Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Buzz From the Capitol: Post Spring Break (pt.1) Edition

The following is a newsletter from state Senator Johnny Grant's office.

This week, the Senate returned from a two-week working recess. We took that valuable time to go over the FY 2011 budget line by line to find inefficeinces and waste in order to close the revenue gap. Unfortunately, we are at the point where no one will be spared cuts. Everyone must do their part and share the burden.

The last two weeks have seen a frenzy of talks about drastic cuts and massive layoffs within the University of Georgia. A large concern for rural areas is cuts to the 4-H and county extension programs. I strongly support these programs and will fight to see they are not completely cut from UGA’s community outreach program. 4-H touches the lives of more than 156,000 students and aides them in developing valuable life skills that prepares them for being leaders in their careers and community. Economic growth and success of Georgia agribusinesses greatly rely on the next generation of innovators. The Extension Service helps Georgians become healthier, more productive, financially independent and environmentally responsible. Most counties have a combination of agents who specialize in agriculture and natural resources, youth development and family and consumer sciences. These vital areas, run through the university system, will face some reductions, but they cannot shoulder the burden alone.

The Senate unanimously passed a significant bill targeted at protecting one of Georgia’s most vital natural resources: water. This conservation legislation will change the fundamental way water is conserved throughout the state. Local governments will now have the right to impose more stringent outdoor watering restrictions during non-drought periods whereas current law only allows them during drought periods. Many state agencies are reviewing practices, policies, programs, and rules/regulations to identify opportunities to provide programs and incentives for voluntary water conservation and enhancement of the state’s water supply.

The most sweeping overhaul of the Georgia property tax system in decades received unanimous consent in the Senate this week. This bill is the result of much testimony highlighting the inefficiencies and errors of the property tax system. One of the biggest issues is that the system is based on human assessment of value that is rampant with error, politics, and inaccuracies.

The two major concerns we heard from citizens was subjectivity of the process and lack of clarity in the appeal process. Many Georgians stated the inconsistencies of tax assessors who didn’t even enter their homes or take into account the actual market price of their homes. Many noted the lack of transparency and the convoluted nature of the process. Many of you in Middle Georgia have had your requests for appeal turned down simply because you missed a deadline you didn’t know existed.

Simply put, Georgians and Middle Georgians deserve better. I am proud of the work we accomplished this week in the Senate and I am ready for the work ahead. There is much work left to do with the FY 2010 and FY 2011 budgets but I am confident we will come together and face the uphill battle with a common understanding that Georgia will come out of this recession a stronger state.

As always, it continues to be an honor to serve in the General Assembly on the behalf of my constituents throughout the 25th district. I look forward to the remaining days in session and I vow to work tirelessly ensuring all legislation that comes across my desk works for you and all Georgians.

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