On January 8th, the House joined together for the first week of the 2018 legislative session. The first week of legislation is always an exciting and important time for my colleagues and I. We’re eagerly working at passing legislation that will improve the lives of Georgia citizens. The first order of business was for Governor Nathan Deal to deliver his final annual State of the State address.
Gov. Deal is set to retire next year and we were all encouraged by his final speech, which covered his hopes for Georgia’s future as well as all the progress that has been made over the past 8 years. Since Gov Deal. has been in office, Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4% to 4.3%, over 675,000 private sector jobs have been created and Georgia has been named the number 1 state to do business with for the last 5 consecutive years.
Gov. Deal also spoke of the booming film industry now found in Georgia. More than 200 new companies have located to Georgia in support of this growing industry and a remarkable 92,000 jobs have been created across our state! In addition to this, roughly 1,900 students have taken courses at the Georgia Film Academy. These individuals will eventually go on to support and continue to grow the industry. I am excited to see all the different ways our state will grow in this area. The opportunities are endless!
Gov. Deal also touched on the improvements Georgia has seen in her education system as well. Since Deal took office, state spending on education has seen a $3.6 billion increase which brings us to a total of $14 billion in state education expenditures. You may remember the allocation of funds to create the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. This center opened in June 2017 for the purpose of giving educators the skills they need to improve literacy in our schools. Gov. Deal highlighted the center’s namesake, First lady Sandra Deal, for her terrific work as an educator.
We were also reminded of how far the HOPE Scholarship has come. When Gov. Deal took office back in 2011, the HOPE Scholarship and other grant programs were nearing bankruptcy. In response to this, Gov. Deal created reforms that kept these programs afloat along with the HOPE Career Grant program. This program covers the full cost of technical school tuition for students in one of the 17 strategic industry, high-demand fields. 99.2% of these students have found employment, which is pretty incredible!
The state of Georgia has also seen great strides in criminal justice reform initiatives. For example, our state’s accountability courts have been successful to say the least. These courts provide sentencing alternatives for non-violent offenders and have significantly decreased the prison population. Today, there are 149 reform programs and all of Georgia’s judicial circuits manage at least one kind of accountability court.
Finally Gov. Deal also released his recommendations for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 state budget and the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.
- $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
- $10 million for beach nourishment projects
- $25.2 million for airport runway extension projects
Highlights from Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget recommendations 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
- $31 million for transportation
- $100 million to repair roads and bridges in Georgia
These recommendations will guide the General Assembly’s decisions as we do our best to create a balanced budget.You will learn more about what will be included in the budgets as session continues.
While most of this first week of session was spent getting to work on legislative decisions, we did take time to celebrate College Football Playoff National Championship Day. On the first day of session, the House adopted House Resolution 867 which recognizes Dan Corso and commends the Atlanta Football Host Committee for organizing the championship game. Although we did not win the game, hosting the National Championship was a first for Georgia and that is something we are very proud of!
Now that the legislative session has officially begun, my House colleagues and I are 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, www.house.ga.gov, has several tools that you might find useful during the legislative session. There is a live stream of House proceedings, live and archived committee meeting videos as well as detailed information on all legislation we are considering in the General Assembly.
As always if you ever find yourself in Atlanta during session, I encourage you to visit me at my Capitol 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 email@example.com. You can also stay up-to-date by following my Facebook page.