Although we’re only a few days into the legislative session, lawmakers have wasted little time casting bills that will help secure the future prosperity of Georgia. On Monday, I was officially sworn into office to represent the 56th Senate District for the 2013–14 legislative term. I look forward to continue working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass legislation that stimulates economic development and benefits residents throughout the state.
Earlier this week, I was also named chair of the Senate State Institutions and Property Committee for the 2013-14 legislative term by the Senate Committee on Assignments. In addition, I will serve as vice chair of the Public Safety Committee and a member of the Economic Development, Education and Finance committees.
To kick off the legislative session, I co-sponsored Senate Resolution 8, a proposal that would create a constitutional amendment to phase out the Georgia State Income Tax. Eliminating the state income tax is the right thing to do for Georgia.
I am optimistic that my colleagues in both chambers will recognize the significance of eliminating Georgia’s income tax to support job creation and reduce the burden on our taxpayers. This session, the Georgia General Assembly will tackle several challenging issues, including ethics and juvenile justice reform, improving our transportation infrastructure after the recent T-SPLOST failure and strengthening Georgia’s public safety laws – just to name a few.
On Day 4 of the session, Gov. Nathan Deal delivered his annual State of the State address, focusing on areas such as job creation, health care, juvenile justice reform, public safety and providing a quality education for Georgia’s students. The governor also offered his recommendation for fiscal 2014, allocating a provisional $19.8 billion.
The severe cuts of previous years have been replaced with funding that will allow our state to grow and prosper, thanks to slow and steady growth in state revenues. In fact, Georgia’s revenue shortfall reserve or rainy day fund has increased by 226 percent over the past several years, a positive sign of Georgia’s economic recovery.
In his address, Deal said, “The No. 1 goal must be to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the country to do business and to do that requires education, transportation reform, low taxes, less government, and a world class economic environment.”
Advancing pro-growth business initiatives will give Georgia the extra edge when competing with surrounding states for jobs and economic development opportunities. I support this agenda and will be sponsoring legislation to help lead these efforts.
Next week, the Senate will recess in order to hold joint budget hearings. These meetings are a very important part of the legislative process, as it allows for a careful line-by-line review of the proposed budget and an open conversation between legislators and state agency officials.
Legislative action below is a list of legislation passed by the Senate during Week 1 of the 2013 session.
o SR 1: On the first day of the session, the Senate boldly passed a resolution on the first day of the 2013 legislative session that will amend the Senate rules and cap gifts from any registered lobbyist or group of registered lobbyists at $100 per item, event or meal. The new rule originates from proactive efforts by the Senate to solicit input from both Senators and citizens on how to effectively address lobbyist expenditure concerns. This resolution passed with a vote of 42-12.
o SR 4: The Senate passed a resolution relative to its official employees and committees. This resolution marks the beginning of the 152nd session of the Georgia General Assembly and passed with a vote of 48-5.
o SB 24: Senate Bill 24, also known as the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, passed the Senate on Thursday with a vote of 46-9. SB 24 will authorize the Department of Community Health to establish a financial structure to protect Georgia’s healthcare system and obtain additional federal funding for the state’s Medicaid program. The Board of Community Health will be responsible for drafting the framework and regulations necessary to collect the fee, but the Georgia General Assembly will retain oversight and veto authority of all administrative decisions.
The costs associated with Obamacare will only continue to rise as it becomes fully implemented over the next several years. Because of this, it is very possible that changes in federal health care policy will be needed to absorb these skyrocketing costs. Therefore, Georgia needs flexibility and efficiently in order to respond to any potential health care changes.
This is only the beginning, and there is much work to be done. However, at the end of the day, the Georgia General Assembly is committed to the growth and development of our state. I once again look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass sound legislation that solidifies our state’s reputation as a great place for business and an even better place to live.
Sen. John Albers represents the 56th Senate District, which includes portions of North Fulton and Cherokee County. He may be reached at his office at (404) 463-8055 or by email at email@example.com.