Last week under the Gold Dome, the Georgia General Assembly concluded on Friday to complete its first official week of the 2014 legislative session. As this new session begins, please know that, as always, it is an honor and privilege to represent you and your families at our state Capitol.
On Wednesday, Gov. Deal addressed a joint session of the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate. During his annual State of the State address, presented at the beginning of each legislative session from the House floor, he focused on the state’s financial condition as our economy continues to slowly improve. Additionally, Deal highlighted that Georgia was named as “the No. 1 state in the nation in which to do business” by Site Selection magazine. That said, Deal also stated that we must continue pushing forward to improve our state’s economy, workforce and infrastructure. In previous years, due to a tough economy and decreased tax revenues, all state agencies shared in the necessary cuts required to balance our budget. With our economy improving for the first time in several years, the budget will increase slightly as a result of higher tax collections — a welcome signal that our state is slowly recovering and improving.
During Deal’s address, he highlighted the importance of the Port of Savannah, the nation’s fourth-largest and fasting-growing port. Deal’s budget recommendations include a bond package of $35 million additional dollars for deepening the port to help accommodate and more efficiently serve larger vessels. This would bring the total to $266 million in state funding, with the federal government expected to contribute the remaining portion of the estimated $650 million project. This not only will have an immediate impact on our economy, but also will provide long-term benefits.
Additionally, Deal’s budget recommendations included a significant increase in funding for K-12 education. During challenging economic times, cuts were made and school years were shortened. With a slight increase in revenue, the Legislature is focused once again on increasing funding for education. Deal’s recommendations include an additional $547 million dedicated exclusively to K-12 education.
House members received committee assignments for this legislative session. I will remain chairman of Economic Development and Tourism, as well as a member of Appropriations, Rules, and Ways and Means.
With 35 legislative session days remaining, we are just beginning our job of representing our districts, citizens and state.
During the next several months of session, look for my periodic legislative update in the newspaper. Please contact me with your ideas and opinions or if I can be of service to you in any way. It is your input and common-sense ideas that develop into the best legislation and, potentially, becomes the laws of our state.
If you would like to reach Stephens, call 404-656-5099; write to: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.