Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Legislative update from state Rep. Barbara Massey Reece

Pictured: Dr. Charles Bishop, his wife Beverly, Rep. Barbara Massey Reece and Odell Anderson, a church member and community volunteer. Dr. Bishop served as Chaplain of the Day in the House on Feb. 9, 2012.  He has served as Pastor at Subligna Baptist Church for seven years. He has two children.  His daughter Brandi is married to Josh James and they have two children, Luke and Laci.  His son, Brandon is engaged to Hannah Price.  Brandon is the pastor at Perennial Springs Baptist church. Dr. Bishop graduated in 2006 from Covington Theological Seminary with his Doctor of Ministry of Pastoral Studies.


Media release: A proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state government to set up charter schools at the local level and require local school boards to provide funding for those schools failed to receive the required two-thirds vote of approval in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The bill will be reconsidered at a later date.

Already, local school boards can create charter schools within the local system. This legislation would allow an appointed state commission to create charter schools without approval and oversight of the local elected board.

While I support taking steps for the limited purpose of authorizing charter schools, I voted against HR 1162 because of its potential for diverting local tax dollars from existing public schools toward any type of "special school" the state creates or designates. Local funding decisions should be made by the elected school board members in those communities.

Agency Consolidation

The House voted to approve HB 642, which would abolish the State Properties Commission and the State Personnel Administration and transfer their functions to a newly created Georgia Services Administration, which would also replace the Department of Administrative services. The action is part of Gov. Nathan Deal's plan to consolidate several state agencies to save money in the budget.

Under the bill, the Georgia Aviation Authority, the State Accounting Office, the Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services, the Georgia Building Authority, the Office of State Administrative Hearings and the Georgia Technology Authority would be administratively assigned to the Georgia Services Administration.

A related proposal, HB 805, which would revise state law to account for the retirement of employees associated with the State Personnel Administration, was also approved and sent to the Senate for its consideration, along with HB 642.

Budget Review

The House Democratic Caucus held a public hearing Feb. 6 to discuss Gov. Deal's proposed state budget. Alan Essig, executive director of Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, presented an analysis of the proposed budget. "For the first time in several years, there are no dramatic cuts in the governor's budget recommendations," said Essig. "However, even with moderate revenue growth, Georgia faces a structural deficit. In fact, Gov. Deal projects a $319 million deficit in FY 2014. Without significant improvement in the economy or tax reform that results in increased revenues, Georgia will continue to struggle to provide services to Georgians most affected by the recession."

Essig also discussed the critical needs Georgia must exert to further economic security for its families and residents. "Where Georgia lags competitively is not taxes, Georgia has among the lowest taxes in the nation,  Georgia needs a well-trained and educated workforce, a transportation system that allows goods to get to market and ensures employees a hassle-free commute, and quality hospitals and medical clinics," he said. "For Georgia to regain its position as an economic leader, additional investments in education, transportation, and quality of life must be a priority."

'No Child Left Behind' Waiver

Georgia's request for its public schools to receive an exemption from the academic performance requirements in the federal "No Child Left Behind" law has been granted by the U.S. Department of Education. State School Superintendent John Barge said, "This is wonderful news for Georgia's students, educators and parents. No longer will we be bound by the narrow definitions of success found in 'No Child Left Behind.' We will now be able to hold schools accountable and reward them for the work they do in all subjects and with all students." Gov. Nathan Deal said, "This waiver will give Georgia the flexibility we need to pursue our goals of student achievement." Georgia is one of 10 states given a "No Child Left Behind" exemption by the Obama administration, which offered the waiver to free states from the standardized test performance requirements that are part of the education law if the states developed a better accountability plan for their public schools. Georgia's plan will include an index made up of several different test scores and student attendance rates.

Advanced Placement Ranking

It was announced this week that Georgia schools rank 13th in the nation in the percentage of seniors scoring a 3 or higher on Advance Placement (AP) exams, according to The College Board's AP Report to the Nation. This report measures progress of the class of 2011. Gov. Deal said, "Our state's excellent performance on AP exams demonstrates our success in cultivating excellence. With hard work and perseverance, young Georgians have the tools to achieve their dreams. Students who earn passing grades on Advanced Placement tests get a jump start on college and, in the long run, they help the state. These students represent the 'best and brightest' and are the future economic engines of Georgia. They also save our colleges and universities money by earning class credits."

Session Schedule

The General Assembly is in recess until Wednesday, Feb. 15, which will be the 19th legislative day of the 2012 session. Please continue to contact me with your views on the issues or whenever I can be of service.

State Rep. Barbara Massey Reece represents the 11th District (Chattooga and Floyd counties) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact her at 512 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; by phone at 404-656-7859; or by email at

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