As our state’s constitution demands, my Senate colleagues and I convened this past Monday – the second Monday in January – for the latter half of the 155th Georgia General Assembly.
Of course, with a new session always comes new challenges, and the most daunting challenge for this year’s forty-day sprint will be adjusting to the absence of a dear friend, Senator Greg Kirk, who left this world far too soon. His friendship will be sorely missed and the hard working men and women he represented are now without the best and most fearless champion they will ever have. My prayers remain with Greg’s wife, Rosalyn, and the entire Kirk family.
This week, I also had the privilege of being invited to the White House to attend a signing ceremony for the new Phase One Trade Agreement between the United States and China. This agreement will drastically lower many of the barriers our farmers face when attempting to export their goods internationally and will spur economic development opportunities across Georgia’s agriculture industry. I look forward to witnessing firsthand how this trade deal benefits Georgia’s farmers in the coming months.
Also this week, the majority caucus unveiled our Senate priorities for the upcoming session. Among them: my continued pursuit of broadband access for all Georgians – just as we made a commitment to the telephone over a century ago, it is imperative that we continue to invest the time, the manpower and the required funding to connect every corner of Georgia to the twenty-first century. I am happy to continue to lead on this issue, just as I am happy and honored, to lead on our other priorities: creating greater transparency in healthcare, curbing infant and maternal mortality rates and empowering our law enforcement community.
On Thursday, Governor Brian Kemp outlined his legislative priorities for the session in his annual State of the State address. In this speech, Gov. Kemp emphasized the progress our state has made since last year and reinforced his commitment to combating gangs and human trafficking. He also reiterated the commitment he made last year for our educators by following through with an additional $2,000 pay raise Georgia’s teachers. I look forward to working with the Governor’s Office on these proposals and others to continue to make Georgia as great as it can be.
Next week, the Senate will not be in session. But we will still be busy at work as budget hearings will monopolize the majority of our week. As anyone who listened to the Governor’s State of the State Address this week knows, the budget process this year will be a challenging one, but my colleagues and I were elected to serve as good stewards of your taxpayer dollars and we are ready for the challenge.
Thirty-six legislative days remain. And, in that time, a lot can happen. But the one thing I can guarantee: Georgia’s best days are ahead of us, and I am eager to help get us there.
Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip. 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.