Legislative Update — End of Session, 2014

On Thursday, March 20th, the 2014 legislative session came to an end when the House and Senate completed the 40th and final legislative day.  This last day of session is known as “Sine Die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.”  Being the final day of the legislative session, we worked late into the night to ensure the passage of important legislation related to issues like education, criminal justice and public safety.  There are several key legislative accomplishments that I want to bring to your attention.

One of the most important bills we passed this session was House Bill 744, which establishes the state budget for Fiscal Year 2015. As the only piece of legislation that we are constitutionally required to pass, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget will guide all state spending from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Totaling $20.8 billion in state funds, the final version of this budget includes many of Governor Deal’s original budget recommendations like increased funding for education.  In fact, one of the most noteworthy features of the budget is a $314.3 million increase to Quality Basic Education (QBE), which will provide local school systems with the flexibility to eliminate teacher furlough days, increase instructional days and increase teacher salaries.  Increased funding was also designated for higher education, including $7.2 million for the creation of a new Zell Miller Grant for technical college students.

In addition to carrying through Governor Deal’s recommendations, my colleagues and I in the House also added additional priorities for the state budget, including $460,816 to increase the clothing allowance for foster care children by $100 per child.  Other additions to the budget began in conference committee between the Senate and House, including $1.5 million in funding for Meals on Wheels and senior center nutrition programs. Lastly, funding was added to launch enhanced services through our network of public health offices for training providers to recognize and correctly diagnose autism for early intervention. The nearly half a million that is appropriated in the budget shows a strategic, grassroots beginning to address what has become one of the most chronic health condition in children, affecting an estimated one out of every 88 children in the nation.

Also passed during our last week of session was Senate Bill 365, which is a continuation of a multi-year criminal justice reform effort in Georgia.  Similar to past years’ legislation, SB 365 includes several measures to help non-violent, first time offenders get back on their feet and become law abiding, working citizens.  One measure of this bill provides judges with the flexibility to issue limited driving permits to certain offenders for the purpose of attending court-ordered required programs, seeking employment, or going to work. Another measure in SB 365 calls for non-violent offenders to complete a Treatment Completion Certificate program, and would also require review hearings for juvenile offenders who are placed into foster care. The bill also provides improved liability protection to employers who hire former offenders who have successfully completed Department of Corrections pre-release programs. These programs will make offenders more marketable to employers, so that they are better prepared to make the transition to a productive life outside of prison.

Senate Bill 386 was also passed by the House last week in an effort to safeguard the citizens of Georgia.  SB 386 protects the identity and privacy of those who enter Georgia’s court system by prohibiting social security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, and financial account numbers from being disclosed in court documents.  Senate Bill 386 clarifies that where Social Security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, and/or financial account numbers are included, only the last four digits of any such number may be included in the filing.  If birthdates are included, only the year of an individual’s birth may be included, and if a minor is identified, only the initials of the minor may be included. Identity theft is an ever-growing problem so it is important that Georgians’ personal information is kept secure; SB 386 ensures that this information is kept private.

While safeguarding our citizens is important, we always strive to enact policies to protect our children as well and last week was no exception.  SB 358 received final passage by the House during the last week of session and will go to Governor Deal’s desk for his signature.  SB 358 would expand who can file a missing child report with the Missing Children Information Center to include individuals and institutions that are responsible for the care of foster children.  The Missing Children Information Center is responsible for filing all missing children reports submitted by local law enforcement agencies. However, the current code does not specify that a report can be filed by a foster parent or foster care agency.  Senate Bill 358 would allow a caretaker, governmental unit responsible for the child, or other person with legal custody of the child to file a missing child report. SB 358 ensures that the necessary steps are taken and the appropriate individuals are notified in the event that a foster child is missing.

Last week the House also gave final passage to Senate Resolution 415.   SR 415 calls for a state constitutional amendment that would cap the maximum rate for income tax that can be imposed in our state. SR 415 would prohibit any increase in the state’s 6 percent income tax. Before being adopted into the state’s constitution, a referendum will be called so that citizens can vote on the measure.  The citizens of Georgia will now have the chance to decide and weigh in at the polls in November on this issue that will affect our entire state.

