By State Senator Steve Gooch
A number of high profile bills have been introduced this week that are aimed at responding to the needs of our state’s citizens. Georgians, along with voters across the nation, have told their elected officials loud and clear that they want smaller government and less intrusion. Here at the state level, we’re working to meet that request.
As taxpayers, we all want to rest assured that our government is being a good steward of our hard earned money. The Senate and House have both moved forward on legislation that would require the General Assembly to justify every dollar it spends. Georgia currently operates under a continuation budget. Once a new spending program is approved by the General Assembly, it is automatically rolled over into the next succeeding budget under a single line item, called continuation. The budgets that we approve each year detail as little as 3% of the state’s spending; everything else appears on one line without any description. Legislation is in the works to move to a zero-based budgeting method that would require us to justify all expenses, including those approved in earlier years. The Senate has passed a version of zero-based budgeting four times in the last eight years, and the bill enjoys strong bipartisan support. If we are to be good stewards of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, we must analyze and justify how every dollar is spent.
At a time when federal mandates and regulations seem to be encroaching on everyone’s life, the Georgia legislature is working to protect citizens’ rights. A bill has been introduced that aims to protect the gun rights of legally-carrying citizens during a state of emergency. Senate Bill 26 prohibits any additional limitations on carrying firearms during a state of emergency, including seizing any firearm not currently prohibited by law, or requiring the registration of a firearm that is not already required to be registered by law. Legally-carrying citizens should be able to protect themselves and their personal property at all times, particularly emergency situations.
This week also saw the introduction of a bill aimed at restricting the massive influx of illegal immigrants into Georgia. Senate Bill 40 enhances the use of the federal E-Verify system and allows local and state law enforcement officers to help federal authorities identify illegal immigrants in Georgia. The bill includes increased punishments on contractors who work on state projects but do not use the federal E-Verify system to ensure their employees are legal to work in the United States and mandates that private businesses use E-Verify. The bill also authorizes law enforcement officers to ask for immigration documents from a person who is stopped for probable cause of a crime, authorizes law enforcement to verify citizenship or legal immigration status by asking for government identification such as a driver’s license and allows them to turn over suspected illegal aliens to federal authorities. The bill specifically states that race or country of origin cannot be used to determine if someone is in the United States illegally. Much of this bill is aimed at helping businesses and state agencies determine that people working for them are not in the country illegally.
Also this week we celebrated North Georgia College and State University Day at the Capitol, where we recognized the college’s softball team for their perfect 50-0 season in 2010, the program’s third perfect season in its 14-year history. North Georgia College stands as a beacon of excellence in education, and is Georgia’s second oldest public institution of higher learning. The college’s rich history is coupled with its national distinction as a leader in teaching and learning innovation, educating engaged citizens and contributing to regional development.
I’m excited to announce that I’ve been appointed chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee on Roads and Bridges, and look forward to using this appointment to help meet the transportation needs in the 51st Senate District and across the state. The subcommittee will be tasked with vetting specific transportation bills and resolutions assigned by the full Transportation committee that focus on this particular policy area. In order to elevate our state’s transportation system, we must ensure that our roads and bridges are maintained to the highest standard. Providing quality, core transportation functions has a huge impact on our state’s competitive advantage, and it’s incumbent upon this subcommittee to examine any policy that affects that part of our transportation network. I’m honored by this appointment and look forward to working with my colleagues to improve Georgia’s roads and bridges.
Expect the pace to quicken under the Gold Dome as we begin moving these and other bills through the legislative process. I remain committed to passing good legislation that responds to our citizens’ needs.