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Legislative session officially under way
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Gov. Nathan Deal gave his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Jan. 15. The annual event takes place in the House of Representatives and is attended by members of the House, Senate, State Supreme Court Justices, State Court of Appeal Judges and the State's Constitutional Officers.

The governor gave an uplifting speech and laid out several of his key budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2015.

Georgia's education system ranked at the top of Deal's priority list in his address.

Among his goals for education was an increase in Internet access at schools across the state, expanding online learning programs and the creation of a new Zell Miller Hope Grant for technical college students who maintain a 3.5 GPA.

In his budget summary, Deal recommended that Georgia's education system obtain the largest budgetary increase in the past seven years.

With a partnership between school systems, such funds have the potential to restore instructional days that were cut during the economic downturn and to restore furlough days to teachers.

Our schools have struggled over the past five years with the loss of state funding, and I am looking forward to seeing this trend reversed as our economy starts to grow again.

I plan to work with other House members to ensure this funding is approved in our version of the budget.

Also included in the governor's budget proposal is funding to increase caseworkers for the Division of Family and Children Services, so that reports of child abuse and neglect obtain the attention they deserve.

Other objectives for the state include funding to deepen the Savannah port and the continuation of a three-year plan for criminal justice reforms, which should help reduce recidivism and crime in Georgia.

Finally, the governor's budget proposal also increased funding for the juvenile justice system with the intent to improve the retention rates of juvenile corrections officers.

All of these increases are possible due to the increases the state as seen in revenue over the past year and will be done without raising taxes on our citizens.

Also on Jan. 16, the official budget process started with a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting. Deal led the presentations by detailing the major highlights of his budget proposals.

The governor was followed by the leaders of our state agencies, each of whom explained their agency's budget and answered questions from House and Senate members.

The budget process will continue as the House works toward accomplishing its one constitutional requirement each session, to pass a balanced budget.

Back in the district, I held my first informational breakfast of the session at Ryan's restaurant in Dawsonville on Jan. 18. I am looking forward to continuing this tradition and plan to be at the Wagon Wheel in Dahlonega at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Our community has been struck by the loss of several young people over the past few weeks. I would ask that each of you join me in keeping these families in our prayers.

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