Your Georgia Desk:
A New Book for the 2014 Legislative Session
By: Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga)
The start of a new year is like opening a book of blank pages. The white sheets of paper provide endless possibilities for a narrative full of opportunities and ideas, but it also provides the means to record mistakes made and more importantly—the lessons learned. Every January, the Georgia General Assembly is given a new book of blank pages and tasked with writing Georgia’s story not only for that year, but many years to come.
Governor Deal delivered his annual State of the State address on Day 3 of the legislative session and gave lawmakers a preview into his recommendations for the FY 14 Amended and FY 15 General budgets. He offered positive words about Georgia’s economy, noting that after many years of a freeze, we are thawing and finally starting to see some growth.
The spotlight was certainly on education in Governor Deal’s FY 14 Amended and FY 15 General budget recommendations, including one of the largest single year funding increases for K – 12 schools in recent history. This $547 million increase will allow local school districts to restore instructional days, end teacher furloughs and increase teacher salaries.
Georgia has spent the past several years working to improve programs that protect and keep all citizens safe, especially our youngest ones. The FY 2015 budget continues Georgia’s commitment to this effort and sets aside $12.1 million to maintain current case workers and $9.2 million to create 202 new jobs overseeing the welfare of children and the elderly. The budget also includes $5 million for the expansion of the community-based Juvenile Incentive Funding Grant and adult felony drug and mental health accountability courts. Both are an essential part of the criminal justice and juvenile justice reform bills passed in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
The importance of job creation and retention has not been ignored in the FY 2015 budget recommendations. We need to get Georgians back to work and keep our highest-performing employees from pursuing jobs outside of the state. Some of the line items in the budget related to job creation and retention include $567,000 to create Housing Coordinator and technical support positions to help reformed inmates transition out of incarceration; $1.1 million to create 53 part-time positions in high volume Drivers Services Centers; and $724,836 to increase starting salaries for state food safety inspectors and fill vacant positions.
I’m honored to continue serving as Chairman of Senate Rules Committee, and also as a member of the Appropriations, Banking and Financial Institutions and Economic Development Committees. Committees are an important part of the process because they provide lawmakers with a closer look at proposed legislation and the opportunity to hear from parties who are both for and against any given bill.
The House of Representatives has approved their version of the FY 2014 Amended Budget, and the Senate will now begin a careful line-by-line review of the numbers. In addition to the new recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, the Georgia General Assembly must also revise the current budget to account for unexpected expenses or revenue shortfalls.
The Georgia General Assembly remains committed to the growth and development of all aspects of our great state and its citizens. I am looking forward to working with my Senate colleagues to pass sound legislation that solidifies Georgia’s reputation as pro-business, pro-education and pro-family.
Below is a list of legislation passed by the Senate during the first two weeks of the 2014 legislative session.
House Bill 310 is the first piece of legislation to be signed into Georgia law by Governor Deal in 2014. The legislation revises the schedule of state and local candidate elections to correspond with federal candidate election dates. Maintaining two separate election calendars places a heavy burden on state resources and would likely require a costly update to technology infrastructure. By combining the two calendars into one streamlined schedule, the state will be able conserve both state resources and taxpayer dollars.
House Resolution 1108 sets the legislative calendar through Day 24 on February 18, 2014.
Senate Bill 297 cleans up and clarifies minor questions related to campaign disclosure rules in local candidate elections. If enacted, this bill will require a “Declaration of Intent” to be filed at the local level and also exempt local officials from filing campaign finance disclosure reports for contributions or expenditures totaling less than $2,500. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.