Opening Day of 2019-20 Session
On Monday, January 14, 2019, the second Monday of the new year, the Georgia General Assembly – the House of Representatives and the Senate - convened for the first day of the 155th Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly.
Since Monday marked the first day of the new 2019-2020 term, every member of the Georgia House of Representatives took the oath of office and was formally sworn in. As I hope you have learned about me over the past four years of legislative service, and prior to my entering the legislature, I take this oath and my commitment to serve honorably and honestly seriously. Thank you again for trusting me to represent your interests at the state level for another two-year term.
As I have explained in previous newsletters, the first week of the opening of Georgia General Assembly is dominated by procedural and ceremonial activities as the session officially convenes.
Election of Speaker and Speaker Pro-Tem of the House
With only 40 legislative days to complete our business, we promptly cast our first vote of the legislative session to elect our leaders to guide the House through our next two years. After hearing the nominations, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and Speaker Pro-Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) were both re-elected to their respective positions. I supported and voted for the re-election of both of these House Leaders because I believe that the majority House Republican Party needs unity and continuity of leadership. As we look forward to 2020 elections, the Georgia General Assembly House Republican Majority will focus regaining the seats lost in the 2018 election. We do that, I believe, by acting on conservative principals in everything we do, by representing, supporting and voting in the best interest of all Georgians, regardless of their party affiliation or whom they voted for Governor. In fact, many legislative issues I personally support (see my 2019-20 Legislative Agenda), are non-partisan issues that are important to all Georgians.
Inauguration of Governor Brian Kemp, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and
State Constitutional Elected Officials
After completing our business in the House Chamber Monday morning, the House and Senate reconvened that afternoon for a joint session for the inauguration of Georgia’s 83rd governor, Brian Kemp. I proudly joined thousands of citizens gathered to witness as Governor Kemp took the oath of office at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. Gov. Kemp then administered the oath of office to Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and other constitutional officers, including Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, a good friend whose is a strong supporter of the legislative effort to bring commercial Oyster Mariculture to Georgia.
Our new governor began his term with an impactful inaugural address and encouraged our leaders and citizens to continue to build on our state’s accomplishments. The governor finished his address by calling for bipartisan leadership with the hope of Georgia becoming a “state united.” I particularly appreciated Gov. Kemp’s comment that he represents all citizens of Georgia, whether they voted for him or not.
Governor Brian Kemp’s “State of the State” Address to Joint Session of the General Assembly
Three days later, on Thursday, January 17th, the House and Senate reconvened for another joint session with Gov. Kemp to hear his first annual State of the State address. This annual speech before a joint session of the Georgia legislature, judiciary, special guests and the public providing our newly elected governor the opportunity to present his assessment of the current condition of our state government and offer his goals for continued progress and success in the new year.
Many of you may know, I was an avid supporter of Gov. Kemp’s campaign to become our next Governor as early as May, 2017. From working with Gov. Kemp for four years as Georgia’s Secretary of State, I know Gov. Kemp to be an honest, genuine family man who has nothing but the best interests of all Georgians in his heart. We ask for God’s hedge of protection and for prayers for Governor Kemp, his lovely wife Marty, and their daughters.
Gov. Kemp began his State of the State address by reflecting on the leadership and legacies of Governors Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal. Gov. Kemp commended the work that has been done to make Georgia the epicenter of job growth, the Hollywood of the South and soon to be the Cyber Capital of the World. He also praised Deal’s criminal justice reform initiatives and announced that he will continue to build on those reform efforts during his time in office. Throughout his speech, Gov. Kemp celebrated Georgia’s victories, while challenging us to accomplish even more.
Gov. Kemp – Pledge to Continue Georgia’s Record of Strong Economic Growth and Prosperity
As governor, Brian Kemp vowed to continue to work with state and local officials to recruit industry leaders to Georgia. He highlighted Georgia’s rising wages and low unemployment rate – the lowest it has been in 18 years. In the last eight years, Georgia has seen 800,000 new private sector jobs created, which includes industries like agribusiness, aerospace, aviation, healthcare, manufacturing and transportation infrastructure. To continue this incredible achievement, Gov. Kemp will establish the Georgians First Commission to review regulations that make it difficult for companies to hire, expand and invest in our state.