Now that each of these bills has passed the Georgia General Assembly, they have gone to Governor Deal for consideration.  As stipulated in our state constitution, the governor has 40 days to sign or veto the legislation.  This means that any bill or resolution that the governor has not vetoed by Tuesday, April 29, 2014, will become state law.

With the future of these bills in the hands of the governor, the General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session has adjourned sine die. Although session is over, I hope that you will continue to contact me to express your ideas and opinions.  I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation. I will be spending a lot more time in the district now, so feel free to contact me by phone or via my website. Or, if you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw Braddock’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Best regards,

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw


Rep. Rakestraw’s Balanced Budget Bill Passes Georgia General Assembly

The bill, which originated in the Georgia House as HB794 under Rep. Rakestraw’s sponsorship, positions the Peach State to be the first to pass the Compact for a Balanced Budget. It now awaits Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.

State Rep. Paulette Rakestraw announced that on Wednesday, March 19, the Georgia Senate passed by a vote of 30-25 the Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment.  “I am thrilled to see Georgia take the lead to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington,” said Rep. Rakestraw, the lead sponsor of the legislation.  Our Georgia lawmakers are saying, ‘Enough is enough’ to the burgeoning $18 trillion federal debt.  We are the first in the nation to call for an Article V constitutional convention of states to rein in out-of-control Washington spending.” The Amendment now awaits Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.

Added Rep. Andy Welch, “We are excited to be passing the torch to the governor so he can fulfill his role in leading the Compact and we look forward to governors around the country banding together to balance our federal budget.”

The Compact for a Balanced Budget uses an agreement among the states called an “interstate compact” to invoke Article V of the United States Constitution in order to advance a federal balanced budget amendment. Once the Compact is passed in just two states, it will trigger the organization of a governmental body to coordinate Compact efforts throughout the country, creating a persistent institution with one objective: to pass a federal balanced budget amendment within seven years.

“This innovative reform is the sheet music that orchestrates a symphony of state motions and federal responses, folding hundreds of legislative steps into one simple, laser-focused piece of legislation,” said Nick Dranias, Goldwater Institute Constitutional Policy Director who led the drafting of the Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment.

The Compact approach transforms the otherwise cumbersome state-initiated amendment process under Article V into a “turn-key” operation, empowering the states to agree in advance to all elements of the amendment process that states control under Article V in a single enactment that can be passed in a single session. Thirty-eight states would need to pass the Compact in order to approve the proposed balanced budget amendment, which could in turn by approved by a simple-majority congressional resolution.

Previous attempts at state-initiated balanced budget amendment conventions have encountered roadblocks amongst those who fear the possibility of a “runaway convention,” the scenario in which other key provisions of the U.S. Constitution could be repealed or additional provisions could be added. The Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment addresses this concern by compelling all member state delegates to follow convention rules that limit the convention agenda to an up or down vote of the balanced budget amendment and to return home if those rules fail to hold.

“I am proud that Georgia has led the way in helping to restore fiscal responsibility to our nation,” said co-sponsor Sen. Hunter Hill, echoing Rep. Rakestraw’s sentiments. “I look forward to other states joining us in this effort.”

Georgia is just one state where the Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment is moving ahead. The Arizona House passed an identical measure last week and will be considered by a state senate committee Thursday. In Alaska, house members will consider the reform this week. Additional states are expected to take up the reform this year.

To schedule an interview with Rep. Rakestraw, please contact Lauren Talley at (404) 656-0177.

Representative Paulette Rakestraw represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees.

Legislative Update — March 7, 2014

Greetings from the Capitol!

Monday, March 3rd marked the 30th legislative day of the 2014 session.  Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical point in the session is the last chance for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated.  After Crossover Day, all legislation passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa.  Any bill that has not been passed by either the House or Senate by the end of this day will have little chance of becoming law this year.  Due to this deadline, my colleagues and I in the House worked long hours on Monday to ensure that many important pieces of legislation were considered by the Georgia House.

