The Georgia House of Representatives returned to the Gold Dome to kick off the 2024 legislative session on Monday, January 8th. Not only will we be discussing newly introduced legislation but we will also revisit bills from 2023 that did not receive final passage. All in all, it is going to be a hectic but productive 40 legislative days. The first week, members of the General Assembly came together for a joint session to hear Governor Brian Kemp deliver his annual State of the State address. We also began preparation for “Budget Week” which begins following MLK Day.
State of the State
State of the State
Thursday, January 11th, Governor Kemp gave his annual State of the State address covering accomplishments from last year while highlighting hopes for the next. Governor Kemp noted the progress we have made over the last few years where economic development, job growth, education, healthcare, and public safety are concerned. He also highlighted that over the last year, Georgia citizens have benefited from nearly $5 billion of direct relief to taxpayers in the form of tax refunds, gas tax suspensions and homestead tax exemptions. The governor also noted our success in keeping Georgia’s coveted Triple-A bond rating, while simultaneously creating more than 171,000 new jobs.
Governor Kemp made clear that tax reform, education, healthcare, and public safety are top agenda items for the upcoming year. Specifically, he made note of his plans to speed up a proposed tax cut which would decrease our state income tax to 5.39 percent starting this year. The proposal would save approximately $3 billion for Georgia taxpayers over the next decade, making it the largest tax cut in state history.
Governor Kemp has made it clear that public safety within our state is a top priority. He is proposing aggressive funding to ensure that our law enforcement community has the financial support and resources needed. Last year, our budget included a $6,000 increase for our state law enforcement officers. This year, Governor Kemp has made clear that he will push for an additional $3,000 pay raise for State Patrol officers, as well as Georgia’s correctional officers and other state law enforcement agencies.
The governor also covered the importance of increased school safety. Over the last five years, the state has allotted more than $185 million towards securing our schools. To build on this investment, Governor Kemp is proposing a permanent appropriation in the state budget for school security, which includes $104 million, specifically for safety improvements for each school to use at their discretion based on individual needs. Other areas of public safety highlighted by Governor Kemp include the continued efforts of ending the vile practice of Human Trafficking, as well as his hopes that the General Assembly pass the peace officer loan repayment program under consideration.
Healthcare continues to be a top concern as the governor recapped strides in recent years to lower costs, expand access, and incentivize more health care providers in the state. Notably, 87 percent of Georgia counties now have three or more health care insurance carriers, whereas prior to 2019, no Georgia county had more than two. Gov. Kemp also touted the achievements of the Mental Health Parity Act, which has successfully given more Georgians access to much needed mental health services. To build on the recent success of newly implemented programs, Governor Kemp is proposing a total increase of $205 million for DBHDD and other entities that address mental health in our state. If passed, these proposals will see Georgia spend $1.6 billion on mental health care – the largest in state history.
To round out his address the Governor also discussed his plans to increase retention and recruitment efforts within state government by proposing a pay increase for all state employees and teachers. To that end, our state workers and teachers would see a four percent pay increase under the proposal. In addition to supporting Georgia’s current employees, the governor intends to allocate $500 million to shore up the state retiree fund. The governor closed his remarks by noting that Georgia is strong, growing, and full of opportunity.
Committees within the General Assembly are incredibly important as this is where the legislative rubber meets the road. All bills introduced must be properly vetted through the committee process before making it to the House floor for a full vote. If passed, the legislation then moves to the Senate side to begin their committee process.
Committee meetings are live streamed through the General Assembly website. I encourage you to follow along with any issue of which you find of interest.I am thankful to be in service to the following, as I sincerely believe these committees greatly impact our district:
Tuesday, marks the start of “budget week.” Before addressing any legislative action, the state budget will be our primary focus. We are constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget before adjournment. As our population continues to grow, so does the need for improved infrastructure. Education, healthcare, public safety, and infrastructure will remain top contenders for budget allocations. As always, our local delegation will work hard to ensure we bring home needed funding for various projects in our region of the state. The budget is a living document that will change many times before final passage, which will most likely occur in the final days of session.