Budget Hearings Underway
Governor Nathan Deal has proposed a spending plan of $26 billion for fiscal year 2019, a $1 billion increase over the current state budget. Deal addressed the General Assembly’s joint Appropriations Committee this week, kicking off the legislative budget hearings. Deal gave a broad overview of his spending plan before focusing on two major topics. The first was giving praise to the huge growth seen over the last seven years to the General budget with education being a top funding priority. Including the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget, spending for K-12 will have increased by $2.7 billion over the last seven years and per-student spending has risen almost 32 percent during that time.
In his annual address to the General Assembly, state economist Kenneth Heaghney told lawmakers that the economy is near full employment, consumer spending is solid, a housing recovery is continuing, inflation is below target and the state is projecting a 3.7 percent increase in revenue in fiscal 2019, which begins July 1. For about the next 18 months, he’s expecting solid growth while watching closely interest rates and the new federal tax law.
Chancellor Steve Wrigley, along with Executive Vice Chancellor for Strategy and Fiscal Affairs Shelley Nickel presented the USG budget recommendations to the House and Senate Joint Appropriations Committee. Chancellor Wrigley emphasized the top priorities for USG are to ensure more Georgians enter the workforce with a college credential, make college more affordable and accessible to Georgians and find more opportunities to be more efficient and control costs. The Governor’s bond package totals $1.16 billion for the state, of which $270.6 million is recommended for the University System.
A portion of Joint Budget hearings were canceled due to snow. House Appropriations subcommittee’s begin meeting next week.
Pay as You Earn Education Program
HB 648, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), creates the Pay As You Earn Education Program. This program would require an eligible and accepted student to pay $1,000.00 each year toward the student’s cost of attendance to participating eligible postsecondary institution in exchange for the institution providing the remaining funds in the form of a payment plan based upon the future earnings of the student for a period of 15 years after the student’s graduation. Assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
Adoption Bill Passes Senate
HB 159, sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), is a comprehensive rewrite of Georgia’s adoption laws. The bill would reduce that gap by allowing birth mothers in Georgia to partially waive the state’s 10-day period during which they can reclaim babies from adoptive families, eliminate a six-month residency requirement for adoptive families and reduce age limits for adoptions involving siblings. It also, recognizes that Superior courts have exclusive jurisdiction over adoptions. A controversial provision was removed to assure passage. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 40-13 and now returns to the House for consideration.
Deal announces 2018 Floor Leaders
Governor Deal announced that Reps. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) and Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville) will continue to serve on the House floor leader team, while Senator-elect Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) will join Senators P. K. Martin IV (R-Lawrenceville) and Larry Walker III (R-Kathleen) to carry the Administration package in the Senate.
HB 634, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), creates the Georgia Endowment for Teaching Professionals to foster a public-private partnership for support of postsecondary teaching professionals in high demand courses. Assigned to the House Higher Education Committee.
SB 315, sponsored by Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), seeks to strengthen Georgia’s ability to fight cybercrime more effectively by creating the new crime of unauthorized computer access; making this crime punishable by a misdemeanor and subjecting materials that aid in the crime to forfeiture. Assigned to the Senate Public Safety Committee.
SB 316, sponsored by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), “Georgia Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crimes Act.” Provides for sentencing of defendants who commit certain crimes which target a victim due the victim’s race, color, religious preferences, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity. Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
HB 673, sponsored by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), would create a hands-free driving law in Georgia. Under this proposed statewide hands-free driving law, Georgia drivers would be permitted to touch or swipe their mobile devices once to initiate a call and once again to terminate a call while operating a vehicle. Drivers would also be allowed to use their mobile devices for GPS and navigation, but on a hands-free basis. Assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
Intern Spotlight: Sara Rios
Sara Rios applied to the Georgia Legislative Internship Program (GLIP) because she wanted to learn more about local politics and the bill making process. “I feel truly fortunate to be part of a program that focuses on the development of its interns by providing lifelong lessons that couldn’t be acquired otherwise,” says Ms. Rios.
Assigned to the floor leader’s office, Sara’s duties include assisting with a variety of administrative tasks such as tracking bills, handling constituent inquiries, writing correspondence, and attending hhearings andbriefings.
In her spare time, Ms. Rios enjoys traveling, and attending conferences from different disciplines such as computer science, philosophy, and business. After obtaining her undergraduate degree from GA State, Sara plans to attend graduate school to become a public servant.
Ms. Rios’ favorite quote is “let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future,” by John F. Kennedy.
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 7: The House and Senate will convene at 10:00 am on Monday, January 22.
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS TEAM
Tom Lewis, Senior Advisor to the President
Julie Kerlin, Director of Government & Community Affairs
Jason Thomas, Assistant Director of Government & Community Affairs
Debbie Jones, Associate to the Director
Georgia State University
P.O. Box 3999
Atlanta, Georgia 30302
404-413-2030 (office) • 404-413-1410 (fax)
Visit Georgia State University’s Office of Government and Community Affairs:
** ga.gsu.edu (http://ga.gsu.edu)