“Crossover Day,” the busiest day of the entire legislative session, was on Wednesday, February 28th of week eight. Since this was the last day a piece of legislation could pass out of its original chamber and still remain eligible for consideration by the opposite legislative chamber, my colleagues and I worked late hours to ensure the passing of significant bills. Now that “Crossover Day” has passed, all legislation that passed the House is being reviewed by the Senate, and all legislation passed by the Senate is being reviewed by the House. We passed the following measures this week:
House Rural Development Council
- House Bill 951 – Passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, this bill would create a central information and research hub for rural leadership training and best practices called the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation (CRPI). Located within a college or institution of the University System of Georgia that awards Bachelor of Science degrees in rural community development, these centers will be offered guidance by a 12-member Georgia Rural Development Council. Through collaboration with the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture, these centers would be responsible for research and study of issues affecting rural economic development. A deputy commissioner for rural Georgia would also be created.
- House Bill 887 – This bill would establish the following:
- The Georgia Communications Services Tax Act, allowing municipal corporations and electrical membership corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband service in unserved areas within their corporate limits
- The Local Government Communication Services Fair Competition Act of 2018, expanded to include all communication services, not just cable services
- The allowance of communities to apply to be certified as broadband ready through the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA)
- The requirement of GEMA’s director to develop a grant program that would award projects to qualified broadband providers who request the least amount of money to expand in unserved areas
- The authorization of GEMA to create a broadband availability map of the state showing unserved areas and publish the map on GEMA’s website
- The regulation of an authority’s pole attachment rate
- House Bill 764 – In an effort to expand the current list of qualifying medical conditions for low THC oil treatment, this bill added two additional illnesses to that list, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intractable pain. After applying for Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry under the Georgia Department of Public Health at the recommendation of their physicians, these individuals would receive an identification card exempting them from medical cannabis oil possession prosecution in Georgia. The legal possession amount would be a maximum of 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil with a maximum of 5 percent THC.
- House Bill 605 – By updating Georgia’s current Hidden Predator Act, this bill seeks to keep individuals or entities who conceal child abuse accountable for their actions by doing the following:
- Extending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases from age 23 to age 38
- Lengthening the discovery time period from two years to four years for a victim who experiences psychological or emotional problems as a result of child sexual abuse to report such abuse
- Establishing a one-year period for a childhood sexual abuse victim to file civil actions against an entity if the entity: was responsible for the victim’s care; knew or should have known of the conduct that brought about the civil action; or intentionally or consciously concealed evidence of sexual abuse
- House Bill 673 – This bill would create a hands-free driving law in the state of Georgia, prohibiting drivers from holding, supporting or reaching for a wireless telecommunication device or a stand-alone electronic device while operating a vehicle; banning them from texting, browsing the internet or watching or recording videos; permitting them to use GPS navigation and voice-to-text features on their devices; and charging any violations with a misdemeanor. First-time offenders would also receive a 2-point deduction on their driver’s license; repeat offenders would undergo a staggered point deduction system. The following will not be applicable for violation: operating these devices while a vehicle is lawfully parked, while reporting an emergency or a hazardous road condition or to utility service providers, law enforcement officers or first responders operating within the scope of their employment.
Identity Theft/Credit Fraud
- House Bill 866 – In an attempt to decrease the amount of identity theft, this bill would update current credit reporting agency laws, prohibiting them from charging a fee for freezing or unfreezing a consumer account.
- House Bill 718 – After presenting proper documentation, this bill would allow students to have up to five excused absences for military affairs sponsored events if their parent or guardian currently serves or previously served in the armed forces, Reserves or National Guard; however, not all Georgia school systems would be required to adopt this policy.
