With the fifth week of session behind us, we are now past the halfway mark of the 2016 session! Committees have been hard at work, and many pieces of legislation have begun to make their way from the Senate over to the House. We achieved bipartisan support and passage of several important bills that deal with education, road safety, and military benefits.
House Bill 767, which ensures the safety of our state’s utility service workers, received unanimous support. HB 767 adds utility service vehicles and workers in the fields of electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, cable, telephone, or telecommunication services to the list of those covered under Georgia’s “Spencer Pass Law.”” The law requires drivers to make a lane change, if possible, when approaching any stationary towing, recovery or highway maintenance vehicle parked on the shoulder of the highway. If changing lanes is impossible, or unsafe, the driver must slow to a speed less than the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop, and violators would now be subject to a fine of up to $250. This bill will keep our utility workers, and citizens, safe on the roads.
We continued our focus on Georgia’s education system with the passing of House Bill 739. HB 739 gives the State Board of Education the option to establish a committee to study and recommend instructional materials and content, and also allows local boards of education to have a review process for any locally approved instructional material. As part of the process, the local or State Board of Education will post a list of proposed materials/content on their website for public viewing, as well as making all proposed instructional material/content available for individual review if requested. This will increase transparency, provide greater access to proposed classroom material, allow for local control of our education system, and increase parental involvement.
We also passed House Bill 659, which would require every local board of education and state charter schools to make financial information readily accessible for public access. Also, each school and district would send budget information to the Department of Education to be published on its website. Education funding accounts for more than half of our state budget each year and transparency of those funds is essential to establishing an open dialogue about the needs of our local school systems.
The House unanimously passed House Bill 757, or, the Pastor Protection Act, which reaffirms the separation of church and state in Georgia. Religious leaders will not be forced to perform marriages which violate their faith, and places of worship will not be required by Georgia government to host events that violate their religious doctrine. Under HB 757, businesses are also allowed to remain closed on a day of rest.
Lastly, the House unanimously passed House Bill 821, which will support Georgia’s military spouses and veteran population. HB 821 will require all state licensure boards to streamline the licensing process for service members, and their spouses, who move to our state from another. This bill allows eligible service members and spouses to qualify for temporary occupational licenses, licenses by endorsement, or expedited licenses to better aid their entry into Georgia’s workforce. This will be available to military spouses and transitional veterans who have a license from another state, as long as their training, experience, or testing meets or exceeds that of the Georgia license they seek. Transitioning veterans are also eligible if they are currently on active duty status or are within 24 months of their retirement and have received a specialty, certification, training, or experience in the military while a service member that meets or exceeds that of the Georgia license requirement they are seeking. I was honored to join my colleagues in an act of solidarity to give back to those veterans and their families who have given so much for this state and our nation.
Now that we are officially halfway through the 2016 legislative session, we will begin voting on more bills and resolutions every day. I encourage you to contact me at my capitol office with your thoughts and opinions, as I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation. My capitol office phone number is 404-656-0213, and my email address is Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.Read More
During the third week of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session, my colleagues and I had the responsibility of passing one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year: the 2016 amended fiscal year budget (AFY 2016). This budget, a mid-year adjustment of state spending through June 30, 2016, was first introduced by Governor Deal at last week’s Joint Appropriations hearing. Since then, through a series of Appropriations Committee meetings, we have carefully reviewed and edited the AFY 2016 budget. The House version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2016 (AFY 2016) budget was packaged into House Bill 750 and was passed by the House on Thursday, January 28th.
The House version of the AFY 2016 budget is very similar to Gov. Deal’s initial budget proposal. The amended budget includes an addition of $1.1 billion, or 5.3 percent, in “new” funds. The total appropriations for AFY 2016 equals $22.9 billion, with education and transportation funds accounting for 85 percent of the appropriations. Here are how the funds were allocated.
- $758 million in new state general and motor fuel funds (results of House Bill 170, the Transportation Funding Act, passed during 2015 legislative session)
- $519 million of the funds are for capital construction and maintenance projects
- $200 million for routine maintenance
- #336.1 million in Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants (LMIG)
This increased funding aids in improving our infrastructure and also ensure citizen safety on roads and bridges.
Investments to our education system were essential to the AFY 2016 budget.
- $204 million to Georgia’s K-12 system
- $109.9 million for midterm enrollment growth
- $30 million in lottery funds for HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarships
- $20.2 million for the Move on When Ready program (allowing eligible students to take advantage of dual enrollment programs)
- $14.9 million through the OneGeorgia Authority to continue providing grants to local school systems to advance wireless broadband connectivity
- $525,808 for the North Georgia Military Scholarship Grant
Additional funding was provided in other areas, such as Georgia’s health services.
