ATLANTA— State Representative Andy Welch (R-McDonough) today announced the final passage of Senate Resolution 7 and Senate Bill 8 by the House and Senate last week. This legislation would establish a Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission and toughen the fines and penalties against sex traffickers.
“As a sponsor of similar legislation in the House this session, HB 244 and HR 223, I am extremely pleased to see Senate Bill 8 and its accompanying resolution pass both chambers and now head to Governor Deal for his consideration,” said Rep. Welch. “I would like to thank my Senate colleague, and the sponsor of SB 8 and SR 7, Senator Renee Unterman, for her work on this legislation to ensure its passage. Unfortunately, human tracking is a very real problem in our state, and especially in the metro Atlanta area, and as legislators, it is our duty to combat these horrific crimes and offenses and protect the victims in any way possible.”
Senate Bill 8 establishes the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission and creates a separate fund in the state treasury called the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund. The 8 member commission may allow money from the fund to be disbursed for the purposes of providing rehabilitative and social services to sexually exploited children. The commission may recommend to the Governor and General Assembly changes in programs, laws, budgets, etc. relating to the care and rehabilitation of sexually exploited children, changes to improve conditions among agencies that provide care to such children, and changes to improve the condition of such children who are in need of rehabilitative and social services.
SB 8 also requires the imposition of an additional penalty of $2,500.00 in any case where a fine has been imposed on a defendant who is over the age of 18 for trafficking a person for sexual servitude. The additional fines are allocated to the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund. This legislation also requires that those convicted of trafficking to register on the State Sexual Offender Registry.
Under SB 8, the Department of Human Services is required to develop a plan for delivering services to sexually exploited children, trafficking victims, and children or persons at risk for becoming victims. The plan must identify children who need services, provide assistance with applying for government benefits and services, coordinate the delivery of services, prepare materials to increase awareness of such services, develop and maintain community based services, provide assistance with family reunification or repatriation to a country of origin, and assist law enforcement officers with identifying children in need of such services.
Senate Resolution 7 is the companion constitutional amendment for SB 8 which dedicates the funding derived from penalties and fees on the adult entertainment industry to provide for rehabilitative services for minors who have been trafficked for sexual servitude.
SR 7 and SB 8 will now go to Governor Deal for his consideration.
For more information on SR 7, please click here.
For more information on SB 8, please click here.
Representative Andrew Welch represents the citizens of District 110, which includes portions of Butts, Henry, and Newton Counties. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Vice Chairman on the Code Revisions Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Economic Development. He also serves on the Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Regulated Industries committees.
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We returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, March 23, 2015. We had a full schedule last week, meeting every day to continually review legislation. We also convened on the House floor every day to continue voting on bills that have been passed through the committee process. Here are some of the bills we discussed this week.
- Senate Resolution 287– This bill would allow Georgians to vote on the creation of an “Opportunity School District” (OSD) in the state of Georgia. SR 287, and its companion legislation, SB 133, were originally proposed by Governor Nathan Deal as part of his comprehensive plan to boost student achievement and create more educational opportunities for Georgia students. In November 2016, Georgia voters will have the opportunity to vote on this measure, which would allow the state to step in and intervene in chronically failing public schools. If approved by Georgia voters, this district would assume all operational and managerial responsibility for failing public elementary and secondary schools. The constitutional amendment would appear on the November 2016 general election ballot and require support from a majority of voters. This means that you will eventually have a chance to decide if the Opportunity School District model should be practiced here in Georgia. In making that choice, I hope that you will study the Opportunity School Districts that have been implemented in other states. You will see that these programs have a proven history of success in expanding educational success and opportunities for all students.
- SB 133-This enabling legislation will establish the Opportunity School District upon ratification of the constitutional amendment set forth by SR 287. The Opportunity School District will provide oversight to schools that are defined as persistently failing, or as scoring below 60 on the College and Career Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years. The CCRPI is the Georgia Department of Education’s official measurement of accountability.
