Governor Deal Delivers State of the State Address
Governor Nathan Deal on Wednesday delivered his fifth State of the State address to a joint session of the Georgia Legislature. “In short, I’m here to report to you today that the state of our state is strong and getting stronger every day,” he says. Governor Deal stated that the “Rainy Day Fund” has increased by 643 percent since he took office, which is evidence that Georgia is better today than in previous years. Since the Governor took office, over 319,000 new private sector jobs have been added, with 93,000 of those coming in the past 12 months. With this new job growth comes greater population growth and Georgia is now the eighth most populous state in the nation. Deal outlined his priorities this for this year which includes education, transportation and support of limited use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Deal will establish an Education Reform Commission to study a number of questions regarding our education system, such as increasing access to Georgia’s world class early learning programs, recruiting and retaining high quality teachers in our classrooms, and expanding school options for Georgia’s families. This group, which will be composed of legislators, educators and a variety of other stakeholders, will recommend potential improvements by August 1 of this year. The Governor plans to address the changing of the Quality Basic Education Funding formula which has not been comprehensively reviewed since the early 80’s. Deal will also propose a constitutional amendment to allow the state to intervene in failing schools. This intervention measure has been used in other states to successfully turn failing schools around.
Another important initiative will be ensuring substantial investment in roads, bridges and other infrastructure to meet the state’s growing transportation demands. Governor Deal called on lawmakers to work with him to develop a comprehensive plan to address transportation needs, which may include raising the excise tax, or the per-gallon flat fee on gas. Deal warned that the state’s economy will take a hit without a plan and increased funding, and the state will remain dependent on federal dollars. A study committee estimates Georgia needs $1 billion to $1.5 billion more each year to maintain its roads and bridges. The committee found adding roadways or expanding mass transit systems would cost far more.
Governor Deal will also introduce legislation to de-criminalize some forms of medical marijuana in Georgia. One proposal under consideration would protect patients, who need it and obtain it legally, from being prosecuted for possession. Deal does not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. “We’re focused narrowly on an oil that contains fractional amounts of THC – the chemical in marijuana that intoxicates a user”, Deal said. “We want to find a pathway to bring our children home from Colorado without becoming Colorado”.
Other priorities include the renaming of the Technical College System of Georgia. The new name would be the Georgia Career College System, to better reflect what the state’s technical colleges are doing. Deal is also proposing to create the Department of Community Supervision. This new agency will pull from portions of Corrections, Juvenile Justice and Pardons and Paroles.
House and Senate Leadership Selected
The House of Representatives had no change in any of it’s leadership positions. Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones (R-Milton) were both re-elected to positions they’ve held since 2010. Rep. Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire) was reappointed as House Majority Leader.
New leaders in the Senate included Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), as Majority Leader and Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), as Majority Whip. All other positions remained unchanged.
Higher Education Chairs Named
House Higher Education committees saw no change as Rep. Carl Rogers (R-Gainesville) and Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), remain Chairman of their respective committees.
Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), replaces Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), as the Chairman of the Higher Education Committee. Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville), was chosen as the new Chairman of the Senate Higher Education subcommittee of Appropriations. He replaces Cecil Staton (R-Macon), who retired to take a position with the Board of Regents.
Governor’s Budget Recommendations
Governor Deal released his recommendations for the FY 2015 amended and FY 2016 budget today. This includes funding to establish the Georgia Film Academy, seek funding to support salary increases for faculty and staff based on merit and the transfer of the Georgia Research Alliance back to the USG. The GSU Government Affairs team will seek $4.9 million in funds during the budget process for the addition of Phase II of Classroom South Building.