One of the bills passed by the House on Crossover Day was House Bill 885, which would increase treatment options for children suffering from seizure disorders.  HB 885 would tightly restrict and regulate the distribution of cannabidiol, an oil-based derivative of the cannabis plant.  The derivative would only be available through medical trial at one of five Georgia academic research centers and prescribed by medical doctors.  The treatment has been used to successfully control seizure disorders for children in Colorado, and I hope that it can now give hope to families in Georgia.

Also passed on Crossover Day were bills designed to promote economic development in Georgia.  One such bill was House Bill 960, which aims to speed up the development of the Atlanta BeltLine project by enabling the private sector to help finance and build the transit project.  The BeltLine is a proposed 22 mile bike path and light rail system that will circle Atlanta.  It has been recognized by businesses all over the world for improving transportation and promoting a healthy lifestyle for Atlantans.  It is the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta and among the largest urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States. I am proud that the Georgia House was able to adopt measures that will speed up this project.  I look forward to the Atlanta BeltLine bringing jobs and increased transportation options to the City of Atlanta.

Another economic development bill that was passed was House Bill 958.  One measure in this legislation establishes August 1-2, 2014 as a tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers.  Not only does this tax break provide financial relief for parents, it also encourages shoppers to do business in the state of Georgia.  Other measures in the bill give job-creating tax incentives to video game developers and developers of big, regionally important projects.

Finally on Crossover Day, we voted on legislation that would create new monuments at the State Capitol.  House Bill 702 would place a monument of the 10 Commandments, U.S. Constitution, and Georgia Constitution at the State Capitol to celebrate the ideals and values that these documents represent.  Similarly, House Bill 1080 would place a monument of Martin Luther King Jr. at the State Capitol in honor of his significant role in the history of Georgia and America. Many Georgians come to the State Capitol to tour and learn about the history of our state, and these two monuments will be great additions to our Capitol grounds.

After Crossover Day, we began reviewing and voting on Senate Bills.  One of those bills, Senate Bill 23, aims to speed up action in reported missing person cases.  The bill prohibits Georgia law enforcement agencies from establishing a “minimum waiting period” before they act on a missing person report.  The legislation defines a “medically endangered person” and adds these individuals to the provisions of the Mattie’s Call Act. Mattie’s Call is a law enforcement initiated alert system that is used to locate missing elderly or disabled persons.

Meanwhile, our colleagues in the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2015 budget this week.  The full fiscal year budget uses a projected state revenue estimate to guide state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year. The Senate passed a slightly different version of House Bill 744 than we previously passed in the House, and it will now move to a House and Senate Conference Committee to work out a final spending plan to submit for a final vote of the full legislature.

In addition to passing bills last week, we also received some news related to the deepening of the Port of Savannah.  The Obama Administration’s 2015 fiscal year budget request was released, and it only appropriated $1.62 million for pre-construction, not the construction funds the state was expecting.  This news was disappointing, as we have been expecting $400 million from the federal government to be designated to the project over the next few years.  So far, Georgia alone has reserved $231 million to go towards the port, and we are planning for another $35 million this year.  Even through tough budgetary years, Georgia has remained committed to appropriating funds to the deepening of the Port of Savannah.  I’m disappointed that the federal government is not doing the same.  Not only will the port bring business and prosperity to Georgia, it will also improve import and export opportunities for the entire nation.  Understanding the importance of this project, Governor Deal announced plans to move forward with the project despite this setback.  The governor is exploring several options, including bonds and public-private partnerships. I support Governor Deal’s decision to move forward; deepening the port will allow our state to accommodate bigger ships and help boost our economy tremendously.

As we think through tough issues in the last days of session, I hope that you will contact me to express your ideas and opinions.  I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation.  If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

Best regards,

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw


– See more at: http://paulettehouserep.com/news/#sthash.Ok5c2QSW.dpuf



Legislative Update — February 28, 2014

Greetings from the Capitol!

