(Pictured: Teen Author Maya Van Wagenen, and Representative Jeff Jones)
Learn more about Maya Van Wagenen (Visit Website)
From the Desk of Representative Jeff Jones
Legislative Update Week 9, March 13, 2015 - Crossover Day
On Friday, March 13, we reached day 30 of the 2015 legislative session. Each year the 30th legislative day marks a crucial deadline for the Georgia General Assembly. This date, which is also known as “Crossover Day,” is the final chance for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated, either the House or Senate. After Crossover Day, all bills passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa; we will then spend the remaining ten legislative days considering Senate bills. As a result, we were in session for long hours for several days to ensure a quality review of as much legislation as possible before the critical “crossover” deadline. I have been impressed that, of all of the bills that legislators draft, only those bills that are truly important make it through the tedious committee process to come to the House floor for a vote.
Below is a discussion of a selected number of bills that passed the House this past week, of which there were many. A complete list of the Bills that passed the House this past week can be viewed by clicking on this link: Sponsored LegislationRead more
From the Desk of Representative Jeff Jones
Legislative Update Week 8, March 6, 2015 - The $1 Billion Transportation Bill, a Tax Increase
We returned to the Capitol and our Legislative duties on Monday, March 2 for the 24th day and start of the 8th week of the 2015 legislative session. Like many State Reps, being in Atlanta is only part of the job. I usually stay busy with legislative activities pretty much all weekend, whether it’s making phone calls, answering correspondence, attending community events, and attending meetings – all of which are part of the job.
This week, we spent a few more hours “in session”, and attending committee and sub-committee hearings as legislators present their bills for consideration. This step occurs before bills move to the rules committee and a final decision on whether a bill will come before the full house for a vote. These are time consuming but vitally important steps in the legislative process as bills work their way through the General Assembly.
Transportation Bill (HB170)
Probably the most significant bill of the 2015 session, at least in terms of the dollars involved, came before the House and was passed by a vote of 123 for and 46 against. I voted NO on the Transportation Bill.
In my view, the Transportation Bill - as passed - is bad for Georgia taxpayers, bad for Georgia consumers, bad for our local communities (counties and cities) and bad for our local school system. It is purely and simply a tax increase of major proportions.
We all agree that we must fund transportation infrastructure needs. We all know and agree on that basic premise. What we disagree on is how to pay for it.
In my opinion, the Transportation Committee proposed absolutely no fresh, new, out-of-the-box ideas on solving our funding problem. The choice we were given to vote on – raise taxes.
Transportation Bill –Official Version from the House Communications Office
Transportation improvements have long struggled to match Georgia’s rapid economic progress, resulting in too many roads and bridges that are now in need of critical maintenance. HB170, or the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, is a comprehensive package of measures to address the critical and urgent need for funding for Georgia’s transportation infrastructure needs. HB170 seeks to raise just under a billion dollars for maintenance and repair of our state’s bridges and roadways, many of which have been deemed functionally obsolete and structurally deficient; therefore, these funds are crucial to guarantee that our roads and infrastructures are safe for Georgia drivers. Well-maintained roads and bridges will enhance safety and quality of life for our citizens, but these road improvements will also continue to attract new businesses to our state and create jobs for Georgians.
HB 170 provides this funding through a variety of measures, including the conversion of the state sales tax on motor fuel to a straight excise tax that will be dedicated to transportation. This excise tax will initially be set at 29.2 cents per gallon, which approximates the sales tax rate that has been imposed on gasoline using a weighted average of the price of gasoline over the previous four years. Unlike the current gas tax, which is a 4% sales tax that varies with the cost of gas, the flat excise tax will provide a more stable alternative. This tax conversion will provide a dedicated, predictable and steady funding source and a long term solution to our state’s transportation funding issues. Not only will the excise tax conversion provide the necessary funding for transportation maintenance and improvement, but it also will help ensure gas taxes remain constant between counties and through periods of high spikes in gas prices.
Additional revenue for our transportation needs will come from a significant bond package that will go towards funding for the 128 transit systems across Georgia. Funding for our transit systems will enable more communities across our state to take advantage of public transportation options. This bond package is a practical way to provide more immediate funding for our transportation needs, while leveraging the state’s high credit, AAA bond rating to borrow at little cost to the state.
