Cumulative Legislative Update Week Ending Jan 23, 2015

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From the Desk of Representative Jeff Jones

Dear Friends,

Thank you for signing up to receive email updates from me about the 2015 session of the Georgia House of Representatives. I take my responsibilities to you, the constituents of District 167, very seriously and will work tirelessly to live up to the trust you have shown by electing me to this office.

First Week of Session - January 12, 2015

The first four days of the 2015 forty day session were a whirlwind of activity, with the swearing in of Governor Deal for a second 4-year term, plus the swearing of all of the State Senators and State Representatives - yours truly included. Our web page,  www.VoteJeffJones.com has additional pictures and information on these activities.

Late in the week, we received notice of our committee assignments, office assignments and seating on the House floor. I am proud to report that I was named to three committees:

1) Natural Resources & Environment, 2) Motor Vehicles, and 3) Interstate Cooperation.

During the week, I attended a couple of committee meetings, attended our Coastal Caucus meeting, and attended several meetings to discuss key legislative items (2016 budget;  transportation & infrastructure funding; marsh buffers; medical marijuana; and religious freedom) that the House and Senate will deal with in 2015.

Second Week of Session - January 19, 2015

Neither the House or Senate were in session this week so I was back at home in Glynn County, working at our business and working/meeting on several matters with citizens and officials in Glynn, Long and McIntosh counties on issues facing these counties. After celebrating the Martin Luther King Holiday on Monday, January 19, the House conducted meetings on the revised 2015 budget, which I watched on-line from Glynn County.

You can watch all House proceedings and committee meetings on-line using this link: http://www.house.ga.gov/communications/en-US/VideoBroadcasts.aspx

Budget Hearings and Meetings

This is an in-depth discussion of the budget hearings and meetings that took place this past week:

During the second week of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, the House and Senate appropriations committees held a series of joint budget hearings. This week we began the important task of reviewing the governor’s budget recommendations and creating legislation that will direct the state’s spending. Passing a balanced state budget is the only task that the General Assembly is constitutionally required to complete each legislative session. Through this process, we must outline two balanced state budgets: an amended budget for the current fiscal year (AFY 2015) and a full budget for the following fiscal year (FY 2016). The full fiscal year budget uses a projected state revenue estimate to guide state spending from July 1 to June 30. The amended budget uses a more accurate estimate of state revenue and accounts for any discrepancies between the projected estimate and actual revenue obtained. These joint budget hearings provided us with an opportunity to closely examine the recommendations and hear testimonies from various state agencies, each explaining their budgetary needs and answering questions from House and Senate members. 

As Georgia’s economy continues to improve, we have seen sustained growth in the state’s revenue allowing for an addition of “new” funds in the budget. Georgia is expected to maintain its growth for the current fiscal year, AFY 2015, and even more growth is expected in FY 2016. In fact, Gov. Deal’s AFY 2015 budget includes an addition of $276 million in “new” funds, and the FY 2016 budget projects an additional $670 million increase. This increase in state revenue and state spending will help our great state prosper for years to come.

In order for our state to continue to prosper, it is fundamental that we invest in a strong education system. Therefore, Gov. Deal recommended that the majority of these “new” funds be used for various educational initiatives. For FY 2015, the governor designated $15 million for local governments through the Forestland Protection Grant, including $8.3 million that will go directly to local school systems. The AFY 2015 budget also includes an additional $35 million in grants designed to increase broadband internet access in Georgia classrooms across the state. 

The investment in Georgia’s education system can also be seen in the Governor’s FY 2016. The governor’s budget for that year includes a half a billion dollars in new funding for the Department of Education and our local school systems.  This will include $239 million for enrollment growth and $280 million for local school systems to increase instructional days, eliminate furlough days and enhance teachers’ salaries. 

We must not forget about the education of our youngest learners and our students in our higher education school systems. In addition to K-12 education, the governor also set aside funds to restore two planning days for pre-K teachers and increase in awards for HOPE scholarships and grants. The governor also recommended an additional $6 million in low-interest loans for higher education.  It is crucial that every student, from our youngest to our oldest, be fully prepared with skills for success.

In addition to education, it is important that we ensure Georgia’s children receive the best medical treatment options that are available. With that in mind, Gov. Deal allotted nearly $4.9 million for clinical trials through Georgia Regents University. These trials will study the efficacy and safety of cannabis oil in children with certain types of seizure disorders. I am happy to see that Georgia is at the forefront of studying new and recent trends in medicine.

In addition to education and children, Gov. Deal also outlined funding initiatives for a few other important programs.  The governor’s budget includes funds for an additional 175 case workers to manage child abuse and neglect cases; 11 new adult protective service caseworkers to manage reports of elder abuse; the replacement of 187 state patrol vehicles; and an expansion of accountability courts, which are a more cost effective justice alternative to prison for non-violent, first time offenders.

 Now that this week’s joint appropriations committee meetings have ended, the House Appropriations subcommittees will delve even further into the governor’s budget proposals and eventually pass portions of the budget in their respective subcommittees. Those portions of the budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2015 and FY 2016.

After the House Appropriations Committee passes the budget, it will go to the Rules Committee where it will be placed on the House calendar.  It will then go to the House floor, where every member of the House will have the opportunity to voice their opinions before voting upon the state budget.

Once the budget passes the House, it will go to the State Senate and repeat this same committee process. After making its way through the Senate Appropriations subcommittees, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate floor vote, the budget might be a bit different from its original version as passed by the House. At this point in the process, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will both appoint a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget.

Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, their version of the budget then goes back to the House and Senate for a final floor vote. Both chambers must vote on the conference committee’s version of the budget to ensure that all contents are completely agreed upon by both chambers. Finally, if approved by both House and Senate, the legislation is sent to the governor’s desk for consideration. Once signed by Governor Deal, the budget becomes law. All legislation must go through this process before becoming law.

Please Contact Me with Your Questions and Concerns

As legislation makes its way through the legislative system, I welcome you to reach out to me with your questions and concerns. We recently received our office assignments, and you are always welcome to visit me at the capitol office, which is located on the fourth floor of the Cloverdale Legislative Office Building, room 411-F. You may also call my capitol office at 404-656-0126, or reach me via email at jeff@VoteJeffJones.com. Please visit our website www.VoteJeffJones.com for frequent legislative updates news and events. I am honored to serve as your representative, and I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that matter most, thank you.

Sincerely yours,

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Representative Jeff Jones
139-358 Altama Connector
Brunswick, GA 31525
912-386-0428

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