The seventh week of the 2014 legislative session began on Monday, February 24, 2014.  This was a busy and important few days, as it was the last week for bills to pass out of committees, since “Crossover Day” is scheduled for Monday, March 3.   Crossover Day is the deadline in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly’s two chambers.  With this date looming, we spent long hours at the State Capitol to ensure important pieces of legislation were either passed on the House floor or ready for a vote on Crossover Day.

Many of the bills passed during this crucial week were related to education and the welfare of our children.  One such bill was House Bill 826, which provides local school systems with more flexibility in handling violations of school safety zones.  Under HB 823, schools would no longer be forced to expel students who are caught with items like a fishing knife or a baseball bat in their cars on school campuses.  Currently, if a student is found on a school campus with these items in their vehicle, they are automatically suspended and charged with a felony. In these cases under this bill, local school systems will now be able to issue lesser penalties if they have no reason to believe that the student intended to use the object as a weapon.  Granting local school systems the authority to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis will help prevent a student’s record and reputation from being tarnished with an offense that was actually an innocent mistake.

In addition to HB 826, which protects our children from unjust punishment, we also passed House Bill 804 to protect children from the psychological trauma that can result from testifying in court about cases of abuse.  Testifying before a court is an intimidating task, especially for a young child, and having to face an abuser can be even scarier.  HB 804 provides young victims with another option.  The bill allows them to testify remotely via live broadcast if the court agrees that testifying before the accused would cause serious physical or emotional distress for the victim.  Not only will this measure ease discomfort for victims, but it might also eliminate one of the barriers that prevents them from coming forward about their abuse.

We also passed a child welfare measure last week that would that would help prevent child abuse, but also track cases in the event of abuse.  Last week, we passed House Bill 923 to help ensure that cases of child abuse are treated with the seriousness that they warrant.  HB 923 increases public access to government records that relate to deceased children who had at some point come into contact with the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).  The bill also updates the Child Fatality Review Board, which is responsible for examining DFCS cases that involve death.  It is our hope that this increased transparency and review, combined with an increase in DFCS employees, will ensure Georgia is doing everything possible to protect children from abuse.

In addition to passing these pieces of legislation aimed at protecting Georgia’s children, we also passed House Bill 549 to protect our state’s natural resources, such as our waterways and wildlife. This bill will help our state better prepare for a water pollution emergency, like the one recently experienced by West Virginia and the Ogeechee River Fish Kill in Georgia a few years ago.  HB 549 establishes a state water pollution emergency response plan.  The bill requires that the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) maintain an emergency response program to handle critical threats and pollution to our state’s water resources.  The bill also requires appropriate and timely responses to emergencies that threaten the state’s waterways.  Additionally, HB 549 requires that the EPD use proper public notification and coordination between the state and local communities to protect the health of Georgia’s citizens during emergencies and keep them informed.  I am proud that our state has taken these steps to protect our state’s citizens as well as the aquatic wildlife that live along our waterways.

Another important bill passed last week was House Bill 459. This bill will help decrease our motorists’ stress on Georgia’s highways.  HB 459 aims to encourage drivers to avoid driving in the passing lane for long periods of time.  Under HB 459, any driver on a divided highway who does not move to the right when a car going faster approaches them from behind could face a misdemeanor.  We hope that this legislation will remind everyone that the left lane on a highway is intended to be used for passing and cut down on cases of road rage in our state.

In addition to passing legislation last week, we also took some time to recognize a great Georgian and Olympian, Elana Meyers.  Elana, who hails from Douglasville, recently returned from Sochi, Russia, where she won a silver medal in the women’s bobsledding competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  This was Elana’s second time at the Winter Olympic Games, after she won bronze in Vancouver in 2010.  I am proud that Georgia had such talented representation at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and it was an honor to meet such a distinguished Georgian.

As we begin voting on more bills and resolutions every day, I encourage you to contact me at the Georgia State Capitol with your thoughts and opinions.  I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation.   If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Georgia House Passes Compact for a Balanced Budget Sponsored by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw

State Representative Paulette Rakestraw(R-HD19)) announced the passage of House Bill 794 on Friday, February 21. Sponsored by Rep. Rakestraw, HB 794 proposes to amend the United States Constitution by adding a balanced budget requirement.

