Jeff Mullis

Last week marked the beginning of the first session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly.

The capitol has seen a flurry of activity as legislators returned to the Gold Dome to carry out the people’s business. The hallways have been filled with citizens interested in observing the workings of the state legislative process and children learning about how their elected representatives make a difference in their communities.

While we only met for four days in our first week back, work in the Senate is already well underway. On Monday (Jan. 9), new and returning Senators were sworn in to mark the beginning of the new biennium. Court of Appeals Judge Charlie Bethel, our former senate colleague, presided over the ceremony as we took our Oath of Office.

I am honored to say that I have been reappointed as the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. The Rules Committee plays an important part in the legislative process. In order for a bill to make it to the Senate floor for a vote, it must first pass through the Rules Committee. It is up to the members of the committee whether a bill will receive a vote or not.

On Wednesday (Jan. 11), Governor Deal laid out his priorities for the 2017 legislative session in his annual State of the State Address. Remaining a top legislative priority this year will be education. Currently, around 89,000 students attend schools which have been given a failing grade. Action must be taken to help our state’s children receive the quality education that they deserve. In his address, Gov. Deal called for an increase of $2 billion in funding for K-12 public schools. Additionally, he has called for a 2 percent salary increase to the pay scale of all state teacher positions. These measure and more will go a long way in ensuring our kids graduate high school with the skills necessary to contribute to Georgia’s economy.

Another top priority this year will be the modernization of Georgia’s cybersecurity infrastructure. Gov. Deal touted the construction of the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center at Fort Gordon in Augusta which will provide the training necessary to update Georgia’s cybersecurity systems. Georgia has a long history of being a hub for attracting high-tech and cyber security companies. The Training Center will do even more to cement Georgia’s reputation as a technological hub.

Over the next few weeks, the legislature will be carrying out its most important annual task: evaluating the state’s budget. We will be evaluating both the amended 2017 budget, as well as the FY 2018 general budget. This week, we will be holding joint budget hearings in order to ensure that Georgia’s funds are allocated fairly and responsibly. The General Assembly’s only constitutional duty each year is to pass a balanced budget and we will work diligently evaluating these budgets line by line.

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. Jeff Mullis is chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate District, which includes Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Chattooga County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404.656.0057 or by email at jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov.