The Georgia General Assembly officially has completed its first full week of the 2012 legislative session. The first of the 40 legislative days began Jan. 9.
Although only 40 legislative session days are allowed, the majority of our time in the next couple of months is spent at the Capitol, even when not formally in session. Before session begins, after it ends and on days that session does not take place, we spend our time drafting legislation, speaking with constituents and addressing any ideas or issues, working on the state budget and attending committee meetings where the pros and cons of potential legislation are debated.
The House did not discuss or debate any bills on the floor last week since legislation has to follow through the committee process before it comes to the House floor for a vote.
On Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal gave his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the Assembly. Deal focused on legislative priorities for the coming session and discussed key areas such as education, job growth and making our state more competitive and business friendly. Revenues are stabilizing in our state. Although we are not out of the woods yet, it is a step in the right direction.
On Wednesday, Deal released his proposed budget recommendations for the amended 2012 and fiscal 2013 budgets. Areas of focus included restoration of the pre-K school year by 10 days, additional funding for school nurses, additional funding for K-12 enrollment growth, salary increases for teachers based on training and experience and additional funding for One Georgia to increase economic development in rural areas.
The governor’s budget proposal is the outline the General Assembly will use to compile its own respective budgets. The budget process started with joint appropriations meetings of the House and Senate this week.
The governor’s budget recommendations included an increase in the 2012 amended budget through June 30 of $255 million, as well as the budget proposal for fiscal 2013 in the amount of $19.2 billion, which would take effect July 1. This is an increase of about $900 million, and it’s the first time in many years our state is not going into a fiscal year facing drastic budget cuts.
Economic progress takes time and although it is just baby steps, every step helps. Tax collections have risen throughout the year, and this allows for a small increase. Deal placed much of the increase into education and economic development. We are optimistic that our economy will continue to improve.
The 2012 legislative session completed its fifth day Friday. The General Assembly will not be in session this week due to House and Senate joint budget hearings, during which each state agency presents its budget and starts the legislative budget process.
The General Assembly will continue its work at the Capitol on Jan. 23. I will continue to keep all of you informed throughout the 2012 legislative session. Feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, thoughts or concerns. It is both an honor and privilege to continue serving you in the Georgia General Assembly.
If you would like to reach me, please call me at 404- 656-5099, write me at 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga. 30334 or e-mail me at email@example.com.