“I would like to see Georgia lead efforts around the nation to add this critical amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Rep. Rakestraw. “Doing so would enforce a policy of fiscal responsibility and ensure our federal government uses our tax dollars wisely. Runaway spending will cause a debt-fueled calamity in our great nation if we don’t stop it. This measure is critical for the prosperity of our citizens and our republic.”
The bill proposes to enter the state of Georgia into a compact with other states as part of an effort to require the federal government to balance its budget. This compact will bind all participating states with the agreed-upon compact in an effort to prevent what many fear could be a “run-away convention.” The compact actually proposes the amendment to the Constitution, specifically establishing the U.S. government’s spending limits as well as the level of its outstanding debt. Congress cannot authorize an increase in debt without approval from the states. The compact also raises the necessary approval threshold for a general revenue tax to a two-thirds vote of each chamber. It also has provisions for withdrawal, as well as the creation of a Compact Commission which will lobby states to join the compact.

Rep. Rakestraw has worked with the Goldwater Institute to draft the bill for Georgia. Goldwater Institute constitutional policy expert Nick Dranias said, “We are proud of Georgia’s state representatives for passing this historic measure, one that supports the concept of states working together to improve the performance of the federal government. The Compact for a Balanced Budget enables citizens to attack our $17.4 trillion federal debt, something that federal legislators and bureaucrats have proven unwilling to do, despite the ominous implications it has for future generations.”

Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides states with the right to make amendments to the U.S. Constitution by means of a constitutional convention. In order for a constitutional convention to be called, at least two-thirds, or 34 states, must petition on the same subject. Twenty states have already filed petitions on the subject of a balanced budget amendment.

Representative Paulette Rakestraw represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees.

Leadership Paulding Visits State Capitol

State Representatives Paulette Rakestraw (R-HD19) and Howard Maxwell (R-HD17) recently welcomed members of Leadership Paulding to the State Capitol.

“It was an honor and a privilege to visit with members from Leadership Paulding,” said Rep. Rakestraw. “These dedicated leaders have all made outstanding contributions to our great county.”

Sponsored by the Paulding Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Paulding is a nine-month program that provides a diverse group of existing and emerging leaders with a unique opportunity to experience many of the challenges facing Paulding. In addition to leadership training and development, the program provides a behind-the-scenes look into the following areas: Government, Education, Power, Growth and Development, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Regional Issues.

Representative Paulette Rakestraw represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Science and Technology. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees.

Gov. Deal with Leadership PauldingFirst row: Darlene Pendley, Mayes Ward Dobbins Funeral Home; Christine Mullinax, Cobb EMC; Dave Carmichael, Commissioner Paulding County Board Post 1; Mary Carol Sheffield, Paulding County Extension Office; Brian Bozarth, Raker Construction; Danita Elrod, Elrod Garden Center; Governor Nathan Deal; Representative Rakestraw; State Representative Kimberly Alexander; Junie Walton, Paulding County Airport Authority; Samantha Glass, All Print Marketing & Media Solutions, LLC; Sara Tonsmeire, Woodland Hills Golf Course; Mary Ann Phipps, Paulding County Fire Department; and Stephanie Hubbell, Chattahoochee Technical College.

Second row: Derrick Vincent, JACOBS Engineering; Kelly Meyer, Croft & Associates; Kelley Garner, Indigo Falls Events; State Representative Howard Maxwell; Robbie Rokovitz, City of Hiram; Richard Cole,istrict; and Ashley Henson, Paulding County Sheriff Department.


Legislative Update — February 21, 2014

The snow and ice melted from Winter Storm Pax, and we returned to Capitol Hill on Monday, February 17, 2014.  This was the sixth week of the 2014 legislative session and a very important one.  In that week, we passed the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, as well as many other significant pieces of legislation.

