Monday, Jan. 11 marked day one of forty legislative days as the General Assembly gathered to kick off the 153rd legislative session. During this short time period, Republican Senator Charlie Bethel (54th district) and his colleagues will be tasked with working together for the benefit of Georgia’s citizens. There is no shortage of issues as they study thousands of Bills and Resolutions dealing with everything from education to healthcare; wildlife management to tax reform, and much more. Senator Bethel looks forward to the days ahead as we work for the betterment of our state!
State of the State
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Governor Nathan Deal delivered his annual State of the State address which covered highlights of the last year and hopes for the new one. Gov. Deal noted that Georgia’s economy is improving and continues to grow. Citizens in Northwest Georgia will not need to be told that the recovery for the area continues to lag the state as a whole. Gov. Deal reported that, in part due to removing the sales tax on energy manufacturing, the manufacturing sector has produced 22,000 new jobs, representing over $900 million in added wages for Georgia families. These jobs are critical to the long-term viability of our state and national economy. Gov. Deal also highlighted strides that the state has made in technical education, making Georgia more desirable for companies that are searching for a qualified workforce. Education reform, healthcare costs, criminal justice reform and a pay raise for our teachers and state employees are all issues that Governor Deal plans to focus on over the next couple of years.
Education reform has been a hot topic over the last year and the debate of how to best service the educational needs of our students will continue. During the State of the State, Governor Deal announced that the majority of the recommendations from his appointed Education Reform Commission would not be advanced until 2017. That means state legislators should have opportunity to vet the final report, gain input and address questions and concerns from our education community. Senator Bethel is pleased to report that the proposed budget allocates an additional $300 million towards K-12 education this year. While the General Assembly has substantially reduced the “austerity” gap, there is still much work to be done.
Work on Georgia’s infrastructure continues as we make strides to improve Georgia’s transportation system. Georgia has long been a road, rail, sea and air hub for travel and logistics. As the eighth most populated state in the nation, maintaining the transportation infrastructure is essential for citizen safety and Georgia’s economic development. The Department of Transportation has projects scheduled across the state in an attempt to relieve our congested and worn highways. Over the next 18 months the state will see over 2500 miles in roadway resurfacing, the replacement of 118 bridges, the widening of 36 roadways, hundreds of safety projects and a 20 percent increase in local government grants. Citizens can keep track of transportation projects around the state by visiting www.GAroads.org.
In the coming weeks, Senator Bethel will have a number of Committee meetings to attend. Committees serve a vital role in the legislative process of the State of Georgia’s government. Once a bill is drafted and officially filed with the Secretary of Senate’s office, the bill is formally read in the Senate Chamber and assigned to a committee. The committee will carefully review the bill and determine whether it’s a good, clear bill. If it’s passed out of committee, it will then go to the Rules Committee, which decides whether the bill will receive a vote from the full Senate. Every bill that moves through the legislature should be carefully reviewed by all Senate and House members, legislative counsel and, most importantly, the people of Georgia that have interest in the respective bill. The road from first draft to becoming law is long and challenging to ensure every bill we pass is in the best interest of all Georgians. Last year, Senator Bethel was appointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee. In addition, he will also serve on the following Committees: Appropriations, Judiciary, Judiciary Non-Civil, Reapportionment and Redistricting. Senator Bethel is grateful for the opportunity to serve this district of citizens through his committee work.
Tuesday, Jan. 19 marks the beginning of what legislators refer to as “Budget Week”. Despite the hundreds of bills that will be discussed over the next 40 days, the only thing that legislators are constitutionally required to do by law is pass a balanced budget. In the coming days, Senator Bethel will be working with other members of the Appropriations committee in deciding where state funds should be allocated. Last year was his first term on Senate Appropriations. If you are interested in researching more about the state of Georgia’s budget process, Sen. Bethel encourages you to visit the Georgia General Assembly website where all documents from meetings will be posted. He will also keep you informed on funding and projects that will take place in our region as legislators move through the budget process.
As legislators continue to move through session, Senator Bethel will continue to update residents on all that is happening Under the Gold Dome! Sen. Bethel says that representing the people of the district is an honor and he is grateful that the citizens have given him the opportunity to learn from you, to listen to you and most importantly, to serve you. Senator Bethel encourages any constituent to reach out to him anytime and thanks them for their support, words of encouragement and much needed prayers.