By Lynne Riley, Georgia State Rep. (R-Dist. 50)
The second session of the 152nd General Assembly opened on Monday, January 13, 2014, and we got right down to business. On Wednesday, January 15, Governor Nathan Deal addressed a joint session of the House and Senate by revealing his goals for the year in his State of the State Address.
In his address, Governor Deal detailed the exceptional progress Georgia’s economy has made since the Great Recession. Georgia’s unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2009, and over 200,000 jobs have been created in the past three years. More Georgians are back at work, and state revenues are returning to pre-recession levels.
Governor Deal presented his plan on how to best allocate state revenues in his amended budget for Fiscal 2014, which funds the final few months of the current fiscal year, and the full budget for Fiscal Year 2015, which is the state’s budget from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Revenue projections for AFY2014 and FY2015 will total $20.2 billion and $20.8 billion respectively, both a slight increase from the $20 billion that was originally forecast for FY2014.
Georgia’s education system ranks at the top of Governor Deal’s priority list. Among his goals for education is an increase in internet access at schools across the state, expanded online learning programs, and the creation of a new Zell Miller Hope Grant for technical college students who maintain a 3.5 grade point average.
In his budget summary, Gov. Deal recommended that Georgia’s education system obtain the largest budgetary increase in seven years. Through a funding partnership between the state and the local school systems, there will be the opportunity to restore instructional days that were cut during the economic downturn and the potential to provide educators with pay raises.
Also included in the Governor’s budget proposal is funding to increase caseworkers for the Division of Family and Children Services, so that reports of child abuse and neglect obtain the immediate attention they deserve.
Other objectives for the state include funding to deepen the Savannah port and the continuation of a three year plan for criminal justice reforms, which could help reduce recidivism and crime in Georgia.
The Governor’s budget proposals also increase funding for the juvenile justice system, with the intent to improve the retention rates of juvenile corrections officers.
Our first vote on legislation this year was the House and Senate’s final passage of House Bill 310. This legislation moves state and partisan county primary elections from July to May 20, 2014. State elections will coincide with the federally mandated elections that were recently moved to May.
The change in dates will provide more time to vote via absentee ballot. For information about election dates and voter registration, you may visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.ga.gov.
Finally, we also took some time this week to remember two great colleagues who passed away last year: Representatives Calvin Hill and Quincy Murphy. Rep. Hill, from Canton, and Rep. Murphy, from Augusta, both served in the House for more than 10 years. Their families visited the Chamber on Tuesday, January 14, to hear the readings of House Resolutions 1050 and 1051, which recognized the lives and accomplishments of these two distinguished representatives. Reps. Hill and Murphy will be greatly missed, but their legacies will live on through their contributions to the state of Georgia.
I invite you to visit the Capitol while we are in session to see your legislators at work. You can also stay in touch by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov to watch the House in action, view live and archived committee meetings, and review legislation that we are considering.
I hope to hear from you on your ideas and opinions regarding the issues facing Georgia, and your suggestions on how we can enhance your quality of life. Please call my office at the State Capitol at 404-651-7737.
Editor's note: Georgia State Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek) represents District 50 which includes the city of Johns Creek.