Update

Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, presented legislation to update the schedules of controlled substances and list of dangerous drugs. This is the annual drug update bill that will add to and revise the different classifications of drugs and adds drugs to the definition of dangerous drugs list. This bill addresses the concerns of the county sheriffs when dealing with synthetic marijuana. This bill passed 53-1. -SB 370

Confidentiality of Insurance Commis-sioner's Office Analysis

Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, sponsored legislation that will secure the confidentiality of analysis performed by the Insurance Commissioner's office pertaining to the financial condition or market conduct of an insurer. The bill passed with a vote of 53-0. -SB385

Controlled Substances Legislation

At the request of the Attorney General, Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) presented legislation to allow Georgia pharmacies to fill out of state prescriptions and make Georgia laws in compliance with federal laws regarding samples. The bill passed 49-0. -SB 378

Redistricting Legislation

This bill will revise the boundaries of certain state House districts. The bill passed the Senate 36-15 and was transmitted back to the House of Representatives by Reapportionment and Redistricting Chairman, Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton). - HB 829

Disposition of Veterans' Cremated Remains Act

Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) presented legislation that will require the funeral director in charge of a crematory to make a reasonable effort to determine whether any body submitted for final disposition by cremation is that of a deceased veteran. The bill passed 44-0. -SB 372

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

As your representative of the 51st Senate District, I look forward to hearing from you. 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