Monday, February 8, marked the start of the fifth week of the 2021 legislative session. During this busy week, the House Rules Committee began holding regular meetings each day, and as a result, my colleagues and I voted on several bills on the House floor. By the end of the week, we completed legislative day 16 and are moving closer to the halfway point of the 40-day session.
We unanimously passed legislation this week to curb third-party solicitations that cause Georgia’s small businesses and individuals to lose money each year. House Bill 153 would require any person or entity who mails a solicitation for services related to corporate filings with the Secretary of State to include a disclaimer at the top of the document notating that the document is not a bill or official government document. These unfair and deceptive solicitations are known to look very similar to government documents and have misled businesses into paying more to use a third-party service.
The Amended Fiscal Year 2021 (AFY 2021) budget, or House Bill 80, also received final passage this week. As passed, the AFY21 budget totals $25.56 billion and addresses many of the areas where finances were reduced during last year’s budget cycle. Some of these are:
K-12 education made up the largest single expenditure in the budget at $9.6 billion, including a $567 million restoration of funds initially cut from the original FY21 budget.
$40 million to procure 520 new school buses, which function not only as transportation for students, but also serve the vital purposes of delivering lunches to children in rural areas and serving as Wi-Fi hotspots.
To assist with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, $27 million was allocated to the Department of Public Health to revamp and modernize their IT infrastructure and public health surveillance technology. This funding will not only help speed up research on COVID-19, but will help identify potential future outbreaks.
While these are only a few highlights, I encourage you to take a look at the full budget https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/58910 for more information on how your tax dollars are allocated.
Further, Governor Brian Kemp, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and other members of House and Senate leadership gathered this week to announce that 57,159 state employees who earn less than $80,000 will receive a one-time bonus of $1,000 during the current fiscal year. Leveraging savings from federal assistance, the AFY 2021 budget includes an additional $59.6 million for these hardworking employees, and the $80,000 cap aligns with the Teacher Salary Schedule’s maximum salary.
To address a more than 90 percent turnover rate, correctional officers will also receive this bonus in addition to a 10 percent salary increase that is included in this budget. Since the pandemic began almost a year ago, our state employees have worked tirelessly to continue to provide state services to every Georgian and this bonus is a way to thank them for their dedication to our state.
Gov. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Duncan and Speaker Ralston announced the expansion of rural broadband service across 18 counties in Middle Georgia through a new Electric Membership Cooperation (EMC) partnership. The House has spearheaded initiatives and legislation in recent years to support rural economic development, including broadband expansion.
After Presidents Day, we will return for another eventful week under the Gold Dome. As bills continue to make their way through the legislative process, please contact me with any questions or concerns you have regarding potential policies that may impact our district. I hope to hear from you this legislative session.
I remain dedicated to serving your interests as your state representative, and I hope that you will contact me with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the legislative session or with any proposals or recommendations for future legislation.
You can also stay in touch by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov to watch a live stream of the House in action, as well as archived committee meetings, and review legislation that we are considering.
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Thank you for allowing me to be your representative.
Representative Butch Parrish