Officially, the 2012 Legislative Session began on Jan. 9.
On Jan. 10 we got our marching orders from the Governor in his State of the State Address.
He highlighted his goals for 2012, explaining that education, transportation, security and jobs are "the stars that we must follow to expand opportunity."
In support of education, Governor Deal listed several goals that he hopes to see us work towards, one of which calls for a 10-day increase in the Pre-K school year.
Another goal calls for an additional $55.8 million to fund teacher salary increases, which the governor said should be based on teachers' training and experience. Both of these changes have the potential of bettering our education system and ensuring that our children are prepared for a bright future in Georgia's labor market.
Job creation is also a vital part of creating a bright future for all Georgians.
In an effort to combat unemployment, Gov. Deal outlined a three-part plan for strategic tax reform that will make Georgia a beacon for jobs.
The plan includes an elimination of sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, a sales and use tax exemption for construction materials used in projects of regional significance, and a modernized restructuring of Georgia's Job Tax Credits and Quality Jobs Tax Credit programs. With these changes, Georgia will become more competitive in attracting job creators, and we will foster an ideal environment for small businesses to flourish.
Just before Christmas 2011, we received good news from the U.S. Department of Justice that they had approved our new redistricting maps.
The need for new district maps came after the 2010 Census showed that Georgia's population has increased by about 1.5 million people in the last 10 years. The increase provided us with a new congressional district and the responsibility of drawing new congressional, state Senate and state House district maps that are fair and representative of the most up-to-date population data.
We managed to pass maps that received federal approval on the first submission.
This was a major accomplishment that had never been achieved in the history of Georgia since the implementation of the Voting Rights Act.
Now that this task is behind us, we can tackle the issues that Georgians care most about, such as job creation and tax reform.
In addition to completing the first five legislative days of our 40-day session, we spent much of our first week in committee meetings.
Committee meetings are where bills are put under the magnifying glass so that we can ensure they are completely ready for a vote on the House floor.
One important committee meeting this first week was a Joint House & Senate Economic Development meeting, in which we received ideas on how to best maximize lottery funds to support our Pre-K and HOPE Scholarship programs.
Next week we will begin work on creating a balanced state budget through a week-long series of joint appropriations meetings.
Although we were busy this first week of session with legislative issues, we honored the life of Georgia legend Larry Munson. Sports fans throughout the country were saddened to hear of the passing of the longtime Georgia Bulldogs football announcer shortly after UGA clinched the SEC East championship.
As a tribute to his service to the state, we adopted House Resolution 1104 and presented it to Munson's son. Larry Munson was truly a great Georgian and he will always be remembered for his "sugar falling out of the sky" call and many others.
Last Saturday morning marked the start of my 12th year of weekly breakfast meetings with constituents during the Legislative Session.
These meetings give my constituents an opportunity to talk to me face-to-face about their concerns, and for me to tell them what's happening during the session that affects their lives and well being.
The major topic last Saturday at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega was how to get a "package liquor stores" referendum on the ballot in Lumpkin County.
A member of one of Dahlonega's oldest and most respected civic organizations attended and was very supportive of my efforts to sponsor legislation this year to give the voters in Lumpkin County the opportunity to vote on that important issue. Without having package liquor stores in Lumpkin County, hundreds of thousands of Lumpkin County tax dollars are being spent in surrounding counties each year. Those are our tax dollars that should be spent here for the benefit of our citizens.
Saturday morning, Jan. 21, we meet again at 8 a.m. at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega. On Jan. 28, we meet at 8:30 a.m. at Ryan's in Dawson County. On Feb. 4, we meet at 8 a.m. at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega.
I'll keep you informed before each meeting as we get deeper into this session.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone (404) 657-8534; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Gerald Lewy, at (706) 344-7788.