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John Douglas - The Gold Dome opens for business

The 150th session of the Georgia General Assembly opened for business Jan. 12 facing a number of serious issues. The budget, education, healthcare, transportation and water are again at the top of our list. We have already begun acting on these critical issues in the pursuit of making Georgia a state that people are proud to call home.

At midweek, we heard from Gov. Sonny Perdue in his annual State of the State Address, in which he gives all Georgians a progress report on our state and rolls out his new budget initiatives and legislative agenda for 2009. Perdue emphasized the need to cut spending and encourage investment in our future through an aggressive bond program to build needed infrastructure.

I agree with the governor's remarks that we need to focus on a long-term perspective as we structure the budget. We must look past the current economic downturn to determine how best to prioritize government spending so that future generations of Georgians can depend on an effective and fiscally responsible government to offer the services they need.

Though we have completed only the first week of the session, I have introduced legislation early to ensure that the proposals addressing Georgians' needs is implemented quickly. The following is a list of legislation that I am currently sponsoring:

· SB 2 increases penalties for fleeing and eluding in a motor vehicle. Anyone convicted for a second time within five years of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer must have their driver's license suspended for three years. Under the new provision, offenders will have to wait six months instead of 120 days to apply for reinstatement of their driver's license. The bill also states that any person driving 10 mph over the speed limit or under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances while fleeing from a police officer will be guilty of a felony. The current law says more than 30 mph over the speed limit (101 mph on parts of the interstate), and DUI is not included at all.

· SB 9 allows anyone with a proper concealed weapons permit to carry their firearms with or without using a holster. The current law mandates a holster.

· SB 10 makes drugs with pseudoephedrine a prescription item. Pseudoephedrine is the primary ingredient in methamphetamine and the intent is to make it harder to obtain for illegal activity.

· SB 14 restricts any person who is on the National Sex Offender Registry or the state sexual offender registry from becoming elected or serving on a local board of education.

· SB 15 would require the quarantine of all or part of a building where the manufacturing of methamphetamine "crystal meth" has occurred. The quarantine will be lifted once it safe for human use. There are no cleanup standards currently in Georgia law for so called "meth houses."

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 a john.douglas@senate.ga.gov.