The jurisdiction of the school district would fall under the control of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and the Opportunity School District superintendent would be appointed by the Governor and subject to Senate confirmation. The superintendent would be charged with developing operational procedures for the Opportunity School District and providing an annual report of progress and operations to the Georgia General Assembly.
In order to ensure areas needing improvement are addressed appropriately, the Opportunity School District would only select 20 affiliated in any single academic year, and the total number of selected schools would not exceed a total of 100 schools at any given time. Schools would remain a part of the Opportunity School District for at least five years, but not more than 10 years. The process for school selection would include opportunities for parent and community feedback through public hearings, but final selection is at the sole discretion of the Opportunity School District superintendent. Finally, before a school’s oversight is transferred to the Opportunity School District, the superintendent must meet with the administration to discuss the school’s evaluation and options for improvement. By creating an Opportunity School District in Georgia through this process, we could give every child in this state the quality education they deserve.
- Senate Bill 2-This bill, which passed unanimously, would allow local boards of education to award high school diplomas to students who have completed 9th and 10th grade requirements, and are dually enrolled in qualified post-secondary educational programs. The bill would require:
- The student complete state required 9th and 10th grade courses in the core subjects of English, math, science, and social studies, as well as one health and physical education class.
- Test scores associated with the courses must meet the required scores by the postsecondary institution.
- A completion of either an associate degree program, a technical college diploma program, or at least two technical college certificates of credit programs in one specific career pathway.
Also this week, we passed legislation designed to further protect the animals that support our men and women in uniform.
- Senate Bill 72, also known as “Tanja’s Law,” revises the penalties for harming a law enforcement animal in the performance of its duties by creating tiers of offenses based on the offender’s actions. Previously, a person intentionally causing serious or debilitating injury was automatically guilty of a felony. SB 72 clarifies the crime into four separate tiers, so that an individual may be charged according to the severity of his or her crime. This bill makes the harming of a law enforcement animal a high and aggravated misdemeanor with fines ranging between $5,000 and $50,000 with accompanying prison terms ranging from 12 months to 5 years. In addition, the offender must pay restitution to cover the necessary costs of veterinary treatment or the full cost of replacing the animal and its handlers. These animals often times put their own lives at risk for our officers, and SB 72 will allow justice to be served.
- Senate Bill 134-This bill also takes measures to ensure justice is delivered fairly to the citizens of this state. SB 134 attempts to provide certain checks and balances for Georgia law enforcement by closing a loophole in Georgia’s anti speed trap law. Under current law, drivers can fight tickets in speed traps if the law enforcement agency derives more than 40% of their budget from speeding fines; however, current law has an exception that does not count tickets for speeding more than 17 miles per hour above the limit. SB 134 eliminates an exclusion of tickets written for speeds 20 mph over the limit so that citizens can more easily challenge tickets from speed traps. While speeding is a dangerous offense, law enforcement agencies should not create speed traps to generate their revenue.
This was also a very important week in the Senate, as our colleagues across the hall passed the following bills:
- House Bill 1 would decriminalize the use of medical cannabis oil in Georgia in an effort to improve the lives of hundreds of Georgians. After the Senate passage of HB 1, Governor Deal issued an executive order instructing state agencies to prepare for the implementation of this legislation and stated that he would sign HB 1 into law soon. HB 1 will provide immunity for the possession of cannabis oil for individuals with certain medical conditions who have obtained cannabis oil legally in another state. Qualifying conditions under HB 1 include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Seizure disorders
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Mitochondrial disease
- Sickle cell disease.
Now that this legislation has been passed by both chambers, it will soon be signed into law by Governor Deal, and Georgia’s medical refugees can come back home to Georgia. I was proud to see the House and Senate chambers work together and come to a compromise to pass legislation that will help a great number of Georgians.
