The Capitol has come alive again this week as we convened for the first session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly. This year promises to be very busy and offers endless opportunities to strengthen our state’s position as a top place to live, to work and to play.
Jan. 9 marked the first day of the 2017 legislative session. Day one was full of tradition. The day began with the ceremonial call to order by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, the Pledge of Allegiance and the traditional devotional by the Chaplain of the Day. Following the devotional, we elected and swore in President Pro Tempore David Shafer and Secretary of Senate David Cook. 55 of Georgia’s 56 senators, including four new senators, from across the state were sworn in for two year terms. Following a special election that took place this Tuesday, the 56th Senate seat was filled by Senator-Elect Chuck Payne from Senate District 54. We are expecting Payne to be sworn in next week.
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle handed out committee assignments this week. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve another term as chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee and as vice chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. Additionally, I will serve as secretary of the State Institutions and Property Committee and as a member of the Appropriations and Ethics Committees.
On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal delivered his State of the State address, where he outlined Georgia’s past and present economic and social landscapes, and announced his plans to improve both in Fiscal Year 2018. Gov. Deal spoke to the state our economy was in when he took office in 2010. Our “Rainy Day Fund” was nearly empty and our revenue was down $2.3 billion from 2007. To fix this, we worked to pass fiscally conservative budgets, remove regulatory burdens on businesses and cut taxes for all Georgians. Our “Rainy Day Fund” has successfully been replenished and now sits at nearly $2.033 billion.
Gov. Deal stressed the importance of finding solutions to heal our states chronically failing schools and to diminish the epidemic of opioid addiction taking control of lives throughout Georgia. The need to modernize our cybersecurity technology and for professional training and preparedness purposes was also addressed through Gov. Deal’s announcement of the new Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center.
The Georgia General Assembly is only constitutionally required to pass one piece of legislation each year, a balanced budget. Next week, we will go line by line through both the Fiscal Year 2017 Amended Budget, in effect until June 30, 2017, and Fiscal Year 2018 General Budget, which goes into effect on July 1, 2017. During the budget hearing process, we will examine the allocation of funds for each area to determine areas in which we over allocated and under allocated last year and adjust accordingly. This process allows us to maintain a balanced budget, while providing enough funding to the areas that need it the most.
I am honored that you have put your trust in me and I will always put your best interests at the forefront of my decision making while here at the Capitol. Please feel free to contact my office at any time to talk about pending legislation or address other concerns in our district – my door and phone lines are always open!
Sen. Rick Jeffares serves as Chairman of the Regulates Industries Committee. He represents the 17th Senate District which includes portions of Henry, Rockdale and Newton counties. He may be reached by phone at 404.463.1376 or by email at email@example.com.