Session Update: Week Two

Dale Rutledge Session 2019 Week 2 Update

On Tuesday, January 21at, the General Assembly began Week Two of the 2020 Legislative Session. Every year, my colleagues and I meet for 40 days to work for the betterment of Georgia. I will update you weekly on what is happening at the Capitol.

Week Two is commonly referred to as “budget week.” This week, we began the state budget process, which is one of the most important responsibilities we have during the legislative session as we are constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget each year. The House and Senate Appropriations committees held a series of joint budget hearings, and Governor Brian Kemp presented his recommendations and priorities for the amended budget and upcoming 2021 fiscal year budget, which is set at $28.1 billion in total funding. 

Governor Kemp presented his comprehensive budget proposals for the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY 2020) budget, which adjusts the current fiscal year’s budget to account for needed changes. The Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021) budget, which is the budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1 and ends June 30 of the next calendar year is also set. Last fall, the Governor instructed state agencies to identify opportunities to streamline operations and consolidate duplicative programs to reduce spending. The Governor’s proposals seek to accomplish those objectives. Governor Kemp reflected on our state’s economy and commended us for creating a rock-solid foundation for businesses and families to thrive in Georgia. Governor Kemp encouraged us to continue to build upon our state’s success by prioritizing our current financial resources and reducing unnecessary costs, while still delivering excellent service to our citizens. 

The Governor’s budget recommendations include investing in Georgia’s teachers through a $2,000 permanent base salary increase in the AFY 2020 budget to retain and attract the best educators for our schools. This $2000 salary increase coupled with last year gives a total of $5000 to teachers full-time salaries. In the FY 2021 budget, he recommends adding $81 million to the University and Technical College Systems to fully fund enrollment growth, as well as alleviate the need for student tuition increases. Gov. Kemp also includes an appropriation of nearly $56 million in additional lottery funds for the HOPE scholarship and grant programs. 

To ensure that businesses can quickly and reliably move goods through the state, Governor Kemp proposes 

  • $51 million in FY 2021 to the Georgia Department of Transportation for roadway improvement and development, 
  • $50 million in obligation bonds to repair and replace bridges and 
  • $1.8 million for motor carrier officers to maintain safety on Georgia highways and protect our ports corridor along the coast. 

Georgia has been the top state to do business for seven straight years and investing in our state’s transportation systems will keep Georgia a business-friendly state.

Governor Kemp’s budget proposals reflect his ongoing commitment to protecting the safety of Georgia’s citizens and communities. These gangs are responsible for increased drug activity, human trafficking, and violence. Governor Kemp seeks to combat this crisis by including a total of nearly $2 million in the AFY 2020 and FY 2021 budgets for seven new positions within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) Gang Task Force, as well as resources to implement the statewide gang database. These new positions and the gang database will serve as a great resource for our law enforcement to better track, stop and dismantle gangs across the state.

The Governor’s FY 2021 budget allocates nearly $90 million to continue our efforts to increase access to affordable, quality health care for Georgians. Governor Kemp’s AFY 2020 budget includes $23 million for a state match for Disproportionate Share Hospital payments to ensure certain hospitals that serve low-income patients can benefit from this program. 

After hearing the governor’s comprehensive proposals, we also had the opportunity to hear from several state agencies and departments regarding their respective budgetary needs, as well as the state fiscal economist who shared the state’s economic forecast for the current and upcoming fiscal years. It is important to hear directly from our state agencies and departments during this process in order to adequately determine spending for each state agency. We will continue to work together as we prepare the final versions of the AFY 2020 and FY 2021 budget bills. 

The House Appropriations subcommittees will hold hearings to review these proposals and delve even further into the Governor’s recommendations. These subcommittees will eventually pass portions of the state budget in their respective subcommittees, and those portions of the budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2020 and FY 2021. From there, the budget bills will be considered by the House Rules Committee and scheduled for a vote on the House floor. Once the budget bills make their way to the House floor, members will have the chance to ask questions about the budget before voting. Once passed, the House will transmit each bill to our counterparts in the Senate, where they will review and pass both budget bills. 

We 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 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