Andrew Allison, Acting Director
Kessarin Horvath, Sr. Communications Associate
Week One Highlights
By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
The 2020 session of the Georgia General Assembly gaveled in Monday morning, and while most first weeks hold much pomp and circumstance, the work this year began immediately. As I told many of you in the months prior to session, my top focuses this year are healthcare cost, broadband access and keeping an eye on a weakening state budget. We hit on two of the three already this first week. Here’s a quick summary:
A yet-to-be numbered Senate bill requires medical providers post their cost and quality metrics on their website so citizens can actually shop prices. It was filed Thursday and heads to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for consideration. Another measure concerning surprise billing- bills sent to patients by medical facilities and providers for the cost of procedures above what insurance would pay- has substantial support and looks like the Governor’s backing as well.
We also tackled tax fairness. We’ve heard from our local merchants that they operate at a competitive disadvantage to online retailers because certain online retailers were not collecting state sales tax. This puts our local shops and merchants- those supporting our local chambers, our high school booster clubs and our local charities- at an 8% disadvantage, while the profits of that sale are often pocketed by an out-of-state retailer. HB 276 requires online retailers that facilitate online sales in excess of $100,000 annually to collect sales tax just like the shops in our downtowns. I’m hopeful that getting everyone paying sales tax will let us come back and cut the state income tax like we did two years ago.
Next week, I’ll have a better summary for you on the budget- expect it’s going to be rough. State revenues are approximately $300 million under budget for this year already. The Governor announced his commitment to an additional $2,000 raise for teachers- that will cost an additional $350-$400 million statewide. While our local economy in Southeast Georgia is really doing great, some slowdowns elsewhere have us seriously concerned for the state overall. Budget cuts aren’t fun and they don’t make great topics for news columns, but they are real and they are going to be necessary. Just as you cut back in your own homes when times are tough, we’re about to be forced to do that on the state level in the next 90 days. Please pray we have wisdom in this process.
Thank you again for allowing me to serve you in the Georgia Senate. My position here is guided by you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions or concerns about legislation. My office is always available to answer your questions either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 404-656-0089.
# # # #
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.