Two legislative days remain in the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly as the longest meeting in modern state history nears an end. We will meet in Atlanta April 27 and 29 to finish our work for the year. This past week, we met April 20-21 and passed some long sought bills of significance.
The Zero Base Budgeting Act passed and will make state agencies more accountable for their budgets. Over a three year period, every state office would have to justify its full budget to the legislature. Currently, they only justify any increase from the previous year. One-third of state agencies would report each year so that over three years, every department would explain all of their expenses. The bill passed the House on Wednesday and heads to Governor Perdue for his signature having already passed the Senate.
Significant ethics legislation passed both the House and Senate on the evening of April 21. After the January scandal with former Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, this type of statue became imperative. Among the items in the bill that is now on the governor's desk are provisions that double the fines for late reporting and other violations of campaign disclosure rules, makes sexual harassment by legislators a punishable offense, and makes Georgia Department of Transportation Board members accountable for disclosures of lobbyists expenses and financial dealings. Realistically speaking, there are no laws we could have passed to prevent former Speaker Richardson from his tryst with a female lobbyist. Good character can't be legislated.
A key transportation funding bill passed the House and Senate after three years of work. The bill will put each county in one of 12 regions where each county commission chair and one mayor from each county will decide on a list of projects to be funded in the region. Newton and Walton are in Region No. 5 with other counties around Athens while Rockdale remains in the Atlanta Regional Commission area. Each region will be able to present its voters with a potential one cent sales take hike for transportation funding, all of which will be kept in the region. We are hopeful this will break the logjam on funding of transportation projects and help us untie some of the knots we see in our road system around this area.
The House and Senate agreed also to end the use of gas chambers to destroy animals in Georgia. Eight counties in South Georgia still use gas chambers on stray animals rather than the more humane use of sodium pentobarbital or a derivative shot to perform euthanasia. Experts told legislators that gassing is a painful and time consuming method of destroying animals and not efficient in any way. Being sensitive to avoiding the cruel treatment of animals, both houses of the legislature passed the bill, the Senate 38-9 and the House 115-46. Most of the opposition to the ending of gas use came from rural legislators. I voted yes and am pleased we took this action.
As always, serving as your State Senator is a great honor. Please call on me any time I can be of service.
Senator John Douglas (R-Social Circle) represents all of Newton and parts of Henry, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton Counties. He is Chairman of the committee on Veterans, Military and Homeland Security and serves on five other committees. He can be reached at 404-656-0503, e-mail: email@example.com or through his Web site, www.senatorjohndouglas.com.