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A message from the desk of Rep. Jim Cole

Dear Friend, It is hard to believe that we are already a quarter of the way through this year’s legislative session. Much has happened over the last ten legislative days, but much more remains to be done. We have already begun our committee meetings and started the processes necessary to pass the legislation needed in our community as well as the enitre state. In fact, this week we passed our first House Bill of the 2009 session. We also questioned the Georgia Department of Agriculture about the recent Salmonella outbreak caused by a peanut processing plant in Blakely, GA. As you may know, peanut based products are being blamed for giving Salmonella Typhimurium to more than 500 people. Testing by officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have enabled the FDA to confirm that the outbreak was caused by the Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) Blakely, Georgia processing plant. This has led to a massive international recall of all PCA bulk containers of peanut butter ranging in size from 5 to 1,700 pounds. Please be aware that these recalled products are not sold directly to consumers. The major national brands of jarred peanut butter that we buy at the grocery stores are not affected by this recall. For a complete list of recalled products, please visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/. In light of this recall, it is important for everyone to know that this outbreak was caused by a manufacturing problem, not an agriculture problem. Georgia crops are safe and should not be blamed for making people sick. Due to the economic crisis Georgia is facing, Governor Perdue made the decision to withhold the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant (HTRG) this fiscal year. The legislature, having committed to fund the program, passed HB 143 on Day 10 of the legislative session. This bill commits the General Assembly to fully fund the HTRG program for the current fiscal year. It also puts provisions in place for funding the grant in future years. In tough times such as these, we must all work together to find solutions to our problems. It is my hope that HB 143 will finally provide transparency to a tax system that is sorely needed. On a lighter note, my fellow members of the House and I put our personal college football loyalties aside and recognized Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, the ACC Coach of the Year, and Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC Player of the Year. Every good college football fan should be able to put pride aside and congratulate someone on a job well done – even if they are a rival. Over the next 30 legislative days we will make the tough decisions necessary to pass a balanced budget. I hope that we will also be able to improve education, create a statewide trauma network, and expand our transportation infrastructure. These are the issues that I believe to be the most important for Georgia and its future. 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 jmalcolmcole@hotmail.com.

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