Budget Review Begins
The legislative review of the Governor’s budget recommendations begins next week with Joint Appropriations Committee hearings on the FY 2015 Amended and FY 2016 budgets. Chancellor Hank Huckaby, is scheduled to address the joint committee on Tuesday, January 20 at 1:00 pm. Governor Nathan Deal will address the joint committee on Thursday, January 22 at 12:30 pm. All revenue bills originate in the House; therefore, the first level of review and action will take place over the next few weeks in the various House Appropriations Subcommittees. Budget hearings will be broadcast (live and archived) via the legislative website, www.legis.ga.gov
Special Election Results
The special election for House District 50 to fill the seat vacated by Lynne Riley,Georgia’s new revenue commissioner, heads to a runoff. Kelly Stewart (R-Johns Creek) will face Georgia State University alumni Brad Raffensperger (R-Johns Creek) on February 3. Brad earned is MBA degree from Georgia State.
The special election for House District 120 to fill the seat vacated by Mickey Channell who resigned for health reasons also heads to a runoff. Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) will face Jesse Copelan (R-Greensboro) on February 3.
December Revenues Increase
Revenue collections for the month of December totaled $1.91 billion, an increase of $158 million or 9 percent compared to the revenue collected in December 2013. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $9.61 billion for an increase of $517 million, or 5.7 percent compared to the same point last year.
Legislators have already introduced 130 bills in the first week of session. Below is a sampling of legislation of intrest to GSU and the University System of Georgia.
SB 2, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), would allow local boards of education to award a high school diploma to a student who completes coursework at an accredited postsecondary institution. The student must meet several requirements through course work and test scores to be eligible to receive this diploma. Assigned to the Senate Education and Youth Committee.
SB 13, sponsored by Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker), would provide that the amount of a HOPE scholarship and grant shall be accepted as full payment of tuition by the University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia. SR 12, a Constitutional Amendment that accompanies SB 13, authorizes that the General Assembly may provide limitations by general law on the amount of tuition that may be charged to students receiving Lottery-funded scholarships and grants and attending colleges and universities operated by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia or those operated by the Technical College System of Georgia. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
SB 14, sponsored by Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), provides for a grant program to pay tuition and fees of certain students who enroll in a USG school, in exchange for the grant, the students agrees to pay a certain percentage of their annual adjusted gross income to the Georgia Student Finance Authority for up to a certain number of years after completion of studies. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
SR 13, sponsored by Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus), encourages the Board of Regents to create policies or programs to award academic credit to students for college level learning acquired prior to their admission into the university system. Assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee.
SR 14, sponsored by Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), is a Constitutional Amendment that requires the General Assembly to pass an education appropriations act before passing any general appropriations bill. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
HB 54, sponsored by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), provides for undergraduate full tuition grants to children of those individuals as well as highway emergency response operators of the Department of Transportation who were killed in the line of duty who attend institutions of the University System of Georgia. There is a provision that would permit taxpayers the opportunity to donate all or a part of their tax refund to help paying for this education funding. Individuals will also have the opportunity to donate when purchasing a driver’s license. Assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
GSU Students Participate in Georgia Legislative Intern Program
During the 2015 session, Georgia State is fortunate to have 15 students serving as interns for the Georgia General Assembly as part of the Georgia Legislative Internship Program (GLIP).
Assigned to various House and Senate committees, interns are given the opportunity to learn the legislative and policy process first hand from inside the Gold Dome. In addition to gaining an inside view of the legislative process and how constituents are served, interns acquire marketable skills and professional work experience prior to graduation. After successful completion of the program, students receive 9 hours of course credit.
Dr. Dan Franklin Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University is the Director of GLIP. The 2015 Georgia State University legislative interns are Monique Carter-Harper, Sara Delgado, Lucy Felker, Steven Gonzales, Jenny Guadalupe, Dominique Hadley, Robert House, David Jackson, Tamara Moon, Olamide Oladapo, John Powell, Austin Trott, Joseph Velazquez, James West, and Wes Williams.
Georgia State also has students working for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Administrative Office of the Courts and several lobbying firms.
Information on legislative activities including bills and resolutions as well as webcast of daily sessions in both Chambers and committee meeting are available via the General Assembly website at ** www.legis.ga.gov (http://www.legis.ga.gov)
Day 5: The House and Senate will convene at 10:00 am on Monday January 26.
Georgia State University Day at the Capitol
February 4, 8:00 am – 11:00 am