Heath: A first week back update

January 21, 2019

This past week the Senate convened for the first session of the 155th Georgia General Assembly with leadership changes on nearly every level of government.

Governor Brian P. Kemp was sworn in as our 83rd Governor and for the first time in over a decade, there will be a new president of the Georgia Senate – Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan.

He will serve as Georgia’s twelfth Lt. Governor and the second Republican to hold the office. Additionally, a majority of our Constitutional Officers will be serving in their first term, and we welcomed five new members to the Senate.

Along with the ceremonial events like the inauguration and gala, Governor Kemp gave his first “State of the State” address on Thursday. During his speech, the governor detailed his plans to keep Georgia moving forward and to retain our title as the number one state in which to do business. Included in his proposal for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, $480 million would be appropriated to ensure each teacher in Georgia receives a permanent $3,000 pay increase.

Additionally, in the Fiscal Year 2019 amended budget, $69 million will be utilized as grant funding for Georgia’s 2,294 public schools for security improvements. Further, there will be $35 million in the amended budget to build the Aviation Maintenance School which is a part of the Technical College System of Georgia at the Paulding County Airport.

In addition to focusing on educators and our schools, Governor Kemp plans to focus on broadband expansion, health care access and a newly founded gang taskforce. During our joint budget hearings next week, I look forward to hearing in detail what the proposal is for the Fiscal Year 2019 amended budget and Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

In the Senate, our members had a busy week electing our President Pro Tempore, Secretary of the Senate and Sergeant at Arms. The members also received our committee assignments and I am proud that I was re-appointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight.

In addition to this role, I will be serving on the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Finance, Judiciary, and Natural Resources and the Environment. I look forward to deliberating on legislation that is assigned to these committees to ensure the legislation we pass does not have unintended consequences on our citizens.

Last Tuesday, we adopted the adjournment schedule which outlines our calendar until Friday, February 8.

I was relieved that both chambers came to an agreement and we are not taking a week off as a result of events in the city. There was some pushback for us to take time off to accommodate the influx of people coming to the city for the game.

I am a strong believer that we are sent to the State Capitol to do the work of the people and should not be wasting taxpayer dollars and time.

As legislation begins to move through the process and committees begin to meet, I highly encourage each and every one of you to stay informed and to reach out with any questions and suggestions.

I am at the Capitol to represent your best interest and hearing from you will provide the necessary feedback I need to make decisions on which legislation to support and which to fight against. I look forward to hearing from you as we prepare for session at the State Capitol.

State Sen. Bill Heath serves as Chairman of the Government Oversight Committee. He represents the 31st Senate District which consists of Haralson and Polk counties and portions of Paulding County. He may be reached at 404.656.3943 or by email at billheath@billheath.net.

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