The return of spring-like weather allowed Georgia’s legislators to reconvene at our state’s capitol last week and attend to much pertinent business.
Foremost, the state’s budget carefully was considered under House Bill 744. This is a $20.8 billion state budget plan for fiscal year 2015, beginning July 1, 2014. Of that budget, 54.1 percent of state revenues are designated for education. Health-and-human-services agencies are authorized to receive 23.1 percent of available funds, and 8.4 percent of revenues are allocated for public-safety agencies. The budget passed overwhelmingly in the House.
The budget has been pared down during the years because of the economy, and we have cut much of the fat from previous years. This budget is a more streamlined, effective version that still provides for the needs of our state without excessive non-essential spending, which voters would consider “pork” or unnecessary special projects.
It has always been my goal to run the state just as you and I would run our homes — by watching every dollar and not living beyond our means. I supported this budget, and I support running the state in a fiscally responsible manner.
We also considered and passed HB 875, which is called the “Safe Carry Protection Act.” This bill expands the places where legally licensed gun owners can carry their weapons, including places of worship and non-restricted areas of airports. However, this bill does not allow for gun possession in schools. I think this is a sound piece of legislation that doesn’t infringe on gun owners’ rights to bear arms while still maintaining the careful protection and consideration of the children in our schools.
Many Georgians carefully are planning for their children’s educational future, and lawmakers also are considering how to help families pay for college. Last week, we passed HB 697, which redefines qualifications for the HOPE scholarship. This bill defines a “Zell Miller Grant Scholar” as a student who meets the requirements to receive a HOPE grant and earns at least a 3.5 cumulative grade-point average at the end of any semester or quarter. Under this bill, if a student meets these requirements, the student will be awarded the difference between the HOPE provision and the current academic year standard undergraduate tuition at the institution to be paid. I believe the HOPE scholarship program is an exceptional option for exceptional students, and I am proud to support it.
Contact Stephens by calling 404-656-5115, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334.