Sen. Steve Gooch: Checking Items Off a Growing ‘To-Do’ List

16
Feb

Sen. Steve Gooch: Checking Items Off a Growing ‘To-Do’ List

Your Georgia Desk

From Senator Steve Gooch

Steve Gooch

Checking Items Off a Growing ‘To-Do’ List

We have now reached the point of the legislative session where lists are everywhere. It doesn’t matter if they are the individual to-do lists or the bills eligible for consideration by the Senate Rules Committee, all of these lists are getting substantially longer every day. We still have a long way to go in the 2015 legislative session, so these lists are very important tools that keep legislators on task for the State of Georgia and the people we represent.

The Senate approved the Amended FY 2015 appropriations bill last week, which means we are halfway to fulfilling our annual constitutional requirement to pass a balanced budget. HB 75 increases the AFY 2015 budget by $276 million, bringing the total funding amount to $21.1 billion. Most of this funding increase will be allocated towards public school enrollment growth. Another $20 million will be aimed towards economic development recruitment efforts, while $4.8 million will be directed towards medical trials studying how cannabidiol may help in treating severe childhood seizure disorders. Since there were some discrepancies between the House and Senate on certain line items, a conference committee made up of members from both chambers will now negotiate a final version of HB 75.

However, the House and Senate have agreed on one very significant thing when it comes to the AFY 2015 budget—and that’s the importance of keeping insurance coverage for school employees who work less than 30 hours per week. The Senate also included language in their version of HB 75 that strongly supports providing these hard-working employees with health insurance, and I am feeling hopeful about the General Assembly’s chances of finding a way to keep our bus drivers and cafeteria covered.

SB 3 passed the Senate and will provide an alternative for parents who must temporarily waive parental rights due to circumstances such as military service or substance abuse treatment. The legislation, also known as the “Supporting and Strengthening Families Act,” would provide an easier method to transfer caregiving authority to a grandparent or family member without the involvement of a lengthy court process. Ultimately, it will allow parents to adequately address the circumstances that impact his or her ability to adequately care for a child, as well as preserve family structure and stability. The bill will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

I presented SB 4 to the Senate Economic Development Committee, where it received a unanimous ‘do pass’ recommendation. SB 4 seeks to expand the definition of “urban redevelopment” to include the improvement of transit facilities, sidewalks, streetscapes, trails and bike paths. These surface transportation projects add a lot of value to redevelopment areas and often act as a catalyst for neighborhood growth and improvement. The bill will now be considered for a floor vote by the Senate Rules Committee.

Please continue to stay in touch with me and share your thoughts as we work through the legislative session, especially as more bills start moving through the legislative process.  As always, I am honored to represent you in the 51st Senate District.

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