At first sight, a 51-4 vote appears to indicate that this piece of legislation had great support. I, however, was one of the four Senators who voted against this measure. Prior to the vote, I offered an Amendment to the bill that would prohibit members of the Georgia State Bar from serving in the General Assembly. I introduced this amendment to make an important point about the separation of powers in our state.
Often, my constituents ask me why there are so many lawyers down at the Capitol. They walk the halls as lobbyists and as legislators but rarely do they recuse themselves during votes that affect our judicial system. Meanwhile, legislators of other occupations are careful not to vote on an issue that may affect their professional career or pocketbooks.
Our nation stands on three firm, independent branches of government: the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches. It only seems right that if we limit the composition of the Judicial branch to only those in the legal field, they should be prohibited from serving in one of the two other independent branches of government, such as the General Assembly. This bill makes me uncomfortable. It just seems too easy to skew the lines that we've created to ensure a fair and just separation of powers.
I immediately withdrew my amendment to this bill, simply because it is against the Georgia Constitution to prohibit this group from being elected to the General Assembly. In order to prohibit them, we would have to amend our constitution and I am not willing to do that. However, I would not let the opportunity pass me by to let my colleagues know just where I and many of my constituents stand on the issue. As the Senator proudly representing the 31st District, I give you my word that I will always be a strong voice for my constituents even when the vote is outnumbered 51 to 4.
One piece of legislation that I co-sponsored this week included Senate Resolution 20 - titled the "Taxpayer Protection Act of 2011." This proposed Constitutional Amendment would limit how many tax dollars the state of Georgia can spend in any given year.
Senate Resolution 20 would restrict the state from spending any money in excess of the previous year's budget, adjusted for inflation and population. Any additional revenue beyond the spending limitations would be required to go into the Rainy Day fund until it reaches a point of 15% of the previous year's spending. Once the Rainy Day Fund is at 15%, additional revenue would be used to slowly phase-out the state income tax.
Controlling state spending is one of the very best steps we can take to help grow Georgia's economy. This measure will assure taxpayers that our budget will remain under control and our Rainy Day Fund is properly maintained. We must protect the interests of taxpayers. The Taxpayer Protection Act will protect future generations of Georgians from government growing too large.
Next week we will have the third meeting of the Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. As co-chair of this vital committee, I am sincerely dedicated to achieving revenue neutrality and implementing tax reform which benefits all Georgians. I encourage you to follow along with the committee's work online.
As always, I am honored to serve the constituents of the 31st District. I encourage you to contact me with questions or suggestions you may have regarding any legislation being debated in the Georgia General Assembly.