- A compromise on Senate Bill 1 to address the growing number of children with autism in Georgia. In a press conference held on Thursday, House Insurance Chairman Richard Smith (R-Columbus) and Senate Insurance and Labor Chairman Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton) revealed a two-pronged plan that will allow dozens of Georgia children to receive necessary treatment for autism. First, the plan includes legislation that requires insurance companies to cover autism treatment for children 6 years of age or younger. The measure, includes language from Senate Bill 1 and will be added to House Bill 429 and most likely voted upon next week. The second element to the House and Senate compromise is a new piece of legislation that will be considered during the 2016 legislative session. This bill would create a November 2016 referendum, so that voters could decide on a fractional state sales tax that would fund autism treatment for all children under the age of 18. Between these two measures, I am hopeful that we can begin to address the growing autism epidemic.
Finally, during this busy week, we passed a series of resolutions creating study committees to review various issues affecting our state. House Resolutions 612, 743, and 744 establish House study committees to discuss fibroids education and awareness; annexation, deannexation, and incorporation; and the use of drones. All of these committees will meet throughout the remainder of the year, so that they can prepare any necessary legislation for the 2016 legislative session. Although the 2015 legislative session will soon be ending, these committees are a testament to the work that we will be doing during the interim months.
Next week is the final week of the 2015 legislative session. On Thursday we will adjourn “Sine Die,” which is Latin for “without assigning a day for further meeting.” In this crucial last week, I hope that you will contact me with your questions and concerns. Your comments help guide my decisions at the Georgia State Capitol, and I always enjoy speaking with you. You can reach me at my state capitol office at 404-656-0213 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
- House Bill 131 (or The End to Cyberbullying Act)- This bill strives to provide our children with a safer, healthier learning environment by expanding public school policies on anti-bullying to include any bullying that occurs over the internet, also known as “cyberbullying.” HB 131, would prohibit bullying through the use of technological equipment such as cell phones, wireless communication devices, computers, email, instant messaging, etc. The End to Cyber-bullying Act would apply to any case of cyberbullying, regardless of whether the act originated on school property, using school equipment, or off campus through personal cell phones and social media websites. With the popularity and increased use of technology, this legislation is necessary to address a common problem among our youth. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 43% of teens were victims of cyberbullying last year, and another study found that cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to those who had not experienced it. Because cyberbullying has such a profound impact on the happiness and health of our students, it is necessary that we take precautions to combat this detrimental act
- House Bill 17 (or the Hidden Predator Act)- A bill aimed at reforming the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims. Under current Georgia law, a child sex abuse victim may only bring action against his or her abuser within five years after the victim turns 18 years old. Current law also bars the victim or their guardian from accessing police and other investigation records in which the victim is the subject of a reported child sexual abuse investigation. HB 17 would provide a 30 year extension to the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims. The legislation would also allow for a retroactive “window” that would provide a two-year time frame for sexual abuse victims, whose civil claims were blocked by the statute of limitations in the past, to file a case against their perpetrator. Additionally, the legislation would amend current Georgia law to allow victims, or their legal guardians, to access police and other investigation records. Not only will HB 17 ensure that justice is served, but it will also help law enforcement officers catch predators.
- House Bill 225– This legislation ensures proper licensing requirements for drivers in app-based ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, which utilize a digital network to connect passengers to rideshare drivers as a form of for-hire transportation. HB 225 is aimed at addressing public safety concerns by creating oversight and putting these rideshare services under the same regulations as taxis and limousines. Unlike rideshare drivers, traditional taxi and limo drivers must go through a state issued background check with fingerprinting to obtain a “chauffeur endorsement,” which indicates that the driver is authorized to operate a vehicle to transport passengers for pay. HB 225 clarifies this discrepancy by requiring rideshare drivers to secure similar “for-hire license endorsements,” and go through background checks. These ride share companies would be permitted to conduct their own background checks and will be subject to state audit. The legislation also requires the companies to obtain the same levels of liability insurance as taxi and limo drivers and either pay state sales taxes or an annual fee for each car in its network. I feel confident that HB 225 strikes a great balance of ensuring public safety, while also supporting an environment that is conducive for popular, innovative ride sharing businesses.
