From Under the Gold Dome

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Jan 27, 2014 Comments Off on From Under the Gold Dome kirbyforgeorgia

We began the second session of the 152nd Georgia General Assembly on Jan. 13. with a goal to get back home to our constituents by April, we hit the ground running.

On Jan. 15, Gov. Nathan Deal jump-started the session by revealing his goals for the year in the State of the State address.  In his address, Gov. Deal detailed the exceptional progress Georgia’s economy has made since the Great Recession.  The state’s unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2009.  Lower unemployment means more Georgians are back at work and state revenues are returning to pre-recession levels.  Gov. Deal presented his ideas on how to best allocate state revenues in his amended budget for the Fiscal Year 2014 the mid-year spending plan which helps fund the final few months of the current fiscal year and full budget for Fiscal year 2015, the state’s budget from July 1 to June 30. He projects that revenues for AFY2014 and FY2015 will total $20.2 billion and $20.8 billion, respectively. Both figures are a increase from the forecast from last session.

Georgia’s education system ranked at the top of Gov. Deal’s priority list in his address. Among his goals for education was an increase in Internet access at schools across the state, expand online learning programs and the creation of a new Zell Miller Hope Grant for technical college students who maintain  3.5 GPA.

In his budget summary, Gov. Deal recommended Georgia’s education system obtain the largest budgetary increase in the past seven years. Such funds have the potential to restore instructional days cut during the economic downturn and provide teachers with a much-needed and long-awaited pay raise.

Also included in the governor’s budget proposal is funding to increase caseworkers for the Division of Family and Children Services, so that reports of child abuse and neglect obtain the attention they deserve. Other objectives for the state include funding to deepen the Savannah port and the continuation of a three-year plan for criminal justice reforms, which could help reduce recidivism and crime in Georgia. Finally, the governor’s budget proposals also increased funding for the juvenile justice system with the intent to improve the retention rates of juvenile corrections officers.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees began the budgeting process and drafting the actual legislation that will ultimately guide all state spending. The process started Jan. 16 with a joint Appropriations Committee meeting. Gov. Deal led the presentations by detailing the major highlights of his budget proposals. The governor was followed by the leaders of our state agencies, each of whom explained their agency’s budget and answered questions from House and Senate members.

Another milestone was passage of House Bill 310. Recently signed into law by the governor, this legislation moves state and partisan county partisan county primary elections from July to May 20, so that the state elections will coincide with the federally mandated elections that were recently moved to May. If this fix had not been made, as voters we would have to vote at separate times to decide who we were going to send to Washington and who we were going to send to Atlanta. The change in dates also provides troops overseas with more time to vote via absentee ballot. For information about election dates and your voter registration status visit www.sos.ga.gov.

I want you to know I will be working hard every day we are in session in Atlanta. I have several bills that I will be working on that are important to Georgia and the people of District 114. I hope you will take the opportunity to review updates like this and you can also stay in touch by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov. I also hope to hear from you on your ideas and opinions regarding the issues facing our great state.