Welcome constituents, friends and supporters to our first newsletter of the 2018 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly - House of Representatives, which convened on January 8th. Thanks for taking a few minutes to let me catch you up on Georgia law-making activities. The first two weeks (6 session days) were primarily ceremonial, “session opening” activities, including Governor Deal’s State of the State address. Georgia’s economy continues to grow, and our state was once again named the number-one state in which to do business. Governor’s Deal education initiatives continue to reap great rewards. We are a state on the move.
On Monday, January 22, 2018, we convened week three and as of January 29, we completed over one-fourth of the way through our 40-day session. This session week was considerably busier and productive, and the pace has noticeably picked up as House committees met more frequently to consider and vet proposed legislation. Remember, the majority of debate and discussion about legislation occurs in committee hearings well before bills reach the House floor for a vote.
Authored Legislation for 2017-2018 Session
Much of my time thus far in 2018 involves working legislation I started in 2017:
1) common sense Coal Ash storage and pond drainage legislation; 2) stopping the issuance of Georgia Driver’s Licenses to non-citizen persons illegally residing in Georgia; 3) targeting Georgia’s massive underground cash economy (drug dealers, sex traffickers, gamblers and others) by assessing a fee for out-of state cash wire transfers. I’ve also been working to help find funding solutions for Glynn County’s water/sewer infrastructure problems; working to help McIntosh planning for replacement of the Highway 17 bridge coming onto Darien; working with legislators on Georgia’s serious Distracted Driving problem; helping to assess new voting machine technology for Georgia, while also attending hearings for the four committees on which I serve. The House also passed my legislation to stagger Long County’s commission elections.
Rural Development in Georgia
One of the key initiatives of the entire General Assembly, and indeed our entire state, is heavily focused on improving economic opportunities for our state’s rural communities. Last session, we adopted House Resolution 389, which established the House Rural Development Council (RDC). During the interim, the members of the RDC traveled to many different rural communities across the state and met with local leaders, studied issues specific to Georgia’s rural areas and explored ways to encourage economic growth. The RDC closely examined the components of economic development and related policy areas, such as education, infrastructure, access to health care and economic growth incentives. Then, in December, the RDC released the first of two reports outlining several legislative recommendations that would boost rural Georgia’s economic opportunities. This week, we saw the first rural development-related bill, House Bill 735, be introduced for the House’s consideration. HB 735 would create a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures to incentivize investment in rail infrastructure in rural Georgia. This measure is likely the first of many pieces of legislation that we will consider this session to help Georgia’s rural communities grow. Since this bill was just introduced this week, it will now make its way through the legislative process, and I will update you as it moves through the House.
Our state’s continued economic success largely depends on a connected and efficient transportation network, which is why transit is also a top priority in the House this session. During the 2017 session, we adopted House Resolution 848, which established the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding. This commission is charged with studying our state’s transportation needs and exploring ways our state can sufficiently plan and provide for those needs. Like the RDC, the transit commission held hearings across the state during the summer and fall of 2017, and this session, we can expect to see legislation come up aimed at meeting Georgia’s wide-ranging transit needs as a result of the commission’s report. Both the transit commission and the RDC have worked diligently since the end of the 2017 session to study pressing issues facing to our state, and it is exciting to see initial proposals come to fruition in the form of legislation.
We also worked with our counterparts in the Senate and adopted another adjournment resolution this week, which determined our calendar for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session. Legislative Day 40, or Sine Die, is the final day of the legislative session and will be Thursday, March 29. Until then, my House colleagues and our Senate counterparts have a busy and aggressive schedule and will be working diligently to pass meaningful bills for Governor Nathan Deal to consider signing into law.
Also this week, the House Rules Committee held its first meeting of the session on Thursday, January 25. After bills have passed out of their respective committees, they must also pass out of the Rules Committee, which determines which bills should be debated and voted on the House floor. Bills that pass out of the Rules Committee are generally heard on the House floor the following legislative day, so we will likely vote on the session’s first pieces of legislation next week as several committees are beginning to pass bills out of their committees.
Budgeting – 2018 and 2019
While we largely focused on reviewing Gov. Deal’s state budget recommendations last week during joint appropriations committee hearings with the Senate, this week, the House Appropriations subcommittees held several hearings at the Capitol to further review the governor’s budget proposals.
As I’ve explained in years past, the only action constitutionally required of the General Assembly each year is to pass a balanced budget. (Georgia could teach the Feds a thing or two!) So, after we review Gov. Deal’s budget proposals in our various Appropriations subcommittees, my House colleagues and I will consider a budget bill for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget and another bill for the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget. The AFY 2018 budget, nicknamed the “small budget,” is an adjusted budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The small budget uses a more precise estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between anticipated and actual state revenue. The FY 2019 budget, nicknamed the “big budget,” is the state budget for fiscal year 2019 beginning on July 1. This budget is based on projected state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. Once passed by the respective Appropriations subcommittees, those portions of each budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will then review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.
After the House Appropriations Committee passes complete budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019, the measures will then go to the Rules Committee, where they will be placed on the House calendar. Each budget then goes to the House floor, where every member of the House will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on each budget and ask questions before voting.
Once the AFY 2018 and FY 2019 budgets pass out of the House, they will go to the Senate and repeat this same committee process before being voted on by all of the members of the Senate. By this point, each budget will likely differ from its original versions as passed by the House. When this happens, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will both appoint a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budgets.
Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, their versions of the budgets will go back to the House and Senate for a final vote. Both legislative chambers must vote on the conference committee’s versions of the budgets to guarantee that all contents of the bills are fully agreed upon by both chambers. Finally, if approved by both the House and Senate, the budgets are sent to the governor’s desk where Gov. Deal can either sign or veto the legislation. Once signed by Gov. Deal, these budgets become law. All legislation must go through this process before becoming state law.
Finally, the House celebrated National Guard Day at the Capitol on Thursday by recognizing some our state’s most honorable citizens. Several men and women of the Georgia National Guard visited the House Chamber and were presented with House Resolution 902. The Georgia Department of Defense, which provides military-ready forces to the president and disaster response forces to the governor, employs over 10,891 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,746 Air National Guard Airmen, 583 State Defense Force members and over 600 state employees. These courageous men and women have selflessly served our state’s citizens in so many ways, and it was an honor to recognize their great contributions and sacrifices for all Americans, and especially all Georgians, and welcome them to the House Chamber.
As we continue to make our way through the 2018 legislative session, House committees will continue to meet more frequently to review proposed legislation. I serve as a member of four committees - Motor Vehicles, as Vice-Chair; Science & Technology; Insurance and Interstate Cooperation. I encourage you to contact me to discuss any measures that will be discussed by these committees or any other legislation that may interest you. Please visit my Capitol office, which is located at the Coverdale Office Building, Suite 501 at Capitol. You can also reach me by phone at my Capitol office at 404-656-0178 or by email at [email protected]. Your input and comments are invaluable to me, and I hope that you will reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have about our district or our state as a whole.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Representative Jeff Jones