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A message from the desk of Rep. Jim Cole (week of Feb. 9)

Dear Friend, As we move further into the legislative session, the General Assembly seems to build momentum. Just a few weeks ago, we were getting sworn in and receiving our committee assignments. Then, the committee process started and we began studying proposed legislation. Finally, we are starting to see the fruits of our work. This week we voted on several pieces of legislation, including one bill affecting the HOPE Scholarship and Grant program. We also heard from the Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice and learned of a newly proposed state-wide transportation plan. The HOPE program has more than 200,000 recipients this year. Thanks to lottery funding, each of these students attending a public university or technical college receives tuition and money for books and mandatory student fees. However, under existing guidelines, this could change within the next two years. If lottery revenues fall only $1 in a year, HOPE would be forced to cut book payments in half. If lottery revenues drop an additional $1 the following year, book payments would be cut completely. For these reasons, I was happy to help pass a bill that will change this guideline. A few weeks ago, the General Assembly heard Governor Perdue’s State of the State address. This week, we heard the State of the Judiciary, from Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears. During her speech, Chief Justice Sears reminded us that government cannot do everything, especially in tough economic times like these. However, the state of Georgia has a duty to administer justice under the law. Fortunately, this is an area where our state has excelled. According to a recent national study, Georgia has the most productive Supreme Court in the country and Georgia’s drug courts have been cited as model courts for the nation. Ask nearly anyone in Georgia, and they will tell you that everyone has transportation needs. Whether you’re in Atlanta, Savannah, or any town in-between, transportation affects your quality of life. Solving these problems isn’t just about building new roads or widening lanes in one or two cities; it is about allowing families to spend more time together instead of sitting in traffic. A state-wide problem requires a state-wide solution. That is why Rep. Vance Smith, Jr. introduced a statewide plan for transportation. The Georgia 20/20 Statewide Transportation Act will allow Georgians to vote on a ten year 1% state-wide transportation sales tax that would expire at the end of year 2020. The great thing about this plan is it allows Georgians to choose whether or not to tax themselves. Last Friday, the House and Senate agreed on a revised schedule for the General Assembly. This will result in the General Assembly concluding the first 35 days of the legislative session for this year on March 25. The General Assembly will then hold the final five days of the legislative session in case we need to further address the budget situation. I believe that this is a wise decision because our revenues for last month were down 14.3 % from last year. Now that the legislative session is in full force and our daily calendar fills with upcoming votes, it is more important than ever that I hear your opinions. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I will keep you informed through weekly updates. Your opinions and concerns are important to me and I consider it an honor to serve you. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at my Capitol office @404-651-7737 or via e-mail

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