2018 Legislative Session Week Two
During the second week of the 2018 legislative session on Tuesday, January 16, my House colleagues and I convened for legislative Day Five and legislative Day Six of the session, and also began one of our most significant annual undertakings, the state budget process. The process begins with the joint House and Senate Appropriations committees’ review of Governor Nathan Deal’s budget recommendations.
Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget
Because of our state’s exceptional recent economic development, Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget is the largest budget our General Assembly has ever been presented with. Georgia has become an economic national leader, and Gov. Deal’s proposal hopes to contribute even further to our state’s financial success. The General Assembly also heard testimonies from various state agency heads as they expressed their fiscal needs, which our final budget will supply with state funding.
Once these proposals are reviewed by the House Appropriations subcommittees, each respective subcommittee will pass portions of the state budget to the full House Appropriations Committee, which will then examine and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.
- Transportation – Georgia’s transportation network is a significant factor in the future and continued success of our state’s economy. Gov. Deal’s FY 2019 budget recommends more than $1.9 billion in annual, transportation infrastructure funding, as well as an additional $100 million for bridge repair and replacement. In the governor’s Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget proposal, he also allocates more than $25 million to runway expansion in both urban and rural areas of our state.
- Education – Both Governor Deal and his wife, First Lady Sandra Deal, have a passion for education and our state’s school system. Gov. Deal’s AFY 2018 budget includes $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth and $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program. For the governor’s FY 2019 budget proposal, he allocates $30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts and adds $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training and experience for Georgia teachers. An allocated $1.8 million would go towards the the REACH Georgia Scholarship program, which would allow the program to disburse an additional 226 statewide scholarships and expand into 44 new school districts. An additional $361.7 million was also proposed for our state’s Teachers Retirement System, which would fully fund Georgia’s employer contribution.
- Healthcare – Since our state’s $240 million investment in behavioral health, Georgia has seen a significant decline in individuals civilly committed to behavioral health hospitals. The governor seeks to improve this number even further with his proposal of $15 million to funding Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to the construction of supportive housing. Gov. Deal’s also recommends to contribute to the Children’s Autism Initiative with $3.5 million in the AFY 2018 budget and almost $7 million in FY 2019 budget. Per recommendation of the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, other recommendations to the FY 2019 budget include: $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education, and opioid prevention and treatment.
- Criminal Justice – Gov. Deal has worked diligently to make his criminal justice reform initiatives successful, and they received additional funding in his budget proposal. Georgia’s accountability court system is one of these initiatives, and it gives low-level, non-violent offenders sentencing alternatives; for example, rehabilitative services are offered as a substitute. A total of $113.9 million has been allotted to these statewide courts since 2012, and the FY 2019 budget includes an additional $5 million.
- Other Highlights – Additional proposals include: funding for Georgia’s child welfare services, including $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization; $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates; $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates; $256 million for Medicaid expense growth to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.
Our colleagues in the Senate also passed House Bill 159 and added House Bill 359 during this week’s session.
- HB 159 – This bill will update Georgia’s adoption laws. No modernizations have made in nearly 30 years on this subject, so this bill was passed unanimously and successfully.
- HB 359 – This bill was vetoed by Gov. Deal last year, and it concerns temporary powers of attorney.
Gov. Deal’s Major Announcements
- State of Emergency Issue – Gov. Deal issued a state of emergency for 83 of Georgia’s central and northern counties impacted by winter weather on Wednesday, January 17. Because of this winter storm, our budget hearings were rescheduled and the House and Senate meetings were postponed to Thursday afternoon; however, the storm could not hinder our legislative duty, and we remained dedicated to finishing our work.
- Amazon’s Short List – Our assembly has long anticipated the release of Amazon’s short list of Top 20 finalists for the company’s second headquarters, and Gov. Deal announced Atlanta’s placement on that list on Thursday morning. As one of the top states in which to do business, Georgia has a strong advantage over other states in this site selection process, and I look forward to seeing the final outcome.
Our legislative session will reconvene on Monday, January 22. I hope that my session updates will continue to help you stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole. The House website has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.
If you ever find yourself in Atlanta during 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.