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Gold Dome Update: Week 10

This week, we completed legislative day 35 and only have two more weeks to go until Sine Die, the last day of the legislative session. The Senate debated and passed 17 House Bills this week and Senate Committee members worked hard to vet and finalize any remaining bills assigned to their committee.

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 44, the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) general budget. The proposed budget focuses on fiscally conservative allocations and what is best for all Georgians. Teachers and education remain a top priority for the Senate, and HB 44 addresses pay package increases, additional retirement funding and funds for school construction. A recommended $160.1 million in additional funds would be allocated for base salary adjustments for teachers, school bus drivers and school nurses. To address the full funding of the Teachers Retirement System, there is a proposal to increase the funding to the system by $223.5 million. Additionally, around $240 million was included in the Department of Education bond package for capital outlay programs such as school construction around the state.

An additional $55.4 million is recommended to fund a 20 percent salary increase for law enforcement officers, increases for public safety trainers and criminal investigators. The Senate fully stands by this measure because it will help to reduce turnover and help Georgia recruit the best of the best. Our law enforcement men and women put their lives on the line every day for us and I am happy to see that we are supporting additional funding to properly compensate them.

While the Senate passed our version, the House is required to agree to the changes we made. Unfortunately, they did not and a Conference Committee was appointed to come up with a compromise both chambers can agree on. I’m looking forward to reviewing the final version with your tax dollars in mind and a goal of passing a balanced budget.

Also, this week House Bill 146, which I carried, received final passage and is on the way to the Governor’s office. Under HB 146, fire departments would provide expanded insurance coverage for firefighters who are diagnosed with certain cancers. I am proud of the work of my fellow firefighters and invested stakeholders have done to get HB 146 even closer to becoming law.  I look forward to the Governor signing HB 146 into law soon so that those who help us in our time of need get the health care coverage they deserve.

The next two weeks will be very busy as we work to debate, compromise on and pass legislation that will positively benefit Georgians. If you have any questions about the budget or any of the pending legislation, please feel free to reach out to me. I value your input and opinions and will do my best to represent the interests of Senate District 56 at the Capitol.