During the third week of the Georgia General Assembly's 2015 legislative session, my colleagues and I passed one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year: The 2015 amended fiscal year budget (AFY 2015).
The budget, which is a mid-year adjustment of state spending through June 30, 2015, was first introduced by Gov. Nathan Deal at last week's Joint Appropriations hearings.
Since then, the AFY 2015 budget has been carefully reviewed and edited through a series of Appropriations Committee meetings.
Thanks to the committee's diligent work, the House version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 (AFY 2015) budget was packaged into House Bill 75 and was voted on and passed unanimously by the House on Jan. 29.
The House version of the AFY 2015 budget is very similar to Gov. Deal's initial budget proposal.
The amended budget includes an addition of $276 million in "new" funds, with 70 percent of that going towards education.
Of the new education dollars, $128.5 million will go towards K-12 enrollment growth and $35 million will be added for local school systems to expand their wireless broadband internet connectivity.
Higher education was also set as a budget priority, with funds designated for new engineering and military scholarships and the creation of the Georgia Film Academy.
Lastly, the amended budget also includes $750,000 to support the Governor's newly created Education Reform Commission.
I am happy to see our state continue to put money into our school systems, as our children are our most precious resource.
With a thriving economy comes an increase in our state's population and it is crucial that we take measures to ensure the good health and safety of all citizens.
More than $5 million in the AFY 2015 budget is allocated for driver education programs to improve safety on Georgia's roads.
Funds are also set aside to expand the length of the Department of Corrections' Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program from six to nine months, and the Board of Regents is issued $4.8 million to provide clinical trials on cannabis oil for children with medication resistant epilepsy. These programs among others will make Georgia healthier and safer for families across the state.
In addition to passing the amended budget, we also took time to recognize some outstanding citizens across our state.
On Jan. 26, the House celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in honor of our brave Georgians in uniform.
Dozens of airmen and soldiers visited the State Capitol and were recognized for their accomplishments on the House floor with House Resolution 27.
We also had the honor of witnessing a new member of the Georgia National Guard be sworn into the Army National Guard by our colleague and veteran Representative John Yates.
It was an honor to meet this new soldier, as well as the many others who make such tremendous sacrifices for our freedom and safety.
On Jan. 27, we had the privilege of meeting another group of courageous Georgians in honor of National Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On this day, we paid special tribute to the Holocaust witnesses of liberation. These heroic Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II and therefore witnessed some of the worst atrocities in world history. They were each recognized in the House Chamber for their contribution to history preservation and the role that they played in the liberation of the Holocaust. Our colleague, Representative John Yates was among the six honorees that were recognized before the House.
Finally, last week we welcomed members of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team to the Gold Dome.
Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins, CEO Steve Koonin, coach Mike Budenholzer, shooting guard Kyle Korver, and forward Elton Brand all visited the capitol on Jan. 27.
After a recent 16 game winning streak, the Hawks were recognized before the House for their sportsmanship, citizenship and positive economic impact on the city of Atlanta.
This week several of my bills are scheduled to be heard in committee.
I anticipate having the first hearing on the Pardon and Parole Transparency legislation, the No-Knock legislation and my Georgia Special Needs Scholarship legislation.
In addition to presenting my bills in committee, I will also be busy attending other committee meetings that I serve on.
We will be reviewing and debating numerous bills that have been introduced by other legislators.
We will also continue to work on some of the most challenging issues facing us this session including the transportation bill. I believe the facts show that there is a need for additional transportation funding in our state. The challenge will be to determine the most effective way to do this over the next decade.
I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts on this and other issues that we will be dealing with this session.
Our weekly informational breakfast will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ryan's in Dawsonville.
I look forward to seeing each of you there.
I am honored to serve as your Representative at the State Capitol. I am always available to assist you and encourage you to contact me with questions or your opinions.
Rep. Kevin Tanner can be reached on his cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-0152 or by email at email@example.com.