In his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2011, Gov. Perdue has included $10 million in bond funding for right-of-way acquisition toward completing the four-lane expansion of Ga. 133 between Valdosta and Albany. This is a much-needed transportation improvement in South Georgia, and I will work to make sure the funding remains in the budget over the course of the current legislative session.
Also, I had the opportunity to meet Thursday with Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Vance Smith and DOT Board members Roy Herrington and Bobby Parham. I have had the pleasure of working with these officials for many years and previously served in the House of Representatives with Commissioner Smith and Mr. Parham. We had a good meeting and discussed a number of transportation projects and funding sources.
Former Senators Return: Three of our state’s newest high-profile elected officials are former members of the Georgia Senate, including Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Speaker of the House David Ralston. They were among a large number of former Senators who returned to their old “stomping grounds” this week and were recognized in a brief ceremony. Speaker Ralston reminded us that Georgians want both sides of the legislature “to be respectful, to be civil, to sit down and reason together on the best solution to the problems facing us right now.” Former 8th District Senators Bobby Rowan and Loyce Turner were both in attendance. We are the only three Senators to represent this district over the past 48 years.
Healthcare Reform: The issue of healthcare reform has been at the top of the political agenda at the federal level for most of the past year. This week, legislation was introduced in the Georgia Senate that would provide consumers with some health insurance protections at the state level. SB 330 would prohibit insurers from imposing a cap on the amount of lifetime benefits a policy holder can receive and would prohibit insurers from canceling a policy because of a misstatement or omission by the policy holder in the original application, unless the misstatement directly relates to the illness that produced the claim. SB 331 would enable parents to keep their dependents on their health insurance plan up to age 25, even if the dependents are not full-time students, and would make it easier for small businesses to offer group health insurance to employees by allowing them to pool their resources with other businesses to lower the cost of coverage.
Legislators Furloughed: Due to the state's budget crisis, our public school educators and other state employees have had to take unpaid furlough days as a cost-saving measure.
On Tuesday, a plan was announced for members of the General Assembly to take additional furlough days, which would save the state an estimated $2.7 million.
I support this plan because as elected officials we must lead by example. We are not and should not be excused from giving up part of our legislative salaries to help in the very difficult task of balancing this year's budget. By the end of fiscal year 2010, lawmakers will have taken 11 unpaid furlough days, including one day a month from August through December last year. Other state agencies have each taken between three and 12 furlough days.
Hands-free Devices OK: In the first legislative action of the session, the Senate voted unanimously to clarify the law regarding the use of hands-free communications devices while driving. SB 306 would allow drivers to use Bluetooth-type devices while talking on their cell phones. The legislation now goes to the House for its consideration.
Sen. Tim Golden represents District 8 (Brooks, Cook, Lowndes and Thomas counties) in the Georgia State Senate. During the legislative session, contact him at 121-A State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga. 30334; by phone at 404-656-7580 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.