The third week of Session we voted on what is called the “Small” or “Amended” budget. It is basically the mid-year adjustment to account for any growth or losses that occurred this year.
Happily, revenues increased by about $1.1B or 5 percent last year. Of that, $520M will go to new roads, $200M will go to road maintenance, and $336 will go to local communities for their transportation needs. About $204M will go into K12 Education to help fund the record number of children who are moving to Georgia, as well as another $30M to the HOPE scholarship. Another $20M will go to Move On When Ready and $15M will provide Internet to schools. $59M will go to Medicaid and $17M will go to Medicare.
We also heard from our Chief Justices this week, who reported their new Accountability Courts have reduced crime by 45 percent and saved Georgia $51M in prison costs. I was very gratified that almost $15M in grants and investments were awarded to your district last year. I'm working on two large projects this year.
The first is a School Transparency Bill.
The General Assembly recently gave local school boards historic levels of unparalleled flexibility. Greater local control is laudable and welcome. Along with that flexibility, however, greater transparency must ensue to ensure accountability.
HB 659 would require all school districts to publish how much money they are spending per school on a centralized, easily accessible website. Most districts already do this, but many do not. The data we are requesting is information these districts are already collecting, so it is not an administrative burden. The new Federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act — which mercifully buries No Child Left Behind) will soon require this data anyway, so it’s something that has to be done sooner or later. Teacher advocates see HB 659 as a teacher-friendly bill because it will show teachers where local money is actually being spent. The DOE, the Governor’s Office, the Chamber — even PAGE — openly supports this bill.
The second thing I am working on is a new BRAC Study Committee that I have proposed.
Georgia currently has the fifth largest military population in the US with an economic impact of well over $20B a year. Because of the massive federal debt, a future round of base closures is anticipated in 2017 as the military has 30 percent too much capacity and is determined to cut costs through consolidation. A few of the generals I used to work for asked me to create a committee that will work to protect our bases.
Is there really a problem? Robins Air Force Base lost a star and an entire squadron a few years ago, and is in danger of losing a wing as well. Fort Benning lost 1,000 soldiers and Fort Stewart lost a regiment. Fort McPherson, Fort Gillem, Naval Air Station Dobbins and the Navy Base in Athens have already been closed. States that don’t protect their bases are sure to lose them.
I was proud to honor Trooper Nathan Bradley and Corporal Richard and Allison Thacker with a Special Invite Resolution this week. Trooper Bradley made international headlines when he took care of children of a deceased couple last Halloween instead of taking them to DFACS and later raised almost half a million dollars for their college education. I was delighted to meet Amanda Hawkins of Eastside High, who was the catcher on the National Championship North Georgia University Softball team. I also visited Newton Commission Chairman Keith Ellis, Ray Cheek, and Danny Stone at the capitol.
Dave Belton is in his second year as the District 112 Georgia Representative. The Morgan and Newton County representative is serving in his first term in Georgia’s House. He is a resident of Morgan County.You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-372-4114.