- House Bill 48– This bill honors our brave men and women in uniform by allowing law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders who have sustained a major injury on the job to receive special license plates. Currently special license plates are also available to the family members of fallen service members, and HB 48 extends that privilege to brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Another measure in HB 48 allows disabled veterans to receive free license plates for cars or motorcycles. These heroes and their families make enormous sacrifices for our country, and I am glad that HB 48 provides them with this extra recognition
- House Bill 110– This legislation will legalize the sale of fireworks in the state of Georgia. Currently fireworks are sold in four of our five neighboring states, but Georgia businesses are currently only allowed to sell sparklers. These restrictions lead many Georgians to drive across state lines to buy their fireworks. HB 110 opens the profitable firework market to Georgia business owners, allowing more dollars to stay at home and creating new jobs as these stores open. The money from firework sales will not only boost local economies, but it will also generate new tax revenue. If approved by the Senate and Governor Deal, I look forward to seeing the positive economic impact of HB 110.
Monday, February 23 marked the half-way point of the 2015 legislative session. Among the bills passed this week was one of the most crucial pieces of legislation of the session, the Fiscal Year 2016 (FY 2016) budget. The Fiscal Year 2016 budget is the only piece of legislation that the General Assembly is required to pass, according to the Georgia Constitution. The 2016 budget, or House Bill 76, is the initial guide for all state spending from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. This year’s budget was set by a revenue estimate of $21.7 billion, a 4.5% increase from the Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
With the increase in state revenue, the House was able to fund a number of priorities in the FY 2016 budget including:
- Enhanced funding for education
- Maintaining State Health Benefit Plan coverage for non-certificated school employees
- Support for Georgia’s rural hospitals
Of the new revenue in the FY 2016 budget, 60% of those funds are budgeted for K-12 education expenses. K-12 education funds, totaling $571.9 million. This will help:
- Fully fund enrollment growth
- Allow for additional training for teachers
- Provide charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements
- Increase opportunities for agricultural and career/technical education
- Distribute more dollars to local school systems in hopes of eliminating furlough days and raising salaries for teachers
Additionally, the House version of the budget takes a strong stance on continuing the State Health Benefit Plan coverage for non-certificated school workers and includes additional funds to continue coverage for these valuable school workers.
Just as transportation has been a major topic under the Gold Dome, funding for state transportation projects was also set as a key priority in the FY 2016 budget. HB 76 includes an infusion of $55 million in state dollars and $210 million in bonds to improve our roads, rail, airports, bridges and cargo. This appropriation includes
- $3.9 million in prior-year funds
- $2 million to match federal funds for traffic management and control projects
- $9.6 million for the State Road and Tollway Authority, with $7.6 million specifically dedicated to funding projects through the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank
- $17.1 million in debt service for $200 million in bonds for bridge repair and rehabilitation and transit projects statewide
Maintaining and repairing our roads and bridges is vital to every part of our state, and it is our duty to ensure that our roadways continue to be safe for Georgia drivers.
The FY 2016 budget also funds a variety of health initiatives. HB 76 includes
- $3 million to improve the financial health of struggling and closing hospitals in rural Georgia to leverage technology to improve patient outcomes
- $250,000 start-up grant for a community health center in Wheeler County
- $50,000 to support the Georgia Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Additional investments were also made in our future doctors, with:
- An increase in funds for both Mercer and Morehouse Schools of Medicine
- Funding for 11 additional primary care residency slots
- The establishment of a rural clinical rotation for primary care students in Sandersville
- $200,000 to revive a rural dentistry program that provides debt relief with a service commitment to practice in a rural or under-served area.
