On Jan. 22 the House convened for the third week of the 2018 legislative session. By the end of the week, we completed Legislative Day 10, which means the General Assembly is now one-fourth of the way through our 40-day session with just 30 legislative days remaining.
This past week was busy and productive, and the pace has noticeably picked up as House committees met more frequently to consider and vet proposed legislation. The House also saw measures introduced that were recommended by our interim House councils and commissions, and we worked with the Senate and passed an adjournment resolution that set our legislative schedule for the remainder of the session. While it may seem like we have a great deal of time left in the 2018 session, we have several important issues to address before adjourning Sine Die.
Although Georgia’s economy has grown exponentially over the past several years, not all parts of our state have experienced the same levels of prosperity. For this reason, the House is heavily focused on improving economic opportunities for our state’s rural communities. Last session, we adopted House Resolution 389, which established the House Rural Development Council (RDC). During the interim, the members of the RDC traveled to many different rural communities across the state and met with local leaders, studied issues specific to Georgia’s rural areas and explored ways to encourage economic growth.
The RDC closely examined the components of economic development and related policy areas, such as education, infrastructure and access to health care and economic growth incentives. Then, in December, the RDC released the first of two reports outlining several legislative recommendations that would boost rural Georgia’s economic opportunities.
Last week we saw the first rural development-related bill, House Bill 735, be introduced for the House’s consideration. HB 735 would create a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures to encourage investment in rail infrastructure in rural Georgia. Georgia has one of the fastest growing ports in the country. It is important that we continue to improve our rail infrastructure to allow more of this freight to go by rail instead of our roadways. This measure is likely the first of many pieces of legislation that we will consider this session to help Georgia’s rural communities grow, and the RDC’s proposals are a result of the council’s findings and hard work during the interim. Since this bill was just introduced this week, it will now make its way through the legislative process, and I will update you as it moves through the House.
Our state’s continued economic success largely depends on a connected and efficient transportation network, which is why transit is also a top priority in the House this session.
During the 2017 session, we adopted House Resolution 848, which established the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding. This commission is charged with studying our state’s transportation needs and exploring ways our state can sufficiently plan and provide for those needs. Like the RDC, the transit commission held hearings across the state during the summer and fall of 2017.
I am fortunate to serve as chair of this committee. I have been meeting daily with leaders across the region and other stake holders to solicit input on this important endeavor. I plan to introduce an important piece of legislation based on this work in the next couple of weeks. I anticipate that other stake holders will join me as we make several major announcements around this work.
Both the transit commission and the RDC have worked diligently since the end of the 2017 session to study pressing issues facing our state, and it is exciting to see initial proposals come to fruition in the form of legislation.
We also worked with our counterparts in the Senate and adopted another adjournment resolution this week, which determined our calendar for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session. Legislative Day 40, or Sine Die, is the final day of the legislative session and will be on March 29.
Until then, my House colleagues and our Senate counterparts have a busy and aggressive schedule and will be working diligently to pass meaningful bills for Governor Nathan Deal to consider signing into law.
While earlier this session we focused largely on reviewing Gov. Deal’s state budget recommendations during joint appropriations committee hearings with the Senate, this past week the House Appropriations subcommittees held several hearings at the Capitol to further review the governor’s budget proposals. The General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget every year, so after we review Gov. Deal’s budget proposals in our various Appropriations subcommittees, my House colleagues and I will draft a bill for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget and another bill for the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget.
The AFY 2018 budget, nicknamed the “small budget,” is an adjusted budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The small budget uses a more precise estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between anticipated and actual state revenue.
The FY 2019 budget, nicknamed the “big budget,” is the state budget for fiscal year 2019 beginning on July 1. This budget is based on projected state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. Once passed by the respective Appropriations subcommittees, those portions of each budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will then review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019. As a member of the appropriations committee, I have been working over the past three weeks with the other members of the committee to on this budget process.
As you know, I am continuing the tradition of holding a weekly informational breakfast each Saturday during session. This Saturday we will be meeting at 9 a.m. at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame located in Dawsonville.
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. I can be reached on my cell phone at (678) 776-5059, at the Capitol at (404) 656-3947 or by email at email@example.com.