On February 14, 2017 both bodies of the Georgia General Assembly convened for the sixth week of the 2017 session; by weeks-end we concluded the 20th day or the halfway point of this session.
HB44 – 2018 Budget (I voted YES)
The singular Constitutional requirement for the Georgia General Assembly each year is to pass a “balanced budget.” Were it not for all of the other business that we conduct, we could call it a good year and go home. As I have commented in past newsletters, our federal government could learn from states such as Georgia regarding balancing our budget.
2018 Budget Highlights
Record Revenue Projected for 2018
Revenue for 2018 is estimated to be $24.9 billion, an increase of $1.25 billion, or 5.3%, over 2017’s original budget. This increase is indicative of the vibrant health and growth of Georgia’s economy. Our state is once again ranked as the number one state in which to do business, a distinction that we can all be proud of. Our population continues to grow which in itself creates an ever increasing demand for providing essential state services to our citizens.
Education spending continues to be the number one expenditure of our state budgeted in 2018 at $11.4 billion; 62%, or $780 million, of the state’s revenue increase is dedicated to education.
Teacher, Bus Driver and Nutrition Personnel Pay Raises
First and foremost, the FY 2018 budget allocates $162 million to provide Georgia’s dedicated teachers with a 2 percent merit pay increase incorporated into the salary schedule to provide raises to more than 126,000 teachers. NOTE: My bill, HB13, which offers teacher’s a tax credit for out-of-pocket school supplies expenses continue to be stalled at the Committee level.
The budget also includes a 2 percent salary increase for bus drivers and school nutrition personnel. These employees are critical to the smooth operation of our state’s schools so I am glad to see these deserving school level employees receive pay raises along with the teachers.
Other Budget Highlights
1. The per diem rate for foster parents was increased by 57%, or $10/day, a much needed increase to help us care for the 19,000 children in Georgia’s foster care system.
2. An increase in funding for the GBI to deal with a huge backlog of untested Rape Kits.
3. 20% pay raise for state law enforcement officers
4. $29 million to meets the needs of the very successful “Move On When Ready” program
5. $185 million increase dedicated to transportation needs from the revenue generated by HB170 passed in 2015
6. $92 million in Tenet settlement funds, which will be matched by federal funds and used to meet a variety of needs, including $38.4 million for Medicaid growth, $20.7 million for behavioral health services for children under 21 who are diagnosed with Autism, $325,000 for an Adolescent to Adult Transition model to improve outcomes for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, $2.5 million for behavioral health services for children ages 0 to 4, among other health programs.
State Medicaid spending continues to increase despite the fact that Governor Deal refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obama Care”.
Other Legislative Highlights
HB139 – Public Disclosure of School System financial information (I voted YES). The bill requires schools and school districts to make most financial information available for public review.
HB1 – Georgia Spaceflight Act (I voted YES). This bill is a vital first step in Georgia’s goal to become a launch site for spaceflight. Jobs in the aerospace industry average upwards of $80,000, exactly the kinds of jobs we want and need in Georgia. Another anticipated benefit is the interest spaceflight lauches will generate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and match) by our state’s school age kids. These are the jobs of the future.
HB9 - makes it illegal to take video and or photos under or through a person’s clothing, commonly referred to as the “Upskirting Law”. Surprisingly, upskirting as we found out through a recent court case, is currently legal. Amazing! This bill will close that loophole.
Here’s a link that will take you directly to web pages listing every bill and resolution filed in the Georgia General Assembly. This link will work for the entire 2017-18 session.
Authored Legislation for 2017-2018 Session
Coal Ash Pond Dewatering HB387 adds important and necessary requirements that the water being drained from Coal Ash storage ponds be tested for heavy metals and be filtered and cleaned at least to the same level as “grey water” that is discharged from sewer treatment plants before being discharged into State Waters.
Coal Ash Storage at Municipal Solid Waste Landfills HB388 requires that private, non-utility landfills who intend to store CCR (coal ash residue) file a Coal Ash Management Plan, the same as is required for utility companies.
Teacher Out of Pocket Schools Supplies Tax Credit HB13 - Which proposes to give teachers a $250 tax credit instead of the current $250 tax deduction for out-of-pocket classroom supplies. This bill continues to be hung up at the Committee level. At this point in the legislative session, I do not expect this bill to gain any traction.
Cash Wire Transfer HB66 - Which proposes to charge a fee for cash wire transactions that originate in Georgia and terminate elsewhere, targeting Georgia’s huge, multi-billion underground or cash economy. This hidden economy consists of human traffickers, gamblers, drug dealers and employees paid in cash for their work. The effort could easily raise $100 million for the state of Georgia – without a tax increase.
I am continuing to work this bill because I and others believe this legislation to be good for the State of Georgia. In fact, I have resolved or eliminated every legitimate concern that has been raised about the potential adverse effects or unintended negative consequence the legislation could have on Georgia’s citizens.
Sponsored Legislation for 2017-2018 Session
For a complete list of legislation I am co-sponsoring, click here.
Staying In Touch
As always 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 404-656-086 (note the new number); additionally, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as the 2017 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. 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: 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.
Rep. Jeff Jones