Your Georgia Desk
From Senator Tyler Harper
Update from the Capitol
The 2015 Legislative Session is officially underway, and there is much work to be done. With four of the 40 allotted days for session complete, we spent last week passing housekeeping legislation, receiving committee assignments, and listening to Governor Nathan Deal’s State of the State address outline the status of Georgia. Now that we have all of this in order, we are on to business, as the legislature will be addressing transportation and transportation funding, education, tax reform, as well as many other issues this session.
Before legislation can be presented on the Senate floor for a full body vote, it must first be assigned to a committee by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle. Last Tuesday, we received our committee assignments. I was honored to be selected as the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee and Vice Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. I will also be the secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee and a member on the Retirement Committee.
On Wednesday, Gov. Deal presented his annual State of the State address to both the House and Senate bodies to report the current and future condition of our state. The State of the State address recounted recent achievements and advised future policies regarding transportation and education.
While our economy continues to thrive, our education system has seen over 19,000 students drop out of grades nine through twelve over the past year. The Governor will focus on making K-12 education more accessible and more effective through the creation of an Education Reform Commission, modernization of the outdated Quality Based Education funding mechanism and establishment of an Opportunity School District. As legislators, we have an obligation to provide our children with schools that prepare them for the workforce and for life.
Education will not be the only topic of interest this session; our transportation system will also receive attention as we are in need of additional funding to maintain our infrastructure. Our state is now the eighth most populous state, home to the tenth most mainline highway lanes in the nation, and more than 14,000 bridges, but we are heavily dependent on federal highway funds (68 percent of our total funding is federal dollars). We are currently at a crossroads, with transportation funding; we must do something to ensure future generations of Georgians are provided with the same, if not better infrastructure conditions. We must find a new strategy for transportation investment, without one, our roads will no longer be repaired, safety will be jeopardized and economic development will stall due to increased road congestion. As you can tell, this is a very important priority that I will continue to monitor to ensure citizen’s voices are represented throughout this process.
Budget hearings have been underway. These hearings take place at the Capitol and provide a time for state agencies to propose their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. We will listen to countless testimonies from agency leaders in order to allocate the necessary funds in the FY ’16 budget. We will be back in the Senate Chamber and ready to begin debating legislation on Monday, January 26.
I am humbled you have placed your faith in me to represent the constituents of District 7 at the Georgia State Capitol. Please feel free to contact my office at any time to talk about pending legislation or address other concerns in our district – my door and phone lines are always open. I encourage groups who are interested in visiting the Capitol to call my office at 404.463.5263 to set up a date and time. I look forward to personally welcoming you to the Capitol!