Other funding sources in the Transportation Funding Act include the establishment of a user fee for alternative fueled vehicles of $200 for non-commercial and $300 for commercial vehicles each year. As these vehicles do not use gasoline, their owners do not currently pay their share of taxes devoted to the maintenance of the roads they use. This fee will provide equity among those who drive on our roads and ensure everyone pays their fair share. HB170 will also eliminate the state tax credit for the purchase of alternative fueled vehicles, as well as the state tax credit on jet fuel, which was established several years ago in a struggling economy, where companies were in jeopardy of bankruptcy. Furthermore, the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank will allow for preference for loans to be given to tier 1 and tier 2 counties, as well as to eligible projects with local financial assistance.
Overall, HB170 ensures that Georgia remains an attractive place for businesses and families by making our roadways safe for all drivers. I look forward to seeing the impact that this legislation will have in our district and communities, and I am proud that our body sees the value in transportation. HB170 is now in the Senate’s hands for consideration.
(Now back to my stuff)
Uber and Other Private Transportation Companies (HB190)
The House also passed another piece of legislation intended to ensure that passengers riding in private transportation services, such as Uber and Lyft, are covered with sufficient insurance for the protection of their passengers. Some would argue that passage of this bill is intended to stifle free-enterprise and entrepreneurship by forcing this new, alternative form of transportation to buy insurance. I disagreed with that opinion and voted in favor of HB190.
Currently, many of these drivers are offering ride-share services to the public with their personal vehicles, counting on their personal auto policy, to provide insurance coverage. In fact, personal auto coverage does not cover commercial activity when the vehicle is being used for hire. HB190 addresses this lack of insurance coverage by requiring the transportation network company or the driver to purchase a commercial motor vehicle insurance policy that maintains $1 million in insurance coverage for drivers anytime they are logged into the company system, regardless if any passengers are onboard. The legislation also requires at least $300,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death and $50,000 for property damage. HB190 takes the necessary steps to protect the many Georgians who drive or ride with companies like UBER and LYFT.
Seat Belts Now Required for 15 Passenger Vans (HB325)
You may be surprised to learn that 15 passenger vans, used by many child care centers, churches and others, are among the most dangerous vehicles in which to be a passenger because they are so long and are very top-heavy, causing then to easily roll over. House Bill 325, which passed this week, requires passengers in vans that have 15-passenger capacities to wear seat belts. Under current law, safety belts only required for vans that carry 10 passengers or fewer. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, approximately 1,111 fatalities occurred between 1990 and 2002 as a result of crashes involving 15 passenger vans, and the study found that 80 percent of those who died were not wearing seat belts.
State ID Card Holders Can Elect to be Automatic Organ Donors (HB210)
Another potentially life-saving bill passed this week was House Bill 210, which allows Georgia citizens to designate that they wish to be an organ donor by so designating on their state issued I.D. cards. Currently, organ donor status is listed on drivers’ licenses, but not on state issued I.D. cards. Interestingly, changes such as this require legislation to make them happen.
Asthma Treatment for Children While at School (HB362)
In addition to passing several measures related to our state’s transportation system, the House also passed a bill to improve the health and safety of our children. House Bill 362 ensures that schools are well equipped to treat students with asthma by allowing schools to obtain and stock levalbuterol sulfate, a medication commonly used to treat asthma. Under HB362, any school employee who is trained in recognizing symptoms of respiratory distress could administer the medication to students. Asthma has become a common and growing illness and schools should be prepared to help our children handle these types of emergencies.
Read Across Georgia Month – a Sandra and Governor Deal Reading Initiative
In a continued effort to combat illiteracy, Governor Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal this week announced Read Across Georgia Month, a campaign to make reading more fun for Georgia’s children. As a part of the launch of this new initiative, First Lady Sandra Deal visited the House and introduced a new Pre-K book, TJ’s Discovery, written by teachers at the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School. This book will be given as a gift to every student in Georgia’s Pre-K program and helps teach parents and caregivers how to make reading come alive to the children in their lives. I commend our First Lady for her diligent efforts to help Georgia’s children develop a lifelong love of reading.
On a Lighter Note
Finally, this week we took some time to recognize John Smoltz, a former pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and honoree in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In addition to being named an eight-time All Star, Smoltz is the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz was honored before the Georgia House of Representatives with House Resolution 343 for his accomplishments both on and off the field. I’m proud that such an outstanding athlete and citizen claims Georgia as his home state.
Looking Ahead to Week 9
Next week will be an extremely busy week. On Friday, March 13, we are scheduled to complete the 30th legislative day, which is also known as “Crossover Day.” Crossover Day is the last date in which a piece of legislation must pass at least one of the General Assembly’s two chambers. With this deadline in mind, we will work longer hours every day to pass whatever remaining legislation is out there to get it through the House chamber.
