Georgia General Assembly: Week 1
Rep. Pat Gardner | Legislative Report | January 19, 2015
House Democrats outline 2015 legislative agenda
The 2015 legislative agenda of the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives includes legislation to advance the following values:
- Economic Security. Improve the lives of Georgia’s families by creating jobs, helping build small businesses and protecting working families.
- Educational Opportunity. Provide quality education for Georgia’s kids by supporting students, helping parents and improving schools for the 21st
- Shared Responsibility. Fix government so it works for everyone, protect taxpayer investments and defend civil rights.
Key items include legislation to prevent funding of private schools that discriminate against students; demand transparency and accountability on how the government spends money to outsource jobs; allow greater access to the polls for eligible voters; protect our youngest students against school suspension or expulsion; and restore full funding for HOPE Grant recipients.
House Committee Assignments: Members of the House of Representatives received their committee assignments for the 2015-16 legislative term last week. I will be serving on the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for the annual state budget, as well as the House Ethics Committee, Higher Education Committee, Natural Resources & Environment Committee and Transportation Committee.
State of the State: In his annual State of the State address to the General Assembly, Gov. Nathan Deal spoke in favor of an additional financial investment to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure, as recommended by a special study committee.
While the Governor recommended increase spending on transportation, he did not come out in support of a specific plan to generate revenue for the additional spending. The study committee had estimated the need for an addition of $1 billion to $1.5 billion annually to maintain the current road system.
On education, Gov. Deal asked lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment to establish an “Opportunity School District,” in which the state would take over the operation of individual failing schools. He has also appointed an Education Reform Commission for the purpose of overhauling the state’s Quality Basic Education funding formula for local school systems.
The Governor continued his call for criminal justice reforms and proposed combining the supervision functions of three state agencies — the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Corrections — into a new Department of Community Supervision.
Gov. Deal expressed support for decriminalizing and controlling the use of cannabis oil for the medical treatment of certain conditions, including childhood seizures. He said he does not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and opposes allowing marijuana to be grown or sold in the state.
Tobacco Tax Hike Proposed: Supporters of a proposal to increase the state tax on tobacco products have announced they will introduced legislation that would cause the tax on cigarettes to go up by at least $1 per pack. The bill’s sponsors said an increase of $1.23 per pack would put Georgia at the national average on taxing cigarettes and would bring in an estimated $624 million in additional state revenue. The legislation will have the support of Georgians for a Healthy Future, a statewide healthcare advocacy organization.
Solar Financing Plan: Legislation aimed at assisting homeowners and small businesses with generating their own energy from solar panels has been approved by a subcommittee of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. HB 57, which would allow residents and business owners to lease solar panel systems for their property, has the support of the Georgia Solar Energy Association. The bill now goes to the full committee for its consideration.
Budget Hearings: Following the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, I will join my fellow members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for hearings and initial work on the proposed budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2015 and the annual budget for fiscal year 2016. Through the first half of the current fiscal year, state revenues are showing a 5.7 percent increase over last year, and the new budget is estimated at $21.7 billion.
Please feel free to contact me throughout the session with your thoughts on these and other issues, or whenever I can be of service. My legislative office is located at 604-G Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone 404-656-0265; fax 404-463-2634 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.patgardner.org to sign up for regular legislative newsletters by email or to get more information.