Senator Jones: Report from the State Capitol | Politics
by Senator Burt Jones
It’s hard to believe the first month of session is coming to a close, and although we have already passed influential legislation, there is still much work to be done. It was an exciting month as the Senate got to work discussing the state budget, passing legislation tightening ethics and beginning to address key state issues as Governor Nathan Deal presented his annual State of the State Address.
I was honored to be appointed Deputy Whip and receive my committee assignments for the 2013-2014 Legislative Session. I was appointed as the Vice Chairman of the State Institutions and Property Committee, Secretary of the Higher Education Committee and as a member of the Regulated Industries and Utilities and Insurance and Labor committees. It’s a great privilege to serve on these committees and I look forward to passing legislation benefiting all Georgians.
Gov. Deal delivered his annual address to both the House and the Senate, focusing on areas such as job creation, health care, juvenile justice reform, public safety, and providing a quality education for Georgia’s students. In his address, Governor Deal said “the number one goal must be to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the country to do business and to do that requires education, transportation reform, low taxes, less government, and a world class economic environment.” Advancing pro-growth business initiatives will give Georgia the extra edge when competing with surrounding states for jobs and economic development opportunities.
Georgia’s constitution mandates that the state pass a balanced budget with no deficit spending. Gov. Deal made his recommendations for the fiscal year (FY) 2014 addressing education issues like restoring Georgia’s pre-K program to a full 180-day calendar and $147.3 million for K-12 schools to fund increasing enrollment.
My fellow legislators and I attended Joint Appropriations meetings also referred to as the budget hearings to listen to the needs and concerns of our state agencies. These meetings are a very important part of the legislative process, as it allows for a careful line-by-line review of the proposed budget and an open conversation between legislators and state agency officials. As we continue to navigate through these challenging economic times, there are many encouraging signs that suggest long term growth and prosperity for our state.
Regarding legislative action, the Georgia State Senate boldly passed a resolution that will amend the Senate Rules and cap gifts from any registered lobbyist or group of registered lobbyists at $100 per item, event or meal. The new rule originates from proactive efforts by the Georgia State Senate to solicit input from both Senators and citizens on how to effectively address lobbyist expenditure concerns. This resolution passed with a vote of 42-12.
We also took aggressive measures to avoid a $6.4 million shortfall in Medicaid within our state budget. Senate Bill 24, also known as the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, authorizes the Department of Community Health (DCH) to establish a financial structure to protect Georgia’s healthcare system and obtain additional federal matching dollars for the state’s Medicaid program. The Board of Community Health will be responsible for drafting the framework and regulations necessary to collect the fee, but the General Assembly will retain oversight and veto authority of all administrative decisions. The hospital provider fee amount will be determined by the Legislature, through the appropriations process, and voted upon by the Georgia General Assembly. The Senate passed this measure by a vote of 46 to 9.
This month also provided various opportunities for me to meet with local constituents from District 25. The Capitol welcomed nurses, realtors, the National Guard and numerous influential members of the community to commend their hard work conducted throughout the year. A highlight of the month was attending the Municipal Electric Associate of Georgia (MEAG) breakfast along with my fellow local representatives. I had the privilege of sitting with Jackson City Mayor Wayne Phillips and his wife Barbara along with Mayor David Nestor of Jenkinsburg and his wife, Carla. My fellow representatives from Morgan, Jasper and Baldwin were also in attendance to further learn about issues affecting the Georgia’s public power utility industry.
As we move forward, I am committed to supporting policies that promote business growth and get more Georgians back to work. As always, it is a pleasure to serve you, the constituents of the 25th Senate District. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 404.656.0082 or via email at email@example.com.