Session 2017: Week 1
Session 2017: Week 1
The first day of the 154th Legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly began on January 9th, 2017. During this week, Governor Nathan Deal gave his annual State of the State address to the House and Senate. He spoke on where Georgia has been and where we are going in 2017.
Our state has been steadily improving in such a short span of time, and has been named the number 1 state to do business in for 4 consecutive years. Since 2011,
The unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4% to 5.3%,
GA has maintained a AAA bond rating,
Our Rainy Day fund has gone from $116 million to about $2.033 billion,
We have reached new records in trade, film production, and tourism,
And new private sector jobs have reached over 575,000.
All of this makes me even more optimistic about what GA will achieve over the new few years. Gov. Deal spoke in detail on what we have to look forward to:
Providing a better quality of life for Veterans and active duty personnel
Did you know that nearly 1 in 4 active military members show signs of mental health conditions? Gov. Deal expressed the importance of doing all we can to help these men and women. He encourages the distribution of funds by the General Assembly to instruct federal and state employees on how to better help veterans and improve their access to mental health care. Gov. Deal also wants to see a position created for a Women Veterans Coordinator to help female veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma. Lastly, the governor wants to see funds secured to create a rehabilitation center to assist veterans suffering from brain injuries or PTSD. I look forward to working on these issues to help our state’s thousands of veterans and active military members.
Enhancing healthcare benefits for children
Gov. Deal encourages my colleagues and I to discuss legislation to allow Medicaid and State Health Benefit Plan coverage for treatments for those diagnosed with autism up age 21 and an increase of coverage to treat children with behavioral and mental issues from birth to age 4. At the present time, behavioral health services are offered only to Medicaid and PeachCare members to those age 4+. This expansion in coverage will help GA to diagnose and provide the proper care earlier for children who suffer from these conditions.
Strengthening Georgia’s drug monitoring program
Opioid addiction has been on the rise in recent years. Gov. Deal signed an executive order instructing the Department of Public Health to allow pharmacists to distribute naloxone which is an over-the-counter emergency drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose. The governor asked that the GA Board of Pharmacy cut this drug from the dangerous drug list and encourages the passage of more legislation that will strengthen GA’s drug monitoring program.
Plans for the development of Georgia Cyber Innovation
Gov. Deal shared with us his plans for the creation of the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center—a facility designed to promote advance innovation in cybersecurity technology. In cooperation with the Dep. of Defense & National Security Agency, this training center will teach and prepare students to combat cyber attacks. This facility will also contain a cybercrime lab run by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Improving Georgia’s education system
Gov. Deal lastly spoke on the continued improvement of GA’s education system. He included a 2% salary increase built into the pay scale for all teaching positions in his budget recommendations in addition to the 3% merit pay increase for teachers in the budget for the current fiscal year. He then encouraged the House and Senate to work on legislation that will address our state’s failing schools, especially those that will aid elementary students. GA’s graduation rate has improved since Gov. Deal took office from 64. 7% to 79.2%. We want to continue this growth in the years to come.
Gov. Deal ended his speech by giving his budget amendments and recommendations.
Amended Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Highlights
$50 million for the new GA Cyber Innovation & Training Center in Augusta
$27. 3 million for a 20% salary increase for law enforcement officers
Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Recommendations
$300 million for salary increases for critical personnel- law enforcement, teachers, criminal investigators, Department of Family and Children Services caseworkers, and environmental health personnel.
You can view my committee assignments for the 2017-2018 legislative term here. You are also welcome to visit me at my capitol office located at 228-A State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334. I can be reached by phone at 404.656.5099 or by email at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you on how I can help serve Georgia. Do not hesitate to reach out to me and discuss your thoughts on this year’s legislative session!
You can learn more about me on my website or interact with me on my Facebook page. For more information on this year’s session, you can also visit www.house.ga.gov. There you can even view live streaming of the House proceedings. Check back here next week for more updates on the current legislative session. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative!
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