The 2013 Legislative Session began with the ceremonial call to order by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, the Pledge of Allegiance, the traditional Devotion given by the Chaplain of the Day, and the swearing in of new Senate members. Although we’re only a few days into the legislative session, lawmakers have wasted little time crafting bills that will help secure the future prosperity of Georgia.
On Monday, I was officially sworn into office to represent the 18th Senate District for the 2013 – 2014 Legislative Term. I look forward to continue working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass legislation that stimulates economic development and benefits residents throughout the state.
I was also re-elected by my Senate colleagues to serve another term as Senate Majority Whip. In addition, I will serve as a member of the following committees: Appropriations, Banking and Financial Institutions, Higher Education, Reapportionment and Redistricting and the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
This session, the Georgia General Assembly will tackle several challenging issues, including ethics and juvenile justice reform, improving our transportation infrastructure after the recent TSPLOST failure, strengthening Georgia’s public safety laws, and protecting our second amendment rights – just to name a few.
On day 4 of the Legislative Session, Governor Nathan Deal delivered his annual State of the State address, focusing on areas such as job creation, health care, juvenile justice reform, public safety, and providing a quality education for Georgia’s students. The Governor also offered his recommendation for the FY 2014, allocating a provisional $19.8 billion for FY2014. The severe cuts of previous years are slowly being replaced with funding that will allow our state to grow and prosper, thanks to a slow, but steady growth in state revenues. In fact, Georgia’s revenue shortfall reserve or rainy day fund has increased by 226 percent over the past several years, a necessary and fiscally responsible course.
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.
Next week, the Senate will recess in order to hold joint budget hearings. 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.
Below is a list of legislation passed by the Senate during week 1 of the 2013 Legislative Session.
On the first day of the session, 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.
The Georgia State Senate passed a resolution relative to official employees and committees in Senate. This resolution marks the beginning of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly and passed with a vote of 48-5.
Senate Bill 24, also known as the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, passed the Georgia State Senate on Thursday with a vote of 46 to 9. SB 24 will authorize the Department of Community Health to establish a financial structure to protect Georgia’s healthcare system and obtain maximum federal funding for the state’s Medicaid program. Georgia, however, will not expand Medicaid as anticipated in Obamacare. The Board of Community Health will be responsible for drafting the framework and regulations necessary to continue the program, but the Georgia General Assembly will retain oversight and veto authority of all administrative decisions.
The costs associated with Obamacare will only continue to rise as it becomes fully implemented over the next several years. Because of this, it is very possible that changes in federal health care policy will be needed to absorb these skyrocketing costs. Therefore, Georgia needs flexibility and efficiently in order to respond to any potential health care changes and challenges.
This is only the beginning, and there is much work to be done. However, at the end of the day, Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly are committed to the growth and development of our state. I once again look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass sound legislation that solidifies our state’s reputation as a great place for business and an even better place to live.
# # # #
Sen. Cecil Staton serves as Senate Majority Whip. He represents the 18th Senate District, which includes portions of Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Monroe, Peach, and Upson counties. He may be reached at 404.656.5039 or by email at email@example.com