State Rep. Trey Kelley (16th District) and State Sen. Bill Heath (37th District) provide the following columns on a weekly basis for media outlets. We have elected to publish them weekly through the legislative session as part of the Standard Journal’s coverage of state house issues. - Standard Journal Editor
We returned to the Gold Dome on Monday, Jan. 25 for the third week the 2016 legislative session. This week brought more exciting and important work for my colleagues and I in the House.
Several House committees and subcommittees met throughout the week to take up legislation, and the full body of the House unanimously passed our first two pieces of legislation of the session. Chief Justice Hugh Thompson also delivered the annual State of the Judiciary Address this week to a joint session of the House and Senate.
Following last week's budget hearings, the House successfully passed the amended fiscal year (AFY 2016) budget, or the mid-year adjustment of state spending through June 30, 2016.
The amended budget, HB 750, is very similar to Gov. Deal's recommendations, consisting of $1.1 billion, or 5.3 percent, in "new" funds, bringing the total appropriation for AFY 2016 to $22.9 billion with education and transportation funds account for approximately 85 percent of the new appropriations.
As a result of the diligent work of the members of the House Appropriations Committee and the staff in the House Budget and Research Office, HB 750 passed the House on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 by a vote of 176-0.
The AFY 2016 budget allocates $204 million to Georgia's K-12 system, including a $109.9 million for midterm enrollment growth. This also includes $14.9 million through the OneGeorgia Authority to continue to provide grants to local school systems for wireless broadband connectivity to encourage high-tech classrooms
In addition to passing the AFY 2016 budget, we also passed another important piece of legislation that will provide Georgia's tax preparers and business community with more certainty when filing their tax returns.
House Bill 742 is an annual Internal Revenue Code (IRC) update and makes changes to Georgia's tax code to comply with the recently updated federal tax code. HB 742 updates Georgia's tax code by synchronizing tax return filing dates to allow most businesses in Georgia to file state and federal returns simultaneously
The House and Senate convened for a joint session in the House Chamber with the Georgia Supreme Court, the Georgia Court of Appeals and other guests for the annual State of the Judiciary Address from Chief Justice Hugh Thompson on Wednesday.
In his address, Chief Justice Thompson called Georgia the "gateway to the South" and to this country. Due in large part to our booming economic hub, Chief Justice Thompson noted that Georgia's population has almost doubled since the implementation of our new state constitution in 1983.
However, the number of judges in Georgia has only grown by 16 percent since then, and therefore, he applauded the legislature for the passage of House Bill 279 during the 2015 legislative session, which added three judges to the Court of Appeals in Georgia.
These additional judges have allowed the Court of Appeals to hear five times the number of cases each year, while also allowing the Supreme Court of Georgia to focus on the more complex cases, such as constitutional challenges and federal court questions on Georgia law.
With 12 days completed in the 2016 session, I am proud of the work we have already accomplished, and hope you are too. It is my honor to serve as your Representative. I take my responsibilities seriously, and make it a point to carefully weigh any legislation which crosses my desk for a vote.
To help me accomplish this goal, please feel free to contact me to share your opinion on pending legislation or if I can help you in any other way. My cell phone is 770.324.2275 and you can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I ask you to keep me and our other state officials in your prayers.
May God Bless You and Your Family,