Eighteen-Day Recess To Study A Difficult Budget
Right when the General Assembly appeared to be picking up and moving out of the gridlock that had set in after the unprecedented changes in its organization and leadership, the body has decided to take a two-week break.  The recess will be used by lawmakers to probe into the State?s budget to look for ways to make up for the revenue shortfall by cutting spending rather than by increasing taxes.  The House leadership is telling its members that the target adjournment date for this year?s session is April 18, 2003.  
Contentious Predatory Lending Debate Concludes and Goes to Governor
On Tuesday, March 4, 2003, the House of Representatives approved a substitute to Senate Bill 53 intended to help get the state?s mortgage industry back on track by fixing a predatory lending bill that was passed in the 2002 session.  Three credit-rating agencies announced last month that they would no longer rate securities containing Georgia home loans.  The bill is intended to limit the liability companies face in hopes of gaining the confidence of the lenders.  On Thursday the Republican controlled Senate quickly approved the substitute bill as amended by the Democratically controlled House because it was less consumer protectionist than their original bill.  

The House Democrats had been starkly divided over the measure, which provided for a spirited debate. Even the usually solid Democratic Black Caucus was not united on the issue.  The measure now goes to the Governor?s desk for his signature.  
State Flag Compromise in the Works
Several Republicans in the General Assembly are searching for a compromise that would allow the citizens of Georgia to vote on their state flag while bowing to pressure from the business community who do not want such a vote to include the option of the Confederate battle emblem.  Many options have been floated in recent weeks, including the possibility of an up or down vote on a flag that resembles the pre-1956 emblem.    The Governor is staying noticeably quiet on the issue.  He apparently is trying to defer the controversy that he stirred up in his campaign onto the legislature.  
Additional Names Dropped in Senate Contest
This week it was reported that House Minority Leader, Lynn Westmoreland has been asked by several colleagues to challenge fellow Republican, U.S. Congressmen Johnny Isakson for the Senate seat being vacated by Zell Miller.  Westmoreland, would represent a much more conservative agenda then Isakson, who is seen as a more moderate Republican candidate.  Westmoreland will reportedly wait until after the legislative session adjourns before seriously considering the run.

Also considering a possible campaign is Democrat and Mercer University President Kirby Godsey.
Influence on the Rise: A Feature Column in Georgia Politics-- Senator Michael S. Meyer von Bremen
Senator Michael S. Meyer von Bremen is the Senate Minority Leader, having been elected to the State Senate in 1998.  He represents the 12th Senatorial District which includes Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Randall and Terrell counties, and parts of Dougherty, Lee and Mitchell counties.  He is a member of the Senate Appropriations, Natural Resources, Ethics, Special Judiciary and Rules Committees.  When not working at the Capitol, Meyer von Bremen works as a partner in the law firm of Hall, Booth, Smith and Slover, PC.  Senator Meyer von Bremen?s father was a German immigrant and his mother is originally from South Georgia.  The Senator reportedly speaks quite good German.      

Senator Meyer von Bremen is a tireless advocate for Indigent Defense Reform.  An indigent person is someone who is unable, ?without undue hardship,? to hire an attorney or pay for the costs of legal representation.   In this year?s session he has co-authored a bill with Senator Chuck Clay (R-Marietta) to create a statewide Georgia Indigent Defense Board responsible for providing representation consistent with constitutionally approved standards.  The Senate passed the bill that replaces 159 inadequate county legal systems with 49 appointed circuit public defenders, who would be overseen by a newly created 15-member state board. The bill is now awaiting to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

Many observers have mentioned Senator Meyer von Bremen as an attractive statewide electoral candidate for the future.    
Georgia?s SAT Scores Rank Dead Last in the Country: Reece & Associates Leads Discussion about Lack of Resources in Public Schools
Georgia Ranks at the bottom of the fifty states in the performance of its students on the SAT.  In 2002 the average of Georgia?s students taking the test was 980 which is the exact same average as the previous year.  The national average was 1020.  

Several studies have proven that one of the most effective ways to raise test scores and educational levels is by encouraging children to read.  According to studies done in Alaska, Pennsylvania and Colorado, students in schools with appropriate and sufficient library collections tend to perform significantly better on standardized tests.  In fact, the Colorado study found that state test scores for students in elementary schools with updated libraries were up to 14 percent higher than for students at schools with older collections.

Reece & Associates hosted a Special Roundtable Discussion to explore the problem and begin to evaluate some statewide solutions.  Among those participating were media specialists, educators, state school officials and members of the corporate community.  It was discovered that Georgia?s public schools are far behind in the resources they have available to their students.  In this budgetary climate it is likely that the funding for the necessary tools, such as books and media equipment, will be cut even further.  Several Atlanta based corporations participated in the discussion and expressed an eagerness to lend their resources to help Georgia?s school libraries.  Reece & Associates will keep you posted on the progress of this initiative and make you aware of ways to get involved.  

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