Communicating with Constituents
I hope that you will contact me during this crucial week, so that I can address any concerns you might have. You can visit me or call my office at the State Capitol, the number is 404-656-0126. Please also encourage your friends, neighbors and co-workers to sign up for these email updates on our website: www.VoteJeffJones.com. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your prayers and your continued support.
Brunswick, GA 31525
Pictured with Representative Jones are; Amalia Hanly, Brooklyn Kapella, Madison Barlowe, and Myah Paige. Also attending the event: Ansley Simpson, Brooke Zell, Haley Wayne, and Skylar Moreles. Congratulations to all!
Jeff Jones, Proudly Georgia S Capitol.Read more
On Monday, January 26, 2015, Representative Jeff Jones was honored to attend the Celebration of Georgia Tourism event in Atlanta. Thank you Scott McQuade, President and CEO of Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau and to all the folks that work hard everyday to promote travel and tourism in Georgia. The Golden Isles will be featured in the State’s 2015 visitors guide.
To view the Golden Isles Virtual Visitor Guide online, click here
To view or order the Official 2015 Georgia Travel Guide online, click hereRead more
From the Desk of Representative Jeff Jones
Thank you for signing up to receive email updates from me about the 2015 session of the Georgia State 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.
Third Week of Session - January 30, 2015
This was another busy week for the House of Representatives. I am beginning to have a better understanding of the hectic pace that occurs with each session of the General Assembly. State Representatives, and State Senators, are working hard to get the people’s business taken care of in a short 40 day time frame and to do so with thoughtful, careful consideration. The last thing the people of Georgia need or want is laws, rules or budgets to be passed that have negative, unintended consequences for our citizens.
Below is an in-depth discussion of the events of this past week but first I want to share some of my thoughts of a few selected items.
Governor Deal’s 2016 Budget
Governor Deal delivered his draft of the 2016 budget to the House of Representatives this past week. As you would expect, there is a lot of work – committee hearings, meetings, discussions, negotiations, prioritizing, number crunching, etc. – that will occur before the 2016 Budget makes its way to the house floor for a vote.
We are extremely fortunate that the Georgia Constitution requires that our state pass and maintain a balanced budget. Constitutionally, the State cannot spend more money than it receives in income, the taxes you and I pay, plus money from other sources. Don’t we all wish our Federal government would operate under that same principle…?
Health Care Coverage-School Bus Drivers and other Non-certificated School District Employees
There are many items in many different areas of our state government that make up the budget each year. One item in particular that rightly caught the attention of school bus drivers around the state is the Governor’s proposal to take money out of the state budget that is contributed toward the cost of health care coverage for bus drives and the other “non-certificated” school district employees.
I can assure you that it is not the Governor’s intention to leave these critical employees without health care coverage. The Governor recognizes, as do I and the other Representatives, the important role that these employees serve in our efforts to deliver quality education to our children. It is a very tough job driving a school bus these days having to deal with all that goes on with the kids on the bus.
Again, remember, the 2016 Budget draft is a working document.
I am pleased to report, though, that the House added an important item to the Revised 2015 budget regarding school bus driver health care (the 2015 revised budget is discussed in detail below). The provision – which I voted for and was passed overwhelmingly by the House – says that the House is to submit a study to the Governor and the General Assembly by June 30, 2015 that examines why SHBP costs are higher than other comparable state health plans for the purpose of making recommendations on the issue. The section continues on to state that “The General Assembly …finds that non-certificated employees (which includes bus drivers) are an essential part of the education delivery system and directs that any such report include an examination of options to provide health benefits to the workers.”
So, we need to wait and see how this all unfolds. But I want to assure these employees that I will do everything I can to protect their benefits, which may include options that occur at the School District level.
Other Activities This Week
The House recognized the importance of our National Guard by a resolution and introduction of several Guard members.
I attended meetings held by the Georgia Economic Development Authority; this is the state group, for which Glynn, McIntosh and Long Counties each have local economic development authorities whose purpose is to bring good paying jobs to Georgia and to our counties/communities.
The Georgia Tourism Department unveiled their 2015 Tourism Guide which features the Golden Isles and Jekyll Island in particular. Tourism brings in well over $1 billion to the Georgia economy. Check out my Facebook page (facebook.com/votejeffjones for pictures and further information).
Valdosta Day was celebrated on Wednesday, January 28. Why do I mention this you are asking? Our son Brant is a freshman at Valdosta State University this year and is doing very well. My wife Lisa and I are very proud of our son. I also had the privilege of meeting William “Bill” McKinney, the President of VSU. He is a great guy doing great things for the students at VSU.
