The Georgia Senate recognized the Rock Springs Medical Clinic in Milner, GA with Senate Resolution 344 on Thursday, March 19th. Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-Macon, and Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone all presented the bill to the Senate. The resolution recognizes Dr. W. Stephen Taunton, the clinic’s Medical Director, Bobbi Riley, the Administrative Director, and Linda Taunton, the Pharmaceutical Director, in addition to a staff of 60 dedicated volunteers.
For those who are unfamiliar, here is a bit of history on this amazing clinic. Established in 2008, The Rock Springs Medical clinic provides free healthcare and counseling services to roughly 5,000 uninsured middle Georgians who live in 81 cities. The volunteer staff includes licensed physicians, and nurses for medical needs as well as dieticians for health education and counselors for mental health, assisted by clerical staff and volunteers. This clinic is staffed by a skilled team of medical professionals, including: pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, licensed physicians, nurses, dietitians and counselors assisted by clerical staff and volunteers. Manufacturers work directly with the pharmaceutical director to keep the clinic pharmacy stocked. I am very proud that this clinic is around, and hope to see it serve our community for many years to come. Congratulations to this amazing clinic!Read More
Last Friday was the 30th legislative day for the 2015 Georgia General Assembly. Also known as Crossover Day, this date was the final chance for bills to pass at least one of our two legislative chambers. With Crossover Day behind us, we returned to Capitol Hill this week to focus on legislation that has already been passed by the Georgia Senate. To ensure that every bill is fully vetted before its final passage, we spent most of our time this week in committee meetings reviewing Senate legislation.
In its review of Senate legislation, the House Education Committee heard public testimony on a very important measure, the creation of “Opportunity School Districts” in the state of Georgia, or Senate Bill 133. With strong support from Governor Nathan Deal, SB 133 and its companion legislation, Senate Resolution 287, would create an “Opportunity School District” to allow the state to temporarily step in to assist chronically failing schools. Because Opportunity School Districts have been implemented in other states across the nation, we have the advantage of learning about the program from teachers and school administrators that have experience with such schools, and will take that into consideration.
Although most Senate bills are still in the committee process, a few pieces of legislation passed out of their respective committees and made it to the House floor for a vote.
- Senate Bill 51– SB 51 will help patients enjoy greater convenience in Georgia pharmacies by allowing a pharmacist to give a patient a drug that is “interchangeable,’’ or “bio-similar,” with the patient’s currently prescribed, more expensive, biologic drug. As medical innovation continues to advance, more doctors are using complex drugs made from living organisms, called biologic medicines, to treat their patients with chronic diseases like arthritis and psoriasis. By allowing physicians to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense bio-similars, similar to a generic version of biologics, the cost of medication could potentially be reduced by up to 80%. Furthermore, to ensure patients have full disclosure and knowledge of the change, SB 51 requires the pharmacist to indicate the substitution on the original prescription and on its label. SB 51 also requires the pharmacist to notify the prescriber of this substitution within 48 hours so the doctor is aware of the changes made to the patient’s treatment. SB 51 will improve efficiency in the delivery of Georgia’s healthcare by making it easier for patients to obtain their prescribed medications and offering potential cost-saving benefits.
- House Resolution 303– HR303 urges the State Board of Education to develop and implement a comprehensive civics education curriculum to improve students’ civic knowledge and skills. This education should teach students about their legal rights, as well as their responsibilities as law abiding citizens. Classroom discussions on current events, community service opportunities, and extracurricular activities could all be used as means for delivering the important civics lessons.
- House Resolution 302– HR302 strives to increase the number of doctors in Georgia through a plea to the United States Congress. Currently Georgia faces a shortage of doctors, particularly in rural parts of the state. Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a committee of legislators and health care advisers to study the problem, and the House Study Committee on Medical Education found that the shortage of doctors is primarily caused by a shortage of residency slots in our state. While the state has taken great steps to increase the number of medical students in Georgia, we still need more support from the federal government to help fund residency slots. HR 302 urges Congress to enact reforms to the nation’s federally-financed graduate medical education programs, so that states like Georgia can receive the fair amount of support we need to meet the health workforce requirements of the future. Since doctors tend to reside where they do their residencies, it is important that we offer more residency slots in rural areas to ultimately gain more doctors in Georgia.
