The snow and ice melted from Winter Storm Pax, and we returned to Capitol Hill on Feb. 17. This was the sixth week of the 2014 legislative session and an important one. This past week, we passed the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, as well as many other significant pieces of legislation.
While we set education as our top priority in the budget, we also passed legislation to increase educational opportunities for Georgians. House Bill 697 creates a Zell Miller grant scholar designation to cover 100 percent of tuition for those students who maintain a 3.5 GPA or above in Georgia's technical colleges.
Since 2011, the last time HOPE provided a full scholarship to these students; technical college enrollment has declined by 20 percent.
HB 697 will help address the decline, bringing students back to school, so they can gain the skills needed to join the workforce. The legislation also helps close a technical skill-gap, making Georgia more attractive to those businesses that are looking for skilled labor. As most of you know, I am extremely supportive of our technical schools. The return on our investment here is positive with an outstanding placement rate in the field of study for our students upon graduation.
An imperative part of the U.S. Constitution is Article V.
Article V allows states to call a constitutional convention so that they can make amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Under Article V, a constitutional convention may be called if at least two-thirds, or 34 states, petition on the same subject.
This week the Georgia House passed a series of bills and resolutions to call for a constitutional convention that would focus on adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Those pieces of legislation that were passed in the House this week were: House Bill 794, Senate Resolution 371, House Resolution 1215, and Senate Bill 206. Since SB 371 has passed both the House and Senate, Georgia will now become the 21st state to pass legislation calling for a convention of this purpose.
As a lawmaker that has worked to balance Georgia's state budget, I believe that Congress should be doing the same with our national budget.
Adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution would help control America's growing debt and make the nation's economic future more secure for our children and grandchildren.
These bills also had measures in them that would prevent a "runaway convention."
This would be a convention that added additional changes to our constitution that we would not be pleased with. It has become obvious to both parties here in Georgia that our federal government is not going to get its house in order; so the states are being forced to act.
I was also pleased to see my fourth bill of the session pass the House.
The bill that passed was the Intimate Harassment bill.
This bill serves to protect citizens from having nude photographs or material distributed to the Internet without their consent.
Under current law someone could upload a picture of someone to a pornography website without their consent, and there would be nothing criminally they could do about it. The bill passed the House with overwhelming support and is now in the Senate.
In addition to conducting legislative business last week, we also took some time to honor Jim Chavers, the last surviving member of the 4th Marine Division that fought in Iwo Jima. Considered one of the deadliest battles of World War II, the Invasion of Iwo Jima began on Feb. 19, 1945, and lasted until March 26, 1945.
Chavers was one of 60 survivors from his company of 250. After his time in the Marines, Chavers served as a customs inspector for the U.S. Customs Service for 33 years. It was a privilege to meet such an outstanding Georgian as Jim Chavers. I am inspired by his dedication and commitment to this great country.
He is a true American hero.
With less than a month left in the 2014 legislative session, I hope that you will take a few moments to call or visit my office, so that I can know what issues are of most importance to you and your family. I will also be holding my weekly informational breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ryan's in Dawsonville.
I am honored to serve as your representative at the State Capitol. I am always available to assist you and encourage you to contact me with questions or your opinions.
Rep. Kevin Tanner can be reached on his cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-0152 or by email at email@example.com.