Week 6 of 2012 Session
With Valentine’s Day being on Tuesday, the Legislature chose to take Monday and Tuesday off to spend time with our spouses. This made for a short week. Only seven bills were heard on the Senate floor this week which should make many happy who have communicated to me a desire to see fewer laws passed and added to the Georgia Code. However, while it may not appear that we have been busy on the Senate floor passing bills out, I have been devoting much of my time here to researching and drafting solutions to meaningful, comprehensive tax reform for Georgians. My hope is that we can reach agreement on the details of how to accomplish this before the end of session.
Another highlight of our discussion this year has been education reform, focusing in particular on increased rigor, innovative and individualized learning, support for charter schools and school choice, and protecting our state’s world renowned higher education system and the HOPE Scholarship. As much as I believe that we must continue to concentrate on transforming education to meet the needs of today’s children, I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. Students, educators, and administrators in the 31st district are taking on these challenges and showing significant achievement.
Recently, the 2012 Advanced Placement (AP) Honors Schools were announced in five different categories based on the results of the 2011 AP classes and exams. These categories include AP Challenge Schools, AP Access and Support Schools, AP Merit Schools, AP STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Schools, and AP STEM Achievement Schools. Schools that were named to this list offer a significant number of rigorous, college-level AP courses for qualified students. Furthermore, students who receive a 3, 4, or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit. As a testament to the hard work and dedication of the students, parents, and educators in the 31st District, many of the schools I represent were named to this prestigious list.
To qualify as an AP Challenge School, schools with 900 or fewer students must test in the four core areas (English, math, science, and social studies). We were fortunate to have several schools in our district make the list, including Bremen High School and Rockmart High School. I want to congratulate the hard-working students and teachers in both the Bremen City School System and the Polk County School System who made this happen. Your dedication continues to pay off for the future leaders of this great state and I remain in awe of your achievements.
Paulding County School System was named to the AP Access and Support School list. This honor is presented to systems with schools that identify at least 30% of their students as African-American and/or Hispanic, and where at least 30% of students taking AP exams earn a 3 or higher.
Additionally, Woodland High School was named an AP STEM Achievement School as well as an AP STEM School. AP STEM Achievement Schools have students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses, and at least 40% of the exams’ scores are 3 or higher. AP STEM Schools have students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses.
I am encouraged by the success of our local school systems. I hope to be able to work with educators, administrators, parents, and students to address any concerns and identify a vision for the future of our state’s education system. It is vital that we work together to develop ideas that will benefit future generations of students because we must invest in keeping the best and brightest students in Georgia.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed SB 286 (47-5) for the third time, a bill I authored which disallows future county Tax Commissioners from joining Georgia’s Employee Retirement System. Approximately 95% of the revenue collected by Tax Commissioners is for local governments. This legislation grandfathers existing tax commissioners. Any Tax Commissioner may participate in pension systems offered by their county.
Additionally this week, I presented SB 395 on the Senate floor, which passed 47-1 and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. SB 395 authorizes SPLOST revenues to be collected at fractional amounts up to one percent after January 1, 2013. Some projects do not require the amount that a full one percent would raise in revenue over the five or six years. If enacted, local governments will now have more options in levying the tax and could request that the remainder of the one percent be raised at a later date. This bill is taxpayer-friendly and a more precise use of the SPLOST, moving us toward greater government accountability and responsibility.
While Thursday marked the halfway point of the 2012 Legislative Session, there is still much work to be done. Having been entrusted to be your voice at the State Capitol, I am always eager to hear from my constituents regarding issues of concern as well as your thoughts on legislation being discussed here. Together, we will drive legislation that will create jobs, minimize regulatory and tax burdens, promote liberty, and strengthen the overall economic health of our state.