May 6, 2013

Report from lawmakers on General Assembly

Submitted by the Kiwanis Club of Dalton

— As usual in most state governments, education gets the biggest bite out of the state budget approved in the recent session of the General Assembly.

State Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, told members of the Kiwanis Club of Dalton recently that the new budget calls for $19.34 billion for education. Education, kindergarten through college and technical school is 53 percent of the state’s budget.

Dickson said the student population of Georgia schools has grown by 20,000 students from year to year. The growth called for an additional $172 million in tax dollars for education in the state.

The Kiwanians were told that “equalizer grants” with funding formulas that were “changed a couple of years ago” will be “fully funded as the formula exists.”

State Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, said newly passed ethics legislation limits the amount of money a legislator can legally accept from a lobbyist. The bill also is said to define a lobbyist.

“If you spend $1,200 a year, you are a lobbyist,” Bethel said.

Under the Constitution of the state, a balanced budget is mandated. Dalton State College receives a sizable amount. That includes $4.6 million to renovate the old technical building on campus to be used by the school’s health sciences department. The budget also includes funds for furniture, fixtures and equipment in the new science building now under construction.

Bethel said significant changes in the state’s juvenile justice system will make it smarter and more efficient. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the legislation at the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center in Dalton on Thursday.

Bethel said two gas pipelines in Murray County will immediately help farmers, but will eventually help the county recruit new industry.

Freshman Rep. Bruce Broadrick, R-Dalton, is a pharmacist by trade. He said House Bill 78 increases the penalty for elder abuse. HB 178 should decrease the number of pain clinics in Georgia.

Broadrick said surrounding states had already cracked down on clinics, sending owners across the state lines. Georgia only had 10 clinics in 2000, but the number has swelled to 125.

Under the new law, clinics are more closely regulated and must now have a physician ownership.