By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
As we complete legislative days 19 through 22, we find ourselves just six legislative days away from the Crossover Day deadline- the date whereby a bill has to make it out of at least one chamber or can no longer be debated. This week, the Senate was extremely busy with 20 bills passing on the Senate floor. The heavy work remains ahead, however, including Fiscal Year 2019 General budget.
This week, among other items, the Senate took up a four bill package concerning law enforcement compensation. Senate Bills 366, 367, 368 and 369 do a variety of things, including gathering a wage compensation study to better understand where the gaps in compensation occur, expanding the place an indemnification payment can be made to when an officer gives their life in the line of duty, providing technical support to in-need law enforcement agencies and fixing a hole in the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit fund unintentionally created by criminal justice reform. This is just the start to making sure that the men and women who stick their neck out for us are given the respect and admiration they deserve.
Another measure that I think resonates with us at home is Senate Bill 362. This bill gives some local control back to schools on how to test their students. As we know, students respond differently to testing methods and schedules, and standardized testing often isn’t the best indicator of student and teacher performance. Senate Bill 362 begins a pilot program allowing the people who are closest to the students-teachers and administrators-to consider what practices work best for their students and share these results with the state so we can better understand how students respond to various testing situations and methods.
Finally, the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, also referred to as the “little budget” was passed on the Senate floor on Thursday. This budget is approximately $307 million above the FY18 General Budget and is built on approximately 1.2 percent state fund growth and 2.3 percent Department of Revenue tax revenue growth over actual FY17 collections. It was sent back to the House where they will review our changes to their original bill and will likely create a conference committee to discuss the changes one-on-one. This budget is very similar to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget in that the two big expenditures are in our core areas, education and healthcare. Like I’ve said in the past, approximately 75 cents of every state dollar are spent on these two areas and that’s no different than what we are seeing in this budget. There is also a provision to add over $25 million to expand 11 runways in Georgia to be able to handle larger aircraft, allowing more shipments, business opportunities and additional economic development incentives in our rural areas.
Please let me know if you have any questions about legislation now pending in the Senate. I know that you all are hearing a lot about what is happening here at the capitol and I am more than happy to try to help you clear up any questions you have about legislation in either chamber. As always, it is a pleasure to serve you under the Gold Dome!