On another personal note, I have joined the weekly House prayer group that meets early in the morning one day a week. And I also attended the annual Georgia Baptist Convention’s Prayer Breakfast for State Legislators this past week. These are things that I believe will help me stay grounded and be a better Representative for District 167.
On January 21, I met with a representative of the Georgia Tourism Department and community leaders in Long County to try to get the development of a new eco-tourism project off the ground for the Morgan Lake area.
You can watch all House proceedings and committee meetings on-line using this link: http://www.house.ga.gov/communications/en-US/VideoBroadcasts.aspx
During the third week of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, my colleagues and I passed one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year: the 2015 amended fiscal year budget (AFY 2015). This budget, which is a mid-year adjustment of state spending through June 30, 2015, was first introduced by Governor Deal at last week’s Joint Appropriations hearings. Since then, the AFY 2015 budget has been carefully reviewed and edited through a series of Appropriations Committee meetings. Thanks to the committee’s diligent work, the House version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 (AFY 2015) budget was packaged into House Bill 75 and was voted on and passed unanimously by the House on Thursday, January 29.
The House version of the AFY 2015 budget is very similar to Gov. Deal’s initial budget proposal. The amended budget includes an addition of $276 million in “new” funds, with 70 percent of that going towards education. Of the new education dollars, $128.5 million will go towards K-12 enrollment growth and $35 million will be added for local school systems to expand their wireless broadband internet connectivity. The House version of the budget also designates $7.4 million for equalization funding grants that will provide additional funds to K-12 systems that qualify based on per student wealth rankings. Higher education was also set as a budget priority, with funds designated for new engineering and military scholarships and the creation of the Georgia Film Academy. Lastly, the amended budget also includes $750,000 to support the Governor’s newly created Education Reform Commission. I am happy to see our state continue to put money into our school systems, as our children are our most precious resource.
While investing in the quality of our children’s education is a primary focus in HB 75, there are also several significant additions for economic development in our state. As we strive to ensure that Georgia remains the number one state in the country to do business, the House version of the AFY 2015 budget appropriates $20 million in grants towards job-creating economic development projects through the OneGeorgia Authority, as well as $20 million for Regional Economic Business Assistance grants. OneGeorgia and Regional Economic Business Assistance are two of our state’s most effective economic development tools for attracting new jobs to Georgia. In addition, $1.5 million is set aside to keep Xpress buses running in 13 metro counties, and $4.5 million will go to support routine maintenance in the Department of Transportation. By financing transportation and economic development projects such as these, we can make Georgia an even better place for business for years to come.
With a thriving economy comes an increase in our state’s population, and it is crucial that we take measures to ensure the good health and safety of all citizens. More than $5 million in the AFY 2015 budget is allocated for driver education programs to improve safety on Georgia’s roads. Funds are also set aside to expand the length of the Department of Corrections’ Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program from six to nine months, and the Board of Regents is issued $4.8 million to provide clinical trials on Cannabidiol for children with medication resistant epilepsy. These programs, among others, will make Georgia healthier and safer for families across the state.
In addition to passing the amended budget, we also took time to recognize some outstanding citizens across our state. On Monday, January 26, the House celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in honor of our brave Georgians in uniform. Dozens of airmen and soldiers visited the State Capitol and were recognized for their accomplishments on the House floor with House Resolution 27. We also had the honor of witnessing a new member of the Georgia National Guard be sworn into the Army National Guard by our colleague and veteran, Representative John Yates. It was an honor to meet this new soldier, as well as the many others who make such tremendous sacrifices for our freedom and safety.
On Tuesday, January 27, we had the privilege of meeting another group of courageous Georgians in honor of National Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, we paid special tribute to the Holocaust witnesses of liberation. These heroic Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II, and therefore witnessed some of the worst atrocities in world history. They were each recognized in the House Chamber for their contribution to history preservation and the role that they played in the liberation of the Holocaust. Our colleague, Representative John Yates was among the six honorees that were recognized before the House.
Finally, this week we welcomed members of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team to the Gold Dome. Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins, CEO Steve Koonin, coach Mike Budenholzer, shooting guard Kyle Korver, and forward Elton Brand all visited the capitol on Tuesday, January 27. After a recent16 game winning streak, the Hawks were recognized before the House for their sportsmanship, citizenship, and positive economic impact on the city of Atlanta.
As the 2015 legislative session moves into its fourth week, committees will be meeting more frequently to discuss specific legislation. Your input on any bill that comes before the house is extremely helpful, your comments and opinions help guide my decisions. I encourage you to call my office at the State Capitol in Atlanta at 404-656-0126, or reach me via email at jeff@VoteJeffJones.com or visit our website www.VoteJeffJones.com for frequent legislative updates news and events. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your state representative.
