Legislative session passes midway point

by | February 26, 2007 12:00 am

By SEN. J.B. POWELL

By SEN. J.B. POWELL

Thursday, February 15, was the 21st legislative day of the 2007 session of the Georgia General Assembly, meaning we are now past the halfway point. Frankly, very little has been completed so far on the major issues, but I would expect the pace to pick up when we return to the Capitol this week.

Still up in the air is the fate of the funding issue for PeachCare for Kids, which will have a significant impact on finalizing both the midyear adjustment to the fiscal year 2007 state budget and the annual budget for fiscal year 2008.

Last week, a proposed constitutional amendment that would place limits on the state’s ability to tax and spend failed to receive a needed two-thirds majority approval in the Senate. Modeled after a “taxpayer’s bill of rights,” Senate Resolution 20 would prohibit the General Assembly from increasing the state budget by a percentage that is more than the state’s population growth, plus inflation. Any increases in state revenues above that amount would have to be refunded to taxpayers, used to pay off debt or put in the revenue reserve fund.

The proposed amendment would have placed the question before Georgia voters on the 2008 general election ballot. Although the measure fell short of a two-thirds majority, I voted in favor of SR 20. Since the money funding government programs belongs to taxpayers, then voters should have the right to decide on this issue themselves.

Meanwhile, the Senate unanimously approved legislation that would require the presentation of a valid Georgia driver’s license or Georgia identification card to obtain a motor vehicle tag. Senate Bill 38, which now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration, would take effect July 1, 2007. Its sponsors said there is a logical connection between obtaining a motor vehicle tag and possessing a valid driver’s license or ID card.

Addressing the need for an extensive revision of the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) program, have co-sponsored SB 164. The Department of Community Health issues CON before any health care facility can be built and deliver certain types of medical services. Before issuing a certificate, the state analyzes the need for medical services as well as the impact on existing health care facilities.

Supporters of the CON law, which are usually hospitals, say it is necessary because it reduces the number of duplicative medical facilities. Opponents, including many physicians, want to be able to operate medical facilities without being required to have a CON. The proposed Certificate of Need Reformation Act aims to resolve this issue, and it is likely to be the source of vigorous debate in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

I also co-sponsored SR 278, honoring the service of U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, who served as Congressman for the 10th District for 12 years before his death last Tuesday. He was a strong voice for his constituents, showing tremendous strength and courage during his battle with cancer, and his tenacity and enduring commitment to Georgia values will remain an inspiration to us all.

State Sen. J.B. Powell represents the 23rd District (Burke, Emanuel, Jefferson, Jenkins, Richmond, Screven, Washington and Wilkinson counties). During the legislative session, he can be reached at 320-A Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, Ga. 30334; by phone at 404-463- 1314; or by e-mail at jb.powell@ senate.ga.gov.

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