Session Update: Week One

Dale Rutledge session blog update

On Monday, January 13th, the General Assembly began this year’s 2020 Legislative Session. Every year, my colleagues and I meet for 40 days to pass bills for the betterment of Georgia. I will update you weekly on what is happening at the Capitol building and what you can expect from your representatives. 

This week, the House convened for four legislative days in the House chamber, and one of our first orders of business was to adopt an adjournment resolution, which set our calendar for the first few weeks of the session. House committees also hit the ground running, Governor Brian Kemp delivered his second annual State of the State address and we voted on legislation on the House floor.

On Thursday, January 16th, the House and Senate convened in the House chamber for a joint session to hear Governor Kemp’s State of the State address. This annual address provides a unique opportunity for our Governor to present his assessment on the current condition of our state government, as well as his priorities for the year ahead. He commended the legislature for its hard work to accomplish those goals over the last year. Governor Kemp reminded us of the great successes that we have experienced in Georgia recently, including reaching the lowest unemployment rate in the state’s history at 3.3 percent, creating 64,000 new private-sector jobs and being named the number one state to do business for the seventh straight year. 

Governor Kemp vowed to fully fund our public school education again, while also accounting for enrollment growth and additional resources needed to properly educate Georgia students. The Governor stated that he will continue to dismantle the ineffective Common Core curriculum and reduce the number of required tests that weigh down our education system. He announced his budget includes an additional $2,000 pay raise for all public school teachers. By investing in our educators, this proposed pay increase would allow the state to boost retention rates, improve recruitment efforts and ensure better educational outcomes for students across the state. 

Governor Kemp went on to urge the General Assembly to focus our legislative efforts on improving access to quality health care across Georgia and promoting better health outcomes for Georgians. After passing the Patients First Act in 2019, Governor Kemp worked to introduce two innovative programs, Georgia Access and Georgia Pathways, to help lower health care costs and expand access to health insurance. This session, the House and Senate will work with Governor Kemp, as well as patients, providers and the private sector, to carefully craft legislation that will address the practice of surprise medical billing and create transparency within this system.

Another one of the Governor’s priorities is to continue to enhance public safety across our state. After first taking office, Governor Kemp established the Anti-Gang Task Force at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which partners with local law enforcement and prosecutors to help fight the threat of gang activity in Georgia. Furthermore, the governor vowed to continue to fight human trafficking and advocate for those who have suffered from this deplorable crime. Spearheaded by First Lady Marty Kemp, the GRACE Commission spent the last year coordinating efforts among local law enforcement, non-profit organizations, and survivors of human trafficking to help end this modern-day form of slavery. 

Before Governor Kemp took office, the General Assembly and former Governor Nathan Deal made tremendous strides in updating Georgia’s adoption laws. He shared his goals to build upon that work to help encourage and increase adoption in Georgia. This year, Governor Kemp will launch the Families First Commission to overhaul our state’s foster care system, which serves Georgia’s most vulnerable population. He also plans to increase the adoption tax credit from $2,000 to $6,000 and lower the adoption age from 25 years old to 21 years old. 

Governor Kemp commended former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson on his recent retirement after serving as one of our state’s boldest advocates in Washington D.C. for the last 15 years. In Senator Isakson’s honor, the governor announced the University of Georgia will create the Johnny Isakson Professorship for Parkinson’s Research, which will use technology and innovation to break new ground on treatments and medicine for patients. More than 20,000 Georgians are living with Parkinson’s disease, and with this new research opportunity, our state will be able to create a better quality of life for patients like Senator Isakson.

After Governor Kemp’s State of the State address, the House passed House Bill 276, which requires online retailers that facilitate online sales in excess of $100,000 annually to collect sales tax. We also adopted House Resolution 882, which urges the American people to support President Donald J. Trump, the U.S. Armed Forces, and intelligence agencies on a recent military operation that resulted in the death of Qasem Soleimani.

This week we also took time on the first day of the session to honor our dear friend and colleague, Jay Powell, who recently passed away before the 2020 session. Jay Powell served as the Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which acts as a gatekeeper in deciding which bills go before the full House for a vote. Chairman Powell was full of integrity and wisdom, he respected his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and his presence will be missed terribly at the State Capitol.

Your representatives are currently working through the second week of the session. Each week, you can return to my blog to read updates on what the General Assembly is working on for the state of Georgia. You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for the legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!

Below, I’ve listed out leaders from both chambers. You can click through each of their names to find more information about them.

House:

Speaker of the House: David Ralston

Speaker Pro Tempore: Jan Jones

Majority Leader: Jon Burns

Majority Whip: Trey Kelley

Majority Caucus Chair: Matt Hatchett

Majority Caucus Vice-Chair: Micah Gravley

Minority Leader: Robert Trammell

Minority Whip: William Boddie

Minority Caucus Chair: James Beverly

Minority Caucus Vice-Chair: Erica Thomas

Senate:

President Pro Tempore: Butch Miller

Majority Leader: Mike Dugan

Majority Whip: Steve Gooch

Majority Caucus Chair: John Kennedy

Majority Caucus Vice-Chair: Larry Walker

Minority Leader: Steve Henson

Minority Whip: Harold Jones

Minority Caucus Chair: Gloria Butler

Minority Caucus Vice-Chair: Emanuel Jones