John Douglas - We're past the legislative halfway mark

Your Georgia Senate has moved beyond the halfway point of the 2008 legislative session, having finished 22 of the required 40 business days. The pace is increasing daily as senators and representatives go about their work. This week, I'd like to discuss several important pieces of legislation that I have focused on thus far.

On Wednesday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a proposed Constitutional amendment that would allow counties to join together or individually implement a special purpose local option sales tax for transportation projects. Senate Resolution (SR) 845 is intended to address a revenue shortfall for transportation projects across the state and provide a local or regional solution for counties where the need to reduce traffic congestion or improve roads and bridges is necessary.

The counties collecting the transportation tax, also known as T-SPLOST, would keep 80 percent of the proceeds for projects within those counties. The remaining 20 percent would be remitted to the state, which would be required to spend at least 10 percent of that amount on mass transit networks. As with any null, a majority of voters in those counties would have to approve levying the tax. As a Constitutional amendment, SR 845 requires two-thirds approval in both the Senate and the House and majority approval by Georgia voters in the general election in November. Then the counties could take it individually to their voters in 2009 or beyond.

Another of my bills passed the Senate Public Safety Committee this week. Senate Bill (SB) 335, a bill to slow the erosion of the English language in Georgia, is now one step away from the full Senate. A previous English language bill from 1995 includes large loopholes that both the House and Senate are trying to correct.

SB 335 prohibits state and local governments from requiring a person who is employed or seeking employment or promotion to complete foreign language training. Under the proposal, individuals are not allowed to receive preferential treatment during the employment screening process for the ability to speak a foreign language or because they have received foreign language training. However, this legislation does not apply to any position of employment for which the ability to speak a foreign language is required, such as translators or language instructors. It also contains an escape clause saying that if local governments certify that they are in compliance with a major immigration bill passed in 2005, SB 529, they are exempt from the language restrictions. Currently, of the nearly 700 cities and counties in Georgia, only five are in compliance with SB 529.

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.

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 at john.douglas@senate.ga.gov.