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Legislature halfway to the finish line
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The Georgia General Assembly is officially halfway through with the 2016 legislative session and just 10 legislative days away from a significant deadline: Crossover Day.

The 30th legislative day, or Crossover Day, is the last day for Senate bills to be carried to the House for consideration, and vice versa.

The Senate will dedicate the next few weeks to improving and vetting bills before they go before the entire General Assembly for approval.

The Senate has approved its version of the amended Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

One of the most important duties for state legislators is to not only pass a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but to also amend the previous year's budget.

This is done to account for any changes in revenue or spending. The Senate version of HB 750 strengthens the FY 2016 budget by adding an additional $1.16 billion, bringing the total budget to around $23 billion.

Most of this additional funding will be directed at efforts to increase maintenance of Georgia roads and towards new highway projects. I am proud to say the Senate passed this legislation with common sense conservative ideals in mind, and I expect any differences with the House's version of HB 750 to be negotiated without difficulty.

House Bill 742 also received Senate approval last week. HB 742 updates Georgia's income tax code to match that of the 2016 federal definition.

The bill also changes the filing deadline for businesses from March to April, excepting only S - Corporations. Both of these initiatives are aimed at reducing the burden on individuals and businesses by simplifying our tax code and ensuring a consistent system for filing taxes.

This bill is a win for small businesses as the tax filing process is often cumbersome for small businesses.

I welcomed quite a few guests to the Senate chamber last week.

In particular, I was happy to welcome members of Leadership Dawson, a program led by the Dawson Chamber of Commerce.

It was a pleasure to meet with these future business leaders as we discussed the role state government plays in protecting small business interests.

I also welcomed 13 students from Lumpkin County Middle School, including my son, Samuel, as pages in the Senate. It is our duty as state legislators to help encourage Georgia's youth to learn more about state politics and engaging in their community.

I was also proud to present the only eight sole commissioners in the United States to the Senate chamber.

As a former sole commissioner myself, I understand the important role these individuals play in running their counties and ensuring all their constituents are properly represented. Georgia is the only state to still allow counties to have a sole commissioner system.

Although there is a still lot of work to be done this legislative session, I want you to know I am never too busy to answer your questions or hear your concerns about proposed legislation.

As always, it is an honor and a privilege to represent Senate District 51 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 steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.