We returned to the Gold Dome on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to begin our seventh week of session. On Friday, Feb. 17, we were given some exciting news for the future of Georgia’s economy. Governor Deal announced that Caterpillar Inc. would bring over 1,400 jobs to Georgia with the construction of a new manufacturing plant in Athens. In addition to these jobs at the new plant, Caterpillar’s suppliers and increased retail sales are expected to create another 2,800 jobs. The announcement proves that Georgia is an internationally competitive market, as Caterpillar will actually relocate Japanese production of small excavators and backhoes to the new Georgia plant.
I was encouraged to see this positive news after all the work my colleagues and I have put into restoring Georgia’s economy and promoting job creation. Last year, we started the process of implementing meaningful tax reform that would encourage small business growth and investment. While we continue to work on tax reform, this year we are also working to eliminate unnecessary government regulations through the Red Tape Watch initiative. This initiative allows us to hear directly from small business owners from across the state, which helps us identify burdensome and unnecessary government regulations that prevent Georgia small businesses from thriving. Through these combined efforts, I am confident that many more businesses will follow Caterpillar in moving production to Georgia.
In attracting businesses to Georgia, we must also ensure our children are prepared to become the next generation of exceptional workers. That is why innovative schools, like charter schools that specialize in science and math, are so important to our state’s education system. Unfortunately, the future of some state-sponsored charter schools was threatened last summer when the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that local school systems have exclusive power over public education. This week we made great steps towards protecting existing state-sponsored charter schools and allowing for greater school choice, by passing House Resolution 1162.
HR 1162 is a constitutional amendment that will allow the state to approve charter schools when requested by parents. However, HR 1162 does not allow the state to use local school board funds for state created charter schools.
Not only does HR 1162 ensure that existing state-sponsored charter schools can keep their doors open, but it also clarifies our constitution so that we maintain a system of checks and balances in state policies regarding education. While local school boards play a crucial role in providing public education, the state has a responsibility to protect its “educated workforce brand” so that businesses know that starting operations in Georgia will give them a pool of employees that are competent, qualified and prepared to start work on day one. Because HR 1162 is a constitutional amendment, it must now receive approval from two-thirds of the Senate and the signature of Gov. Deal, before being placed on the ballot for approval from voters. If that happens, you and all other Georgia voters will have the final say on whether HR 1162 should be added to our state constitution.
Also, I am proud to let you know that the Georgia House approved House Bill 879, legislation that improves safety for diabetic students by requiring public schools to have personnel who are trained to care for diabetic students. Now that we have passed this bill, it must receive approval from the Senate and Gov. Deal before becoming law.
In addition to passing legislation this week, we also took time to recognize the brave Georgians in uniform who protect our great state and nation. Wednesday, Feb. 22, was Georgia National Guard Day. On this day, we honored the sacrifice of our 45 fallen heroes who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and welcomed their families to the capitol. We also recognized our current National Guard troops who serve and protect us. It was an honor to recognize these incredible solders and airmen at the State Capitol. We are forever grateful for the sacrifices that they have made for our freedom.
As we move into the second half of the 2012 legislative session, we will continue to hear from more small businesses and review more legislation. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at my Capitol Office at 404-656-0177 or via email at email@example.com. You may also leave a comment by going to my legislative Facebook page: State Rep. Paulette Braddock (R-19). To sign up for the legislative newsletter go to www.paulettehouserep.com/contact.html.
If you would like to schedule a visit at the Capitol, please contact Marsha Barnes at 404-656-0177.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
State Rep. Paulette Braddock, R-Hiram