Gov Kemp – Commitment to Education and Teacher Pay Raises
Gov. Kemp also expressed his commitment to strengthening our public schools by recruiting and retaining top talent for our classrooms by keeping teacher pay competitive. Therefore, Gov. Kemp’s 2020 budget proposal includes a $3,000 permanent salary increase for certified Georgia teachers, which would be the largest teacher pay increase in our state’s history. Gov. Kemp also promised to look out for our hardworking teachers by ultimately raising teachers’ pay by $5,000 during his term in office. The governor’s proposal would be a tremendous investment in Georgia’s public schools and in our students throughout the state.
Not only did Gov. Kemp pledge to invest in school personnel, but he also outlined his plan to prioritize school safety. Starting with the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Gov. Kemp will include $69 million one-time funding for school security grants. Under the governor’s proposal, all 2,294 public schools in Georgia would receive $30,000 dollars to implement school security priorities that would be determined by local school boards, administrators, teachers, parents, and students. This would allow each school community to prioritize safety according to their specific needs.
Gov Kemp – Mental Health and School Safety Challenges
In another effort to keep our classrooms safe, Gov. Kemp challenged the General Assembly to address mental health issues that lead to violence in our public schools. Our other Golden Isles Representative Don Hogan, (D179-St Simons) has extensive experience and background in the area of mental health. Rep Hogan, who was appointed to the House Health & Human Services Committee among his other committee assignments, will be working with Gov. Kemp’s on our state’s mental health initiatives. I plan to support Rep. Hogan’s efforts in this area, which are so important to our state, and I urge you to do so as well.
To aid in this effort, Gov. Kemp’s budget proposal includes an additional $8.4 million in funding through the APEX program from the Georgia Health Policy Center. APEX is a successful pilot program that increases access to mental health services for school-aged youth. Our state officials would partner with the APEX program professionals to implement critical resources for struggling students.
Gov Kemp – Gang Activity and Violence a Statewide Challenge
Gov. Kemp continued by announcing another priority - tackling the rise of gang activity in Georgia. Over 71,000 confirmed gang affiliates reside in Georgia and at least 1,500 suspected gang networks are located throughout the state. To address this growing threat, his proposed budget will include $500,000 to form a gang taskforce within the GBI. The proposed taskforce would be comprised of highly qualified law enforcement officers and prosecutors to stop and eradicate organized crime.
In the Golden Isles, and I am sure elsewhere in Georgia, I learned a number of years ago that gang members, many coming from the Miami area, and due to a loop-holes in Federal subsidized housing regulations, are given priority and move ahead of our local or state residents to move into local subsidized housing. This is a travesty to which I urge our US Senator Johnny Isakson https://www.isakson.senate.gov/public/ and US Senator David Perdue https://www.perdue.senate.gov/ and US Congressman Buddy Carter https://buddycarter.house.gov/ to work to correct at the federal level.
Gov Kemp – Rural Georgia is Important for All of Georgia
Gov. Kemp went on to highlight the importance of equal opportunities for all citizens in our state, regardless of their zip code or county. For this reason, Gov. Kemp will work closely with the House Rural Development Council and our colleagues in the Senate to expand access to high-speed internet, quality healthcare and great education for rural Georgians. He advocated for strategic partnerships to ensure that every region of the state has access to opportunities.
Gov Kemp – State Flexibility Options for Medicaid
Finally, the governor reminded us that even though different parts of our state face unique challenges, all citizens deserve access to healthcare. He announced that his budget proposal will include an additional $1 million for the Department of Community Health to create state flexibility options for Georgia’s Medicaid program. Gov. Kemp expressed his commitment to working with the legislature to allow greater access to healthcare options that deliver exceptional results, grow the rural hospital tax credit, tackle the doctor shortage and build a healthier Georgia.
