Like a well-oiled machine, the 2017 legislative session is running smoothly as we near the half way point. The General Assembly has sailed through legislative day 16, and we are fully involved in the committee process and passing legislation to better Georgia.
This week, the Senate passed House Bill 43, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 amended budget, one of the most important pieces of legislation we pass every year. If the General Assembly fails to pass a budget, it could lead the state government to shut down. The amended budget is often referred to as the “little budget” and gets passed half way through each fiscal year. We go through the entire bill, line by line, and look for areas that are being over and under-funded and make adjustments where necessary to ensure our state departments, agencies and school systems are able to operate at the best possible efficiency.
One of the biggest changes was to add $27.2 million in funds across agencies to address turnover and ensure Georgia is retaining top tier talent in order to begin funding the significant salary increase for law enforcement officers. Additionally, we added $16.8 million to our Move on When Ready dual enrollment education program, $2.5 million to fund a 57 percent per diem increase for foster parents and $50 million for the creation of the new Georgia Cyber Range in Augusta. There are many other areas where funds were adjusted to reflect current needs. You can find the full FY 2017 amended budget here: http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/Documents/AppropriationsDocuments/FY2017/Amended/AFY17_SAC_FINAL.pdf.
Mental illness and substance abuse are growing concerns for many in our great state. In fact, most of you probably know someone who suffers from one of these issues or your life has been touched by them in one way or another. To address this, the Senate passed Senate Bill 4, the Georgia Mental Health Treatment Taskforce, on Monday. While this taskforce is not a permanent solution to mental illness, it is a step forward. The taskforce is charged with examining Georgia’s current Medicaid program, evaluating the mental health landscape and understanding the connection between serious mental illness and substance abuse to provide effective treatment. A final report will be required of the taskforce which will provide suggestions on Georgia can improve our treatment options.
Tuesday, the Senate took a few minutes to recognize and commend Georgia’s trauma professionals for the work they do in our state. We learned about the new “Stop the Bleed” campaign by the Georgia Trauma Commission (GTC), the Georgia Trauma Foundation (GTF) and the Georgia Society of the American College of Surgeons (GSACS), which teaches Georgians how to save lives in the event they witness a massive bleeding situation.
We had too many special guests come to the Chamber this week to name them all, but I can say that each person, group, organization and school that was represented is honorable and commendable in their own unique way. We live in a very special state with many wonderful people working to ensure it is the best it can be and for that, I am grateful.
As always, I am honored that you have put your faith in me to represent your best interests at the Capitol. I work for you, so please feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions or concerns about pending legislation. Thank you for your continued support!
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.