House Bill 744, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, is an initial guide for all state spending to occur from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.  The budget was set by a revenue estimate of $20.8 billion, a 4.6 percent increase from the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.  Nearly 72 percent of the new revenue is budgeted for K-12 and higher education expenses.  These funds, totaling $916 million, will help finance enrollment growth, increase opportunities for technical education, and distribute more dollars to local school systems in hopes of eliminating furlough days and raising salaries for teachers.  New revenue will also provide for an increase in salaries for correctional officers, additional child protective service workers and an extension of the Planning for Healthy Babies program, which helps prevent babies from being born at a low birth weight.

While we set education as our top priority in the budget, we also passed legislation to increase educational opportunities for Georgians.  House Bill 697 creates a Zell Miller grant scholar designation to cover 100 percent of tuition for those students who maintain a 3.5 GPA or above in Georgia’s technical colleges.  Since 2011, the last time HOPE provided a full scholarship to these students, technical college enrollment has declined by 20 percent.  HB 697 will help address this decline, bringing students back to school, so they can gain the skills needed to join the workforce.  This legislation also helps close a technical skill-gap, making Georgia more attractive to those businesses that are looking for skilled labor.

In addition to passing legislation to improve educational opportunities, we also passed several pieces of legislation to protect Georgians’ constitutional rights.  One such measure was House Bill 875, a comprehensive bill that expands Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens.   Under HB 875, Georgia Weapons Carry license holders would gain broader access to those government buildings that do not provide active security at entrances.  HB 875 also allows veterans under the age of 21 who have been honorably discharged from service to receive a weapons carry license.  Furthermore, it eliminates the re-fingerprinting requirement for weapons carry license renewals, prohibits the creation of a database of license holders and lessens the penalty for license holders who carry on college campuses.  In addition, HB 875 prevents the confiscation of weapons or ammunition by the state, which is currently legal in the event of a state of emergency declaration by the governor.

Private property rights are also expanded by HB 875.  Measures in the legislation enable property owners to decide on the prohibition or permit of weapons at churches and bars. Additionally, HB 875 gives school boards the opportunity and choice to arm employees under their well-thought-out guidelines and supervision.

While we want to protect the Second Amendment rights of responsible citizens, we also want to try to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.   As a result, HB 875 includes measures to improve mental health regulations for Georgia Weapons Carry license applicants.  Under HB 875, licenses would be denied to any person who has been deemed “mentally incompetent to stand trial” or any person who is been deemed “not guilty by reason of insanity” at the time of the trial.  The bill also ensures that these individuals are reported within 10 days to the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC), so that probate judges can use GCIC to check the accuracy of every application form.

In addition to the Second Amendment, another imperative part of the U.S. Constitution is Article V.  Article V allows states to call a constitutional convention so that they can make amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Under Article V, a constitutional convention may be called if at least two-thirds, or 34 states, petition on the same subject.  This week the Georgia House passed a series of bills and resolutions to call for a constitutional convention that would focus on adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.   Those pieces of legislation that were passed in the House this week were: House Bill 794, Senate Resolution 371, House Resolution 1215, and Senate Bill 206.  Since SB 371 has now passed both the House and Senate, Georgia will now become the 21st state to pass legislation calling for a convention of this purpose.  As a lawmaker that has worked to balance Georgia’s state budget year after year, I believe that Congress should be doing the same with our national budget.  Adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution would help control America’s growing debt and make the nation’s economic future more secure for our children and grandchildren.

In addition to conducting legislative business last week, we also took some time to honor Jim Chavers, the last surviving member of the 4th Marine Division that fought in Iwo Jima.  Considered one of the deadliest battles of World War II, the Invasion of Iwo Jima began on February 19, 1945 and lasted until March 26, 1945.  Chavers was one of only 60 survivors from his company of 250.  After his time in the Marines, Chavers served as a customs inspector for the U.S. Customs Service for 33 years.  It was a privilege to meet such an outstanding Georgian as Jim Chavers.  I am inspired by his dedication and commitment to this great country.

With less than a month left in the 2014 legislative session, if you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Legislative Update — February 14, 2014

Greetings from the Capitol!