- $59 million for growth in the Medicaid and Peachcare programs (funds will cover high-cost prescriptions, increased cost of the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program, and overall program growth)
- $17.1 million toward Medicare payments
- $2.3 million toward office expansion/relocation of four county offices that are the most active in the Community Care Services Program
In addition to passing the AFY 2016 budget, we were able to pass House Bill 742, which is an annual Internal Revenue Code (IRC) update which makes changes to Georgia’s tax code by synchronizing tax return filing dates to allow most businesses in Georgia to file state and federal returns simultaneously. HB 742 would also make permanent the $500,000 deduction in section 179 and the Research Tax Credit. By streamlining this process and bringing Georgia’s policy in line with federal legislation, we are easing the tax process for individuals and business owners statewide.
The House and Senate convened for a joint session in the House Chamber with the Georgia Supreme Court, the Georgia Court of Appeals and other guests for the annual State of the Judiciary Address from Chief Justice Hugh Thompson on Wednesday. Chief Justice Thompson 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. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle welcomed the Chief Justice to the rostrum where he updated us on the current state of Georgia’s judicial system.
Chief Justice Thompson called Georgia the “gateway to the South,” and to the country. Chief Justice Thompson noted our population has almost doubled since implementing the new state constitution in 1983, but the number of judges has increased only 16 percent. Thompson applauded the passage of House Bill 279 during the 2015 session, which added three judges to the Court of Appeals in Georgia. The addition of these judges has led to the hearing of five times the number of cases each year, allowing the Supreme Court of Georgia to focus on more complex cases.
Chief Justice Thompson transitioned to new technology within the court system, which is overseen by the newly commissioned Judicial Council Standing Committee on Technology, established by a Supreme Court order. A top priority for the committee is transitioning all state of Georgia court systems from paper documents to electronic filings. Both the Supreme Court of Georgia and Court of Appeals have transitioned to e-filing systems, with a goal of developing a statewide filing and retrieving portal that all courts can access.
Chief Justice Thompson commended Governor Nathan Deal on his commitment to criminal justice reform, noting that the state’s prisons are at their lowest point in 10 years, and the recidivism rate is the lowest in 30 years. These improvements are attributed, in part, to the expansion of our state’s now 131 accountability courts (a cost-effective criminal justice alternative for non-violent offenders, where offenders are held accountable through court-supervised treatment programs). These courts have reduced crime by 45 percent, and have saved the state more than $51 million in prison costs in 2015.
In the third week of session, we took time to recognize some of our state’s most admirable citizens. On Monday, January 25, the House celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in honor of our brave Georgians in uniform. Members of the Georgia National Guard were recognized on the House floor and presented with House Resolution 1007. It was an honor to have Adjutant General Joe Jarrard and members of the Georgia National Guard with us in the House, where we were also privileged to witness a new member of the Georgia National Guard be sworn into the Army National Guard by our very own colleague and WWII veteran, Representative John Yates (R-Griffin). These soldiers embody the true meaning of patriotism, and I cannot thank them enough for their service to ourstate and to our country.
As the 2016 legislative session moves into its fourth week, committees will be meeting more frequently to discuss pieces of legislation. I would love to hear your input on any bills that come before the House, because your comments help guide my decisions on Capitol Hill. I encourage you to call my office at the State Capitol in Atlanta at 770.957.3937. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
Reps. Strickland, Rutledge, Welch and Douglas Support State Funding for Industrial Arts Building for Henry County’s Southern Crescent Technical College
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, January 22, 2016
Contact: Betsy Lynch
ATLANTA –State Representatives Brian Strickland (R-McDonough), Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge), Dale Rutledge (R-McDonough), Andy Welch (R-Locust Grove) and Senator Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), along with the support of the Henry County delegation as a whole, recently expressed support of Governor Nathan Deal’s FY2017 budget proposal, which allocates funding to Henry County’s Southern Crescent Technical College. Governor Deal’s 2017 Budget allocates $16.175 million in state dollars to match Henry County’s $6.5 to 5.5 million in SPLOST funds dedicated to construct a state-of-the-art industrial educational facility on the McDonough campus of the Southern Crescent Technical College.
“The Henry County campus of Southern Crescent is an invaluable resource in our community, providing education and technical training, which will result in a more skilled and competent workforce in our area and state,” said Rep. Welch. “Proper technical training is an asset to any community, and the entire state, but the development of the campus will also bring economic growth in the way of new jobs and increased interest to Henry County. As a result of the intense work of the entire Henry County delegation, Governor Nathan Deal has kept an important local campaign promise with the inclusion of these funds in the budget. I would like to thank Gov. Deal for making this a priority, as well as my colleagues in the General Assembly and our local leaders in Henry County for their support.”
Southern Crescent Technical College was formed in 2010 and serves roughly 10,000 students in the middle Georgia area. The Henry County campus was established in 2014 and offers 23 degree, diploma, and certificate programs in various fields.
For more information about Southern Crescent Technical College, please click here.
For more information about Governor Deal’s FY2017 budget proposal, 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 Chairman to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety. He also serves on the Code Revision, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Regulated Industries committees.
Georgia Department of Transportation
A Location and Design Public Information Open House
For P.I. 0011690
CR 131/ELLIOTT ROAD AT WALNUT CREEK 0.50 MI NE OF MCDONOUGH
On Thursday, January 21, 2016 at East Lake Elementary School, 199 E Lake Rd, McDonough, GA 30252, the Georgia Department of Transportation will hold a Public Information Open House concerning the project listed above.
