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Belton: Third week at the Captial
Dave Belton

The third week of Session we are hearing more ideas about bills percolating through the system. In general, we have seen very few new bills this year.

The major thrust this year will be Rural Development, centered on healthcare, education and broadband. The Speaker tells us the first focus will be on broadband, as it is, “foundational to so many of the things we’re talking about, whether it’s healthcare, telemedicine, education, or business.” Currently, 16 percent of Georgians lack access to high-speed internet. He also talked about healthcare ideas and short-line railroads. On the other hand, we are a long way from income tax breaks for moving to Rural Georgia, as has been proposed.

Along those lines, I’m pleased to report the Turn-Around School program seems to be starting well and is focused on Rural Georgia. The fear had been that these “failing” schools would resist help from the state. On the contrary, we’re finding more and more schools are asking the Turn-Around Officer to put their district on the program. The House is trying to pass a dollar-for-dollar tax credit (not just a

deduction) to get private businesses to help fund this project.

The Governor wants a clean Adoption bill that the House passed last year that will remove onerous red tape to help children find homes.

There’s also a great deal of discussion about improving Metro Transit, especially as Amazon has stated that traffic is the number one hit against us getting those 50,000 high-paying jobs.

I’d like to share a few updated statistics brought to us by Georgia State University. Georgians now rank 40th in the nation in personal income at $41.8K a year. We’re best (least) in the nation in per capita taxes collected from the state, and 24th best in per capita taxes levied by local governments. The state is 10th best (lowest) in expenditures and have the nation’s best credit rating. On the downside, Georgia is 10th worst in percentage living in poverty, mostly in Rural areas.

We’ve made huge gains in Education. Our graduation skyrocketed in the past eight years, moving up 17 points (26 percent) to 81 percent, the best it has been in decades. (Newton County is at 83 percent). We do surprisingly well on college Advanced Placement tests where we are 16th best in the nation, and for the first time in decades, Georgia beats the nation in both the SAT and the ACT. These are huge gains from the days we were ranked 49th on the SAT. The Dual Enrollment Program (where high school kids take college courses) has tripled to 31,000 kids, and our 65 STEAM certified schools is about to be joined by 1,000 more just like them. Finally, the Georgia Department of Education just received a $61 million grant from the Feds to improve literacy. On the other hand, the NAEP (a national test) still shows Georgian children marginally below the nation in most reading and math scores, especially from economically disadvantaged children. We’re also seeing teachers in poorer schools are twice and sometimes three times as likely to leave than in other schools.

I hope you will continue to pray for me as I server the people of Newton and Morgan counties. You may contact me at or 706-372-4114.