- House Bill 930 – Although this bill was introduced weeks ago, it was overwhelmingly passed in the House this week with a vote of 162-13. This bill will do the following for the metropolitan Atlanta region:
- Facilitate transit coordination, integration, and efficiency
- Promote a seamless and high-quality transportation system
- Create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (ATL) Authority to coordinate transit planning, funding and operations
- Establish state and local funding sources to improve transit access
Now that we have officially completed “Crossover Day,” the House will continue to review Senate measures and pass them in the House Chamber. Our final day of the 2018 legislative session is March 28, and I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office or call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
“Crossover Day” is now only a week away, so our seventh week of session included bill voting, committee overview and discussion of legislation, and the annual State of the Judiciary address delivered by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Chief Justice P. Harris Hines. A few of those bills and the address are highlighted below.
- House Bill 918 – After proper introduction by Governor Nathan Deal and House and Senate members, this bill was overwhelmingly passed. This bill would improve Georgia’s outdated tax code by doing the following:
- Reduce the income tax rate for individuals and businesses from 6 percent to 5.75 percent beginning on Jan. 1, 2019
- Reduce the tax rate to 5.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2020, but requires approval of the General Assembly and signature of the governor in order to take effect
- Eliminate the sales tax on jet fuel
- Address the state revenue projections resulting from the recent Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
- Double the state standard deduction for Georgia taxpayers for all filing statuses, effective Jan. 1, 2018
House Rural Development Council (RDC)
- House Bill 769 – The more rural parts of the state of Georgia require better access to quality health care, and this bill seeks to improve that access. The entirety of this bill includes:
- Allowing for remote pharmacy orders
- Updating credentialing and billing practices
- Establishing the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability
- Establishing micro-hospitals
- Creating a grant program for physicians practicing in medically underserved rural areas of the state
- House Bill 735 – This bill would attempt to incentivize investment in rail infrastructure by creating an income tax credit (50 percent of the maintenance expenditures during the taxable year, capped at $3,500 per mile of railroad track) for track maintenance expenditures on owned or leased short line railroads.
- House Bill 876 – In an effort to increase business for Georgia’s tree farmers, lumber market, and sawmills, this bill would prohibit counties and municipalities from banning the use of wood products as a construction material, as long as the products meet the state minimum standard codes and the Georgia State Fire Code.
- House Bill 853 – This bill would be beneficial to the 300 to 500 public school students that are treated at psychiatric residential treatment centers. It would exempt them from paying tuition or fees to a local school system when they are admitted under a physician’s order into these centers.
- House Bill 732 – In an effort to fight horror of sex trafficking in our state, this bill expands the definition of sex trafficking by including anyone who patronizes sexually explicit conduct from a sex trafficking victim. A sentence of five to 20 years would be charged to anyone who commits this offense.
- House Bill 840 – This bill gives active-duty military members 60 days to make full payment of their due taxes without penalties. These taxes include: unpaid special, occupational or sales taxes and license, and regulatory or administrative fees incurred and usually expired while they are in a combat zone.
State of the Judiciary Address
- This annual address seeks to update our General Assembly on the judicial branch’s accomplishments and future objectives. Chief Justice Hines, head of the judiciary, talked about the newly elected judges, the future election of a new state Supreme Court justice, Gov. Deal’s fifth appointment to Georgia’s highest court, the recent accomplishments of Georgia’s criminal justice reform, and the recommendation of the creation of a statewide business court to handle complex financial cases.
“Crossover Day” is this Wednesday, February 28. This day marks the last day a bill may pass out of its original legislative chamber and remain eligible for consideration in this legislative session, so my colleagues and I are prepared to commit to even longer hours of study and work as we prepare for it. As always, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
With the halfway mark behind us and “Crossover Day” only a few days away, week six was a substantially busy and productive time for my colleagues and I. Below are summaries of the bills discussed and passed during this legislative week.
- House Bill 487 – This bill was overwhelmingly passed and seeks to give Civil Air Patrol disaster service volunteers the same flexibility and leave allowances as American Red Cross volunteers by granting paid leave for no more than 15 work days per year to participate in specialized emergency service operations. In doing so, Civil Air Patrol volunteers will no longer lose seniority, pay, vacation, compensatory time, sick time or earned accumulated overtime at work because of their emergency situation assistance.