Also this week, we also took some time to recognize some distinguished guests in the House chamber. On Thursday, March 18, we welcomed Chris “Ludacris” Bridges to the Georgia State Capitol. Ludacris is a recording artist, actor, and rapper, record label executive, entrepreneur, philanthropist, hip-hop culture icon, and resident of Georgia. He is also the founder of The Ludacris Foundation, which has donated over $1.5 million and 5,000 hours in hands-on service to youth organizations across the country. Ludacris was recognized for his accomplishments with House Resolution 643.
Also on Thursday, we had the pleasure of hearing former Governor Jeb Bush speak before the House chamber. Governor Bush, who served as the 43rd governor of Florida, reminded us that academic achievement should be our number one priority every year. He discussed that diligence in bettering our education system will help every child in Georgia gain the skills they need to obtain good jobs in adulthood. It is clear that education is a key concern in the General Assembly, and I could not agree more with Governor Bush on this matter.
I am also happy to announce that our colleagues in the Senate this week passed a measure that continues to put education as the top priority for state spending. On Friday, the Senate passed House Bill 76, the 2016 Fiscal Year budget, which will guide state spending from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. The $21.7 billion state budget plan designates a majority of state revenue to education, proving that Georgia’s children are once again our most important investment. Behind education, other priorities include health and human services and public safety initiatives. Now that the Senate has passed their version of the budget, members from both chambers will work together to resolve any discrepancies through a joint conference committee. I look forward to seeing the final version of the budget soon, which we will vote on in the next two weeks.
We also had a town hall meeting on Thursday. Thank you to everyone who attended; it was great to hear from Henry County residents about the proposed legislation.
As we continue working with the Senate to ensure final passage of bills, I encourage you to contact me with any concerns you might have. Your comments are always very important to me, so I hope to hear from you soon. You can reach me at my state capitol office at 404-656-3937 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
We returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, March 2nd for the 24th day of the 2015 legislative session. This week, we considered several key pieces of legislation. These bills all address important issues facing our great state, so we reviewed each measure thoroughly and voted on many bills on the House floor.
One of the most significant bills of the Session passed the House last week, House Bill 170. I voted against this legislation for several reasons, but the most compelling reason is its adverse impact on Butts County citizens. HB 170, as currently drafted, will redirect over $1.7 million in sales tax currently collected by Butts County on motor fuel (gas and diesel) to the State. Butts County and its cities derive over 53% of their operating revenue from sales tax on motor fuel. According to county and city officials, this loss in revenue will result in a significant property tax increase, substantial cut in necessary public services, or a combination of both. While I support a shift in the tax code to ensure that users of our roads are paying for the maintenance of our roads, this particular approach deals a crippling blow to the property taxpayers, businesses and citizens of Butts County. My intention is to continue working with leadership in the House and members of the Senate to eliminate the impacts on Butts County.
With that said, let me tell you what HB 170 does assuming it makes it through the Senate without change which is not likely. Transportation improvements have long struggled to match Georgia’s rapid economic progress, resulting in too many roads and bridges that are now in need of critical maintenance. HB 170, or the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, is an attempt to address the critical and urgent need for funding for Georgia’s transportation infrastructure needs. HB 170 seeks to raise just under a billion dollars for maintenance and repair of our state’s bridges and roadways, many of which have been deemed functionally obsolete and structurally deficient; therefore, these funds are crucial to guarantee that our roads and infrastructures are safe for Georgia drivers. Well-maintained roads and bridges will enhance safety and quality of life for our citizens, and should assist with economic development in most of Georgia. Safety and economic development, however, are dependent upon money actually being spent in our counties. As for Butts County in particular, the resulting property tax increase and/or loss of services will greatly discourage new economic development opportunities and may even drive existing businesses away.
If you are interested in the details of how HB 170 works, read on. It provides funding through a variety of measures, including the conversion of the state sales tax on motor fuel to a straight excise tax that will be dedicated to transportation. This excise tax will initially be set at 29.2 cents per gallon, which approximates the sales tax rate that has been imposed on gasoline using a weighted average of the price of gasoline over the previous four years. Unlike the current gas tax, which is a 4% sales tax that varies with the cost of gas, the flat excise tax will provide a more stable alternative. This tax conversion will provide a dedicated, predictable, and steady funding source and a long term solution to our state’s transportation funding issues. Not only will the excise tax conversion provide the necessary funding for transportation maintenance and improvement, it also will help ensure gas taxes remain constant between counties and through periods of high spikes in gas prices.