Fundamentally, if our rural communities lose reasonable and affordable access to health care, not only do the citizens suffer from health issues, but the lack of accessible health care will be one more issue that kills our very important rural communities. People will not live where there is no health care access. This is one more reason that I support the expansion of broadband internet access to all corners of our state. In this area, we need to remove government obstacles that currently make the expansion of rural broadband expensive and not affordable to the average citizen or community. Doing so, means we can create access to another cost-effective health care option through technology commonly called “tele-health”.
House Budget Hearings Begin Tuesday, January 22, 2019
After hearing a few highlights from the governor’s budget proposals, the House of Representatives will use the governor’s recommendations as a starting point to determine the state’s budget for the last half of fiscal year 2019 and for fiscal year 2020. On Tuesday, January 22nd, members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees will start the process of reviewing these budget proposals during a week of joint hearings. Although I do not serve on any budget or appropriations committees, I look forward to diving deeper into the details of the governor’s budget plans to ensure that we are spending your tax dollars in the most efficient way possible. I often say that I am very frugal spending my own money but I am doubly frugal when I am spending your hard-earned income.
Legislative Initiatives for 2019-20
I am working on several legislative initiatives for 2019-20. I will keep you updated as these bills move through the General Assembly.
House Committee Assignments and House Whip Team Member for 2019-2019
This week, House members received our committee assignments for the 2019-2020 legislative term. An excellent article about committee appointments for Senator Ligon, Representative Don Hogan and I appeared the January 24, issue of The Brunswick News (Click Here) I am honored to announce that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments appointed me to serve on the following House committees:
- Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications as Vice Chair
- Motor Vehicles as Vice Chair
- Regulated Industries as Vice Chair
- Interstate Cooperation
- Science & Technology
In addition, I was selected to serve on the Republican House Majority Whip Team. You may be asking what this means. Generally, members of the Whip Team are asked to help the Majority Whip Trey Kelley and the House leadership team to keep track of the number of votes for and against a piece of legislation. We are also responsible, along with the party's leadership, for “whipping up” support for a particular position. Not every vote gets whipped.
Recognizing and Honoring Rep. John Meadows and Ludowici Chief John McClelland
Finally, we took time during session this week to honor and remember our dear friend and colleague, John Meadows, who recently passed away shortly after being reelected to House District 5. Chairman Meadows was elected in 2004 and served as the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which serves as a gatekeeper in deciding which bills go before the full House for a vote. With his family present in the House Chamber, Speaker Ralston introduced House Resolution 5 in John Meadows’ memory. House Resolution 5 honors our friend by renaming the entryway of his former office as the “John Meadows Mezzanine.” Chairman Meadows was particularly helpful to me personally as I worked to advance legislation through the process. Chairman Meadows left a legacy at the Capitol and will be missed terribly.
This week, I also asked for a moment of silence on the House floor in remembrance Ludowici Police Chief Frank McClelland, who was killed recently in the line of duty protecting the citizens of the City of Ludowici and Long County. At the request and support of citizens of Ludowici and Long County, I am sponsoring legislation to rename a portion of Highway 84 north of Ludowici in honor of Chief McClelland. More on memorial efforts honoring Chief McClelland will come at a later date.
Now that session is underway, I will be working diligently on behalf of our entire district while I am at the Capitol. I hope you will take the opportunity to review updates like this to stay informed on legislative matters that affect our district and state. Our House website (Click Here), 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, view live and archived committee meetings and review legislation we are considering.
I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year. I can be reached via email at jeff[email protected], or [email protected], and by phone at (404) 656-0177.
I am privileged and honored to serve as your Georgia State Representative. Thank you for showing your trust in me. I pledge to not let you down as your representative.
One last request, please share this newsletter by posting, liking and sharing on your Facebook page and by forwarding this email to everyone in your contact list. I also encourage everyone to sign up at my website to receive for my periodic updates at: https://www.votejeffjones.com.
With kind regards,
Rep. Jeff Jones