Session 2017: Week 3
Session 2017: Week 3
My colleagues and I began the third week of the 2017 Legislative session last Monday, Jan. 23rd. It was a busy week for us, but we were able to pass our first bill—the Amended Fiscal Year 2017 budget (AFY). Additionally, the House and Senate met to hear the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Chief Justice P. Harris Hines give the annual State of the Judiciary Address to update us on improvements and what work lies ahead to accomplish even more.
For the first time in Georgia’s history, we now have nine Supreme Court Justices serving on our state’s highest court. This expansion from 7 to 9 means a great deal for Georgia. It will address the growth in population and in our economy which has increased our judicial needs. We also elected or appointed 32 superior court judges. These changes are vital for our government and our citizens. It will aid in our justice system’s ability to uphold our laws and keep us moving forward as we continue to grow.
Chief Justice Hines then shared with us that our state has the highest rate of individuals on probation, and half of these individuals are on probation for simple misdemeanors. To deal with this concern, the Council on Criminal Justice Reform will work alongside the General Assembly to make probation reform for non-violent offenders. This will save the taxpayer money and allow probation officers to focus on high-risk offenders.
Another area that needs reform concerns legal representations for middle-class citizens. These citizens make too much to qualify for aid, but not enough to hire their own. Representing themselves decreases their chances of winning and slows down court proceedings. Chief Justice Hines said that he plans to work with Georgia’s State Bar and state law schools to create a program to expand the supervised practice of Georgia law students. So far, over 1,000 law students will represent low and moderate income citizens. This program helps our citizens, improves the skills of law students, and does not create excess cost for Georgia.
Chief Justice Hines lastly spoke on the importance of Georgia’s juvenile court judges. Because of their role in protected our young citizens, Hines voiced the need for independent, full-time juvenile court judges who have the best resources and training. He also asked for the General Assembly’s support in establishing a juvenile court data exchange system that will serve to provide all judges and state agencies involved in a child’s life with those resources. We want only the best decisions being made for Georgia’s children and must do all we can to prepare those who serve them.
Like I stated earlier, my colleagues and I completed with the AFY 2017 budget! The Amended Fiscal Year 2017 budget recognizes $606.2 million in additional revenue which is 2.5% more than what was initially projected in the FY 2017 budget. This brings the total for the AFY 2017 budget to $24.3 billion. The amended budget was introduced on the House floor last Thursday and passed with a vote of 174-1.
This year’s budget includes several components concerning:
HB 43 includes $108.9 million for mid-term enrollment growth of .68% to ensure that every child has the resources to learn.
$16.7 million will go towards the Move on When Ready program.
$2.3 million will go towards creating the Georgia Center for Early Language and Literacy for children age 0-8, located at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.
Public Safety Officials
$25.1 million is allocated for a 20% pay raise.
23.5 million will go towards 612 new vehicles.
Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS)
$974,712 is allocated to accelerate the 57% per diem rate increase for foster parents, beginning April 1, 2017.
$746,243 for a $1 per day increase for relatives, kinship, or foster care providers, beginning April 1, 2017.
Finally, the AFY 2017 budget allocated $5 million to the Governor’s Emergency fund to address the needs of Georgians who have suffered from recent severe weather. Several families have lost their homes/ businesses and at least 15 have died. Gov. Deal declared a state of emergency for 16 counties, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave individual assistance to six of these counties. The money appropriated for this disaster will allow us to rebuild what these citizens have lost. If you are among those affected by this storm, I am truly sorry for all you have lost. We are doing all we can to rehabilitate your community and get you the help you need.
Before we concluded our work last week, we took a moment to acknowledge and honor the life of our former colleague State Representative Bob Bryant. We remembered him as the loyal husband, father, veteran, and friend that we was and spoke on his great work during the 12 years of service as a state representative. State Rep. Mickey Stephens, Savannah-Chatham Delegation, and his family introduced House Resolution 116 to honor his memory.
In the coming weeks, we will continue working diligently through the 2017 legislative session. 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 budget legislative session!
You can 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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