Additional revenue for our transportation needs will come from a significant bond package that will go towards funding for the 128 transit systems across Georgia. Funding for our transit systems will enable more communities across our state to take advantage of public transportation options. This bond package is a practical way to provide more immediate funding for our transportation needs, while leveraging the state’s high credit.
Other funding sources in the Transportation Funding Act include the establishment of a user fee for alternative fueled vehicles of $200 for non-commercial and $300 for commercial vehicles each year. As these vehicles do not use gasoline, their owners do not currently pay their share of taxes devoted to the maintenance of the roads they use. This fee will provide equality among those who drive on our roads. HB 170 will also eliminate the state tax credit for the purchase of alternative fueled vehicles, as well as the state tax credit on jet fuel, which was established several years ago in a struggling economy, where companies were in jeopardy of bankruptcy. Furthermore, the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank will grant preference for loans to be given to tier 1 and tier 2 counties, as well as to eligible projects with local financial assistance.
In addition to HB 170, the House passed another piece of legislation to better ensure safety on Georgia’s highways and roads. HB 190 requires appropriate automobile insurance for drivers in transportation network companies, such as Uberand Lyft. Currently, many of these drivers are offering ride-share services to the public with their personal auto policy, which does not cover commercial activity when the vehicle is being used for hire. Because personal insurance policies will not cover any damages or losses if a vehicle is being used for commercial use, drivers have gaps in insurance coverage, which puts both the driver and passenger at risk in the event of an accident. HB 190 addresses this disparity in coverage by requiring the transportation network company or the driver to purchase a commercial motor vehicle insurance policy that maintains $1 million in insurance coverage for drivers anytime they are logged into the company system, regardless if any passengers are on board. The legislation also requires at least $300,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death and $50,000 for property damage. HB 190 takes the necessary steps to protect the many Georgians who drive or ride with companies like Uber and Lyft.
House Bill 325 also passed this week to improve transportation safety in Georgia. HB 325 expands seat belt laws by requiring vans that have 15 passenger capacities to wear seat belts. Under current law, safety belts are only required for vans that carry 10 passengers or fewer. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, approximately 1,111 fatalities occurred between 1990 and 2002 as a result of crashes involving 15 passenger vans, and the study found that 80% of those who died were not wearing seat belts. These are hundreds of lives that could have potentially been saved by the simple act of buckling a seat belt. HB 325 draws attention to this important issue, and will make drivers and passengers on Georgia’s roads more aware of the need to buckle up, ultimately saving lives.
Another life-saving bill passed this week was House Bill 210, which allows Georgia citizens to qualify for organ donation by utilizing state issued I.D. cards. Currently, organ donor status is listed on drivers’ licenses, but not on state issued I.D. cards. HB 210 changes this, so that more people can become organ donors, regardless of their eligibility to drive in Georgia. It is important that we encourage public education and awareness of the value and lifesaving ability of organ donation, and I hope that HB 210 allows for more citizens to engage in this discussion and process.
In addition to passing several measures related to our state’s transportation system, the House also passed a bill to improve the health and safety of our children. House Bill 362 ensures that schools are well equipped to treat students with asthma by allowing schools to obtain and stock levalbuterol sulfate, a medication commonly used to treat asthma. Under HB 362, any school employee who is trained in recognizing symptoms of respiratory distress could administer the medication to students. Asthma is such a common illness and schools should be prepared to help our children handle these types of emergencies.
Another issue that our schools must be prepared to manage is illiteracy. To combat illiteracy, Governor Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal announced Read Across Georgia Month, a campaign to make reading more fun for Georgia’s children. As a part of the celebrations, First Lady Deal visited the House and introduced a new Pre-K book, TJ’s Discovery, which was written by teachers at the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School. This book will be given as a gift to every student in Georgia’s Pre-K program and helps teach parents and caregivers how to make reading come alive to the children in their lives. I commend our First Lady for her diligent efforts to help Georgia’s children develop a lifelong love of reading.
Finally, this week we took some time to recognize John Smoltz, a former pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and honoree in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In addition to being named an eight-time All Star, Smoltz is the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz was honored before the Georgia House of Representatives with House Resolution 343 for his accomplishments both on and off the field. I’m proud that such an outstanding athlete and citizen claims Georgia as his home state.