The proposed project consists of replacing the existing 2-lane bridge on County Road (CR) 131 over Walnut Creek due to insufficient bridge sufficiency rating. The proposed bridge will be installed at the existing location along with improvements to the roadway approaches on the north and south sides of the bridge. The road would be closed during construction. There is an existing concrete box culvert over an unnamed tributary of Walnut Creek north of the bridge within the project limits. The culvert would be extended as part of the project in order to bring the roadway approaches up to current standards.
The purpose of this Location and Public Information Open House is to provide the public with an opportunity to view the project, ask questions, and comment on the project.
The Open House will be held from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. It will be informal, and the public is invited to attend anytime during these hours. There will be no formal presentation. A court reporter will be available to allow the public an opportunity to make verbal comments about the project.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information:
The meeting site is accessible to persons with disabilities. Accommodations for people with disabilities can be arranged with advance notice by calling Jack Reed at 706-646-7566.
Written statements will be accepted concerning this project until Monday, February 01, 2016. Written statements may be submitted to:
Ms. Hiral Patel, P.E.
State Environmental Administrator
Georgia Department of Transportation
600 West Peachtree Street, NW – 16th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30308Read More
It’s that time of year once again! Bring your friends and family to the McDonough Square Dec.5th at 6 p.m. for the Christmas Parade. You should also attend the Tree Lighting celebration at 5 p.m. If you have been by the square recently, you already know that it has been beautifully decorated for the holidays. The tree lighting will really kick-off the Christmas season and is a fun tradition for several families in McDonough.
This event brings everyone in the county together. Schools, organizations, businesses, and families all gather to participate in making this event a joyful experience. Hundreds of citizens attend this event and sip on hot chocolate as festive floats pass by.
I advise that you show up to the parade early, so you can get a good spot to view the floats and performances. Don’t forget to visit and support the local businesses on the square during the parade! Many of them often give out treats and samples. Santa will make his appearance at the finale of the parade as usual.
Bring your jackets, maybe a few folding chairs, and prepare to have a great time! This is a free event and I am sure that all first-timers will want to make it a holiday tradition.
For any further questions about the Christmas Parade, contact this number:
770-957-3915. Here is a map of the parade route.
McDonough Square address- 19 Griffin St, McDonough, GA, 30253
Free Parking- There is a free parking deck very close to the Square. It is across the street from the Henry County Judicial Center: One Judicial Center McDonough, GA 30253Read More
Municipal elections occur on odd calendar years. There are several elections taking place in our cities here in Henry County. McDonough residents can vote at the Henry County Elections Office (40 Atlanta Street – just north of the square). Locust Grove residents will vote at the Locust Grove Library (115 LG Griffin Road). Election Day is November 3 and is the last day to vote! When everyone participates, we have better representation. Make your voice heard and vote.
Find your precinct here.
Here are your 2015 Candidates:
Vernon R. Ashe
Otis F. Hammock
Gail Welch Notti
Benjamin “Ben” Pruett
Antonio Davis CC3
Craig M. Elrod CC3
Jim Panaro CC3
Monta Brown CC4
Kamali Varner CC4
Representative Brian Strickland and I are excited to present GUNS-N-GRUB on Saturday, October 24th, from 2 PM to 4 PM, at the American Heritage Gun Range & Training Center in McDonough! If you haven’t yet see this state-of-the-art facility, then make plans to come out to our event. Their facility includes a 4,000 square foot showroom equipped with firearms, accessories, and ammunition. They have an indoor range open to the public, and a training facility.
The first 25 people to RSVP for GUNS-N-GRUB will receive a free range rental and use of equipment for a free round of target practice with a 22 or 9 mm. You may purchase additional ammo after your free round, but you must be 18 years or older to participate in shooting. We will be serving light refreshments, and will also be raffling off a gun and other items. We’d ask you to consider making a $100 contribution for this event, though any amount is welcomed.
To RSVP, call April at 678-583-4866.Read More
Next Wednesday, September 16, 2015, there will be two debates on CNN for the Republican Primary. The first will be at 6pm ET, and the second at 8pm ET. The candidates will continue to discuss their views on the issues and will include: Perry, Santorum, Jindal, Pataki, and Graham at 6pm, followed by: Trump, Bush, Walker, Huckabee, Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Christie, Kasich, and Fiorina at 8pm.
The moderators will be: Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt.
I’m interested in getting your opinions, so be sure to tune in!Read More
It is that time again! It is time to go back to school for many Georgia counties.
- Newton County Schools begins THIS Friday, July 31st!
- Henry County schools begin this Monday, August 3rd!
- Butts County schools begin Wednesday, August 5th!
Just a friendly reminder that this weekend is sales-tax free for school-related items — Friday, July 31 through Saturday, August 1!
Children really are our future, and it is important for their success to be nurtured and encouraged to learn continually. A well-educated youth makes for a well-rounded adult, who can make informed decisions. I hope everyone has a fantastic school year!Read More