- House Bill 678 – This bill strives to eliminate “surprise” hospital bills for Georgia citizens, which can sometimes be 10 to 12 times higher than in-network charges when an out-of-network doctor participates in their treatment team during an elective procedure. With this bill, patients will now be able to request and obtain information about other medical professionals and hospitals and potential care costs before care is given, file a dispute with an arbitrator from the insurance department, and give the patient 90 days to secure payment, negotiate or initiate a dispute after receiving a “surprise” bill.
- House Bill 79 – In an effort to protect citizen’s data, HB 79 would make it a requirement for law enforcement agencies to destroy unused data such as license plate information after 30 months. Information and data would only be allowed to be kept if it is part of an ongoing investigation or toll violation. There is no current law that restricts the amount of time law enforcement agencies can keep this data.
- House Bill 749 – Unanimously passed, this bill would exclude military retirement income from Georgia income tax. It would also exclude military retirement income received by a deceased veteran’s surviving family member, regardless of the family member’s age.
- House Bill 740 – By providing students with a multi-tiered system of support, this bill hopes to lessen the amount of students suspended each year. This bill would also prevent expulsion and suspension in public preschool through third grade for five or more days per school year without first attempting the aforesaid multi-tiered system of support, except students who are in possession of a weapon, drugs or any other dangerous item.
- House Bill 635 – This bill would allow the establishment of an Adult Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Multidisciplinary Team for investigations of elder/disabled adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Created by the district attorney or his or her designee and representatives from law enforcement agencies, these teams would work collaboratively to improve response procedures and policies on elderly or disabled adult abuse.
- House Bill 930 – In an effort to improve Metro Atlanta transportation and traffic, this bill would provide a new regional governance and funding structure for that area. It would also create the Atlanta-region Transit Link (the ‘ATL’). The responsibilities of this link would include coordinating transit planning and funding and overseeing Metro Atlanta transit activity.
My colleagues and I are now only 17 working days away from our adjournment, “Sine Die.” In our remaining weeks, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
My colleagues and I remained hard at work during our fifth week of the 2018 legislative session, as we are only a few weeks away from “Cross Over Day.” This week, we passed House Bill 683, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget, which is arguably the most important legislative piece we will pass during our entire session.
Highlights of the AFY 2018 Budget
Passed with a vote of 167-8, HB 683 sets the AFY 2018 budget to $25.3 billion. This budget seeks to obtain growth in education, healthcare/human services, and key initiatives recommended by the House Rural Development Council (RDC). Now that it is being reviewed by the Senate, we can shift our focus to the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.
- Education – Some of the AFY 2018 budget’s largest investments are in education. They include the following:
- $102.1 million for enrollment growth for 7,515 additional students, charter system grants, and State Commission Charter School supplements
- $15.5 million to purchase 200 new school buses for school systems statewide
- $400,000 to establish a leadership academy for principals across the state
- $10.7 million to meet the needs of 4,720 new Dual Enrollment students
- $10 million for the Board of Regents to cover the growing cost of graduate-level medical education at Augusta University
- $8.1 million in lottery funds to keep up with the growing demand for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships
- $75,000 to plan for the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations, as recommend by the RDC
- Health and Human Services – The following investments were set aside for health and human services appropriations:
- $1 million to fund an electronic visit verification system for home and community-based services
- $1.25 million for crisis services, $1.1 million to develop capacity for behavioral health services, and $128,292 in existing funds for telehealth services in allocations for autism
- Funding for a program coordinator position in the Department of Community Health and for a program support coordinator in the Department of Public Health to provide behavioral health services to children under 21 who are diagnosed with autism
- $15.1 million for out-of-home care growth for the rising number of children in Georgia’s foster care system
- $100,000 for a statewide medical fair to recruit employees in rural areas
- $75,000 for the Office of Rural Health to identify a postsecondary institution within our state to house the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability
- $1 million for more behavioral health crisis stabilization beds
- Natural Disasters & Other Critical Needs – Georgia was impacted by several natural disasters this year. The following appropriations were made for those critical needs:
- $10 million to the OneGeorgia Authority to fund beach nourishment projects in communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irma
- $10 million to replenish Gov. Deal’s emergency fund
- $3 million to purchase equipment to prevent and combat wildfires
For other needs of our state:
- $25.2 million to lengthen rural runways to accommodate larger aircrafts in an effort to increase economic development and investment in the Georgia’s rural communities
- $5 million for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to implement the statewide criminal justice e-filing initiative
- $500,000 for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purchase supplies needed to process DNA sexual assault kits
- House Bill 700 – Unanimously passed, this bill would improve the National Guard Service Cancelable Loan program by expanding their coverage to the cost of graduate degree programs for National Guard members. These loans are currently only available for undergraduate degree programs; by expanding the program to the graduate level, the program will receive 50 additional individuals annually. These loans will not exceed the cost of tuition, and recipients would be expected to remain in good standing with the National Guard, as well as commit themselves to two years of service upon graduation.
- House Bill 669 – Currently, all firefighters must complete a basic training course within one year of their hire date. HB 699 would eliminate this necessity for former members of the armed forces, including the United States Coast Guard, Georgia National Guard, or Georgia Air National Guard.
- House Bill 701 – Georgia is currently facing a destructive opioid epidemic. This bill was overwhelmingly passed in an effort to fight this crisis, and it would allow opioid testing for all state employment drug testing, with the exception of those with valid and legal opioid prescription.
- House Bill 655 – In an effort to stop child abuse, HB 655 would require public, local, and state charter schools to post signs with the toll-free phone number of the child abuse hotline operated by the Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Human Services.
- House Bill 159 (Update) – My colleagues and I have been anticipating the passing of HB 159, and the Senate finally did so on Monday, February 5. After nearly two-and-a-half years of refinement by State Representative Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), this bill will ultimately bring thousands of children to their forever homes more quickly and more productively. Now that the bill has been passed by the General Assembly, it will make its way to Gov. Deal’s desk for final approval.
My colleagues and I continue to work diligently as we draw nearer to the halfway mark of our 40-day session. I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
During our fourth week of the 2018 legislative session, we persisted in our discussion of bill proposals and subsequent passing of meaningful legislation. The following bills were passed this session:
- House Bill 159 – One of our most substantial accomplishments this week was the unanimous passage of House Bill 159, the piece of legislation on current Georgian adoption laws that I described previously as it was being reviewed by the Senate. After thorough examination by my House colleagues, the Senate, and the governor’s office, HB 159’s amendments were approved and reviewed with additional changes, which means this bill will be sent to Gov. Deal’s desk for final approval after being passed by the Senate. These changes include:
- An update on the revocation period for Georgia birth mothers from 10 days to 4 days
- Access to reasonable living expenses for all birth mothers, refining the current law that only birth mothers in agency adoptions are allowed reasonable living expenses
- Safeguards on temporary powers of attorney
- House Bill 661 – HB 661 also passed unanimously, and it seeks to update the process for filing and removing tax liens against real estate. This update keeps the efficiencies of the original legislation, removes the current provision on statewide liens, and reverts back to county specific liens.
- House Bill 694 – Also passed unanimously, House Bill 694 would provide an updated method of submitting monthly motor fuel tax reports for motor fuel distributors and wholesalers. Distributors are currently required to only submit reports electronically if the submission is $500 or more, and this bill would require monthly reports to be submitted electronically regardless of the amount.
- House Bill 135 – Also this week, the House passed a measure to provide more law enforcement officers with important state retirement benefits. House Bill 135 seeks to provide state retirement benefits to an expanded group of law enforcement officers by including the Department of Driver Services (DDS) investigators. An additional five years of creditable service would become available to them in the state’s Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) for prior law enforcement services.
