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Wrapping up the 2015 Legislative Session
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The Georgia General Assembly wrapped up another legislative session on April 2 ending a long week in which nearly 100 bills were heard on the Senate floor.

The 40th day is also known as Sine Die, which is a term meaning "without another day."

This means the legislature will not meet again in 2015 to review or pass bills.

Any bills that did not pass before Sine Die will have to wait until the 2016 legislative session to be heard again.

In the final days of the legislative session, the House and Senate reached a compromise on House Bill 170, The Transportation Funding Act of 2015.

Those who call Georgia home, as well as visitors and businesses, depend on a transportation network that is reliable and safe-and this bill provides a way to sufficiently preserve this infrastructure.

The bill is expected to allocate approximately $900 million a year for new transportation projects and maintenance throughout the state.

Our state is home to the world's busiest passenger airport and the fourth-busiest deepwater port facility in the nation.

We need to make sure our transportation infrastructure is able to handle the large number of visitors and goods that move throughout the state and positively impact our economy.

The House and Senate also negotiated a final version of House Bill 76, which outlines the funding for the FY 2016 general budget.

The total funding for FY 2016 is approximately $21.8 billion, which is built on an estimated 4.57 percent growth over the FY 2015 revenue estimates.

I am pleased to report that the version passed includes funding for insurance benefits for our part-time school employees, as well as the restoration of funding to public schools.

These funds will hopefully cut down on the number of teacher furlough days and increase the number of instructional days. HOPE recipients will see a 3 percent increase and a 30 percent increase in private college grants.

Our economy continues to improve, and I expect we will see more growth in the future. It is an encouraging reminder that making tough decisions in order to balance the budget during down economic periods will pay off in the long run.

It is important that we continue to work as one team for a better economy and a healthy future for our state.

I was proud to carry House Resolution 215 for Speaker David Ralston (R - Blue Ridge), which will dedicate a section of State Route 60 in Fannin County as the Judge Ronald L. Newton Memorial Highway.

The road dedication will run from its intersection with State Route 60 Spur in Mineral Bluff to the city limits of McCaysville.

Judge Newton was an impartial leader and clear thinker whose strong convictions were supported by meticulous research and careful consideration. I am glad to see this honor given to such an appreciated and respected citizen of Fannin County.

The bills passed during the 2015 legislative session will ensure our state remains one of the best places in the nation to pursue a quality education, own a business and raise a family.

If you have any questions about the legislation passed, or what's in store for the legislature during the interim, contact my office at any time.

It remains an honor to represent State District 51 at the 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