John Douglas - 02/18/09
Nearing the half way point of the legislative session

We have a lot of work ahead of us in a short amount of time, but I am confident that we will finish the drill having passed sound public policies for the benefit of all Georgians. Last week we were very pleased to have distinguished visitors as we passed bills to provide homeowner tax relief and acted in the best interest of homeland security.

Times are tight right now, and we understand the burden that could be placed on a homeowner if they received an unexpected bill for $200 to $300 in property t axes. The General Assembly has been committed to finding the funds to provide homeowners with their Homeowner Tax Relief Grant (HTRG) for 2009. The House and Senate passed House Bill 143 providing HTRG funding this year. The provisions of the grant have also been adjusted to provide for HTRG when Georgia's budget is in surplus. During this tough economy, homeowners can be assured that the General Assembly is working hard to bring them some relief this year as we also work toward long-term economic solutions.

Last week, my colleagues and I on the Senate Public Safety Committee passed Senate Bill 20 which prohibits local governments from implementing or enforcing sanctuary policies. A "sanctuary policy" is any regulation that prevents local officials or employees from reporting a person's immigration status or otherwise providing immigration status information. Local governments that violate this legislation or fail to cooperate with the Federal government to report a person's immigration status will not be able receive state funding or Federal funds administered by the state. It is vital that our state have legislation such as SB 20 to protect our jobs and help heal the economy. Illegal immigration can bring an increased crime rate while also taking jobs away from Georgians and further hurting the economy. I look forward to voting on this essential legislation on the Senate Floor.

Looking ahead, I recently introduced Senate Bill 136 that decreases the costs and expenses of operating state prisons by reducing the number of criminal aliens in the Georgia penal system. SB 136 requires the Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to participate in the U ..S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Rapid Removal of Eligible Parolees Accepted for Transfer (REPAT) Program. In an effort to crack down on the increasing population of illegal immigrants living in Georgia, the bill expedites the deportation process of aliens incarcerated or eligible for parole. Aliens who participate in this program would waive any right to appeal their conviction and would be required to serve the remainder of their prison term if they are caught attempting to re-enter the United States illegally.

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 a john.douglas@senate.ga.gov .