Budget Hearings Underway
Governor Brian P. Kemp has proposed a spending plan of $28.1 billion for fiscal year 2021, a $600,000 increase over the current state budget. Kemp addressed the General Assembly’s joint Appropriations Committee this week, kicking off the legislative budget hearings. Governor Kemp opened testimony by calling for continued conservatism in budgeting and highlighting the innovative ways that State agencies rose to his call for budget reductions last year. Kemp’s budget includes $362 million for a proposed teacher pay raise of $2,000, $144 million for enrollment growth in K-12 education and more than $228 million to the Department of Community Health to cover projected growth in the state’s Medicaid and Peach Care programs.
In September, Kemp asked many state agencies to submit proposals to trim their budgets by 4% in this fiscal year and 6% next fiscal year, and many of those cuts are present in the budget document.
Chancellor Steve Wrigley, along with Executive Vice Chancellor for Strategy and Fiscal Affairs Tracey Cook presented the USG budget recommendations to the House and Senate Joint Appropriations Committee. Chancellor Wrigley spoke about the future of work and the importance of ensuring that University System graduates can compete and thrive as the global economy rapidly evolves. Wrigley cited examples such as creating curriculum in consultation with industries such as logistics and cyber security, creating the FinTech Academy and urging campuses to tailor degrees to the needs of their surrounding communities.
The State Fiscal Economist, Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman, spoke on Georgia’s economic situation that seems fairly positive. According to Dr. Dorfman, the state’s economy is “quite good” but the budget is tight. Still, Dorfman predicts that Georgia’s tax collections, which have lagged, are likely to grow. Georgia has record employment, and the lowest recorded unemployment.
Governor Brian P. Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp were joined by Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education (GRACE) Commission members, legislators, and special guests as they announced three important legislative measures to combat human trafficking in Georgia. Legislation regarding the following will be introduced in the coming days:
* Create New Pathways for Record Restriction and Vacatur for Survivors.
* Close Loopholes in Sex Offender Registry & Improper Sexual Contact Code.
* Impose Lifetime Commercial Driver’s License Ban if Convicted of Trafficking.
Military Affairs & Veterans Legislation
HB 767, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), would provide for the creation of the Commission on Veteran Suicide Prevention. Assigned to the House Defense & Veterans Affairs Committee.
HB 769, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), would establish an educational assistance program within the Department of Veterans Services to provide housing and tuition assistance to disabled veterans attending graduate school in the State of Georgia. Assigned to the House Defense & Veterans Affairs Committee.
HB 770, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), would establish a competitive grant program within the Department of Veterans Services to provide assistance for the cost of service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Assigned to the House Defense & Veterans Affairs Committee.
Tobacco and Vaping Legislation
SB 298, by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), raises the minimum purchasing age for all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. The bill creates a tiered punishment system for individuals who distribute vapor devices and/or vapor cartridges to minors. The first offense results in a misdemeanor, the second: a high and aggravated misdemeanor, and the third: a felony. The bill also requires local boards of education add vaping and smoking instruction to every grade level k-12. Assigned to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.
HB 731, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), increases the amount of excise tax on cigars, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee.
HB 783, sponsored by Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell), would raise the age of mandatory education for children from 16 to 17. Assigned to the House Education Committee.
HB 784, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Lumsden (R-Armuchee), would allow local boards of education to discuss, vote upon, review, or assess school safety plans in executive session; thus exempting this subject from the state’s open meetings law. Assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
HB 741, sponsored by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead), would provide for a master teacher in each turnaround school in the state. Assigned to the House Education Committee.
Intern Spotlight: Macon Chiles
The Georgia Legislative Internship Program (GLIP) “seemed like a completely unique and fascinating opportunity,” says Dunwoody resident Macon Chiles. Ms. Chiles wants to make connections that will help her political future. Majoring in political science, Macon feels this experience will help her narrow down her desired career path and teach her life skills that will be invaluable, regardless of what career path she decides to take.
Assigned to the House Committee on K-12 Education, Macon’s duties thus far include answering phones and attending committee meetings. Excited about getting more involved in GLIP, she says “I hope to obtain a more immersive understanding of the political process, make connections, and make my representative’s job as easy as possible.”
After graduation, Macon would like to enroll in a graduate program, either in public policy or political research. Her career aspiration is to obtain a position as a political analyst or chief of staff.
Macon is a member of the Gamma Sigma Chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi. Her favorite quote is “If you’re not in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” by T.S. Elliot. Ms. Chiles’ favorite book is Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater.
Information on legislative activities including bills and resolutions as well as a webcast of daily sessions in both Chambers and committee meetings 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 27.
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS TEAM
Julie Kerlin, Senior Director of Government & Community Affairs
Michael Parkerson, Director of Government & Community Affairs
Jason Thomas, Assistant Director for State Relations
Clelia Keen, Assistant Director for 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)
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