Legislation Update ~ THE ASHE ADVOCATE

Georgia Politics

The following legislation originating from the Senate was approved by the House this week:

SB 13, which would allow a sentence of life without parole to be imposed, even when prosecutors do not seek the death penalty. Currently life without parole is allowed only as an option in death penalty cases.

SB 14, which would prohibit anyone on the national or state sex offender registry from being eligible for election to or service on local school boards.

SB 44, which would require school systems to give preference to products manufactured in Georgia when purchasing supplies, equipment and food.

SB 61, which would establish the Life Settlements Act, providing oversight and regulation of life settlement contracts and requiring brokers to be licensed and regulated by the Georgia Department of Insurance.

SB 69, which would require citizens to report suspicions of sexual exploitation of children.

SB 155, which would remove buffer zones from streams carrying mostly rainwater. I voted against this proposal because it offers too broad an exemption from environmental protection measures.

SB 165, which would authorize the Department of Community Health to obtain income eligibility verification from the Department of Revenue for Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids applicants.

SB 170, which would prohibit companies that do business in Sudan from submitting proposals for Georgia state contracts in the future.

House members also approved an amended version of HB 233, which would freeze property valuation reassessments for the next two years. The Senate agreed to final changes, sending the bill to the governor for his signature.

All credit to State Representative Kathy Ashe as this information was copied and pasted from her newsletter, The Ashe Advocate.

Perdue Says School Nurses Are NOT Needed

FROM THE ASHE ADVOCATE, a newletter written by State Representative Kathy Ashe…..

House Democrats fight to keep nurses in schools
According to the Governor’s FY 2009 amended budget proposal school nurses will soon become a thing of the past. The recommendations submitted by the Governor last week cut $30 million in state funds which would eliminate the school nurse program. The Georgia House Democratic Caucus opposes this cut and has pledged to work to restore the program.

Democrats believe in promoting preventive medicine and supporting nurses in schools so children can focus on learning and avoid complications that arise when health problems go untreated. They also believe every family should have access to a doctor and every school should have a nurse.

“We have a growing number of working families without health insurance and some of those parents rely on school nurses to keep their children safe and healthy while they are in school.” said Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), Chairperson for Health and Human Services Policy Committee for the Georgia House Democratic Caucus.

Georgia House Democratic Caucus Education Policy Chair, Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta), said, “We must fight for our children and their right to receive appropriate health care while they are in school. If children don’t receive the care they need their medical issues could escalate. It’s a short sighted approach that will eventually cost our state additional funds and more importantly, diminish our children’s ability to do the job they go to school to accomplish – learning. I am asking our parents and teachers to express your concern about these cuts to your state representative and state senators. Email gadhcissues@gmail.com if you need assistance finding your elected representatives.”

Removing school nurses is extremely short-sighted. Georgia House Democratic Leader, Rep. DuBose Porter (D-Dublin) added real life examples. “In Dublin, we have one nurse for four elementary schools. Numerous daily school-age related illnesses aside, our nurse manages diabetic children who must undergo daily blood sugar testing, she takes care of a child on a feeding tube, and has a student going through stage 4 cancer. The management of these health issues takes a trained professional.” said Porter. “In one of the four schools alone there are 38 students on asthma inhalers, students who at times have had to be rushed to the hospital with acute asthma attacks. We should not balance the state’s budget by cutting health care to sick children or making our teachers become health care providers.”

Georgia House Democratic Caucus Chairman Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) agreed and pointed out legal questions that may arise, regardless of safeguards designed to protect the school. “The governor should be asking, who will administer this care… the teachers? The liability on untrained school employees administering health care could easily become an issue. Teachers in Georgia schools now are not allowed to administer medications. Nurses in our schools give out over 5 million doses per year. There are approximately fifteen million annual visits to the office or school health room for illness, medication and injury in Georgia,” said Smyre. “Children can’t learn when they are sick and teachers can’t teach when they are running a health clinic.”

In conclusion Porter noted, “We are willing to fight to stop this cut that will directly damage our schools and our children, but it will take a great effort to get the message to this Governor. Now is the time for Georgians to engage in the political process. Times are changing and Georgians can no longer assume basic services will continue. Georgians must become involved in the process.”

The Georgia House Democratic Caucus has an e-mail address to handle issues that relate to the Governor’s proposed cuts. To voice your concern, e- mail gadhcissues@gmail.com. Together we can continue to protect our children’s future.

Economy, budget to dominate 09 legislative session

ALL of the information below is taken directly from The Ashe Advocate, a newletter prepared by State Representative Kathy Ashe.

Economy, budget to dominate 2009 legislative session

After six straight years of massive spending increases that have resulted in a 46.2 percent expansion of government since 2002, the state of Georgia is facing some harsh economic realities as the General Assembly gets ready to convene on Jan. 12.

The current recession has hit our state hard, with unemployment numbers reaching a 25-year high. Tax revenues are down, leaving a budget deficit of up to $2 billion. State agencies have already been ordered to reduce their budgets for the remainder of the current fiscal year by 6 percent. Legislators are preparing for cuts of up to 10 percent in the new budget.

But at the same time budget writers are working to make ends meet, the governor has proposed an aggressive stimulus package leveraged on heavy borrowing and spending to build roads, schools, libraries and other facilities. Legislators have yet to be told what specific projects are proposed or how much the package will cost taxpayers.

How the state handles its budget priorities in the current economic environment will be the overriding issue of the 2009 legislative session. Other pressing matters we will be dealing with beginning Monday include the following:

Property taxes. A proposed constitutional amendment would cap increases in residential property tax assessments at 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. Lawmakers will also have to decide on whether to go along with the governor’s proposal to eliminate the $430 million property tax relief grants that save homeowners about $200 to $300 per year.

Transportation funding. Last year, legislation proposing a regional, local option sales tax for transportation improvements passed the House of Representatives but was defeated in the Senate. That plan will likely be reconsidered this year to address a need for $100 billion or more in coming years to build the roads and transit facilities that can effectively serve the state’s growing population.

Education funding. Over the past six years, the state has shifted more than $1.6 billion of school funding responsibilities to the local property taxpayers. Lawmakers made a $50 million dent in restoring those funds last year, but we need to do more. Even in tight budget times, spending tax dollars on private school vouchers will likely be proposed again.

Trauma care funding. In 2008, the legislature passed a one-time $58 million appropriation to expand and sustain Georgia’s limited trauma care network, but a proposal to raise fees on car tags in order to provide a permanent funding mechanism failed. A new plan is expected to be considered in the new session.

Health insurance. Rising unemployment has caused the number of Georgians without health care coverage to surpass 1.6 million, according to a recent report. Expanding access to affordable health care is another side of the economic crisis the legislature must deal with in 2009.

Sunday sales. After previous failed attempts, the issue of allowing cities and counties to authorize the packaged sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday will be discussed again.

Death penalty. The failure of a jury to reach a unanimous death penalty verdict in the case of Brian Nichols, who murdered four people in a shooting rampage that began at the Fulton County Courthouse in 2005, has renewed a proposal to allow the death sentence to be imposed on a vote by 10 out of 12 jurors, instead of the currently mandated unanimous decision. Similar legislation passed the House but lost in the Senate in 2008.

Gun laws. Legislation has been pre-filed that would eliminate the provision in Georgia law that currently requires a person with a handgun to keep the weapon in a holster when carrying it in public.

Seat belts. Lawmakers will again debate whether to end the exemption in Georgia’s seat belt law for drivers and passengers in pickup trucks. Proponents of the legislation say closing the loophole will save lives and make Georgia eligible for $20 million a year in federal highway funding.