With these dollars, we hope to not only prepare a future generation of doctors, but to also address the shortage of health care in rural areas. The Fiscal Year 2016 budget, HB 76, will now go to the Senate for their review and consideration.
In addition to passing the FY 2016 budget, my colleagues and I passed an extremely valuable measure to improve the quality of life for Georgia’s children and adults. HB 1 was passed overwhelmingly in the House and would decriminalize the possession of medical cannabis oil in Georgia for individuals with certain medical conditions who have obtained cannabis oil legally in another state. Qualifying conditions under HB 1 include cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial disease, sickle cell disease, and fibromyalgia. These individuals would only be allowed to possess cannabis oil with a maximum of 5% THC and a maximum amount of 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil. HB 1 would also require that potential patients register with the Georgia Department of Public Health and be placed on the “Low-THC Oil Patient Registry.” These individuals would then receive a registration card to indicate that they are legally in possession of this oil, thus exempting them from prosecution in Georgia as long as the oil has been legally obtained in another state and meets the aforementioned requirements.
Because we realize that this legislation is merely a starting point, the bill also creates the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis to examine the possibility of future policies related to medical cannabis oil in our state. This commission will be charged with making a recommendation for the potential regulatory infrastructure for the creation of an in-state growth/distribution model of medical cannabis, and must make its recommendations to Governor Deal by December 2015. The members of the commission will include the Director of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, the Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Director of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the governor’s executive counsel, members of the General Assembly, medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and pharmacists. With the work of this commission and the other measures in House Bill 1, we hope to eventually ensure that no Georgian will ever have to move to another state to obtain medical cannabis oil to treat a debilitating illness.
Another bill passed to improve Georgia’s healthcare this week was House Resolution 304. This legislation encourages Georgia’s technical schools, colleges, and universities to include education on gerontology and dementia in their academic curriculum. Georgia’s elderly population is increasing four times faster than the younger population. In fact, the state’s population over the age of 60 years old is expected to increase by 65.8% between 2010 and 2030. As the elderly population continues to rise, healthcare professionals will begin to see more patients with dementia and other health issues related to aging, and our healthcare professionals must be prepared to handle these cases. HR 304 addresses this potential issue and puts Georgia at the forefront of gerontology care.
Finally this week, we passed House Bill 70 to recognize the white tail deer as Georgia’s official state mammal. The idea for this legislation came from first-graders at Reese Road Leadership Academy in Columbus, Georgia who learned that Georgia is one of only three states that does not have an official state mammal. The children brought this to the attention of lawmakers and leaders of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and it was ultimately decided that the white tail deer become Georgia’s official state mammal. According to DNR, white tail deer bring in more than $800 million per year in
- Hunting license fees
- Sporting equipment sales
- Land leases
Therefore having a significant economic impact on the state of Georgia. This legislation, however, does not grant the animal any protection from hunters or change hunting laws in any way. I am glad that HB 70 helped teach some of Georgia’s youngest learners about the legislative process, while also recognizing an animal that has been an important economic and recreational resource for Georgians.
Now that we have passed the half-way point for the 2015 legislative session, we will soon begin to work even longer hours and vote on more legislation under the Gold Dome. I hope that you will contact me, so that I can apply your ideas and opinions to these last few weeks of lawmaking. You are always welcome to visit or call my office at the State Capitol. The number is 404-656-0213. I look forward to hearing from you.Read More
On Monday, February 2, 2015, we returned to the Gold Dome for another busy week. My colleagues and I spent much of our time reviewing various pieces of legislation that have been introduced in the House. The House and Senate went into a joint session on Wednesday in the House Chamber for the State of the Judiciary Address, from Chief Justice Hugh Thompson, who was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1994 and was elected by his peers to a four-year term as chief justice in 2013.