Brunswick, GA 31525
From the Desk of Representative Jeff Jones
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:
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.
Brunswick, GA 31525
From the Desk of Representative Jeff Jones
On Monday, January 12, 2015, we began the 153rd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. Since Monday marked the first day of the 2015-2016 term, all 180 members of the Georgia House of Representatives were sworn into office. We then promptly got to work on our first order of business: electing leaders to guide the Georgia House of Representatives through our next two years of public service. After hearing the nominations, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton) were both reelected to their respective positions. Governor Nathan Deal also held his inauguration in the House Chamber that day.
This week, Gov. Deal also delivered his annual State of the State address in the House Chamber on Wednesday, January 14. This annual speech before a joint legislature, judiciary, special guests and the public gives the governor the opportunity to convey his assessment of the current condition of our state government and goals for continued progress and success in the New Year.
In his address, Gov. Deal began by detailing the exceptional progress Georgia has made. The creation of 319,000 jobs and a 643 percent increase in the state’s rainy day fund are just a few examples of Georgia’s many accomplishments over the last four years. Georgia’s future is expected to become even brighter in the years ahead, as companies like Mercedes-Benz USA and Porsche North America solidify plans to re-locate their headquarters to Georgia.
While there is plenty of good news on the state of our state, there are some existing needs that will be addressed by the General Assembly in the coming months. For example, Gov. Deal called for the establishment of an Education Reform Commission to continue to better our state’s education system. This commission, which will be composed of legislators, educators, and other key stakeholders, will study a number of questions regarding our education system, such as increasing access to Georgia’s early learning programs, recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, and expanding school options for Georgia’s families. A subset of the commission will also examine the most appropriate ways to modernize our Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula, which was created in the 1980's.
With education as a top priority, Gov. Deal also suggested a constitutional amendment that would create Opportunity School Districts. This model, which has been successful in other states, would authorize the state to step in to help rejuvenate failing public schools. Furthermore, Gov. Deal announced that the General Assembly will continue to invest in education. In fact, this year’s budget, coupled with his proposal for next year’s budget, represents an infusion of over one billion additional dollars for K-12 education.
As we work to improve education, it is also important that we examine policies that could improve quality of life for children across the state. Gov. Deal recommended additional funds for resources and support for the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) caseworkers and foster parents, who care for some of the most vulnerable children in our state.
The Governor also expressed his desire to help Georgia’s children, who have become “medical refugees” in states like Colorado. Gov. Deal voiced his support for the decriminalization of medical cannabis oil in Georgia for those that have obtained it legally in another state. This action would allow families who have moved to other states to receive this treatment, the opportunity to come back to their home state of Georgia without fear of prosecution.
Gov. Deal also declared the legislature’s need to address the state’s diminishing transportation funds. Now that Georgia is the 8th most populated state in the nation, adequate transportation, and maintaining our roadways and bridges, is as critical as ever. Unfortunately, the rise of fuel efficiency vehicles has drastically cut the state’s revenue from the excise tax, a per gallon flat fee on gasoline that is used to fund transportation projects. We will be working together with Gov. Deal over the next few months to create a plan to fill in the gaps in the state’s transportation budget and to ensure the state’s transportation system is prepared to handle our growing population.
After announcing his goals in the State of the State Address, Gov. Deal released his budget proposals on Friday, January 16. Just as the governor listed education as his top priority in his State of the State address, he also made education a top priority in the state’s budget. For the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 budget for the current fiscal year, Gov. Deal designated $8.3 million to go directly to local school systems and an additional $35 million in grants to help classrooms across the state gain greater access to broadband internet. In his Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which includes state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year, Gov. Deal set aside more than a half a billion dollars in new funding for Georgia’s education system, including $280 million that will specially help local school systems increase instructional days, eliminate furlough days, and enhance teachers’ salaries.
These are just a few highlights from Gov. Deal’s budget proposals. I hope to provide you with more information next week, once my colleagues and I carefully review the recommendations in our Joint Budget Hearings with the Senate. These hearings are available to watch online at www.house.ga.gov. You can also visit our website www.VoteJeffJones.com/news for frequent updates, news and events, and review current legislation that is under consideration.
This week, we also received our committee assignments for the 2015-2016 legislative term. I am happy to announce that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments appointed me to serve on the following house committees: Information and Audits, Interstate Cooperation, Motor Vehicles, and Natural Resources and Environment.
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@VoteJeffJones.com, or by phone at 912-386-0428.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Brunswick, GA 31525