Today as we celebrate and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. let us forever keep his words in our hearts.
The time is always right to do what is right.-Martin Luther King Jr.
|Celebrating MLK Day at the Capitol
On Monday, January 8, 2018. The House convened for the second regular session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly. On Thursday, Governor Deal delivered his eighth and final State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate in the House Chamber.
Governor Deal began his remarks by reflecting back to the year that he became Georgia's 82nd governor in 2011. Since that time, our state's unemployment rate has dropped from 10.4 percent to 4.3 percent, which is the lowest it has been in over 10 years. More than 675,000 private sector jobs have been created, our state has maintained a AAA bond rating, added to our Rainy Day Fund, and Georgia has been named the Number One State in which to do business for five consecutive years. In addition to recognizing the significant economic progress our state has made in recent years, Governor Deal also touted Georgia's booming film and television industry, as well as investments in education and criminal justice reform.
Georgia's film industry has experienced exceptional growth over the past decade. In the past fiscal year alone, the film industry had a $9.5 billion economic impact on our state. More than 200 new companies have located to Georgia to support film and television production, and this thriving industry accounts for 92,000 jobs across our state. These jobs have an average annual salary of almost $84,000, which is 75 percent higher than the national average salary. Over the past two years, about 1,900 students have taken courses at the Georgia Film Academy, and these students will make up Georgia's future film and television production workforce. Programs such as the Georgia Film Academy will help to ensure that film is a sustainable, long-term industry in our state, and I am confident that film and television production will positively impact Georgia for years to come.
Governor Deal continued his address by noting that since taking office, state spending on education has increased by $3.6 billion for a total of $14 billion in state education expenditures.
He went on to mention that while K-12 education is critically important, Georgia's higher and continued education institutions and programs also play a key role in ensuring our state's long-term economic prosperity.
The HOPE Career Grant program completely covers the cost of technical school tuition for students who enroll in one of 17 strategic industry, high-demand fields, and 99.2 percent of students who have completed the program have found employment.
In his speech, the governor also discussed his administration's bipartisan criminal justice reform initiatives. Our state's accountability courts have been a key component of criminal justice reforms and were created to provide sentencing alternatives to nonviolent offenders. He praised the overwhelming success and effectiveness these courts have had in reducing prison populations and giving Georgians a second chance. Governor Deal noted that when he first began his criminal justice reform efforts, there were only 12 state-funded accountability court programs. Today, there are 149 such programs, and each of Georgia's 49 judicial circuits operates at least one sort of accountability court. The House will likely see legislation this session that will further enhance criminal justice reform and public safety in our state.
Along with delivering his State of the State address he also released his recommendations for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 state budget and the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.
Recommendations for the amended budget
$102 million for K-12 enrollment growth
$10.7 million for growth in Georgia's Dual Enrollment program
$43.6 million for the Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid
$15.1 million for child welfare services to care for children in state custody
$2.4 million for autism services for children under the age of 21
$17.6 million for Forestland Protection Act grants
$10 million for beach nourishment projects
$25.2 million for airport runway extension projects
Highlights from Gov. Deal's Fiscal Year 2019 budget recommendations
$361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System
$127 million for K-12 education
$30 million to assist low-wealth school systems
$28.8 million for child welfare services to fund out-of-home care growth and foster care per diem increases
$22.9 million to implement recommendations from the Commission on Children's Mental Health
$5 million for accountability courts to implement new courts and expand existing courts $31 million for transportation
$100 million to repair roads and bridges in Georgia
My colleagues and I in the General Assembly will use these recommendations as a guide to further revise and craft the state's budget in our Joint House and Senate Budget Hearings next week. I will provide you with more information regarding the state budget and the budget process next week once we thoroughly review Governor Deal's recommendations.
The House and Senate also adopted an adjournment resolution, a measure that sets our legislative calendar through the first few weeks of session. As the session progresses, we will adopt one or more adjournment resolutions to set the remainder of the legislative calendar, and I will update you on our schedule as it evolves.
While we spent much of this first week of session taking up legislative business, my House colleagues and I also celebrated College Football Playoff National Championship Day at the Capitol. On Monday, for the first time in Georgia's history, our state hosted the College Football Playoff National Championship, where the University of Georgia Bulldogs played against University of Alabama's Crimson Tide in Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. On Day One of the session, the House adopted House Resolution 867 recognizing Dan Corso and commending the Atlanta Football Host Committee for organizing this great event for our state. Although the University of Georgia lost in the final minutes, it was a true honor for our state to host the National Championship Game.