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John Douglas - Gold Dome opens for business

The 2008 session of the Georgia General Assembly opened for business Jan. 14 facing a number of serious issues. Gun rights, water and illegal immigration and transportation are again at the top of our lists and we have begun acting on these issues already.

Guns

On Thursday, the Senate voted 41 to 15 to approve legislation that would give law-abiding citizens the right to keep guns in cars parked in publicly accessible lots. The law is restricted to individuals who already have a state permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A provision of House Bill 89 that was opposed by the Georgia business community, requiring employers to allow their workers to have guns in cars parked on company property, was removed by the Senate Rules Committee, avoiding an argument of 2nd Amendment rights vs. private property rights. The bill as amended now goes back to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Water

As Georgia remains in the grips of a severe drought, the Legislature is developing a statewide water management plan to ensure that our natural resources are well managed for future generations. The General Assembly passed Senate Resolution 701 this week, also known as the Statewide Water Management Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Statewide Water Council. The plan is the culmination of three years of work by various external groups, local officials, business leaders and fellow lawmakers. In his State of the State Address earlier this week, Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed appropriating $120 million in funding for water infrastructure and reservoirs that will provide for the secure conservation of our resources.

Illegal Immigration

Several bills aimed at curbing illegal immigration in Georgia are beginning to move in the Senate. The bills include efforts to curb the use of the Mexican Consulate ID card in Georgia, increase the penalties for fraudulently obtaining an automobile tag, prohibiting local and state government requiring Spanish language instruction for every employee, and outlawing "sanctuary cities" in Georgia. We have taken the lead among the states in fighting illegal immigration, and it is my desire that we continue to maintain that position in the future until the problem is resolved.

At midweek, we heard from Perdue in his annual State of the State Address, in which he gave all Georgians a progress report on our state and rolled out his new budget initiatives for Fiscal Year 2009 (FY 09) and his legislative agenda for 2008. Perdue's address was especially inspired this year, as he discussed the many ways in which our state is moving forward. Our State Reserves, more commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund, are healthy and stable, and we are one of the fastest growing states in the nation. Both Perdue and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle have outlined their legislative priorities for this year's session, focusing on four main issues: water, transportation, education and healthcare. Both men are doing a great job representing Georgia.

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.