The Official State Insect
- House Bill 671 – Our official state insect, the honey bee, is an essential factor in our state’s ecosystem and economy. As the third largest producer of bees and the tenth largest producer of honey in the nation, Georgia remains a leader in the beekeeping industry. This bill will promote the conservation and protection of the honey bee by creating a specialty license plate with the phrase “Save the Honey Bee” and making this plate available for purchase.
My colleagues and I remain engrossed in our legislative duties as prepare ourselves for the following weeks of session, including legislative Day 28, “Crossover Day.” I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
By the end of our third week in session, we reached Legislative Day 10, a marker of our one-fourth completion of the overall 40-day session. We remained busy this week with introductions recommended by our interim House councils and commissions, and we also finalized our adjournment resolution.
Georgia’s economic prosperity, although widespread, has not reached all parts of our state, and some areas need improvement. In our previous session, the House Rural Development Council (RDC) was established through House Resolution 389, followed by extensive, rural community research and an eventual presentation of two reports that outline how to improve these community’s economy.
- House Bill 735 – This bill is the first rural development-related bill that the House has ever considered, and it would encourage investment in rail infrastructure in rural Georgia by creating a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures.
- House Resolution 848 – This resolution was adopted in the 2017 session, and it established the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding, which examines Georgia transportation issues and discovers ways to improve them. We are expecting to discuss legislation on this topic this session, as the transit commission has been researching over the 2017 summer and fall seasons.
We also determined our calendar for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session this week as we worked with our Senate counterparts. Legislative Day 40, the final day of our session and otherwise referred to as “Sine Die,” will take place on Thursday, March 29.
The House Rules Committee
The House Rules Committee held its first official meeting on Thursday, January 25. This committee is vital to our session, as they determine which bills are worthy of debate and eventual vote on our House floor once they have been passed out of their respective subcommittees. Once these bills are passed by the Rules Committee, they are heard on the House floor the following legislative day, which means voting for our first pieces of legislation will likely begin next week.
Review of Gov. Deal’s Budget Proposals
This week, we took the next step in developing a balanced state budget based off of Gov. Deal’s recommendations by holding hearings with the House Appropriations subcommittees. Once Gov. Deal’s proposals are reviewed in our Appropriations subcommittees, the House floor will draft a bill for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget and another bill for the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget.
- The AFY 2018 Budget – This budget, which covers our current fiscal year until June 30, is nicknamed the “small budget.” It uses a more precise estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between anticipated and actual state revenue.
- The FY 2019 Budget – Nicknamed the “big budget,” this budget covers our entire state budget for the fiscal year of 2019 starting July 1. It is based on projected state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year, and each portion will be passed by its respective Appropriations subcommittees, and reviewed and passed by the full House Appropriations Committee.
- Rules Committee – Once the complete budgets are passed by the House Appropriations Committees, they will then be passed on to the Rules Committee that places them on the House calendar. From here, they will be discussed on the House floor before being voted upon.
- Senate – After being passed by the House, these budgets will be passed along to the Senate and undergo the same process. Because of their likely differences from their original editions, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will appoint a conference committee to resolve these differences.
- Final Vote – Final voting takes place after the conference committee comes to an agreement, and both chambers must agree on the contents of the bill before approval. After being approved, these budgets finally reach Gov. Deal’s desk, where he has the choice to sign or veto the legislation. If signed, these budgets become state law.
Congressman Doug Collins
On Thursday, January 25, my colleagues and I enjoyed a visit from distinguished Georgian and former state representative Congressman Doug Collins. Along with his praise of our dedicated work and legislative example, he also brought updates from our state’s congressional delegation in Washington D.C. We were honored by his presence and we admire his commitment to improving our state.
