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Posted: February 20, 2011 12:00 a.m.

A view from the House

The most significant bill by far to reach the house floor was the adjustment to the current, fiscal 2011 budget, also known as the supplemental or little budget bill. A few other items were of interest as well.

HB 107 clarifies an existing law that makes the spouse and dependents of a public safety or DOT employee who is killed in the line of duty eligible to participate in the state health plan. Apparently the original wording was imprecise enough that the spouse of a state trooper who was killed has had problems continuing coverage. The bill passed unanimously.

HB 72 would require that driver's license exams be conducted only in English, with the exception of certain categories of legal visitors to this country. The bill saw a lengthy debate, with many good arguments on both sides. Several amendments were offered, one of which was adopted, thereby significantly reducing the scope of the bill (I voted against that amendment). The bill's sponsor was displeased with this turn of events, so we tabled the bill for later consideration (and further likely amendment).

HB 77 is the update to the current, 2011 fiscal year budget. Since revenues have been trending faintly upward during the first 7 months of this fiscal year, crafting an update was not as difficult as it has been the last two years. Still, changes were necessary. The regular enrollment growth increase for K-12 schools, loss of some federal stimulus funds and several smaller items required a re-allocation of roughly $400 million. This money was obtained in part from the state's reserve fund (which is normally used for the K-12 adjustment), and by cuts averaging 4 percent from most arms of state government other than K-12 itself. These further cuts were anticipated by Governor Perdue last year. He directed state agencies to reserve the 4 percent early in this fiscal year, which makes implementing them fairly straightforward at this point. While numerous questions were asked about individual items in the budget, there was little formal debate. Some members of the minority (Democratic) caucus voted against the budget as a matter of principle, but the bill still passed by a very bipartisan 136 to 29. I voted in support.

HB 110 is a clear sign of the times. It would allow local governments to create vacant property registries in order to better track and administer various issues that accompany such properties.

HR 20 seeks to cap the growth rate of state appropriations via a referendum on changing the state constitution. The cap would limit appropriations growth to a percentage derived by combining the Consumer Price Index with the growth of Georgia's population. In times when the economy is down, the cap would not be reduced. It could be exceeded on a two-thirds or greater vote in both houses of the General Assembly. A pretty gung-ho piece of legislation, considering that the author and all co-signers are freshmen legislators.

This was another busy week, with lots of great folks from home coming to visit. On Tuesday, the Court Appointed Special Advocates held a reception, and I was able to see Jim Killman with the Alcovy CASA. Wednesday, Allen Jones from Covington was at the Capitol to discuss issues he is concerned with. Also on Wednesday, Jared Seals and Justin Miracle had prize-winning artwork on display, selected by the Georgia Art Educators. With them were parents D.J. and Rene Seals, and Gerald and Angela Page, along with art teacher Debbie Nelson.

On Thursday, Danny Stone brought this year's Leadership Newton class to the Capitol. We had good question and answer session in the Agriculture building for about an hour.

Contact Rep. Doug Holt at (404) 656-0152, or Doug@DougHolt.org.

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