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John Douglas - Influential measures pass the Senate

The Georgia General Assembly is now on its way to the fifth week of the legislative session, and so far, numerous measures have been passed that seek to better the lives of Georgians. We have completed 18 of the 40 required legislative days of business, and I am proud of the work we have done up to this point.

The legislature recognizes the difficulties Georgia property owners face with rising property tax rates, and this week took steps to provide some relief. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a property tax reform initiative that will freeze property taxes at the 2008 rates until the property is sold. Senate Resolutions 796 and 686 propose an amendment to the Constitution to require the freezing of existing real property values at the time the owner acquires the property. Any valuation increases thereafter would be subject to limitations. Once a property is transferred or sold, it will be appraised at its fair market value on the date of the new owner's acquisition. A cap will be placed on increases so that any increase in the assessment cannot exceed an inflation percentage set by the Department of Revenue for the current tax year. Both measures were passed as Constitutional Amendments, and if approved by the House of Representatives, will appear on the ballot in November for voter consideration.

Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson has filed legislation to force failing public schools and non-accredited public school systems to provide scholarships/vouchers to their students so they can attend another public or private school of their choice. These vouchers will also allow students to escape a poorly performing school and transfer to a school that is meeting or exceeding the standard. SB 458 mandates that any school which has been on the state's "needs improvement" list for seven years will have to offer their students the state funded scholarships. Currently, there are 19 schools across Georgia that have been on the "needs improvement" list for seven years or more.

In other news from under the Gold Dome, I have recently introduced a Senate resolution that would forever honor and remember the commitment and sacrifice of veterans of the Korean War. SR 720 dedicates a portion of U.S. Highway 80, running across the state from Columbus to Savannah, to be forever known as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway. The legislation also authorizes the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) to place and maintain appropriate markers in Columbus, Macon and Tybee Island dedicating the Memorial Highway.

As always, please remember to contact me in my office on the issues that are affecting you and your area. I am here to represent you and it is an honor for me to work on your behalf.

State Sen. John Douglas serves as chairman of the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee. He represents the 17th Senate District, which includes Newton County and portions of Henry, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton counties. He may be reached by phone at 404-656-0503 or by e-mail ajohn.douglas@senate.ga.gov.