Monday, February 10, 2014, marked the 20th day and half-way point of the 2014 legislative session.  With only 20 days left to pass laws this year, we quickly got to work, voting on legislation and reviewing bills in committee.  Unfortunately, our week was cut short by snow and ice that came with Winter Storm Pax.  Despite the inclement weather, we were able to conduct business on Monday and Tuesday of last week.

House Bill 773 was one of the many bills passed on the floor during the first part of the week. This bill, aimed at improving public safety, would make it unlawful for anyone to unjustly discharge a gun or pistol on or within 50 yards of a public highway or street.  This bill excludes anyone who is firing a gun at indoor/outdoor shooting ranges, firearm safety course facilities sponsored by a government entity, and any business that is licensed as a firearm dealer. Also excluded is anyone who is legally hunting within 50 yards of a public highway or street. We hope that this measure will keep Georgia drivers and pedestrians safe while traveling on our state roadways.

Another measure taken up this week, HB 877, modernizes the code for golf carts on public paths and roadways, making Georgia a model for all states.  HB 877 sets rules of the road for those cities that have not already established their own golf cart laws.  It also maintains local power for those cities, such as Peachtree City, which already have well-established traffic laws for these vehicles. Georgia hosts the two leading manufacturers for golf carts, producing a total of 90% of golf carts in the world, and I’m proud that HB 877 makes our state an example for other states to follow in their use of motorized carts and personal transportation vehicles.

Additionally, our full Appropriations Committee met on Tuesday, and passed the Fiscal Year 15 (FY15) budget out of the Committee. This budget runs from July 1, 2014 until June 30, 2015. Now, we will wait for the FY15 budget, House Bill 744, to be placed on the Rules calendar where it will then be voted on in the House Chamber.

Although the snow and ice disrupted legislative business for the second half of the week, I was proud to witness Georgia’s response to Winter Storm Pax.  Immediately after the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for Georgia, Governor Deal put emergency response agencies on alert.  Department of Transportation crews pre-treated roads well in advance of the snow, and school districts closed schools so that children would be kept off of the icy roads.  As the storm drew closer, Governor Deal declared a state of emergency for affected counties and released government employees before the temperatures dropped below freezing.  I commend Governor Deal, state agency heads, and all emergency response employees for taking the appropriate steps for preparedness through these challenging weather conditions.

Now that the weather has improved, we will get back to work under the Gold Dome.  We recently passed an adjournment resolution, which calls for the 2014 legislative session to conclude on March 20.  We would love to hear your input on any bills that come before the House.  If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Best regards,

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw


Legislative Update — February 7, 2014

Greetings from the Capitol!

Last week, Winter Storm Leon brought snow and ice to many parts of our great state.  Leon’s impact on the metro Atlanta area was particularly harsh.  Schools, government, and private businesses, who originally believed the bulk of the storm would hit further South, all released their students and employees onto the highways on Tuesday when the snow began to fall.  The combination of icy roads and high volumes of traffic produced gridlock that forced many motorists to be stuck in hours-long traffic jams.  The Georgia National Guard, Georgia Department of Transportation, and state troopers quickly got to work to help stranded motorists find shelter and clear the roads of ice, snow and abandoned vehicles.  We were pleased to see that many Georgians reached out to those in need with a true spirit of Southern hospitality.  Given the conditions, the House postponed all legislative business on Wednesday, January 29 and Thursday, January 30.  This action helped ensure the safety of all Members and staff of the Georgia General Assembly, and also kept the roads clear of unnecessary traffic, so that GDOT could get our roads back up and running.

Despite Mother Nature’s disruption, we were able return to the House on Friday, January 31.  One of our first orders of business was the passage of House Bill 176, the “Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development Act,” which could result in better cell phone service for Georgians.  This legislation would allow previously approved wireless support structures and wireless facilities to be modified without additional zoning or land use review beyond what is typically required by the local governing authority that issues electrical permits. House Bill 176 would streamline the permitting process for companies investing in wireless infrastructure, which would ultimately allow wireless telecommunication companies to increase the cellular bandwidth for Georgians.  Increased cellular bandwidth is not only crucial for business and recreational communication, but it is also an essential factor in public safety and emergency response.  For example, when thousands of motorists were stuck on the roads last week, many were unable to call their families and friends because phone lines were jammed.  Increased bandwidth would have allowed those motorists to more quickly communicate, so they could make those important phone calls.  HB 176 will now go to the Senate for consideration.