Next week will be an extremely busy week at the Georgia State Capitol. On Friday, March 13, we are scheduled to complete the 30th legislative day, which is also known as “Crossover Day.” Crossover Day is the last date in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly’s two chambers. With this deadline in mind, we will work diligently to pass legislation through the House chamber. I hope that you will contact me during this crucial week, so that I can address any concerns you might have. You can visit me or call my office at the State Capitol. The number is 404-656-0213. I look forward to hearing from you.
The state House recently honored John Smoltz! He played 21 seasons in MLB for three teams, all but one of which were spent with the Atlanta Braves!
On Tuesday, February 17, we began the sixth week of the 2015 legislative session. We were able to continue session as scheduled, despite the winter storm in other areas of the state. We completed day 19 of the session, so we are about halfway finished. With the 2015 legislative session heating up, an increasing number of bills were passed out of committees and voted upon by the full body of the House.
Senate Bill 5
The House and Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 5, which will enable the Georgia Ports Authority to accept federal dollars for the Savannah Harbor deepening project. The project began last month, and the project will deepen the Savannah River from 42 feet to 47 feet, allowing the port to accommodate larger container ships. The state of Georgia has thus far designated $266 million towards the project, and President Obama recently requested the appropriation of $42 million in federal funds from Congress. Thanks to the combination of state and federal funding, the project is currently scheduled to be finished by 2020. With the new improvements, Savannah Harbor has the potential to become one of the busiest ports in the world and positively impact counties all over Georgia.
House Bill 100
The House passed another important bill related to Georgia’s education system this week. The statute requires that a child be 5 years old by August 1st to be able to enroll in kindergarten. The current cutoff date is September 1st, and this change will take effect for the 2017-2018 school year; July 1st will be the cutoff date for the 2018-2019 school year and all years thereafter. This legislation will provide children with a better opportunity for success throughout their educational careers by ensuring that they are well prepared and mature enough to begin that journey. In the past, educators have been concerned with the maturity of younger students, and I think this legislation will help alleviate those concerns.
House Bill 198
This week, the House unanimously passed House Bill 198; this legislation is an important topic to protect teens and young adults in Georgia. HB 198 aims to lower the rate of suicide among teens by requiring annual suicide prevention training for certified public school system personnel in order for them to better identify symptoms of suicide. Suicide is a very real problem among young people, and is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This training will teach staff when to refer students to mental health services and how to identify those resources within their schools and/or communities. This training and implementation would be free for all school systems. It is our hope that this legislation will help equip Georgia school employees with the tools they need to prevent these unfortunate situations.
House Bill 119
We passed legislation to help protect our law enforcement officers this week. House Bill 119 authorizes probate judges to disclose to peace officers if a patient who is being held in their custody is legally determined to have AIDS. This legislation will help keep our men and women in uniform safe and allow them to take appropriate health safety precautions. It is necessary that we protect Georgia’s law enforcement officers, who already make so many sacrifices to keep us safe.
As for House Bill 170, I have received several calls, emails and messages from folks in the district regarding my position on HB 170. I cannot support HB 170 as it came out of committee this week. I do support shifting sales taxes on motor fuel to an excise tax because the excise tax must be used on roads and bridges and thus cannot be lost in the general fund. Read More.
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
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
As you may have heard Georgia is the number one place to conduct business. What you may not have heard just recently is Georgia has the 6th best jobs gorwth rate in the nation. With nearly 80,000 new jobs established since this time last year, the economic policies we adhere to are showing the fruits of our labor.
Keeping the environment ripe for more job growth is important. It is why we need to make sure we elect leaders. Please make sure you vote this November.
Georgia also had solid over-the-month growth, ranking sixth in the nation and third in the Southeast. Georgia ranks in the top 10 states for percentage growth over the month. The number of jobs in Georgia totaled 4,132,900 in August, up from 4,053,600 in August 2013. The August-to-August job growth was the second largest in Georgia since 2005, GDoL said.
It was with much anticipation and hard work we saw the fruits of so many hard working people with the opening of Southern Crescent Technical College in McDonough. I was proud to have a small role
in getting this first building open and will work further to see the other needed buildings put into place.
Southern Crescent Tech makes its footprint official in Henry
July 21, 2014
McDONOUGH — Southern Crescent Technical College hosted an official ribbon-cutting and grand opening Thursday at its newly-opened Henry County Center academic facility — a feat many years in the making, officials declared.
The building is the first of as many as eight on the 25-acre campus. It is 35,000-square feet of classroom and lab space built to conveniently accommodate students in and around Henry County.
