We’re in the home stretch of the 2017 legislative session with only five more legislative days left to vet and pass legislation. Committees are wrapping up their work to vet and pass out legislation and the Senate is continuing to pass more legislation on the floor. A lot of the bills passed this week were clean up bills, which correct language or update bills passed in previous years.
Thousands of jobs are consistently created every month, home values are on the rise and Georgia remains the number one state in the nation to do business. Of all of the reasons that contribute to our state’s robust growth over recent years, Georgia’s Constitutional requirement to operate on a balanced budget passed by the General Assembly every year continues to be the most important factor to our recovery and continued economic growth. This week, we’ve upheld our obligation to pass a balanced budget with the passage of HB 44, the Fiscal Year 2018 General Budget (FY18). The FY18 budget is almost $25 billion, the biggest budget in our state’s history.
Our local school systems are some of the top employers in the state. I am happy to see that the FY18 budget includes $160.1 million for a two percent base salary increase for teachers, school bus drivers and school nurses. We have seen tremendous growth in school enrollment throughout Georgia in the past few years and, as a result, it’s important that we continue to provide an adequate number of classrooms for the ever growing population. We’ve also allocated over $240 million in bonds for statewide school construction. The Technical College System of Georgia is growing too. The FY18 Budget includes $3.88 million in bonds for new equipment for the new Industrial Training and Technology Building at Southern Crescent Technical College in McDonough. There are a lot of other areas such as criminal justice, cybersecurity, community health and transportation that also received funding from this year’s budget. You can read the full FY 18 Budget here: http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/Documents/AppropriationsDocuments/FY2018/General/FY18G_SAC_FINAL.pdf.
While we’ve passed our version, the House is required to agree to the changes we made. Unfortunately, they did not and a Conference Committee had to be created to come up with a compromise both chambers can agree on. I’m looking forward to seeing what the finalized version looks like.
I’m happy to report that while we’ve been busy working to vet and vote on House bills, the House has been hard at work examining ours. This week, the House passed Senate Bill 85, a bill I sponsored that will allow breweries to sell their products directly to consumers. I am pleased to see this body come together to support an initiative that works to foster better relationships between business owners and consumers as well as promotes sound business policies in our state.
Below are brief summaries of a few other bills passed this week:
HB 1 provides operators of space flight activities immunity from any lawsuits in cases where participants become injured during space flight after signing written waivers, except in cases where the participant is injured as a result of gross negligence or intentional harm.
HB 41 allows individuals who do not yet have degrees, but who are actively participating in an Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure option within an accredited professional degree program in architecture, to sit for an architectural board exam.
HB 49 requires licensed livestock dealers and auction operators to obtain a license from the Commissioner of Agriculture and renew the license every 3 years in addition to maintaining surety requirements.
HB 86 expands the definition of sexual abuse to include any act involving the trafficking of a person for sexual servitude.
HB 265 provides a tax credit to employers who create 50 new, quality jobs in the state within a two year period. This bill creates a seven year window for employers to benefit from the tax credit and also provides that properties used in the renovation or expansion of certain qualifying theatres owned by a nonprofit organization will be exempt from sales tax.
As we near the end of this session, your input is more important than ever. I encourage you to reach out to me with any questions, comments or concerns. As always, I am honored to represent you under the Gold Dome.
Sen. Rick Jeffares serves as Chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. He represents the 17th Senate District which includes portions of Henry, Rockdale and Newton counties. He may be reached by phone at 404.651.7738 or by email at email@example.com.