The 2015 legislative session is off to a fast and busy start. The Georgia State Senate swore in all 56 senators last week, including 10 new freshman senators, and announced committee assignments shortly thereafter.
I am looking forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations, Finance, Regulated Industries, Rules and Transportation committees to approve legislation that will keep Georgia a competitive state for business and a great place to raise a family.
Gov. Nathan Deal set the tone for the current legislative session with his annual State of the State address. Although the Governor recognized our state's successes-we've added to our "rainy day" fund, created more than 319,000 new private sector jobs, and have allocated the largest percentage of the budget to K-12 education in the past 50 years-but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
We need to take a close look at our education funding formula, which hasn't been revised since the 1980s. We also need to continue our strong support of state child welfare programs by funding upgrades for training, recruitment and resources for the professionals in this field.
The Governor also provided a brief look into a serious transportation funding problem that must be fixed during this legislative session. Last year's legislative session created several study committees, including the Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding Joint Study Committee, which I co-chaired with Rep. Jay Roberts (R - Ocilla). We were asked to produce a report outlining potential solutions for funding new and existing transportation infrastructure, because although our network of roadways has grown, our funding for transportation has not. An increase in fuel-efficient vehicles and a 44-year-old excise tax rate has created a large discrepancy in the amount of money generated for roadway maintenance-a decrease of nearly 50 percent. Without a new strategy for transportation funding, we cannot maintain the safety of our roads or build new infrastructure-both of which are incredibly important factors when Georgia is competing for new investment and business expansion opportunities.
Before the legislative session started, I was humbled to be elected as Senate Majority Whip, the third-ranking leadership position in the caucus, by my colleagues. My primary responsibility is to inform caucus members about proposed legislation and ensure a full caucus presence during important votes. The comments and feedback I receive from my district will certainly be a driving force when educating fellow caucus members on the objectives and implications of proposed legislation.
It is a great honor to represent one of Georgia's most legislatively active Senate Districts, and I encourage you to continue reaching out with comments, questions and concerns. I plan to hold several town hall meetings over the next few months and details will be released on these meetings as soon as they are available. Thank you for your efforts to make sure the "American Dream" remains alive and well in Georgia-it is the driving force behind my work on your behalf at the Georgia State Capitol.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.