Legislative Session Dragging Along
Some Capitol observers are speculating that this highly unusual legislative session could last well into the spring as both the Democrats and the Republicans entrench.  It took a month and a half for the session to reach its halfway mark, day 20.  The legislature is planning on convening for only three days during the first week of March and then they plan to take a several week recess to tackle the state budget.  Both parties are desperately studying the budget to find ways to make up for the revenue shortfall by reducing spending rather than through raising taxes.

The legislative archives office reports that last year?s session which lasted until April 2, 2002 was the longest continuous legislative session since 1885.  It appears that this year?s assembly will far outlast last year?s mark.    
Influence on the Rise: A Feature Column in Georgia Politics
Representative Bob Holmes is a rising star within his own Democratic Party, the Georgia House of Representatives and in the state as a whole.  Holmes, an academic, is the Director of the Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy and a Professor of Political Science at Clark Atlanta University.  In 2002 Holmes was re-elected to his 15th term as a State Representative from the 48th District which covers Atlanta and the adjoining southern metropolitan suburbs.  A former public school administrator, Holmes was recently picked by Speaker Coleman to take over the Chairmanship of the House Education Committee.  Previously Holmes had been the Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee.  

Holmes, an African American and former Chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, has given a cool response to Governor Perdue?s education reform measures.  Perdue is seeking to dismantle many of the reforms put in place by his Democratic predecessor.  Holmes has indicated that he is upset that the Governor did not consult with any Democrats about his plans, claiming that they have ?not been thought through.?  When asked about the Governor?s reform measures as a whole, Holmes said, ?We may not have time to do all of it, (but) there may be a few things in there we can reach a consensus on.?

Reece & Associates expects Representative Holmes? influence and popularity to continue to grow during this time of transition and uncertainty because this level headed lawmaker holds the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.  
Legislative Session Reaches Halfway Mark: Freshmen Lawmakers Trying to Find Their Way
As the legislative session reached its halfway point this week, Reece & Associates wants to share with you the perspective of freshmen legislators on their first few weeks in what one such rookie terms the ?fishbowl.?  Both freshmen and veterans alike are reeling at the slow pace of this legislative session.  The unprecedented changes in the leadership within state government have caused the transition pains to drag on long into the session.

The freshmen are not completely unhappy with the slow pace at the Capitol.  The pace has allowed them extra time to learn.  One freshman noted that the battle over the budget has the legislature really ?locked up as neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want to blink.?  

A freshmen legislator might expect to have a hard time getting to know his or her colleagues, but they are surprised to find that almost everyone is extremely helpful on both sides of the aisle.  Freshmen are finding that it is important to be on good terms with everyone at the Capitol because ?today?s enemy may just be tomorrow?s friend.?  

Another legislator reports that his biggest concern is amending the state?s predatory lending law which in its current form is preventing his constituents from acquiring a home loan.  He is hopeful that the House will follow the Senate?s lead and pass a bill altering this law.  When asked about the potential of working into April, this legislator feels that his constituents would rather have him working longer to know that the General Assembly is working more deliberately to ensure that they ?get it done right.?

A Freshmen Republican had only complementary things to say about the leader of his body, Democratic Speaker Terry Coleman.  He noted that he is ?impressed? with Coleman for bringing respect to the body and running it efficiently.

Senate Redraws Congressional Map
The Republican controlled Senate is attempting to redraw Georgia?s Congressional and Senatorial districts.  The Democrats say that the new districts are designed to elect more Republicans, the GOP says that they are trying to reconnect communities that are split by the current apportionment which was put in place by the Democrats.  The Republicans have been angry about the current maps ever since they were redrawn at the bequest of the democratically controlled legislature and Governor Barnes over the past two years.  The Republicans are apparently taking advantage of their newfound strength to try to reverse those decisions.  

Anti-Abortion Bill Set to Pass Senate
A bill to restrict abortions in Georgia known by its supporters as the Woman?s Right to Know Act is set to pass the Republican controlled Senate.  The bill would delay an abortion 24 hours after a woman seeks one and would mandate that the doctor give certain information about the physical and emotional risks involved.  The doctor would also be required to give a woman a color brochure of a developing fetus and show her the approximate age of the fetus she is carrying.  Upon the measure?s passage it will go to the House where it will likely face strong opposition from the Democratically controlled body.  
Reece & Associates Hosts Dinners to Honor the Governor?s Administration Floor Leader Senator Bill Stephens and House Insurance Committee Chair Jimmy Lord
Reece & Associates hosted local officials from Senator Bill Stephen?s home district at a dinner in his honor at the home of Wayne Reece.  Joining the officials from Pickens County and the City of Jasper for an enjoyable evening was State Representative Jeff Lewis.    

In a separate affair, Reece & Associates hosted a dinner to honor the House of Representatives Insurance Committee Chairman Jimmy Lord.  Most of the members of his committee joined to honor his twelve-year tenure as the body?s leader.  
Books for Georgia?s School Libraries
Reece & Associates has uncovered a crisis looming in Georgia?s public school libraries.  Several studies have been conducted that prove students at schools with better-funded libraries tend to achieve higher average reading scores.  This holds true whether the schools and communities are rich or poor and whether adults in their community are well or poorly educated.  School libraries in Georgia receive most of their funds to buy books from the state.  Usually the state allocates approximately $19.00 (less than the average cost of one book) per student.  Last year many agencies and departments felt the constraints of the state budget, but children were among the hardest hit.  Instead of receiving $19.00 per student, libraries only received $9.00 per student.  Due to the budgetary climate, they may get even less this year.  

To explore the possibility of creating partnerships between Georgia?s public schools and the private sector in an effort to increase the number of books and other resources available to Georgia?s students, Reece & Associates is hosting a roundtable discussion to explore this issue with principals, media specialists, Department of Education officials and corporate representatives on Tuesday, March 4, 2003.  If you are interested in participating, please contact Wayne Reece.        

Email Wayne Reece