Georgia’s judicial system is sound and strong, according to the Chief Justice and head of the state’s judicial branch of government. In his address, Chief Justice Thompson recognized the successful expansion of specialty courts in Georgia. A specialty court, also known as an accountability court or problem solving court, is a cost-effective criminal justice alternative for non-violent offenders. Specialty courts, such as drug and mental health treatment courts, hold offenders accountable through court-supervised treatment programs. In his speech, Chief Justice Thompson shared success stories from some specialty courts in our state. He recognized Superior Court Judge Reuben Green, who oversees a veteran’s court in Cobb County that matches participants with supportive volunteers who are dedicated to keeping our veterans out of jail and mentor them through the program. I was pleased to hear that the 116 Georgia specialty courts have helped more than 5,000 Georgians avoid incarceration.
While Chief Justice Thompson shared the state’s judiciary achievements over the last year, he also spoke of the challenges that lie ahead. One challenge we face in Georgia is providing access to justice. He reminded us that six counties in Georgia are without a single lawyer, and 20 counties have fewer than five lawyers. As a result, judges are seeing a growing number of people who come to court without a lawyer and attempt to represent themselves, which usually results in an unfavorable decision, as the judges do not have the information they need to make just decisions. All Georgians deserve to have access to justice, regardless of their place of residence, or socioeconomic status. To address this challenge and expand access to justice in our state, Chief Justice Thompson asked for support of newly introduced legislation to encourage attorneys to work in underserved rural areas of Georgia. This legislation would create a pilot program in which a small number of law school graduates would receive college loan payment assistance for agreeing to work in an underserved county for at least five years.This bill was introduced in the House this week as HB 236 and will now make its way through the legislative process.
In addition to the State of the Judiciary Address, we saw several bills pass out of their respective committees this week.
- The House Education Committee voted ‘do pass’ on an important measure in House Bill 62. This legislation waives certain residency requirements so that children of active duty military personnel in Georgia have the ability to receive special needs scholarships. Military families are often required to relocate across the country, and these children should not be denied educational opportunities.
- House Bill 65 was considered also, which would increase transparency in local school boards by requiring the boards to hold at least two public meetings before adopting any budget. This would give parents and taxpayers the opportunity to see how their education dollars are being spent and to provide input.
Both HB 62 and HB 65 will now be sent to the Rules Committee before making their way to the House floor for a vote.
While the House Education Committee was busy passing bills, our colleagues in the Senate passed a bill that will strengthen our education system.
- Senate Bill 2 passed the Senate unanimously and would provide high school students with alternative ways to earn their high school diplomas. Students can earn their high school diplomas and start their post-secondary degrees simultaneously. Now that this legislation has passed the Senate, it will go through the committee process in the House as my colleagues and I review the details of the bill.
- Finally, we received some exciting news out of Washington D.C. about the future of The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. In his 2016 budget proposal, President Obama requested that Congress designate $42 million for dredging the river channel that cargo ships use to reach the Port of Savannah. This funding, in addition to the $266 million from the state of Georgia, will help the expansion stay on schedule to be completed by 2020, which will bring jobs and boost our economy.
I wanted to share with you some information about House Bill 244, also known as Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act. The bill is named for Rachel, a young lady who was forced into prostitution by her so-called boyfriend at the age of 17; Rachel is now 20 years old and recovering. Members of the state House and Senate are teaming up to provide more protection against child sex trafficking. Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act will do several things: provide resources for the victims of child sex trafficking and penalize pimps and other people who take part in the sexual victimization of children. I believe this bill will help victims recover and help the fight to end child sex trafficking.
Here are some recent press articles to further familiarize yourself with Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act.
