2015 Legislative Session: Week Three
During the third week of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, my colleagues and I had the responsibility of passing one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year: the 2015 amended fiscal year budget (AFY 2015). This budget, a mid-year adjustment of state spending through June 30, 2015, was first introduced by Governor Deal at last week’s Joint Appropriations hearing. Since then, through a series of Appropriations Committee meetings, we have carefully reviewed and edited the AFY 2015 budget. Thanks to the committee’s diligent work, the House version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 (AFY 2015) budget was packaged into House Bill 75 and was passed unanimously by the House on Thursday, January 29th.
The House version of the AFY 2015 budget is very similar to Gov. Deal’s initial budget proposal. The amended budget includes an addition of $276 million in “new” funds, 70% of which will go toward education. Here are how the funds were allocated.
- $128.5 million will go towards K-12 enrollment growth
- $35 million will be added for local school systems to expand their wireless broadband internet connectivity.
- $7.4 million will go for equalization funding grants that will provide additional funds to K-12 systems that qualify based on per student wealth rankings
- $750,000 will go to support the Governor’s newly created Education Reform Commission
Higher education was also set as a budget priority, with funds designated for new engineering and military scholarships and the creation of the Georgia Film Academy. I am happy to see our state continue to put money into our school systems, as our children are a precious resource.
There are also several significant additions for economic development in our state. As we strive to ensure that Georgia remains the number one state in the country to do business, the House version of the AFY 2015 budget appropriates the following.
- $20 million in grants toward job-creating economic development projects through the OneGeorgia Authority
- $20 million for Regional Economic Business Assistance grants
- $4.5 million to support routine maintenance in the Department of Transportation
- $1.5 million set aside to keep Xpress buses running in 13 metro counties
By financing transportation and economic development projects such as these, we can make Georgia an even better place for business for years to come.
With a thriving economy comes an increase in our state’s population, so it is crucial that we take measures to ensure the good health and safety of all citizens.
- $5 million in the AFY 2015 budget is allocated for driver education programs to improve safety on Georgia’s roads.
- Funds are also set aside to expand the length of the Department of Corrections’ Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program from six to nine months
- The Board of Regents is issued $4.8 million to provide clinical trials on cannabidiol for children with medication resistant epilepsy.
These programs, among others, will make Georgia healthier and safer for families across the state.
In addition to passing the amended budget, we also took time to recognize some outstanding citizens across our state. On Monday, January 26, the House celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in honor of our brave Georgians in uniform. Dozens of airmen and soldiers visited the State Capitol and were recognized for their accomplishments on the House floor with House Resolution 27. We also had the honor of witnessing a new member of the Georgia National Guard be sworn into the Army National Guard by our colleague and veteran, Representative John Yates. It was an honor to meet this new soldier, as well as the many others who make such tremendous sacrifices for our freedom and safety.
On Tuesday, January 27, we had the privilege of meeting another group of courageous Georgians in honor of National Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, we paid special tribute to the Holocaust witnesses of liberation. These heroic Americans witnessed some of the worst atrocities in human history while they were serving in the U.S. military during World War II. They were each recognized in the House Chamber for their contribution to history preservation and the role that they played in the liberation of the Holocaust. Our colleague, Representative John Yates was among the six honorees that were recognized before the House.
Finally, this week we welcomed members of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team to the Gold Dome. Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins, CEO Steve Koonin, coach Mike Budenholzer, shooting guard Kyle Korver, and forward Elton Brand all visited the capitol on Tuesday, January 27th. After a recent 16 game winning streak, the Hawks were recognized before the House for their sportsmanship, citizenship, and positive economic impact on Atlanta.
As the 2015 legislative session moves into its fourth week, committees will be meeting more frequently to discuss pieces of legislation. I would love to hear your input on any bills that come before the House, because your comments help guide my decisions on Capitol Hill. I encourage you to call my office at the State Capitol in Atlanta at 770.957.3937. I can also be reached via email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.