An update from the state capitol
Published 4:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2019
This week was significant, as it marked the halfway point of the 40 legislative-day session and was highlighted by the final passage of the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, as mandated by our state’s constitution. Some highlights of the budget include $60.4 million for school safety, with $30,000 allotted per school; $8.4 million for the APEX Program, which supports counselors for mental health services in high schools; a $20 million farmers’ loan program for southwest Georgia farmers affected by Hurricane Michael; $2 million in assistance for rural hospitals affected by Hurricane Michael; and $500,000 for coding labs in rural or low income schools middle schools.
With agreement from both the House and the Senate, the budget passed with $435.7 million in additional revenue for a 1.6% increase over the FY 2019 budget passed during the 2018 Special Session. This brings the total appropriation for Amended FY 2019 to $26.9 billion and represents a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that supports the functionality and improvement of our state. The bill, HB 30, is now on the governor’s desk for his approval.
This week, we also passed House Bill 130, which I sponsored, and House Bill 59 to expand educational opportunities for our K-12 students across our state. In 2010, the Georgia General Assembly established the Georgia Foundation for Public Education (GFPE) to promote and implement educational initiatives and programs throughout the state, allowing both individuals and businesses to donate to Georgia public schools. Under HB 130, the GFPE would be authorized to qualify as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the foundation would be able to solicit and accept more funding to carry out its purpose of supporting educational excellence in public schools and at the Georgia Academy for the Blind, Georgia School for the Deaf and Atlanta Area School for the Deaf. Many larger donors cannot donate to an organization that does not have a 503(c)(3) designation.
Georgia is proud to be home to 13 military bases and thousands of military service men and women. I was pleased with the passage of House Bill 59, which will allow parents or guardians on active duty in the military to pre-enroll a student when official military orders to transfer into or within the state of Georgia are received. Students will be eligible to enroll in the same manner and time as students residing within the local school system, in the public school of the attendance zone in which he or she will be residing, or in a public school in a school system in which the military base or off-base military housing is located. This legislation will help military families re-locate more seamlessly and help school age children become acclimated to a new school in a timelier manner.
We passed two healthcare-related bills this week. House Bill 186 passed overwhelmingly and ensures that the proceeds from the sale or lease of a hospital owned by a hospital authority or political subdivision of the state are put into an irrevocable trust and are only used to provide indigent health care. If certain conditions are met by the hospital authority or political subdivision, additional investment options are permitted. Another bill that addresses an important healthcare matter, HB 158, passed which requires that Medicaid recipients have the same access to antiretroviral regimens used to treat HIV and AIDS as those included in the formula established for the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program. I believe these bills are good legislation that will provide for Georgians in need.
Vigorous debate continues in committees over several hot-button issues, including election laws and new election machines and Georgia’s healthcare certificate of need law. I will update you as these pieces of legislation take shape and move forward towards passage.
As the legislative session continues, I appreciate and value your input. I can be reached at (404) 656-5146 or by email at email@example.com. Thank you for placing your trust in me as I represent you in the State House!