- Bills seek to help sex trafficking victims, penalize pimps
- State lawmakers to propose stronger sex trafficking laws
- New effort by state lawmakers to go after child sex traffickers
- Georgia lawmakers pursue stronger effort against sex trafficking
In the coming weeks, we will be reviewing even more pieces of legislation in committees and on the House floor. If you have concerns or questions about proposed legislation, I hope that you will contact me. I am always eager to hear from you, so that I can better understand what issues are most important to you and your family. Please stop by and visit me at the Capitol if you are in Atlanta during the legislative session, or call my office at the State Capitol and let me know what I can do for you. The phone number is 404.656.0213.Read More
This week began the important task of reviewing the governor’s budget recommendations and creating legislation that will direct the state’s spending. Through this process, we must outline two balanced state budgets:
An amended budget for the current fiscal year (AFY 2015)
A full budget for the following fiscal year (FY 2016)
As Georgia’s economy continues to improve, we have seen sustained growth in the state’s revenue, allowing for an addition of “new” funds in the budget. Georgia is expected to maintain its growth for the current fiscal year (AFY 2015) and there is even more growth expected in FY 2016. Gov. Deal’s AFY 2015 budget includes an additional $276 million in “new” funds, and the FY 2016 budget projects an additional $670 million increase.
Gov. Deal recommended that the majority of these “new” funds be used for various educational initiatives. For FY 2015, the governor designated $15 million for local governments through the Forestland Protection Grant, including $8.3 million that will go directly to local school systems. The AFY 2015 budget also includes an additional $35 million in grants designed to increase broadband internet access in Georgia classrooms.
The focus on education will continue in FY 2016. The governor’s budget for that year includes half a billion dollars in new funding for the Department of Education and our local school systems. This includes $239 million for enrollment growth and $280 million for local school systems to increase instructional days, eliminate furlough days and enhance teachers’ salaries.
In addition to K-12 education, the governor also set aside funds to restore two planning days for pre-K teachers and increase in awards for HOPE scholarships and grants. The governor also recommended an additional $6 million in low-interest loans for higher education.
Georgia’s children should also receive the best medical treatment options that are available. With that in mind, Gov. Deal allotted nearly $4.9 million for clinical trials through Georgia Regents University. These trials will study the efficacy and safety of cannabis oil in children with certain types of seizure disorders.
In addition to education and children, Gov. Deal also outlined funding initiatives for a few other important programs. The governor’s budget includes funds for an additional 175 case workers to manage child abuse and neglect cases; 11 new adult protective service caseworkers to manage reports of elder abuse; the replacement of 187 state patrol vehicles; and an expansion of accountability courts, a cost effective justice alternative to prison for non-violent, first time offenders.
With the end of the joint appropriations committee meetings, the House Appropriations subcommittees will pass portions of the budget in their respective subcommittees. Those portions of the budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2015 and FY 2016.
There are several steps for a bill to become law.
After the House Appropriations Committee passes the budget, it will go to the Rules Committee where it will be placed on the House calendar.
It will then go to the House floor, where every member of the House will have the opportunity to voice their opinions before voting upon the state budget.
Once the budget passes the House, it will go to the State Senate and repeat this same committee process.
After making its way through the Senate Appropriations subcommittees, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate floor vote, the budget might be a bit different from its original version as passed by the House.
At this point in the process, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will both appoint a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget.
Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, their version of the budget then goes back to the House and Senate for a final floor vote. Both chambers must vote on the conference committee’s version of the budget to ensure that all contents are completely agreed upon by both chambers.
Finally, if approved by both House and Senate, the legislation is sent to the governor’s desk for consideration. Once signed by Governor Deal, the budget becomes law.
As legislation makes its way through the legislative system, I welcome you to reach out to me with your questions and concerns. We recently received our office assignments, and you are always welcome to visit me at my capitol office, which is located at 508-C Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334.
