2018 Legislative Session Week Five
My colleagues and I remained hard at work during our fifth week of the 2018 legislative session, as we are only a few weeks away from “Cross Over Day.” This week, we passed House Bill 683, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget, which is arguably the most important legislative piece we will pass during our entire session.
Highlights of the AFY 2018 Budget
Passed with a vote of 167-8, HB 683 sets the AFY 2018 budget to $25.3 billion. This budget seeks to obtain growth in education, healthcare/human services, and key initiatives recommended by the House Rural Development Council (RDC). Now that it is being reviewed by the Senate, we can shift our focus to the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.
- Education – Some of the AFY 2018 budget’s largest investments are in education. They include the following:
- $102.1 million for enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students, charter system grants, and State Commission Charter School supplements
- $15.5 million to purchase 200 new school buses for school systems statewide
- $400,000 to establish a leadership academy for principals across the state
- $10.7 million to meet the needs of 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students
- $10 million for the Board of Regents to cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University
- $8.1 million in lottery funds to keep up with the growing demand for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships
- $75,000 to plan for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations, as recommend by the RDC
- Health and Human Services – The following investments were set aside for health and human services appropriations:
- $1 million to fund an electronic visit verification system for home and community-based services
- $1.25 million for crisis services, $1.1 million to develop capacity for behavioral health services, and $128,292 in existing funds for telehealth services in allocations for autism
- Funding for a program coordinator position in the Department of Community Health and for a program support coordinator in the Department of Public Health to provide behavioral health services to children under 21 who are diagnosed with autism
- $15.1 million for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system
- $100,000 for a statewide medical fair to recruit employees in rural areas
- $75,000 for the Office of Rural Health to identify a postsecondary institution within our state to house the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability
- $1 million for more behavioral health crisis stabilization beds
- Natural Disasters & Other Critical Needs – Georgia was impacted by several natural disasters this year. The following appropriations were made for those critical needs:
- $10 million to the OneGeorgia Authority to fund beach nourishment projects in communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irma
- $10 million to replenish Gov. Deal’s emergency fund
- $3 million to purchase equipment to prevent and combat wildfires
For other needs of our state:
- $25.2 million to lengthen rural runways to accommodate larger aircrafts in an effort to increase economic development and investment in the Georgia’s rural communities
- $5 million for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to implement the statewide criminal justice e-filing initiative
- $500,000 for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purchase supplies needed to process DNA sexual assault kits
- House Bill 700 – Unanimously passed, this bill would improve the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan program by expanding their coverage to the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members. These loans are currently only available for undergraduate degree programs; by expanding the program to the graduate level, the program will receive 50 additional individuals annually. These loans will not exceed the cost of tuition, and recipients would be expected to remain in good standing with the National Guard, as well as commit themselves to two years of service upon graduation.
- House Bill 669 – Currently, all firefighters must complete a basic training course within one year of their hire date. HB 699 would eliminate this necessity for former members of the armed forces, including the United States Coast Guard, Georgia National Guard, or Georgia Air National Guard.
- House Bill 701 – Georgia is currently facing a destructive opioid epidemic. This bill was overwhelmingly passed in an effort to fight this crisis, and it would allow opioid testing for all state employment drug testing, with the exception of those with valid and legal opioid prescription.
- House Bill 655 – In an effort to stop child abuse, HB 655 would require public, local, and state charter schools to post signs with the toll-free phone number of the child abuse hotline operated by the Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Human Services.
- House Bill 159 (Update) – My colleagues and I have been anticipating the passing of HB 159, and the Senate finally did so on Monday, February 5. After nearly two-and-a-half years of refinement by State Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), this bill will ultimately bring thousands of children to their forever homes more quickly and more productively. Now that the bill has been passed by the General Assembly, it will make its way to Gov. Deal’s desk for final approval.
My colleagues and I continue to work diligently as we draw nearer to the halfway mark of our 40-day session. I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.