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John Douglas - 03/11/09
An eventful week in your Senate

As Crossover Day approaches on March 12, the last day bills can pass between the House and Senate, both chambers have worked quickly to pass important pieces of legislation. Last week the Senate focused on fiscal responsibility, transforming transportation funding and protecting the safety of Georgians.

The Senate fulfilled the legal requirement to balance the 2009 budget. Due to the severe recession we are experiencing, the fiscally conservative budget was cut nearly $2 billion to accommodate state law. It was not an easy task considering the multiple revenue reductions, but with collaboration from the House we were able to produce a budget that prioritizes spending. Funding in the amended budget incorporated $428 million for the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant and restored $145 million in education and austerity cuts made last year. While still meeting the essential needs of our state, reductions include $1 billion to agencies and state government.

In order to further protect the public from criminal illegal aliens that have been convicted of other crimes and from the danger of meth labs, the Senate passed two more of my bills, SB 136 and SB15. SB 136 will crack down on the increasing population of illegal immigrants jailed in Georgia by expediting the deportation process of aliens incarcerated and eligible for parole. SB 15, the Clean-up Methamphetamine Lab Sites bill, allows a county department of health to quarantine any facility where the manufacture of methamphetamine has occurred. I look forward to the passage of both of these bills in the House.

In another respect, this was not a proud week for your Senate and House. Twenty-two members, three senators and 19 House members, have been identified as having not paid their state taxes for one or more years. The chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee worked to change the Senate rules to bring these scofflaws in front of the committee for possible action. In order to change the rules of the Senate, two-thirds or 38 senators must vote to agree. The non recorded, hand vote was announced as 32-16, a straight party line vote with the exception of one Democrat who voted with the Republicans. Covering for those who would take your tax dollars but refuse to pay their own taxes is as wrong as not paying personal taxes. I am absolutely disgusted with the whole situation. I firmly believe you shouldn't write the law if you can't obey the law.

If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact my office. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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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.