Week five was quite productive here at the Capitol. We passed multiple pieces of legislation and I am pleased with the efficient pace that legislation has moved through the committee process and made it to the Senate Floor. I hope to continue this productivity throughout the rest of session. As always, it is my honor to represent the 23rd District under the Gold Dome and to keep my constituents informed on all of the happenings in the Senate.
I am first and foremost glad to tell you that the Senate had a full vote on House Bill 80, the Amended Fiscal Year 2021 (AFY 21) budget. In total, the AFY21 budget stands at $26.5 billion, an increase of roughly $654 million over the current budget. Like most budget cycles, education funding makes up the largest share of expenditures and this year was no different as $9.6 billion (or 43% of the entire budget) was directed to K-12 education. Due to our improved economic climate, we were able to restore $567 million for QBE that we were originally forced to reduce in the original FY21 budget. Also included were $40 million to purchase 520 school buses to replace those that are well past their recommended lifecycle. School buses are vital, not only to transport our students to and from school, but during the pandemic they have taken on a larger role and now deliver lunches to children in rural areas and serve as Wi-Fi hotspots where internet can be accessed for virtual learning or to complete homework assignments. As originally mentioned in Gov. Brian Kemp’s State of the State Address, this budget also reflects a $1,000 bonus for our educators who have worked so hard to adjust to teaching in the midst of a pandemic.
Aside from the budget, the Senate also took up several other bills addressing critical issues in our state. Senate Bill 33 would allow a victim of human trafficking to file a cause of action for civil charges against their perpetrator. On a similar note, Senate Bill 34 would allow victims of human trafficking to petition a court for a name change and for the change to be kept under seal. Usually name changes are available as public record, but we believe it is necessary to provide victims with these protections to better ensure their safety. Both Gov. Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp have been strong advocates for these issues and while more remains to be done, I am proud of the Senate’s efforts on these victim-centric bills.
To give you a brief overview, here are a few of the other bill that passed on the Senate floor this week:
· SB 32 – Would allow certain personal records of state and federal employees, including addresses, phone numbers, birthdays and other sensitive information, to be exempt from public record.
· SB 44 – Would allow for a special license plate that would support members of the United States military by disbursing funds from the sale of the license plate to Support Our Troops, Inc.
· SB 49 – Would allow individuals applying for regulatory services to hire an identified private professional provider to carry out the requested plan review or inspection.
This week, I also chaired a Senate Ethics Committee meeting. During this meeting, I assigned four bills between two Ethic's subcommittees which will meet next week for the purpose of discussing election reform bills. I know these bills are important pieces of legislation, and I do not carry the responsibility of chairing these discussions lightly. I will update you next week on the status of those election reform bills. These are just a few of the highlights from week five. As we work through week six, we will be in chamber three days. If you have any questions, concerns or feedback as we work through session, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My staff and I are always here to help.
Sen. Max Burns serves as Chairman of the Ethics Committee. He represents the 23rd Senate District, which includes Burke, Glascock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, McDuffie, Screven, and Warren counties and portions of Columbia, Emanuel and Richmond counties. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.