Legislative Update After Week One

Just last week, we shared an article on Jones & Swanson Facebook site titled, "5 things to watch at the Georgia Legislature." This original editorial was released by the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Monday, January 14 in an effort to warn Georgians of what topics to expect in the 2013 Georgia legislative session. These controversial topics include whether the ethics reform will pass, the topic of a new stadium for the Falcons, and how the shortfall for Medicaid will be filled. This legislative session will last 40 days and affects all tax-paying Georgians, as the session will determine how tax money will be spent in Georgia.

The State Bar of Georgia released a legislative update for week one on Friday, the 18th. Obviously, a great deal of the first week of the assembly was spent organizing and preparing members for the lengthy session. One substantial change was the addition of a committee to the current judiciary list, titled the Non-Civil Judiciary Committee and headed by Senator Jesse Stone of Waynesboro. Also added to the house committees was the Juvenile Justice Committee. This means that there are now six judiciary committees.

In Governor Deal's annual State of the State address to the General Assembly, he established plans for a budget of $19.8 billion. This budget was a combination of cuts to state agencies and funding increases to select infrastructure projects. Dredging the Port of Savannah received $50 million of the budget, while $25 million went to expanding Georgia's water supply. His speech also addressed a $5 million budget for establishing alternative sentencing programs for non-violent criminal offenders. Approximately $9 billion of the budget, a large majority, will serve to fund K-12 and higher education programs. These changes include a 3 percent increase in the HOPE scholarship and a greater emphasis on the HOPE Grant.

Legal professionals throughout Georgia may be most interested in Governor Deal's reform package to Georgia's juvenile justice system. This platform has the potential to save millions per year. The governor also announced that he is backing new legislation intended to reduce boating accidents. This legislation would strengthen laws for boaters driving under the influence. Georgia's current BUI ceiling is .10. This new plan would bring it down to .08, the same as Georgia's current DUI threshold. Governor Deal also supports legislation being proposed by the House that would allow school administrators to carry concealed weapons.

In addition to Governor Deal's speech, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Pro-Tem David Shafer wasted no time making changes in the Senate. Most of the powers stricken from the lieutenant governor in 2010 were restored, as well as a $100 lobbyist gift gap. This is the first of its kind and has been supported by many throughout the state. Speaker David Ralston also has plans to proceed with a total lobbyist gift ban in the House, which is unprecedented thus far in state history.

Each citizen of the great state of Georgia will be affected by the decisions made at the Georgia Legislature. Monitoring these happenings and decisions is an important step for Georgians to hold our leaders accountable throughout their terms. To watch the State Bar Legislative Update for week 1, visit this link.

As Georgia legal professionals, the attorneys at Jones & Swanson keep a constant watch on these happenings. If you or someone you know have been injured due to another person's negligence, contact our firm today at (770) 427-5498. We have extensive legal experience and will help in any way possible.