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
Week four of the 2016 Legislative Session means that a month of session is already behind us. The General Assembly is hard at work, passing legislation that will positively impact Georgians. A number of bills have been passes, while many have made their way to the House floor!
Education is a top legislative priority, which is why we unanimously passed House Bill 801, which will encourage our students to take college courses in certain areas. HB 801 will do the following:
- change the GPA weighting system for HOPE Scholarship recipients who take certain science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses
- directs the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to select bachelor-level STEM courses to receive extra weight when calculating the HOPE scholarship GPA (while student is in college)
- upon completion of certain courses, students will receive .5 added to grade when calculating HOPE Scholarship GPA
- identified courses must be determined to be academically rigorous and lead to jobs in high demand STEM fields
- providing additional GPA weight bridges the skills gap in Georgia without risking scholastic fulfillment of our students
A great workforce is needed for the economy to thrive, which means that passing legislation that heightens the state’s business climate and arms our citizens to succeed in Georgia’s job market is crucial. Therefore, we unanimously passed House Bill 402, which aims to close the skills gap in Georgia. HB 402 will do the following for the state:
- increase business partnerships and participation with local public school systems for K-12 work based learning programs
- under HB 402, businesses who participate in work based learning programs will be offered a discount of up to five percent on their worker’s compensation insurance premiums
- work based learning programs install a strong work ethic in our teens, as well as hands on experience
Two more pieces of legislation were passed this week as well, both of which intend to ease the burden on public safety officers. The first is House Bill 421, which provides enhanced disability benefits to community supervision officers employed by the Department of Community Supervision who become permanently disabled due to an act of external violence or injury incurred in the line of law enforcement duty. These officers will be eligible for a monthly disability compensation of $5 per month for each year of creditable service. Also, the bill calls for a minimum monthly disability retirement benefit equal to two percent of their monthly earnings beginning the month their permanent disability occurred until mandatory retirement age.
The following groups of public safety officers are positively impacted by HB 421:
- deputy conservation rangers with the Department of Natural Resources
- parole officers with the State Board of Pardons and Paroles
- probation officers with the Department of Corrections
- any community supervision officer with the Department of Community Supervision
The House also passed House Bill 690 this past week. HB 690 acknowledges the brave service and sacrifices that public safety officials make for our communities and our state.This bill allows any individual who is a member of the Uniform Division of the Department of Public Safety, a conservation ranger with the Department of Natural Resources, an officer or agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a district attorney investigator paid from state funds, or an alcohol and tobacco officer or agent of the Department of Revenue to claim creditable service towards retirement if he or she previously worked for a local law enforcement agency for up to five years. In order to be eligible to claim those retirement years, officers must be vested in the state’s Employee Retirement System (ERS) for at least 10 years and ineligible for a defined contribution retirement or pension plan while employed at the local law enforcement agency. HB 690 will allow our public safety officers to recoup their years of service, but will have a zero dollar cost to the state. I was proud to support this legislation and show my unwavering appreciation for the public safety community in Georgia.
As we continue through the legislative session, I hope that you will contact me if you have questions or concerns about these bills, or any other legislation that may come before us. As your state representative, it is my job to represent your thoughts and opinions in Atlanta, and I would like to hear from you before the session adjourns on March 24. Please stop by and visit 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 and your family. My Capitol office number is 404-656-0213 and my email is Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your 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
Last 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 2016)
A full budget for the following fiscal year (FY 2017)
With substantial economic growth occurring throughout the state in recent years, we have seen sustained growth in the state’s revenue, allowing for an addition of “new” funds in the budget. Gov. Deal’s AFY 2016 budget includes $109 million for K-12 education, and an increase of $1.6 million to support information technology applications used by local school systems. Gov. Deal also proposed an adjustment of $14.9 million in the amended budget to allow school systems to improve internet connectivity and for live online instruction.
Gov. Deal also wants to adjust funding for students planning to attend colleges and universities in the state of Georgia. Since 2012, the number of Zell Miller Scholars has increased by more than 40%, therefore, Gov. Deal has allocated an additional $30.3 million for AFY2016, and $59.1 million for FY2017.
The focus on education will continue in FY 2017. The governor believes we should invest $300 million for K-12 education to allow school districts to grant salary increases, eliminate furlough days or increase instruction days.
In addition to K-12 education, the governor also included an additional $26.2 million in funding for Pre-K teachers for salary increases up to three precent, as well as increasing salaries for assistant teachers.
In addition to advancements in education, we have progress in other areas, such as our state’s criminal justice reform system. Juvenile justice facilities in the state have seen a 25% decrease in population since the reforms have begun. Gov. Deal’s FY2017 budget calls for an additional $3.8 million towards the accountability courts to rehabilitate offenders and juvenile incentive grants aimed at providing community alternatives, as a proven alternative to sentencing. Gov. Deal has also allocated an additional $4.3 million in FY2017 to support educational initiatives in the state prison system. This includes operational costs for two charter high schools and expansion of GED fast track, vocational, and general education programs.
The last portion of the FY2017 proposal that I would like to highlight is the inclusion of hundreds of millions of new transportation dollars. As a result of legislation passed last session, House Bill 170, Gov. Deal’s budget proposal for FY2017 appropriates over $800 million to help maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges to keep freight and our commuters moving safely and efficiently. This major funding source for our state’s transportation infrastructure will benefit Georgians in many ways and will be felt throughout the state years to come. I am proud of my colleagues in the House for their leadership on HB 170 last session and to Gov. Deal and the Georgia Department of Transportation for executing these projects.
Finally this week, the House and Senate voted on an adjournment resolution that set the legislative calendar for the remainder of the 40-day session. Day 40, the final day of the 2016 legislative session, or “sine die,” will be Thursday, March 24. We have a very aggressive and busy schedule from now until then, and as we continue through this legislative session, I encourage you to reach out to me with your questions and concerns.
As your state representative, I want to know what issues are most important to you, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you. I also encourage you to visit your State Capitol, where you are always welcome to visit me at my capitol office, 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
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
Congressman Jody Hice will be at KirbyG’s Diner & Pub, in McDonough, GA, tonight. Everyone is welcome to attend. Details/prices are as follows:
- Sponsor photo reception- 5:30pm / $1,000
- Host photo receptions- 5:30pm /$1,500
- General reception- 6:00pm / single-$150, couple-$200
Address- 45 Macon St, McDonough, GA 30253
RSVP– Mallory Whitefield- (404) 583-6081, email: Mallory@JodyHice.com
Congressman Jody Hice represents the 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes all or parts of 25 counties with the boundaries of the Central Savannah River Area to Athens and metro Atlanta. Learn more about Congressman Jody Hice at www.hice.house.gov.
Come show your support and hear Congressman Jody Hice speak about his plans for the 10th district. KirbyG’s is a great diner & pub with rich history and delicious food. We hope to see you all there!
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