National Guard Day
Thursday was also National Guard Day at the Capitol, and we took some time to honor the men and women of the Georgia National Guard by presenting them with House Resolution 902. The Georgia Department of Defense employs over 10,891 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,746 Air National Guard Airmen, 583 State Defense Force members and over 600 state employees. Since 9/11, over 18,000 Georgia National Guard members have been deployed overseas, and more than 200 are currently being deployed. These selfless men and women provide military-ready forces to the president and disaster response forces to the governor, and we are thankful for their contribution to the state of Georgia.
As we continue with the 2018 legislative session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. I serve as a member of the Code Revision, Judiciary, Juvenile Justice, and Regulated Industries committees, and I encourage you to contact me to discuss any measures that will be discussed by these committees or any other legislation that may interest you. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
During the second week of the 2018 legislative session on Tuesday, January 16, my House colleagues and I convened for legislative Day Five and legislative Day Six of the session, and also began one of our most significant annual undertakings, the state budget process. The process begins with the joint House and Senate Appropriations committees’ review of Governor Nathan Deal’s budget recommendations.
Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget
Because of our state’s exceptional recent economic development, Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget is the largest budget our General Assembly has ever been presented with. Georgia has become an economic national leader, and Gov. Deal’s proposal hopes to contribute even further to our state’s financial success. The General Assembly also heard testimonies from various state agency heads as they expressed their fiscal needs, which our final budget will supply with state funding.
Once these proposals are reviewed by the House Appropriations subcommittees, each respective subcommittee will pass portions of the state budget to the full House Appropriations Committee, which will then examine and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.
- Transportation – Georgia’s transportation network is a significant factor in the future and continued success of our state’s economy. Gov. Deal’s FY 2019 budget recommends more than $1.9 billion in annual, transportation infrastructure funding, as well as an additional $100 million for bridge repair and replacement. In the governor’s Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget proposal, he also allocates more than $25 million to runway expansion in both urban and rural areas of our state.
- Education – Both Governor Deal and his wife, First Lady Sandra Deal, have a passion for education and our state’s school system. Gov. Deal’s AFY 2018 budget includes $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth and $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program. For the governor’s FY 2019 budget proposal, he allocates $30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts and adds $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training and experience for Georgia teachers. An allocated $1.8 million would go towards the the REACH Georgia Scholarship program, which would allow the program to disburse an additional 226 statewide scholarships and expand into 44 new school districts. An additional $361.7 million was also proposed for our state’s Teachers Retirement System, which would fully fund Georgia’s employer contribution.
- Healthcare – Since our state’s $240 million investment in behavioral health, Georgia has seen a significant decline in individuals civilly committed to behavioral health hospitals. The governor seeks to improve this number even further with his proposal of $15 million to funding Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to the construction of supportive housing. Gov. Deal’s also recommends to contribute to the Children’s Autism Initiative with $3.5 million in the AFY 2018 budget and almost $7 million in FY 2019 budget. Per recommendation of the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, other recommendations to the FY 2019 budget include: $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education, and opioid prevention and treatment.
- Criminal Justice – Gov. Deal has worked diligently to make his criminal justice reform initiatives successful, and they received additional funding in his budget proposal. Georgia’s accountability court system is one of these initiatives, and it gives low-level, non-violent offenders sentencing alternatives; for example, rehabilitative services are offered as a substitute. A total of $113.9 million has been allotted to these statewide courts since 2012, and the FY 2019 budget includes an additional $5 million.
- Other Highlights – Additional proposals include: funding for Georgia’s child welfare services, including $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization; $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates; $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates; $256 million for Medicaid expense growth to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.
Our colleagues in the Senate also passed House Bill 159 and added House Bill 359 during this week’s session.
- HB 159 – This bill will update Georgia’s adoption laws. No modernizations have made in nearly 30 years on this subject, so this bill was passed unanimously and successfully.
- HB 359 – This bill was vetoed by Gov. Deal last year, and it concerns temporary powers of attorney.