Southern Crescent Tech officials said the county accounts for 27 percent of the college’s student population. But residents only now have that immediate access to the college thanks to nearly a decade of community discussion, planning and collaborations.
June Wood, chair of the college’s board of directors, spoke to the years-long efforts to build a brick-and-mortar facility for students in under-served Henry County.
Wood said the ongoing project to develop the technical college presence began with discussions among members of the local school board and development authority and officials at then-Griffin Technical College and the Technical College System of Georgia.
She said the school board donated 25 acres of land adjacent to its Henry County High campus.
The Henry County Chamber of Commerce Steering Committee studied the matter and garnered business community support for the project.
She said the endeavor also involved county and city leaders and the Henry County Legislative Delegation, which helped secure state funding to construct the first and second buildings on the McDonough campus. SPLOST dollars, too, have been devoted to building out Henry County Center.
Representatives from the aforementioned organizations were on hand to celebrate the fruits of their labors.
Charles Woodroof, also a member of Southern Crescent Tech’s board of directors, spoke along with the college’s president, Dr. Randall Peters.
Other speakers included TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson; Henry County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Charlie Scott; McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland; Henry County Board of Commissioners Chair Tommy Smith; State Rep. Andrew Welch (District 110); State Rep. John Yates (District 73); State Sen. Rick Jeffares (District 17); and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Those involved in manifesting the vision spoke as well — Mark Milam, owner of Impact Officer Interiors, which furnished the space; Tony Aeck, chair of Lord, Aeck and Sargent Architecture, who designed Building A ; and Dave Cyr, president of Parrish Construction Group, who built the facility. Construction costs were about $7.2 million with $1.2 million to furnish and equip the building.
An open house followed Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. It included a tour of the building, which is outfitted with general purpose classrooms, a CISCO networking lab, computer classrooms, life science labs and an MRI/CT simulator.
The center facilitates Southern Crescent Tech programs in business management, criminal justice, logistics and pre-allied health courses as well as general education core classes.
Spokeswoman Anna Taylor said 160 credit-seeking students are enrolled at the site this summer. She said there are also residents who receive adult education instruction at the facility. Taylor said 250 students have enrolled for fall courses at the center so far. She said fall semester begins Aug. 18, and enrollment is ongoing. For more about program offerings, visit www.sctech.edu.Read More
From the Henry Herald June 24, 2014 edition:
ATLANTA — State Rep. Andy Welch has been appointed by the speaker of the House to head a committee examining the regulation of organizations and facilities providing care to children on behalf of the state.
Welch, R-McDonough, was the lead sponsor of a bill establishing the House Study Committee on Licensing and Inspection of Child Welfare Providers. Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, tapped Welch to chair the committee which also includes Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, and Republicans Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, Tom Weldon of Ringgold, Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, Penny Houston of Nashville and Joyce Chandler of Grayson.
Welch, who represents parts of Butts, Henry and Newton counties, said various nonprofit facilities provide services of different types to children in state care, including those connected to the juvenile justice system and the Department of Family and Children Services. He said one focus of the committee will be to understand who is providing those services and how various state agencies regulate them.
“The focus here is to look at the regulations, determine whether or not we’re creating an undue burden on the provider” and ensure, protective, educational and in some cases rehabilitative services are delivered, Welch said. “The protection of the state’s children, and wards of the state, is extremely important to their future … As legislators, we have a responsibility to make sure the agencies are providing those services.”
Welch said the committee will be interested in how such facilities are inspected so as to determine whether inspections by different agencies have overlapping areas of focus or are necessary to determine whether various services are provided adequately.
“We’re just trying to look at that balance and see if, indeed, it is out of whack,” he said. The committee will study “in as many facets as possible, how is the state providing care to children and to what extent can we provide better care and more effective regulatory oversight of these organizations that are providing care?”
Welch, who is vice chairman of the standing House Appropriations subcommittee on economic development and vice chairman of the House committee on code revision, said the child welfare study committee will meet at least three times in August and September of this year. One of those meetings will likely consist of a visit to a child welfare service provider to observe the inspection process.
He said if more than three meetings are needed, based on the information gathered by the committee and the questions that may remain after the three initial meetings, the committee could meet up to five times.
Welch said the first meeting is planned for mid-August with a presentation from the Department of Human Services. The study committee is expected to make any recommendations for legislative changes by the end of the year, in time for the next session of the General Assembly.Read More