Week 1 of 2012 Session
This Monday legislators from across the state filled the Senate and House Chambers excited to begin another historic year for Georgia. Throughout the past year we have made great strides toward economic recovery for our state. We have brought jobs to Georgia, lowered the unemployment rate and addressed the strain caused by illegal immigration. However, much is left to be accomplished. Georgia’s education system still lags behind the majority of other states in our nation and while our economy teeters toward recovery, it hasn’t made it yet. The decisions made during this session will be crucial as we continue to take necessary steps toward putting our state on the right path.
On the first day of the 2012 Legislative Session, we wasted little time getting to work, showing Georgians that our priority is working to create a positive, lasting impact on the lives of our citizens. The passage of the following bills on the first day revealed a clear message that education reform is vital to the future success of this state.
SB 38 gives the state superintendent the authority to hire and fire Education Department employees. The bill also gives the state board the ability to overrule the superintendent in any employment decision by a two-thirds vote. Senate Bill 38 passed the Senate last year but was amended by the House and did not get approved by the Senate before sine die.
SB 184 amends the current law to require a local school board to primarily consider a teacher’s effectiveness in advancing student achievement when considering whom to lay off in a reduction of force implementation. The amount of time a teacher has been employed cannot be the primary or determining factor. Again, this bill had passed the Senate last year but was amended by the House and did not receive final passage before sine die.
This week, Governor Nathan Deal also delivered his annual State of the State address. His message was filled with ambitious goals and solutions for the critical issues facing our state. Governor Deal outlined the following priorities in his State of the State address:
• Water/Natural Resources
• Criminal Justice Reform
• Economic Growth and Job Creation
Next week the Governor and various state agencies will present their budgets to the General Assembly. The General Assembly will reconvene Monday, January 23rd to begin the laborious process of working through a $19 billion proposed budget. With a recent history of overestimating the anticipated revenue, I would love to see the General Assembly intentionally appropriate less than the revenue estimate. Should the anticipated revenue materialize, it could be used to help replenish the Revenue Shortfall Fund to safe levels and reduce the tax burden for Georgia’s citizens.
Once again this session, I am honored to serve my constituents, as well as all Georgians, as Chairman of the Senate Finance committee. My priority remains the same- to create real and lasting reform in Georgia’s antiquated tax system. Right now all options are on the table including proposals with the end goal being a state tax system based on consumption; this system would allow us to lower personal income tax. Taxing income stifles productivity and is in conflict with the principles our founding fathers intended.
As we continue with session throughout the next several months, I will be spending a lot of time at the Capitol working for you and the citizens of this state. If there are any particular issues you wish to have addressed, I would love to hear from you. I look forward to continuing my service on behalf of my constituents in the 31st Senate District this session. Georgia is on the right track. I am confident that the steps we take this year will result in lasting prosperity for future generations of Georgians.