The past few days have been very heavy. Part of this is probably due to the schedule as the General Assembly draws to an end - the days often start at 6 a.m. and end at 10 p.m. Part is likely due to the volume of work yet to be done – we have over 180 House Bills still under consideration in the Georgia Senate and many Senate Bills still active in the Georgia House of Representatives. Most of these will not pass, but they all must be carefully read and vetted. The largest portion of this is due to the incredible weight of the issues we have considered this week. We have been asked to lay out a budget during a time we see increasing storm clouds on the horizon. We’ve been asked to weigh safety vs. privacy. On the matter of abortion, we have literally been asked to weigh life vs. death.
Let me start with the issue we face every year: The State Budget. The Senate passed the 2020 Budget out of committee Thursday morning. It will likely be on the Senate Floor Monday. Senator Jack Hill (R-Reidsville), our Senate Appropriations Chairman, is a master of this task. We do see storm clouds, however, on the horizon. Next year’s budget (which actually starts on July 1, 2019) is predicated on 2.3 percent growth. While this figure is very modest, as I’ve mentioned before, we are currently off pace to meet the demands of this year’s budget, much less a 2.3 percent growth. If the economists have it wrong and revenues continue to not meet budget, significant cuts will have to be made, perhaps sooner than many realize. Since many of our area’s largest employers are school systems, prisons and other state-funded entities, I am fully aware of how significantly this will affect us.
While other bills were debated and passed this week, they paled in comparison to the time, energy and weight of House Bill 481, the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act.” As you know the states of New York and Virginia have recently taken positions that a baby, even if it has been born, can be aborted. Georgia and Governor Kemp have taken a radically different approach, enshrining in law that personhood is enshroud as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, even on a baby in the womb. Since personhood is tied to a heartbeat, once a heartbeat is detected an abortion would no longer be allowed except a very narrow set of circumstances, including medical emergencies and non-viability of the pregnancy. The law goes even further, allowing parents to claim a state tax deduction as soon as a baby’s heartbeat is detected and counting the unborn child in the state’s census as well. After the testimony of 64 witnesses in committee, threats against Senators, thousands of protestors in the halls and almost six hours of debate on the Senate Floor, this bill passed the Georgia Senate. The Senate floor debate was particularly emotional and included life stories of babies lost by my colleagues that many had never shared. I will never forget those hours in this body. The bill now goes back across to the House for final approval and will hopefully soon reach Governor Kemp’s desk. This stand for life will be one, if not the, strongest Pro-Life bill in the nation.
Next week, the Senate will continue to review the remaining 180 pieces of House legislation. We are in session Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with Wednesday serving as a full-committee day. Rest assured, committees will meet throughout the session days as well. If you wish to look up the status of a still-pending bill, you can do so at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/Search.aspx.
If you have a question or comment on such legislation, please feel free to let me know that as well. Our number up here is still 404-656-0089 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, thank you so much for the opportunity to serve you in Atlanta. Please know I am looking forward to wrapping up this year’s session and making it back home to all of you soon.
Sen. Blake Tillery represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties.