On Monday, January 13, 2020 both the Georgia House and Senate returned to the State Capitol in Atlanta to begin the first full week (legislative days 1 – 4) of the 2020 session. The 2020 session is the second year of this biennial; Georgia’s General Assembly operates each term on a two-year basis called the biennial.
As is typically the case, the first week of the 2020 session was comprised primarily of the annual official session opening procedures. A few of House committees met generally to set rules and procedures for how the committees will function.
Governor Kemp Delivers 2020 State of the State Address
Following years old tradition, Governor Brian Kemp delivered his second annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Thursday, January 16,2020. I highly recommend you watch the Governor’s address by clicking on this link: Watch Governor Kemp’s State of the State.
Gov. Kemp reminded us of the great successes that we have experienced in Georgia recently, including reaching the lowest unemployment rate in the state’s history at 3.3 percent, creating 64,000 new private sector jobs and being named the number one state to do business for the seventh straight year. Despite these successes, we have much work to do to make our state even stronger.
In his address, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to Georgia’s schools. Gov. Kemp vowed to fully fund our public-school education again, while also accounting for enrollment growth and additional resources needed to properly educate Georgia students. The governor stated that he will continue to dismantle ineffective Common Core curriculum and reduce the number of required tests that weigh down our education system. Finally, Gov. Kemp announced that his budget includes an additional $2,000 pay raise for all public-school teachers. By investing in our educators, this proposed pay increase would allow the state to boost retention rates, improve recruitment efforts and ensure better educational outcomes for students across the state.
Gov. Kemp went on to urge the General Assembly to focus our legislative efforts on improving access to quality health care across Georgia and promoting better health outcomes for Georgians. After passing the Patients First Act in 2019, Gov. Kemp worked to introduce two innovative programs, Georgia Access and Georgia Pathways, to help lower health care costs and expand access to health insurance. Additionally, Gov. Kemp shared his plans to implement legislative reforms to address surprise medical billing. This session, the House and Senate will work with Gov. Kemp, as well as patients, providers and the private sector, to carefully craft legislation that will address the practice of surprise medical billing and create transparency within this system.
Another one of the governor’s priorities is to continue to enhance public safety across our state. After first taking office, Gov. Kemp established the Anti-Gang Task Force at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which partners with local law enforcement and prosecutors to help fight the threat of gang activity in Georgia. The governor noted that efforts will be made this session to empower law enforcement and prosecutors as they drive out gang and drug cartel activity from our neighborhoods. Furthermore, the governor vowed to continue to fight human trafficking and advocate for those who have suffered from this deplorable crime. Spearheaded by First Lady Marty Kemp, the GRACE Commission spent the last year coordinating efforts among local law enforcement, non-profit organizations and survivors of human trafficking to help end this modern day form of slavery. Gov. Kemp called on members of the House and Senate to advance legislation this session that will close loopholes that leave children susceptible to exploitation in Georgia.
Before Gov. Kemp took office, the General Assembly and former Governor Nathan Deal made tremendous strides in updating Georgia’s adoption laws. In his remarks, Gov. Kemp shared his goals to build upon that work to help encourage and increase adoption in Georgia.
This year, Gov. Kemp will launch the Families First Commission to overhaul our state’s foster care system and adoption rules and regulations, which serves Georgia’s most vulnerable population. NOTE: It should be noted here that House Speaker David Ralston opposes creation of the Commission because the Speaker does not support protecting faith-based adoption agencies or promoting faith-based foster care. Speaker Ralston prefers instead to avoid offending adoption agencies that promote “alternative family adoptions and foster care”.
Gov. Kemp also plans to increase the adoption tax credit from $2,000 to $6,000 and lower the adoption age (those who can legally adopt children) from 25 years old to 21 years old. Creating the Families First Commission, while offsetting the costs of adoption and making more people eligible to adopt, will help more children find their forever home.
Finally, Gov. Kemp commended former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who was in attendance at the State of the State address, on his recent retirement after serving as one of our state’s boldest advocates in Washington D.C. for the last 15 years. In Senator Isakson’s honor, the governor announced that the University of Georgia will create the Johnny Isakson Professorship for Parkinson’s Research, which will use technology and innovation to break new ground on treatments and medicine for patients. More than 20,000 Georgians are living with Parkinson’s disease, and with this new research opportunity, our state will be able to create a better quality of life for patients like Senator Isakson.
Governor Kemp and State Budgeting for 2020 and 2021
Several months ago, prior to the start of the 2020 session of the General Assembly, Governor Kemp has called for all state agencies to cut their current fiscal year 2020 budgets by 4%. The Governor called for this action in preparation for an anticipated minor slow-down in Georgia’s economy that began with slowdown in tax collections since the middle of last 2019. The Governor has also called for a 6% reduction in the 2021 budget which the General Assembly will be working on and will pass as a “balanced budget” before we adjourn in late March or early April, 2020.
I applaud the Governor for taking a conservative approach to Georgia’s state spending and budgeting; I believe it is always better to forecast a conservative economic outlook and then perform better than the forecast.
Each year, one of the first significant actions the Legislature takes is to review and amend the current budget; in this case the 2020 budget. This is done to force the current budget to match actual revenue, and to tweak budgeted spending to match the programs and personnel changes our many state agencies have actually put into place. It has been my experience that in most years we reduce to level of budgeted agency spending to match actual spending.
This week (January 21, 2020) begins our annual budget and appropriations committee hearings which I will report on in my second newsletter next week. You can watch the budget hearings live by clicking here. You can also click this link for the Budget Hearing agenda.
Online Sales Tax Collection and Reporting (House Bill 276)
After Governor Kemp’s State of the State address, we cast the first two votes of the 2020 session in the House chamber. The House passed House Bill 276, for which I voted YES, which requires online retailers that “facilitate” online sales in the State of Georgia in excess of $100,000 annually to be responsible to collect sales tax and then to report and remit that sales tax to the State of Georgia Department of Revenue. Previously, Georgia law required purchasers of on-line goods to self-report the sales tax which is obviously not an effective way to handle such tax collection. A “facilitator” is defined as on-line retailers like Amazon, eBay and Etsy. Despite rumors and misinformation being spread, this bill does not change or add to the goods or services that are currently subject to paying sales tax.
In simple terms, I voted YES for this legislation because it will serve to level the playing field between our local, very important brick-and-mortar retail stores and on-line retailers. Plus, the legislation puts the responsibility for sales tax collection and remittance to the “facilitators”, the actual retailer, not the consumer. As we all know, our local brick-and-mortar store employ our neighbors, friends and families. These local stores often sponsor the local sports teams our kids play in, and donate to local charity fund-raisers. We owe it to these local stores to at least level the “sales tax” playing field.
Resolution Supporting President Trump for Killing Qasem Soleimani. (HR 882)
We also adopted House Resolution 882, for which I enthusiastically voted YES, that reflects support by the majority of member of the Georgia House, and urges the American people, to support President Donald J. Trump, the U.S. Armed Forces and intelligence agencies on a recent military operation that resulted in the death of Qasem Soleimani.
House Democrats were absolutely apoplectic over this Resolution simply because it applauded President Trump for his effort to protect America and Americans!
Remembering Jay Powell
This week we also took time to honor our dear friend and colleague, Jay Powell, who recently passed away before the 2020 session. Jay Powell served as the Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which acts as a gatekeeper in deciding which bills go before the full House for a vote. Chairman Powell worked hard for all Georgians in his service as a state representative, public servant and champion for rural Georgia.
Message from Rep. Jeff Jones
As has been the case during my first five years in the Georgia House serving you, I always work to represent your values at the State Capitol and I pledge to continue to do so as long as I am your House District 167 State Representative.
You are welcome to visit me at our capitol office, which is located at Suite 501 in the CLOB (Cloverdale Legislative Office Bldg.). You may call my capitol office at 404-656-0178; additionally, I can be reached via email at [email protected]. I encourage you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as this legislative session progresses.
Now that session is underway, I want you to know that I will be working diligently on behalf of our entire district while at the Capitol. Using tools like this newsletter, I hope you will take the opportunity to stay informed on legislative matters that affect our district and state. Our House website, www.house.ga.gov, has a number of tools to help you stay up-to-date on what’s going on at the Capitol. You can watch a live-stream of the House proceedings, and or archived committee meetings and review legislation we are considering.
As always, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative for House District 167.
With kind regards,