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Funding HOPE still legislative priority

Legislative update

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POSTED: February 9, 2011 10:24 a.m.

The Georgia General Assembly is sprinting to complete the work that is essential to our state within the 40-day legislative session, as required by our Constitution.
The passage of the budget is required every session. For the past several years, balancing the budget has become increasingly difficult due to the state’s decreasing revenues. The solution is to reduce the size of our government.
Session days are followed by numerous committee meetings as legislation makes its way through. On Thursday, we completed the 10th day of the session. There were no bills debated in the House this week and much of the discussion was centered around saving the HOPE Scholarship, which was passed by the legislature 20 years ago this week.
Bills that have been filed are being read on the House floor and making their way through the committee process, which is why no bill debates hit the House floor this week.
On Thursday, the House adopted a resolution honoring the life, work and dedication of a Rep. Tony Sellier, who passed away several months ago.
Also this week, we spent a lot of time attending budget hearings and committee meetings.
The HOPE Scholarship program and finding ways to fund education are concerns we’ve heard from educators, parents and students around the state. This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Georgia Legislature’s approval of a state lottery to help fund education. Shortly thereafter, it was approved by voters.
HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally and we want to continue to do just that. With the economic downturn, which we have all experienced, lottery-generated funding has declined. Now we’re grappling with the fact that the HOPE Scholarship costs more than lottery earnings bring
in.
Most legislators agree that this program has been effective and should be saved. It sets Georgia apart from other states and allows us to invest in our young students’ futures by promoting education. The HOPE Scholarship helps to support subsidized pre-K programs and also funds college tuition for students who maintain at least a “B” average. It is a useful program that must be reworked.
As the economy and circumstances change, sometimes programs must be modified to suit a situation. The original intent of the HOPE Scholarship was to create educational opportunities and we must modify the program in order to save it. Changes to the program should be expected this session and our goal will continue to be investing in education and the future of our students.
The members of the General Assembly continued their work at the State Capitol on Monday — the session’s 11th day. I will continue to keep all of you informed throughout the 2011 legislative session. It is an honor to serve you in the Georgia General Assembly.
Please do not hesitate to let me know your opinions or thoughts on issues that concern you. If you would like to reach me, call 404-656-5099, write to me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov.

 

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