Legislative session off to a good start

Published 6:02 pm Thursday, January 19, 2012

We started the 2012 legislative session Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, on the heels of positive news. The U.S. Department of Justice approved three new district maps on Dec. 23, 2011. The need for district maps came after the 2010 Census, which showed that Georgia’s population has increased by about 1.5 million people in the last 10 years. This increase provided us with a new congressional district and the responsibility of drawing new congressional, state Senate and state House district maps that are fair and representative of the most up-to-date population data. In August 2011, we met for a special session to fulfill this responsibility, and in just three weeks we managed to pass maps that received federal approval on the first submission, a major accomplishment that has never been achieved in the history of Georgia since the implementation of the Voting Rights Act. Now that this task is behind us, we can tackle the issues that Georgians care most about, like job creation and tax reform.

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, Gov. Deal approached these issues as he delivered his State of the State Address. He highlighted his goals for 2012, explaining that education, transportation, security, and jobs are “the stars that we must follow to expand opportunity.” He also cited several goals that he hopes to see us work towards, one of which calls for a 10-day increase in the pre-K school year. Another goal calls for an additional $55.8 million to fund teacher salary increases, which the governor said should be based on teachers’ training and experience. Both of these changes have the potential of bettering our education system and ensuring that our children are prepared for a bright future in Georgia’s labor market.

Of course, job creation is also a vital part of creating a bright future for all Georgians. In an effort to combat unemployment, Gov. Deal outlined a three-part plan for strategic tax reform that will make Georgia a beacon for jobs. This plan includes an elimination of sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, a sales and use tax exemption for construction materials used in projects of regional significance and a modernized restructuring of Georgia’s Job Tax Credits and Quality Jobs Tax Credit programs. With these changes, Georgia will become more competitive in attracting job creators, and we will foster an ideal environment for small businesses to flourish.

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In addition to the State of the State address and completing the first five legislative days, we spent much of our first week in committee meetings. Committee meetings are where bills are put under the magnifying glass so that we can ensure they are completely ready for a vote on the House floor. One important committee meeting this week was a joint economic development meeting, in which we received ideas on how to best maximize lottery funds, which support our pre-K and HOPE Scholarship programs. This past week, we worked on creating a balanced budget through a week-long series of joint appropriations meetings.

While we were busy during the first week of session, it was an honor to pause to remember the life of Georgia legend Larry Munson. Sports fans throughout the county were saddened to hear of the passing of the longtime Georgia Bulldogs football announcer, shortly after UGA clinched the SEC East championship. As a tribute to his state, we adopted House resolution 1104 and presented it to Munson’s son. Larry Munson was truly a great Georgian and he will always be remembered for his “sugar falling out of the sky” call, and many others.

Now that session has begun, I want you to know that it is my goal to represent your interests to the best of my ability. To keep you informed, I plan to send weekly updates to let you know what is happening underneath the Gold Dome. I also hope to hear from you on your ideas and opinions, regarding the issues facing our great state. Please call my office at the State Capitol in Atlanta and let me know what I can do for you. The phone number is (404) 656-0152. Thank you for your time.

Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, is the representative for State House District 172, which includes all of Decatur County.