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State House expects to vote on the amended budget, set spending levels

Feb. 5 marked Legislative Day 13, putting us more than a quarter of the way through the General Assembly’s 40-day legislative session.
This week debates continued on the House floor, committees considered dozens of bills and the House Appropriations committee delved further into the budget. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the amended budget next week, which will set state spending levels through the end of June.  
Over the past year, banks in Georgia also have felt the pinch of the economic downturn.  This week, the Georgia House of Representatives debated House Bill 926, which would allow state-chartered banks to more easily renew loans or lines of credit to customers in good standing.  This is a necessary step to help Georgia’s banks, businesses and citizens who rely on them. 
Current law prevents state-chartered banks from renewing or restructuring loans or credit lines for any customer in good standing if it would cause the bank to exceed the amount it can lend to a single borrower due to changes in bank capital. 
House Bill 926 will assist Georgians by giving banks more flexibility and helping to ensure that financially responsible Georgians have the loans and credit they need to ensure their businesses can survive and hopefully grow. 
The House also passed a series of education-related measures this week to give local school boards more flexibility and the tools they need to make the best decisions for their students, teachers, and schools. House Bill 905 extends sunset provisions for the school construction capitol outlay program from June 15, 2010, to June 30, 2015.  This measure will enable school systems to continue to earn and use Advance Funding, Exceptional Growth, and Low Wealth School Capital Outlay Grants. 
Many educators throughout the state have enrolled in leadership training courses, which, upon completion, led to a higher salary. Current law states that anyone enrolled in a leadership training course must complete it by July 1, 2010, to be eligible to receive a pay increase. House Bill 923 extends the course completion date to July 1, 2013, for educators who were enrolled in the program by April 1, 2009.
These bills passed and others with overwhelming support.  Each piece of legislation will now move to the state Senate and be studied by committees before moving forward in the process.
In addition, the House passed House Bill 219, which requires antifreeze sold in Georgia to be mixed with a bitter substance.  The intention of the substance is to prevent consumption by people or animals. The bill received 142 yeas. The safety feature would only cost about three cents per gallon and should reduce significantly the danger to our children and pets from accidental exposure to antifreeze.
Finally, I would also like to mention a piece of legislation that was just introduced this week. As you know, water is such a crucial issue for our state. In the last few years, Georgia faced a devastating drought and ongoing litigation between Alabama and Florida that brought this issue to a head.  In 2008, a law was passed to help build reservoirs throughout the state and improve conservation efforts. This week, House Bill 1094, the Georgia Water Stewardship Act, was introduced as a result of the hard work of Georgia’s Water Contingency Task Force. It is my hope that this legislation will strike the right balance between conservation and meeting our state’s water needs. I look forward to learning more about it as it makes its way through the committee process.
As we continue to move bills to the floor for a vote, I would like to know your opinions on these important issues. Please feel free to call me with any questions or comments that you might have regarding legislation or issues under consideration at the state capitol. You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-5116 or my e-mail at jon.burns@house.ga.gov
Thank you for your time.