Governor Perdue dismisses Agency Heads
Governor Sonny Perdue has accepted the resignation of Yvonne McBride the Director of the Governor?s Office of Highway Safety, Gary McConnell Director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), Cathey W. Steinberg, Consumer?s Insurance Advocate and Helen Scholes, Executive Director of the Georgia Building Authority.  

The GEMA position has already been filled by Mike Sherberger a former Assistant Director with the agency.  The other positions remain vacant while the Governor seeks replacements.
Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce Takes Position on Flag
Governor Perdue?s call for a statewide referendum on the state flag was sharply criticized by the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce this week.  Perdue?s proposal would give Georgia voters an opportunity to choose to have the Confederate battle emblem prominently displayed on the state?s banner.  The business community is fearful of a divisive debate which is likely to accompany Perdue?s proposed referendum.  

Arthur Blank, who had been working with the Governor and the business community to defuse the contentious issue, announced that his efforts had been met with only ?limited results.?  Blank and the Metro Chamber had previously endorsed Perdue?s referendum changed  their position to oppose any vote that includes the old state flag with the Confederate battle emblem.  
Tobacco Tax is Moving
Governor Perdue has proposed one way to help dig Georgia out of its financial hole is by raising the state?s tax on tobacco.  Perdue?s bill would raise cigarette taxes forty-six cents per pack.  The tax would reportedly raise $348 million to help close the estimated $620 million revenue shortfall.  The bill was passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee this week and it may reach the House floor for a vote by early next week.

The tax may dramatically effect the number of smokers in the state where 24.3% of teens and 23.6% of adults are reported to smoke.  Studies have indicated that for every 10 cent increase in the price of cigarettes there is a corresponding 6% drop in youth smoking.  Several states that have passed similar large increases in cigarette taxes have seen their rates of tobacco consumption fall up to 26%.  
Hybrids in HOV lanes
A bill introduced by Representative Stephanie Stuckey-Benfield is aimed at permitting hybrid-fueled vehicles to travel in Georgia?s HOV lanes with a sole occupant.  The bill would tie the Georgia policy to federal action on the matter.  Currently federal regulation does not grant hybrids an HOV exemption but several Washington lawmakers are keen on making the necessary change.  

The Atlanta Journal Constitution filed an article supportive of hybrid-fueled vehicles and Representative Stuckey-Belfield?s bill.  The bill remains in subcommittee, but the bill?s author is hopeful that it will soon move to the full committee and to the House floor.  

To read the Atlanta Journal Constitution news article about Georgia HOV lanes and hybrid vehicles go to:
Influence on the Rise: A Feature Column in Georgia Politics--Representative Stephanie Stuckey-Benfield
Representative Stephanie Stuckey-Benfield was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1998.  Her DeKalb County District includes Avondale Estates, Candle Park, Emory University, and parts of Decatur, Druid Hills, Tucker and Northlake.

Stephanie graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts degree and Juris Doctorate.  While not working at the state capitol, Stephanie practices family law in her Decatur firm, Stuckey & Manheimer.    In the General Assembly, Stephanie has authored and passed the Gender Equity in Sports Act.  She has also worked extensively on reforming Georgia?s child custody laws.  

Representative Stuckey is a tireless advocate in support of making Atlanta a more livable city by improving the environment.  She is a strong proponent of public transit and MARTA in order to improve air quality in the metro area.  In this session she has introduced a bill to support hybrid vehicles which run on a combination of electricity and gasoline and pollute up to 1/10 the amount of other passenger vehicles.  The bill would allow hybrids to travel in the state?s HOV lanes with a sole occupant.  (See related story above.)  

Reece & Associates has recognized Representative Stuckey-Benfield ability to accomplish many goals simultaneously while at the same time completing each in an exemplary manner.  We believe that Stephanie is a rising star in the Georgia House and has a bright political future ahead.
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