On Sunday, Jan. 8, the afternoon prior to the first day of the 2012 session of the Georgia General Assembly, I was honored to preside over the second annual Eugene C. Tillman Sr. Memorial Prayer Convocation at the Capitol.
We had an outstanding program of music, prayer and praise, featuring Speaker David Ralston, Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and other House members, along with the KARAR Dance Ministry from Salem Bible Church, Evangelist Lela Williams, Dr. Ron J. Bigalke and Bishop Tommy Williams Jr. from the Church of Christ in Riceboro.
The prayer convocation was named in memory of my mentor, former Rep. Eugene C. Tillman of Brunswick, and is an outgrowth of the tradition of the original Georgia Legislative Prayer Caucus.
State of the state: Gov. Nathan Deal outlined his legislative agenda, including a proposed $19.2 billion state budget for fiscal year 2013, Tuesday night during his annual state of the state address to a joint session of the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate. The governor said he would recommend three tax breaks for businesses, depicting them as an effort to spur job creation in light of the fact that Georgia’s unemployment rate has exceeded the national average for 52 consecutive months.
On education, the governor is proposing $20 million in the state budget for a college scholarship loan program for needy students and $8.7 million to assist charter schools that have not been approved by their local school boards. He also said he would restore the full level of state funding to local school systems and pledged a total of $257.9 million to accommodate enrollment growth in K-12, the University System and technical colleges. His proposal also adds 10 days to the pre-K school calendar, restoring half of the 20 days cut last year.
According to a presentation made this week by the Georgia Student Finance Commission to a Joint Economic Development & Tourism Committee, students receiving the HOPE Scholarship could see a 38 percent reduction in their HOPE benefits over the next three years. Because of a widening gap between Georgia lottery revenues and college tuition costs, HOPE scholars can expect to have significantly higher out-of-pocket costs by 2015. A typical University of Georgia student, lawmakers were told, would have to pay $2,732 in expenses every semester, with the remaining $2,461 covered by HOPE.
Condolences: I would like to offer my sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Long County Sheriff Cecil Nobles on his recent passing. Sheriff Nobles was the longest-serving sheriff in the state and second in the nation. He was a dedicated public servant and a personal friend to me for many years. He will be missed by all.
Session schedule: The General Assembly will be in official recess beginning Jan. 16 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, followed by three days of appropriations committee hearings on the budget. The full legislature will return to the Capitol on Jan. 23.
Williams, D-Midway, represents District 165 in the Georgia House of Representatives. Call him at 912-997-5600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.