Weeks Ending on February 28, and March 3, 2020
March 10, 2019 – State Capitol, Atlanta, GA
In this newsletter, I will briefly share a few highlights of legislation and other activities the House dealt with during this two-week period.
In my legislative update newsletters, I normally provide commentary and opinions about legislation, political maneuvering and other Capitol activities. Due to time constraints, this issue is strictly a legislative recap issue. Thank you for your understanding, and of course, your support.
Each year, the General Assembly holds a joint session to hear the State of the Judiciary address. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Herold D. Melton delivered his second annual address. During his address, Chief Justice Melton implored the General Assembly to continue to ensure that all Georgians, rich and poor, have access to justice. Click the link above to watch the address.Read more
Week Ending on February 21, 2020
The Georgia General Assembly, House and Senate, reconvened Tuesday, February 18 for the sixth week of the 2020 legislative session. The singularly most important thing we did for the week was pass HB792, the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY 2020) budget representing a $159 million cut in the budget we passed in 2019, to match Gov. Kemp’s revised revenue estimate of $27.3 billion.
In the House version of the AFY 2020 budget, we recognized the need for expanding mental health and crisis intervention services and increasing access to quality health care across the state. We also restored funding for other important budget items, including grants to county health departments, as well as a restoration of funds to ensure a fully-functioning criminal justice system, which included funding for our public defenders, accountability courts and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) crime labs.
Even as the previously proposed budget cuts have been restored, remember that the State of Georgia must pass a balanced budget; the House budget proposal is for a BALANCED BUDGET.
Public Safety and Criminal Justice Priorities Cuts Restored
- $801,000 restored to GBI to allow the agency to hire up to eight forensic scientists and two lab technicians to process more DNA evidence and alleviate the growing backlog of sexual assault kits, and to allow GBI’s crime lab to process it’s 45,000 pieces of 30-day old crime-related evidence;
- $1.2 million for the GBI’s gang database and taskforce helping local law enforcement agencies combat gang violence;
- $1.34 million for our accountability courts that have proven to offer non-violent offenders sentencing alternatives; this funding restoration will save our state $10.3 million in cost avoidance for offenders who may otherwise go to prison;
- $1.85 million to the Georgia Public Defender Council to allow the council to hire 16 attorneys to reduce the average caseload from 148.8 to 138 per public defender, and to fill vacancies that left eight Georgia counties without a state public defender.
Governor’s Other Proposed Budget Cuts Restored
The House version of the AFY 2020 budget restored several of the Governor’s other proposed budget cuts:
- $281,000 for five food safety inspectors and two animal industry inspectors to inspect for safe foods at grocery stores, discount stores and gas stations.
- $2.8 million for Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Services supporting Georgia agribusinesses;
- $345,000 to the state’s Forestry Research program helping to address restoration of the 2.4 million acres of forest impacted by 2018’s Hurricane Michael;
- $2.6 million for county public health, which provide basic health care services, programs and resources to local communities, especially in rural Georgia where eight counties have no physician and nine rural counties only have one.
- $463,000 for the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center at Mercer School of Medicine; these medical schools provide health care to underserved and rural areas of the state
- $5.4 million to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) for crisis beds and behavioral health care services; will allow the DBHDD to maintain its current serving capacity of 4,953 individuals with 95 crisis beds in 21 crisis units statewide, as well as serve an additional 2,320 individuals
Week Ending 7th & 14th of February, 2020
Monday, February 3rd, was Legislative Day 10 and marked the start of the fourth week of the 2020 legislative session; the House and Senate adjourned unexpectedly early on Wednesday, February 5th to allow the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to deep dive into Gov. Kemp’s $28.1 billion budget. The entire week from February 10th through the 14th was spent conducting Appropriations Committee hearings on the FY 2020 and FY 2021 budgets.
Governor Kemp’s FY 2021 budget of Georgia State Funds is proposed at $28.1 billion. Not to confuse readers, but the proposed FY 2021 Total State Expenditures budget is $54.1 billion; the $26 billion amount above the Governor’s $28.1 billion State Funds budget reflects money coming from “Federal Funds and Grants” over which state leaders have little or no control. Regardless, the additional $26 billion is money that flows into our state. The Governor’s budget and the numbers I am referring to appear in the Governor’s proposed 2021 budget.Read more
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.Read more
In the coming days, the Governor will need to act on HB501, the bad Oyster Mariculture legislation. If the Governor allows this legislation to become law, it will hamper and stymie the growth of Georgia’s Oyster Mariculture industry – an industry that does not exist today. Industry producers and supporters strongly oppose HB501.
We have an opportunity to grow a small “wild oyster” industry into a multi-million-dollar “oyster mariculture” industry – but only if the Governor VETOs on HB501, and then supports passing good, industry supported legislation such as HB565 in 2020.
A constituent, whose county will directly benefit with the passage of good Oyster Mariculture legislation, gets it:
“I am so upset that politics crushed your excellent reasons for not wanting the "oyster bills" passed as written. Your reasons seem so rational and important! I am not anywhere near an expert in this field, but this "new" industry needs to get it right the first time!!!
Thank you, Jeff.
H. Langford - Darien, GA”
Google "Georgians First" and you are most likely to find something like this: