State Sen. Bill Heath (37th District) provide a column 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.
The second week of this year’s legislative session was a short one. The Senate did not convene in chamber Monday or Tuesday, Jan. 18-19 due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday and joint budget hearings on Tuesday.
Currently this session, we have had only 34 Senate Bills introduced and read for the first time on the Senate floor. To put that into perspective, in the 2015 session, 61 bills had been filed by this point. This is, in part, due to the fact that we are currently in the second session of a biennium. An apples to apples comparison would be the first eight days of the 2014 session, which was also the second year in a biennium. By this same point in 2014, we had only seen 21 bills filed. In some ways, the comparison is reflective of what is expected to be a shorter session, but also of the reality of the time consuming process of revisiting some big issues that were addressed last year and are likely to need to be cleaned up this year. The 34 new bills now await action similar to pieces of legislation that were introduced but failed to pass last year.
The appropriations committee did meet last week in joint budget hearings along with our counterparts in the House of Representatives. In Georgia, after the Governor proposes his budget for the fiscal year it is introduced first in the House. Once it passes through House Appropriations and its various subcommittees, it goes through he same process in the Senate. If any changes are made, the budget is sent back to the House for approval and this process continues until we create a balanced budget. It is then sent off to the Governor’s office for his signature. The Georgia General Assembly’s only constitutionally required responsibility each year is to pass a balanced budget. That is why we have been working tirelessly all week to make sure that the budget is allocated fairly, efficiently, and responsibly.
Because we have been so busy with the budget, no other Senate committees chose to hold a meeting last week. Of course, the fewer bills we pass the less government there is to impede on the liberty of the citizens of our state. Even still, we will likely have a packed schedule later in the session that will include some vocal urgency to take action on new legislation before we adjourn.
On Tuesday of last week, there was quiet observation of Robert E. Lee’s birthday, who was born on January 19th, 1807. Despite his remarkable service record for the U.S. Army and the United States Military Academy at West Point, his legacy of service to his family and community is being overshadowed by the political correctness that now surrounds the time in which he lived. While there has been a recent trend in this country towards removing monuments that depict historic figures such as Lee, the character of the man who made great sacrifices out of loyalty to his home state of Virginia should not be forgotten based solely on current trends and views.
I hope that as you’re reading this you have remained safe through the winter weather passing through our state. Actions to prepare and communication about weather were disseminated early and abundantly. For this, I want to thank the men and women who work long hours for organizations like the Department of Transportation and utility companies around the state who make sure our roads are as safe as can be and that power stays on.
This week, the Senate will be in session on Monday through Thursday for legislative days 9 through 12. As always, it is an honor to serve Georgia’s 31st Senate District. If you ever have questions about any legislation, the budget or the legislative process, feel free to contact me with any comments or concerns by replying to this address.
Get in touch with Heath
Sen. Bill Heath serves as Chairman of the Government Oversight Committee and as a member of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Appropriations and Finance committees. The 31st Senate District consists of Haralson, Polk counties and portions of Paulding county. He may be reached at 404-656-3943, by email at BillHeath@BillHeath.net or on Facebook as Bill Heath.