Gov. Deal’s Major Announcements
- State of Emergency Issue – Gov. Deal issued a state of emergency for 83 of Georgia’s central and northern counties impacted by winter weather on Wednesday, January 17. Because of this winter storm, our budget hearings were rescheduled and the House and Senate meetings were postponed to Thursday afternoon; however, the storm could not hinder our legislative duty, and we remained dedicated to finishing our work.
- Amazon’s Short List – Our assembly has long anticipated the release of Amazon’s short list of Top 20 finalists for the company’s second headquarters, and Gov. Deal announced Atlanta’s placement on that list on Thursday morning. As one of the top states in which to do business, Georgia has a strong advantage over other states in this site selection process, and I look forward to seeing the final outcome.
Our legislative session will reconvene on Monday, January 22. I hope that my session updates will continue to help you stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole. The House website has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.
If you ever find yourself in Atlanta during session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.Read More
The 2018 Legislative Session and 154th Georgia General Assembly officially began on Monday, January 8, 2018, and my colleagues and I are prepared to work diligently in the following weeks to discuss and pass important legislation. Day One is always an exciting and significant part of our session, and this week we channeled that energy into our work as we discussed legislative business, met with committees to review and discuss proposed legislation, and Governor Nathan Deal delivered his annual State of the State address.
State of the State Address
Governor Deal’s State of the State address touched on many important topics, including Georgia’s exceptional economic growth, funding for the educational system, and most importantly the figurative significance of planting “orchards of opportunity” for our future generations. Next year we will celebrate his retirement of serving as Georgia’s governor for seven years and serving our state for four decades.
Governor Deal’s touching address began with a rumination of Georgia’s growth since he became our state’s 82nd governor in 2011. He has achieved the following accomplishments: an exceptional drop in Georgia’s unemployment rate from 10.4 percent to 4.3 percent, which is the lowest it has been in over 10 years; the creation of more than 675,000 private sector jobs; the maintenance of our state’s AAA bond rating and addition to our Rainy Day Fund; Georgia’s recognition as the No. 1 state in which to do business for five consecutive years; the booming film and television industry; and investments in education and criminal justice reform.
- Georgia’s Film Industry – Georgia’s film industry growth in the past decade includes a $9.5 billion economic impact, the movement of over 200 new companies to Georgia to support film and television production, the accountability of 92,000 jobs across our state, and an increase in student interest of the courses at the Georgia Film Academy. The film industry will only continue to flourish with programs such as these, and I look forward to seeing the benefits of its growth!
- Education – The following advances in education have been made since Governor Deal has been in office: state spending on education has increased by $3.6 billion for a total of $14 billion in state education expenditures, the HOPE Career Grant program was created, a marketing campaign to highlight Georgia’s technical colleges for post-secondary education growth was developed, and funds were created to establish the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, which is named after his wife, former teacher, and supporter of young learners First Lady Sandra Deal.
- Criminal Justice – Governor Deal has focused heavily on criminal justice reform efforts since taking office, and he has had immense success in his endeavors. There are currently 149 state-funded accountability court programs that sentence alternatives to nonviolent offenders, and each of Georgia’s 49 judicial circuits operates at least one sort of accountability court.
- Amended Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019 State Budget – The following proposals were made by Gov. Deal for the 2018 state budget: an allocation of $102 million for K-12 enrollment growth, $10.7 million for growth in Georgia’s Dual Enrollment program, $43.6 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid, $15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody, $2.4 million for autism services for children under the age of 21, $17.6 million for Forestland Protection Act grants and $10 million for beach nourishment projects and $25.2 million for airport runway extension projects. Gov. Deal’s 2019 state budget proposals include: $361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System, $127 million for K-12 education, $30 million to assist low-wealth school systems, $28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases, $22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children’s Mental Health, $5 million for accountability courts to implement new courts and expand existing courts, and $31 million for transportation and $100 million to repair roads and bridges in Georgia. These proposals will continue to be reviewed and revised as we proceed with our legislative session.
