2015 Legislative Session: Week One
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 770.957.3937. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.