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Legislators expect to be busy with budget

Dealing with a continued budget crunch will be on the minds of Georgia legislators as they begin their 2010 session in Atlanta next week, Decatur County’s legislators said Friday.

State Senator John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) pointed to Friday’s news that the state government’s revenues had fallen by another 5.8 percent in December 2009 as one of the reasons why legislators are concerned about having to make further cuts to state programs and services. December is the 13th consecutive month in which state revenues have declined.

Both Bulloch and State House Representative Gene Maddox (R-Cairo) said they would oppose any measure that would place any more financial burden on citizens.

“It’s been suggested to us that we should go in and take off some tax exemptions,” Bulloch said. “One of the largest exemptions is on sales tax applied to groceries. If you took away that exemption, it would place a hardship on many people, especially the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Maddox said there has been some talk in Atlanta of increasing income taxes, which he said he would oppose.

“I am one of those legislators who would ask the state government leaders to live within our means,” Maddox said.

One of the first things the Georgia House will have to deal with next week is electing new leadership following the resignation of House Speaker Glenn Richardson, who is leaving office following an ethics and sex scandal. Maddox said he expects that Representative David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), an attorney, will be elected as the new House Speaker.

Later on in the session, the Senate may deal with clarifying Georgia’s concealed weapon laws, including the places where people with permits to carry guns may take them.

“I believe in the [U.S. Constitution’s] Second Amendment, but I also think some of the locations being proposed as places people could carry guns should be able to control whether or not they will allow them,” Bulloch said.

Consideration of the state’s food safety rules and legislation that would encourage more people to work as veterinarians and volunteer firemen in rural areas were other topics mentioned by Bulloch and Maddox.