Update from the state capitol

Published 5:10 pm Monday, February 11, 2019

Nix represents Troup Co. in the Georgia House

Tuesday, Feb. 4, marked the start of a very busy fourth week of the 2019 legislative session. On behalf of the Department of Labor, I introduced House Bill 126, which would permanently establish a business employability skills program called GeorgiaBEST, a successful program that was implemented in the past several years by the Department of Labor. 

The DOL website states GeorgiaBEST began as a small initiative in 20 high schools designed to teach students soft skills required to be successful in the workforce, such as punctuality, teamwork, communication and attitude. 

The program soon grew to include age-appropriate curriculum for middle school students and then to out-of-school youth and non-traditional students who were working on obtaining their GED. This bill would make an already-established program with proven success one that would be included in state law so that vital employability skills training could continue to be offered to better prepare our future workforce. 

On Friday, House Appropriations Chairman Terry England presented House Bill 30, the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 budget (AFY 2019), on the House floor, where it passed by a vote of 166- 8. The FY 2019 budget, approved during the 2018 special session, set state spending at $26.4 billion for the current year. 

The state has collected $435.7 million in new revenue since we passed the full budget, which is a 1.6 percent increase over the current budget and brings the total appropriation for AFY 2019 to $26.9 billion. The House version of the AFY 2019 budget prioritizes areas like our children’s safety and well-being through new school security grants, improving mental health services for high school students and supporting our growing foster program, which accounts for $87.7 million, or 20 percent of the total new revenue. 

A top priority for the governor and the House is education funding. After considering K-12 educational needs throughout the state, the AFY 2019 budget allocates 55 percent, or $238.6 million, of the total new funds to be dispersed throughout different agencies to accommodate our state’s educational needs.

Because technology is vital to educational opportunities and economic development, the House is considering HB 22, which would provide, improve and expand broadband services to rural areas. It’s estimated that 16 percent of Georgia households don’t have access to high-speed internet. Expanding this service is a priority for many legislators this year, including myself.