You may also call my capitol office at 404-656-0213, or reach me via email me at Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
Monday, January 12, 2015, we began the 153rd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. Because Monday marked the first day of the 2015-2016 term, all 180 members of the Georgia House of Representatives were sworn into office. Speaker David Ralson 9R- Blue Ridge) and Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton) were both re-elected to their positions. Governor Deal was inaugurated and gave his State of the State address the same day. Here are some highlights:
Gov. Deal detailed the exceptional progress Georgia has made in both job creation (319,000 new jobs) and by increasing the rainy day fund by 64%. Because Mercedes-Benz USA and Porsche North America are scheduled to relocate to Georgia, the years ahead are looking brighter.
Gov. Deal highlighted some existing needs as well. He called for the establishment of an Education Reform Commission to be composed of legislators, educators, and other key stakeholders. Some of the commission’s priorities include hiring quality teachers, increasing access to early learning programs, and the most appropriate ways to modernize the Quality Basic Education funding formula.
Gov. Deal showed a continued investment in education by suggesting a constitutional amendment to create Opportunity School Districts, as well as highlighting that the state will infuse over one billion additional dollars into K-12 education over the next two years.
Gov. Deal continued his support for the children of our state by recommending additional resources for DFCS and urging the state to decriminalize those families who have sought medical cannabis oil in other states and have since been unable to return to their homes for fear of prosecution.
Lastly, Gov. Deal spoke about Georgia’s increasing transportation needs as it is now the 8th most populated state. A rise in fuel efficient vehicles has cut the state’s ability to collect necessary funding from the excise tax, so our legislature must work together to fill in those budgetary gaps.
After announcing his goals in the State of the State Address, Gov. Deal released his budget proposals on Friday, January 16. Just as the governor listed education as his top priority in his State of the State address, he also made education a top priority in the state’s budget. For the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 budget for the current fiscal year, Gov. Deal designated $8.3 million to go directly to local school systems and an additional $35 million in grants to help classrooms across the state gain greater access to broadband internet. In his Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which includes state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year, Gov. Dealset aside more than a half a billion dollars in new funding for Georgia’s education system, including $280 million that will especially help local school systems increase instructional days, eliminate furlough days, and enhance teachers’ salaries.
These are just a few highlights from Gov. Deal’s budget proposals. I hope to provide you with more information next week, once my colleagues and I carefully review the recommendations in our Joint Budget Hearings with the Senate. These hearings are available to watch online on our website at www.house.ga.gov. You can also visit our website to watch the House in action, view live and archived committee meetings, and review legislation that we are considering.
This week, we also received our committee assignments for the 2015-2016 legislative term. I am happy to announce that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments appointed me to serve on the following House committees: appropriations, code revision, and judiciary.
I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year. I can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 770.957.3937. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
A new ad from Governor Deal looks great. We need to make sure we turn out the vote for all Republicans starting October 13. You know you’ll vote but make certain your friends do as well. We’ll all need to get out the vote.Read More
Governor Deal has lead Georgia with sound economic policies and we will continue to see companies like TSYS expand and grow. We need to continue to push for new opportunities where our children can find good paying jobs here where we live.
Deal: Georgia-based TSYS to create up to 450 jobs in McDonough
Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that TSYS, a global payments company headquartered in Columbus, will create up to 450 jobs through a new contact center in Henry County.
“TSYS’s decision to expand in Georgia is a testament to our state’s top-ranked business climate and qualified workforce,” said Deal. “Businesses that choose to locate here are finding it easy to expand here, and I have no doubt that our state will continue to provide this growing company with the necessary resources to remain globally competitive.”
The 62,000-square-foot TSYS facility, located at 3500 Loop Road, will house a new contact center that will provide back-up capabilities for its existing center in Columbus. This expansion will offer customer service, risk and fraud management, collections, dispute and chargeback servicing, back office support and full call center servicing solutions. Slated to open later this year, the new facility will provide substantial opportunities to expand TSYS’s services, supporting organic growth and generating business with new and existing clients. (continue)
Please join me for breakfast at J. Henry’s Restaurant in Griffin as we honor Governor Nathan Deal. With the general election just around the corner the Governor needs our support in this fund raising event. Please click for additional information.