Sen. Jesse Stone: Senate Report

17
Jan

Sen. Jesse Stone: Senate Report

Your Georgia Desk:

Jesse Stone

From Senator Jesse Stone

SENATE REPORT

For the Week Ending January 17, 2014

I appreciate the opportunity to report what is happening in State Government from my perspective as your State Senator.

The Georgia General Assembly 2014 Session convened Monday January 13, 2014.   The Session began with a faster pace than sessions in recent years.  One of the first orders of business was the consideration of a bill to adjust election dates for state elections.  This adjustment was necessary because last year a federal judge had directed Georgia to change the dates of federal elections in order to accommodate overseas ballots (mostly cast by military personnel who are given 45 days to vote).  House Bill 310 was amended to bring state elections in line with the new schedule for federal elections.  This avoided having state and federal elections being held on different dates, something that would have imposed additional costs on local governments and would have caused voter confusion.  HB 310 passed on my motion (by a vote of 4 to 3) out of the Senate Ethics Committee.  The full Senate approved the bill (38-15), and it now returns to the House.  If HB 310 as amended is agreed to by the House, and signed by the Governor, primary elections in Georgia will be held on May 20, 2014.

On Wednesday, Governor Deal gave his State of the State Address to a joint meeting of the House and Senate.  The Governor pointed out that Georgia had been recognized by Site Selection Magazine as the Number One State in the country for doing business.  After suffering through the “Great Recession”, Georgia’s economy is now growing faster than the rest of the nation in large part due to policies implemented over the last three years, including reforms to tax laws.  Georgia’s state tax burden is the lowest in the United States.  Balancing its budget without raising taxes has enabled Georgia to maintain the highest credit rating (Triple A).

In his speech the Governor outlined his proposed 2015 budget which was released the same day.  Some of the highlights include a half billion dollars added to Education.   Education comprises over half of the State’s budget. While Education, unlike other areas of state government, had not been cut in recent years even during times of reduced revenue collections, Education spending growth had not kept up with student enrollment growth.  With the additional funds being added to Education, many of the austerity measures implemented in recent years can be phased out, giving local school systems flexibility to apply funds where they are most needed.  In addition, more funding will be allocated to improving internet access for schools across the State.

Another announcement concerning the 2015 budget is good news for rural counties and school systems – namely, the proposal to catch up payments due local governments under the Forest Land Protection Act.  Rural legislators have pressed for this reimbursement for several years.  If passed, Senate District 23 should receive the following FLPA payments:

County                                    School District              Cities/Counties        Total Reimbursement

Burke                          $123,481.00                  $88,241.00               $211,722.00

Columbia                     $127,720.00                  $58,281.00                $186,002.00

Emanuel                      $105,159.00                  $97,037.00                $202,196.00

Glascock                     $154,809.00                  $118,892.00              $273.701.00

Jefferson                     $283,297.00                  $288,615.00              $571,913.00

Jenkins                        $311,894.00                  $258,052.00              $569,946.00

Johnson                       $106,039.00                  $108,640.00              $214,679.00

McDuffie                    $74,951.00                    $34,009.00                $108,961.00

Screven                       $203,707.00                  $195,256.00              $398,962.00

Warren                        $335,572.00                  $249,680.00              $585,253.00

Today is the 5th Legislative Day of the Session.  We are aiming to move through the 40 days of the 2015 Session with few breaks.  If we are able to finish our business just 2 weeks early (as had been done in prior years), we can save taxpayers close to $200,000.00 just in letting part time staffers go home.

I look forward to hearing from Constituents.  If you need to contact my office during the Session, please call (404) 463-1314 or e-mail me at jesse.stone@senate.ga.gov.  If you are in Atlanta, please stop by my office, 320-B Coverdell Legislative Office Building, 18 Capitol Square, SW, Atlanta, Georgia  30334.

JESSE STONE,

SENATE DISTRICT 23

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