Legislative Update – Week 1 – 2019

On Monday, January 14, 2019, the Georgia House of Representatives convened for the first day of the 155th Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly.  With my wife, Vickie, by my side and holding my bible on which I placed my left hand, I took the oath of office for the new 2019-2020 term.

After completing procedural business that morning, the House and Senate reconvened at 2:00PM in joint session for the inauguration of Georgia’s 83rd governor, Brian Kemp. Thousands of citizens gathered to witness as Governor Kemp took the oath of office at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. Gov. Kemp then administered the oath of office to Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and other constitutional officers. Our new governor began his term with his inaugural address and encouraged our leaders and citizens to continue to build on our state’s accomplishments. The governor finished his address by calling for bipartisan leadership with the hope of Georgia becoming a “state united.”

Three days later, on Thursday, January 17th, the House and Senate reconvened for another joint session with Gov. Kemp to hear his first annual State of the State address. He began his address by commending the leadership and legacies of Governors Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal. He noted the work that has been done to make Georgia an epicenter of job growth, the Hollywood of the South and soon to be the Cyber Capital of the World. He also praised Deal’s criminal justice reform initiatives and announced that he will continue to build on those reform efforts during his time in office. Throughout his speech, Gov. Kemp celebrated Georgia’s victories, while challenging us to accomplish even more.

Governor Kemp is absolutely committed to working with our state and local officials to grow jobs and paychecks in Georgia. He highlighted Georgia’s rising wages and low unemployment rate – the lowest it has been in 18 years. In the last eight years, Georgia has seen 800,000 new private sector jobs created, which includes industries like agribusiness, aerospace, aviation, healthcare, manufacturing and transportation infrastructure. To continue this incredible achievement, Gov. Kemp will establish the Georgians First Commission to root out regulations that make it difficult for companies to hire, expand and invest in our state.

Gov. Kemp also expressed his commitment to strengthening our public schools by recruiting and retaining top talent for our classrooms by keeping teacher pay competitive. His 2020 budget proposal includes a $3,000 salary increase for certified Georgia teachers, which would be the largest teacher pay increase in our state’s history. His goal is to look out for our hardworking teachers by ultimately raising teachers’ pay by $5,000 during his term in office. The governor’s proposal would be a tremendous investment in Georgia’s public schools and in our students throughout the state.

Gov. Kemp also outlined his plan to prioritize school safety. His budget includes $69 million in one-time funding for school security grants. Under his proposal, all 2,294 public schools would receive $30,000 dollars to implement school security priorities to be determined by local school boards addressing their specific needs.

With a focus on keeping our classrooms safe, Gov. Kemp challenged the General Assembly to address mental health issues that lead to violence in our public schools. To aid in this effort, Gov. Kemp’s budget proposal includes an additional $8.4 million in funding through the APEX program from the Georgia Health Policy Center. APEX is a successful pilot program that increases access to mental health services for school-aged youth.

Continuing to focus on safety, Governor Kemp is also tackling the rise of gang activity in Georgia. Over 71,000 confirmed gang affiliates reside in Georgia and at least 1,500 suspected gang networks are located throughout the state. To address this growing threat, his proposed budget will include $500,000 to form a gang taskforce within the GBI.

The governor also announced that his budget proposal will include an additional $1 million for the Department of Community Health to create state flexibility options for Georgia’s Medicaid program. Gov. Kemp expressed his commitment to working with the legislature to allow greater access to healthcare options that deliver exceptional results, grow the rural hospital tax credit, tackle the doctor shortage and build a healthier Georgia.

House and Senate Appropriations committees are reviewing Governor Kemp’s budget proposals this week. House members will dive deeper into the details of the governor’s budget plans to ensure that we are spending your tax dollars in the most efficient way possible.

Now that session is underway, I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year.  I can be reached via email at bruce.williamson@house.ga.gov, or by phone at 404-656-5024.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.