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2020 GA Capitol Update: Week 2

After taking Monday to reflect on the life and legacy of one of Georgia’s native sons, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the legislature returned on Tuesday refreshed and ready to work. This week, known as “Budget Week”, is the time members of the Senate and House start their work crafting two separate budgets: the Amended 2020 Fiscal Year Budget and the General 2021 Fiscal Year budget. This is some of the most important work we do each year and is a task that each and every member takes seriously.

The budget is always the most important piece of legislation we work on each year, due to the fact that passing a balanced budget is the only constitutional requirement of the General Assembly. This year, this assignment presents a few additional challenges, such as meeting the Governor’s prescribed 4% budget reduction for the FY2020 budget and a 6% reduction for FY2021. Thankfully, we were informed by the state’s Fiscal Economist that a recession in Georgia remains unlikely and unemployment remains at record lows.

On the first day of the Joint Appropriations hearings, we heard from Gov. Brian Kemp who went into greater detail what budgetary effects his proposed initiatives will have. We were happy to hear that although the budget will be tighter than it has in recent years, we have been able to make significant savings by eliminating duplication of services and improving cooperation between agencies. We also learned of a number of other proposals the Governor plans to put forward, including following through with an additional $2,000 pay raise for all educators, activating the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ‘s Gang Task Force with a $2 million appropriation and providing a $1,000 raise for our hardworking state employees who make less than $40,000 a year. These proposals will take the form of bill in the next few weeks, after the Senate and House Appropriations Committees have time to analyze the funding needs of Georgia’s agencies and other vital programs.

One of the Governor’s top priorities since taking office has been combatting the heinous crime of human trafficking. As legislators, we are all too accustomed to hearing the heart-wrenching stories of victims bought and sold for labor or sexual servitude. Last year, Georgia’s First Lady, Marty Kemp, established the GRACE Commission to find ways that Georgia can lead in ending this practice for good. On Tuesday, I was proud to stand by the side of the Governor and First Lady as they laid out their legislative proposals on how to make that goal a reality. I look forward to working with the Governor’s office on these measures and I especially look forward to sponsoring legislation in the Senate to aid their efforts.

Next week will be a busy one, as the Senate is scheduled to convene Monday through Friday. We are also anticipating committee meetings to begin to meet more regularly, which will result in increased discussions and votes on legislation. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. I am here to serve you.