Andrew Allison, Acting Director
Kessarin Horvath, Sr. Communications Associate
Week Eight Highlights
By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
Following last week’s period of heightened legislative productivity, the Senate picked up momentum this week in order to discuss and vet a substantial number of bills in committees and on the floor. With the deadline of Crossover Day just a short week away, my colleagues and I remain hard at work to make sure the interests of every Georgian is reflected in each piece of legislation. You are the reason we are in this position and it is our intention to serve you to the best of our ability. In relation to that, this week the Senate took up the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which has been a topic of discussion since the very beginning of session. I’ve expressed my concerns about this year’s budget multiple times before and due to the revenue shortfall our state has been experiencing, this year’s budget has experienced some noteworthy cuts, coupled with a few restorations in funding. With the $27.38 billion in estimated state revenue, some of the key items to highlight are:
- Restore $258,000 in foster parent recruitment and foster care support services
- Restore $6.3 million to county boards of health
- Restore $1.3 million in local accountability courts
- Restore $500,000 for supporting physicians in rural areas
- Add roughly $1.2 million to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Gang Task Force and gang database
- Reduce $3.8 million in Department of Human Services Child Support Services and $2.9 million in Child Welfare Services vacancies
- Roughly $32.4 million in reductions in various areas of the Department of Corrections’ state prisons
- $14.4 million in cuts in the Department of Juvenile Justice for vacant positions
As I mentioned before, I anticipate the General Fiscal Year 2021 budget to be even more challenging and complete with an even larger number of reductions. Expect to see some updates about this at a later date, but I also want to showcase some pieces of legislation that I believe will have a profound effect on our community and help our mission of keeping Georgia safe.
- SB 301 – revises custody provisions for state inmates to allow county sheriff’s to request that an offender remain in DOC custody, protecting our local prisons. This is huge for all counties in our district with state prisons.
- SB 393 – establishes a legal division within the GBI and authorizes special attorneys to increase GBI’s jurisdiction in combatting street gang terrorism
- SB 434 – “The Survivors First Act,” expands justice to victims of human trafficking by allowing them to request to vacate a conviction and to restrict their criminal records
- SB 307 – “The Living Hope Home Act.” Last year, we protected life with the Heartbeat Bill. This bill provides support for at-risk pregnant women, age 18 years or older, to help them choose life.
- SB 367 – cuts down on mandatory testing assessments for grades K-12
- SB 394 – expands the authority of the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute crimes, including those related to human trafficking
- SB 313 – regulates pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to help lower prescription drug prices and support our local pharmacies
- HB 105 – exempts long-awaited Hurricane Michael relief grants from state income tax
- SB 370 – promotes expansion of broadband by clarifying that an electrical utility easement can be used for broadband lines too, so long as no additional poles are erected
- SB 248 – shores up and increases the benefit of the Firefighter’s Retirement Pension Fund
- SB 249 – increases the benefit of the Peace Officers Annuity and Benefit Fund and adds a provision for jail officers to now be eligible participants as well
As we get further into session, bills that have not made it past certain benchmarks are no longer available for consideration. Bills that did not make it out of a Senate Committee by Friday March 6, are “dead” for this year and bills have until Thursday, March 12, to make it out of at least one chamber, or they will face the same fate. This intermediate deadline will make next week very busy. If you find yourself in the area, please come visit and watch. If you have any questions about things mentioned here, the budget or any other legislation, please don’t hesitate to call. Thank you for the pleasure of representing our community.
# # # #
Sen. Blake Tillery serves as a Governor’s Administration Floor Leader. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.