Also passed on Friday was House Bill 715, which clarifies the acreage of land permitted for development on Jekyll Island.  This bill states that the Jekyll Island Authority cannot convert more than 1,675 acres of the total land area of the island into developed land.  Additionally, HB 715 designates 12 acres for the expansion of an existing campground, 46 acres for public health, safety or recreation, and 20 acres for unrestricted use, which could be used for future commercial development.  Setting these standards for development will ensure that Jekyll Island remains a place of rest, relaxation and recreation for the thousands of Georgians who vacation there each year.

Senate Bill 297 was another piece of legislation that passed the House on Friday.  This bill made a technical change to an elections bill that passed in 2013.  It gives candidates for municipal or county office the option to waive campaign finance disclosure requirements if that candidate intends to accept or expend less than $2,500 on their campaign.  This bill will also cut unnecessary government regulations, so that citizens can more easily run for local office in their county or city.

In addition to passing these pieces of legislation this week, we also took time to recognize some of our brave Georgians in uniform.  On Monday, January 27, we celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in the House.  Dozens of airmen and soldiers visited the State Capitol, and we recognized their accomplishments on the House floor with House Resolution 1131.  We also had the great privilege to Skype with troops who are currently deployed in Afghanistan.  It was an honor to show our appreciation to these incredible heroes.  We are so grateful for their selfless actions both abroad and at home.

As the 2014 legislative session moves into its fourth week, we will be discussing and voting on more pieces of legislation.  We would love to hear your input on any bills that come before the House.  If you reside within District 19, and have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Lauren Talley in State Representative Paulette Rakestraw’s Office, 404-656-0177.

Best regards,
Rep. Paulette Rakestraw

Representative Rakestraw Leads Georgia Sponsorship of the Compact for a Balanced Budget

State Representative Paulette Rakestraw (R-HD19) this week introduced House Bill 794, a bill that would enable Georgia to join with other states, including Arizona, Arkansas, and Alaska, in the Compact for a Balanced Budget. The Compact is an agreement among the participating states to invoke Article V of the U.S. Constitution to advance a powerful balanced budget amendment. Rep. Rakestraw is working closely with Rep. Andrew Welch (R-HD110), the Goldwater Institute, and Georgia legislative colleagues including Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-HD54), Rep. Josh Clark (R-HD98), Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-HD27), Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-HD115), and many others.

The Compact for a Balanced Budget is an innovative approach. It uses a binding agreement among the states to advance and ratify constitutional amendments, such as a balanced budget amendment, with the entire Article V convention process — including delegate appointments and convention rules — fully specified and safeguarded. Additional compacts, advancing many of the Liberty Amendments and other reform ideas that have supermajority support among the American people, will follow.

Rep. Rakestraw said, “This will be a breakthrough for the American people, as finally we will have the means to improve the financial health of our nation and stop the runaway spending in Washington. This forces Washington to live under a balanced budget like 49 of the 50 states do and like everyone else in American does.  Moreover, it limits Washington’s ability to raise the debt ceiling. This puts a structure in place that will incent lawmakers to cut spending first and raise taxes last to balance the budget, unless Washington chooses to move us to fairer, flatter tax model.”

She added, “I’d like to thank my co-sponsors of this important bill, especially Andy Welch, who has done great work in preparing this bill to go before the Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee. “

House Bill 794 now awaits a hearing and a vote by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, in Room 132 at the Capitol. Georgia could play a historic role in bringing fiscal reform to Washington because the first state to adopt the Compact will have the right to designate the convention Chair.

Rep. Rakestraw, Paulding County’s first female legislator, represents the citizens of District 19 in Paulding County.  She was elected to the House of Representatives as the Vice Chair for the Science and Technology committee and serves on the Special Committee for Small Business and Job Creation, Special Rules, Juvenile Justice, and Economic Development Committees. Follow Rep. Rakestraw’s legislative activities here.