An adjournment resolution, our legislative calendar, was also covered during this session. We create this schedule in order to make the most of our together, as my colleagues and I are not full-time lawmakers and face other obligations outside of the General Assembly. Our time together is critical, and it is important that we adjust our adjournment resolution to the benefit of our Georgia Assembly.
College Football Playoff National Championship Day
Our state was honored to host the College Football Playoff National Championship at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium last Monday, and we took some time to celebrate this event during our first week of session by adopting House Resolution 867, which recognizes Dan Corso and commends the Atlanta Football Host Committee for organizing this great event for our state. Despite the final outcome of the game, we were proud of our state for hosting this game for the first time in Georgia’s history.
Now that the legislative session has officially begun, my House colleagues and I will be working diligently to pass meaningful legislation on behalf of all Georgians. I hope that my session updates will help you to stay informed on legislative matters that impact our community and state as a whole. The House website has several tools that might be useful to you throughout the legislative session: a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos and detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.
If you ever find yourself in Atlanta during session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol office, and please do not hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns regarding any current or upcoming legislation. My Capitol office is located at 220 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334, my office phone number is 404-656-5912, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
With a new year almost upon us, our community and delegation has begun looking ahead to the 2018 legislative session. On December 5, I attended a luncheon at the Henry County Administration Building with other Henry County delegates to discuss the county’s objectives and concerns for the next year. I want to take a moment to thank Henry County officials for having me and for hosting this luncheon and discussion. Here are some informational highlights from our meeting:
Henry County Public Safety Training Academy
Among the topics discussed, Henry County staff emphasized the community’s need for a public safety training academy. The Henry County Police Department would strongly benefit from training their officers locally, rather than sending them to other academies in the state to do so. If the department could train in its own district, they would eliminate the cost of training elsewhere, therefore saving money.
House Bill 204
House Bill 204 was also examined during our luncheon. This bill would remove non-tax related fees from property tax bills, thereby obstructing the county’s revenue sources. BOC Chairperson June Wood strongly encouraged delegates to not support this bill in the upcoming 2018 legislative session.
Henry County Coroner
Lastly, the Henry County staff addressed their desire to pay their coroner by salary, rather than the current state of paid by call. This resolution was approved by the Henry County Board of Commissioners and requested for legislation.
I always enjoy discussing the needs, endeavors, and goals of my districts. Our community is continually striving for growth and improvement, and I am proud to represent it.Read More
The holiday season, though one of the busiest times of the year, is a favorite for me and my family, as well as the Henry County community. Christmas is a time of celebration, gift-giving, and reuniting with loved ones, and there will be many local opportunities to do so this year in our community. Tree lighting celebrations, visits from Santa, Christmas tree sales, and Christmas caroling are just a few!
The much-loved Southern Belle Farm will be having a three week long holiday event, where you and your families can enjoy homemade cookies, fresh apple cider, friendly farm animals, and visits from Santa on the weekends. This “Farmstead Christmas” will take place from November 24 – December 17, so mark your calendars!
Yule Forest in Stockbridge, Georgia will help you find the perfect Christmas tree for your family this year. This local farm does offer pre-cut trees, but they also offer the experience to choose and cut your own tree from their field, as well as Christmas tree delivery. Their Christmas tree farm opens on Thanksgiving Day, and includes Leyland Cypress, Virginia Pines and Blue Ice Christmas Trees.
Enjoy the crisp fresh air at the Panola Mountain State Park Holiday Elf Hike on December 23. If your family follows the Elf On The Shelf tradition, this event is perfect for you. Panola invites your children to bring their elf, doll, or other stuffed animal along for their hike and following hot cocoa. To register for this event, please call 770-389-7801.
As you enjoy these holiday festivities, try to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and the joy it brings to our community, friends, and families. I wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas this year!Read More