Gold Dome Update: Weeks One and Two
On Monday, January 11th, 2021, the Georgia Senate reconvened for the first half of the 156th Georgia General Assembly. Much has changed since the last time we began a legislative session. The world has transformed dramatically and new protocols and procedures are now required in order to conduct our business in the Senate. These new protocols include twice a week testing, socially distanced committee rooms and limits to the guests allowed on the Senate floor. While things looked a little different, it remained an honor to recite the oath of office with my colleagues to officially enter into our new terms in the Senate.
During our first week, members of the Senate received their committee assignments and I am proud to continue to serve as Chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee. As a volunteer firefighter, I know first-hand the many difficulties these brave men and women face on a daily basis. Even in the face of a global pandemic, our first responders continued to answer the call and render aid to our communities, going above and beyond the call of duty in many circumstances. I look forward to working with the public safety community, as well as my fellow committee members, to continue to support these self-less individuals. This year, I will also serve as Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee and as a member of the Appropriations and Education and Youth Committees, and as an Ex-Officio of the Regulated Industries and Utilities, and Rules Committees.
Last Thursday, we heard the annual State of the State Address delivered by Governor Brian Kemp. This speech highlighted a few of the Governor’s main budget priorities for the upcoming budget cycle, with a particular emphasis being placed on areas impacted by COVID-19. Specifically, the Governor is proposing $1.2 billion over the next few years to public education and $1,000 to go towards educators to ensure schools can reopen safely. Additionally, the Governor called for increased investment in rural broadband infrastructure in order to expand high-speed internet access across the state. I want to commend Gov. Brain Kemp for working tirelessly to ensure that Georgia’s economy continues to move and our state continues to grow.
This week, we went into greater detail with these proposals during what we call “budget week.” This is a week we set aside with no legislative days and, instead, we heard in-depth presentations from Georgia’s various state agencies and departments. These presentations give state agencies the opportunity to discuss their current accomplishments and challenges, and note certain budgetary items they require to operate more efficiently. Last year, this was a solemn process, as many difficult cuts were required to withstand the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, thankfully, our economy has begun to bounce back and we are now in a position where we can restore many of those cuts, particularly as they relate to K-12 education. As the session continues, we will use the information we gathered in these hearings, as well in our upcoming Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meetings, to help us craft the Amended 2021 Fiscal Year Budget, as well as the General 2022 Fiscal Year Budget. Being our only constitutional duty, passing a balanced budget will be our top priority.
With two weeks down, the Senate is beginning to enter into a routine and, before long, committees will start to hold their first meetings of the year. If you ever have any questions about the budget or any other pieces of legislation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. I am here to serve you.
Sen. John Albers serves as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. He represents the 56th Senate District which includes portions of Cherokee and North Fulton counties. He may be reached at his office at 404.463.8055 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org