Last week marked both the first week in the 154th Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly and of the 2017-2018 term. During the week, all 180 members of the Georgia House of Representatives were officially sworn in and leaders were elected to guide the House through the term. In addition, Governor Nathan Deal delivered his State of the State address presenting both the current conditions of our state and the goals of our government moving forward.

Georgia has made remarkable progress since 2011, including:

  • Our unemployment rate dropping from 10.4 percent to 5.3 percent,
  • Rainy Day Fund increasing from $116 million to approximately $2.033 billion,
  • Maintaining a AAA bond rating,
  • Setting new records in trade, film production and tourism,
  • New private sector jobs reaching more than 575,000,
  • And we have been named the No. 1 state in the country to do business.

This strong foundation will allow us to craft policies that will continue to allow our state to grow and thrive. Gov. Deal spoke on these goals moving forward:

Statewide Law Enforcement Improvements

In addition to continued support for existing programs, Gov. Deal addressed officer training courses that would focus on deescalating violence, alternatives to deadly force, and providing our local law enforcement with access to Crisis Intervention Training. In his Fiscal Year 2018 budget recommendations, Gov. Deal also included a 20% pay raise for state-level law enforcement officers.

Georgia’s Veterans and Active Duty Military Personnel

Georgia is home to 61,288 active military members, 27,233 reservists and 752,000 veterans. Among these brave and selfless Georgians, nearly 1 in 4 active military personnel show signs of a mental health condition. Gov. Deal addressed the importance of providing a better quality of life for these men and women by providing access to quality healthcare services. To do this, he encouraged the allocation of funds by the General Assembly to train state and federal employees to assist and to improve our veterans access to mental health services. Additionally, Gov. Deal called for the creation of a position that will work with female veterans who have suffered military sexual trauma. Lastly, the governor hopes to secure funds for the construction of a rehabilitation facility for veterans suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.  It is important to me to ensure that these men and women have access to the the healthcare services that they need. I look forward to working on these issues.

Children’s Healthcare Benefits

Gov. Deal encouraged my colleagues and I to consider legislation that would allow Medicaid and State Health Benefit Plan coverage for treatments of those with autism up until the age 21. In addition, the legislation would increase coverage to treat children with behavioral and mental health issues from birth until age 4. Right now, Medicaid and PeachCare members are offered behavioral health services for ages 4+. This legislation would allow for the diagnosis and treatment of children with behavioral and mental health issues in the earliest stages.

Drug Monitoring in Georgia

In response to the growing statewide opioid addiction in Georgia, the Gov. Deal signed an executive order directing the Department of Public Health to allow pharmacists to prescribe naloxone over the counter. He also requested this drug, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, to be removed from the dangerous drug list. Gov. Deal encouraged my colleagues and I to continue his efforts and pass legislation supporting Georgia’s drug monitoring program.

Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center

Gov. Deal shared his plans for the development of a state-owned facility designed to promote innovation in cybersecurity technology. This $50 million facility, would facilitate the education and preparation of students to combat cyber-attacks. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will also operate a cybercrime lab at the facility.

Georgia’s Education System

In his budget recommendations, Gov. Deal included a 2% increase into the pay scale for all teaching positions as well as a 3% merit pay increase for teachers in the current fiscal year. The governor addressed the 64.7% to 79.2% increase in Georgia’s graduation rate since 2011, and encouraged legislation that will combat the state’s failing schools.

Budget Recommendation Highlights

Amended Fiscal Year 2017

  • $50 million for the new Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta
  • $27.3 million for a 20% increase in salary for law enforcement officers

Fiscal Year 2018

  • Over $300 million for salary increases for law enforcement officers, teachers, criminal investigators, (DFCS) caseworkers and environmental health personnel.

 

You are welcome to visit me at my office located at 607-F Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg.Atlanta, GA 30334. You may also feel free to call me at 404.656.0287 or send me an email at karen.mathiak@house.ga.gov. You can also stay up-to-date by following my Facebook page.

Thank you for letting me continue to serve and represent you.

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