Top 5 legislative issues of 2012
State Rep. Rick Jasperse entering his second full legislative session under the Gold Dome believes there are several factors which may make this a very “contentious” session.
Rick Jasperse, who will be entering his second legislative session representing Pickens County and surrounding areas, said the state legislative session this January will likely be contentious.
“With the election year, presidential and others in the state, you will see folks really trying to make political statements,” Jasperse said in a late December interview. “With the redistricting completed there will be several forces that should make this a very interesting session.”
Jasperse previewed in late December what he believes will be the five most newsworthy efforts under the Gold Dome when the legislature goes into session this January.
1. Budget – “This is number one by far. It’s why we go there.” Jasperse said in Georgia, the governor proposes a budget and “both the house and senate fiddle with it.” At this point the governor’s proposed budget cuts all state agencies two percent except public safety and education.
2. Criminal Justice Reform – Governor Nathan Deal is driving an effort to reform our justice system. Jasperse said the governor has recognized the impact of the prison system on the budget and is looking to cut costs. Jasperse said the governor uses a phrase that he wants prisons to hold people we are threatened by not people we are mad at.
Jasperse said a key to this is alternative courts such as drug courts and family courts that work out alternative sentencing, instead of jail time. Jasperse said he was initially a skeptic of these efforts but has been won over by seeing how tough the alternative programs are, the commitment of those involved in administering them and how effective they are.
3. Tax Reform – This will be newsworthy all session Jasperse reported. Jasperse said they will look at “their role in making Georgia as competitive as possible to create jobs; to make it a place you want to come.” Jasperse said specifically this will deal with sales tax on energy used for manufacturing and other taxes that create obstacles for industry force higher prices for goods made in this state.
4. Zero-based budgeting – Jasperse thought this much-touted plan will again come to the forefront in this session. Zero-based budgeting (all agencies start their budgets at zero and build up, rather than starting with the previous year’s totals) has been widely discussed but never passed.
Jasperse said this style of budgeting is credited with eliminating pork ingrained in the system through years of standard quo operations. All the [lawmakers] have certain areas they are interested in, Jasperse said. This is a way to make all departments justify each expenditure.
5. Drug testing welfare recipients – Jasperse said this will be a huge fight with some people being very upset. Not only are they looking to test welfare recipients, but are also targeting at other areas where people get public service funds -- like unemployment checks. There will be those arguing that if we are helping people while they are out of work, then those getting the checks should be held to job-ready status, such as being drug tested, he said.
Jasperse said he is always anxious to hear from constituents during the session and the best way to contact him is by his legislative office phone, 404-656-0188.