Wednesday, the Senate and I honored Brittany, Bremen Wal-Mart representatives (including security and manager Patrick Eller), local public safety officers and Georgia State Patrol SFC Wade Chaffin with special Senate Resolutions for playing a vital role in apprehending the man who attempted to kidnap Brittany.
Brittany's story of her tenacity in fighting her way to freedom after a stranger grabbed her at the Bremen Wal-Mart is a message all youngsters need to hear. Brittany's school, Tallapoosa Primary, was also commended for teaching the "Stranger Danger Program" along with the Bremen and Tallapoosa Police Departments for their efforts in arresting the attacker.
The Stranger Danger Awareness Program creates an interactive educational experience which successfully teaches children how to be "street smart" with strangers and provides tips regarding Internet safety.
The program, adapted from guidelines provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, teaches children to always shout and attempt to get away if a stranger tries to take them. Brittany's older brother gave her similar advice just a few days before the attempted abduction.
While the topic of abduction and abuse is a hard one to discuss with your children, it is a necessary one. No one wants to imagine the "what could have been" scenario that could have played out had Brittany not been taught what to do in a situation such as this.
As legislators, we will continue to do everything in our power to pass laws that protect children and see that those who seek to prey on and abuse our youth are forced to pay severe consequences. By passing laws that protect our youth, we are sending a loud and clear message that these criminals are not welcome in the state of Georgia.
This week, the General Assembly continued to work diligently on the budget for both the amended FY 2012 budget and the FY 2013 budget. On Monday, we passed the amended FY 2012 budget in a unanimous vote, fulfilling our Constitutional requirement to balance the state budget before the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The amount of total state funds appropriated for FY 2012 is $18.5 billion. With approval in both Houses, the FY 2012 budget is on its way to the Governor's desk for final approval.
Now we are focused on the task of making final adjustments to the House's version of the FY 2013 budget which should receive approval by the Senate on Wednesday, March 21. Any differences between the House and Senate versions will be worked out in Conference Committee and will require the approval of both bodies prior to the close of the Legislative Session. As we move toward a successful resolution, I will continue to work with my colleagues to prioritize the needs of all Georgians, paying close attention to those of the 31st Senate District.
Currently, I am tracking three bills that I authored as they move through the House Committee process: The "In God We Trust" Bill (SB 293), The Foundational Documents Bill (SB 424), and The Knife Rights Bill (SB 432). After these bills move successfully through the House Committee process, they will have the opportunity to be heard and debated on the House floor. After legislation receives approval from both the House and Senate, it must then receive the Governor's approval before becoming law. If there is specific legislation that you are interested in tracking during the remaining weeks of session, you can access bill information at www.legis.ga.gov.
During the next two weeks, I will continue to hear important legislation from the House that has passed into the Senate Finance Committee. I am optimistic that we will see continued progress toward statewide tax reform in the next few weeks. As an important facet of our Majority Caucus agenda, we pledged to continue our dedication toward positive, lasting tax reform for all Georgians. It is vital that we work toward a state income tax system which creates job growth, brings economic development to our state and returns valuable tax dollars to hardworking Georgians. Tax reform is a priority that we must continue to invest in during these last few weeks of session.
It is a great honor to serve as your voice at the State Capitol during this historic session. The next few weeks we will see substantial growth in our workload as we set our sights on ensuring that only the best legislation makes it to the Governor's desk before the Legislative Session concludes on the 40th day. Your questions and comments remain as important to me as ever as we work to make our state the best that it can be for future generations of Georgians.