UPDATES SENATE REPORT
UPDATES SENATE REPORT
GEORGIA STATE SENATOR
Week 12 Sine Die and Happy Easter!
ATLANTA - March 30, 2018
In our final week under the Gold Dome, the Senate succeeded in reaching many of the goals we set out to achieve at the beginning of the session. However, there were several pieces of legislation that we were pushing that did not receive final passage. Over the next several weeks, we will discuss the implications of these bills not passing and the next steps in ensuring that they will be considered, vetted and passed next year.
One of the biggest achievements of 2018 was the passage of House Bill 918, which is the largest income tax cut in the state’s history. Families and businesses will both see a reduction in their income taxes, allowing them to keep more money in their pockets to spend or save as they please. Effective January 1, 2019, the personal income tax rate will decrease from the current top rate of 6 percent to 5.75 percent. This rate will further decrease to 5.5 percent on January 1, 2020, if approved by the General Assembly. In addition, the provisions of the bill will double the standard deduction for taxpayers of all statues. This tax cut will be good for individuals, families and businesses and will keep our economy on the path to growth and hopefully help the state retain its top ranking in the nation to do business.
In our final week, both chambers agreed to the Conference Committee report for House Bill 684 or the General Budget for the 2019 Fiscal Year. This year’s budget totals more than $26 billion, which is the largest Georgia has ever seen. A growing budget does not just happen by accident. Our intentional promotion of a pro-business, anti-regulation environment has led Georgia to a path of sustained economic growth.
The FY 2019 budget is especially significant because 2018 is the first year since the austerity cuts in 2002 that Georgia has fully funded the Quality Basic Education program. Within the budget is an increase of more than $166 million for K-12 schools. Investing in the education of future generations is one of the most important responsibilities we have as legislators, and I am thankful we are paving a way of success for future generations. The budget also allocates an additional $370 million to the Teachers Retirement System to ensure the pensions and benefits of our state’s educators.
William Ligon's Georgia Campus Free Speech Act
by Stanley Kurtz January 23, 2018 9:53 AM
Georgia State Senator William Ligon has filed Senate Bill 339, a campus free-speech bill based on the template published by Arizona’s Goldwater Institute. (I co-authored that model along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher.) The Goldwater proposal, already the most comprehensive legislative prototype, was recently updated to include provisions on speaker security fees and free-association rights for student organizations. So the Georgia bill is on track to become one of the most far-reaching campus free-speech laws in the nation.
Animated Video Provides Clarity on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
I would like for my constituents to view this short animated video, https://vimeo.com/252602308, which explains the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and then share this video link with people you know, share it on Facebook and Twitter, share it with your pastor who in turn can share it with the congregation. Rather than letting the media distort the explanation of RFRA, we need to show what it truly does and why it is needed. RFRA helps protect people of faith in the federal courts, and Georgia's citizens deserve that same level of protection in our state courts. Senate Bill 233 would provide the same strict scrutiny standard of review that the federal courts apply to cases involving the Free Exercise of Religion and to all our fundamental rights. Georgia's courts should do no less.
Also boosting education, the FY 2019 General Budget includes $877,985,154 for the Technical College System of Georgia. This will have a monumental impact on Camden County, Glynn County and surrounding communities through the funds that Coastal Pines Technical College will receive. Our state’s technical colleges offer an invaluable resource to our state’s economy by providing a skilled, educated and work-ready workforce to our small businesses and large industries alike.
Specifically, the budget allocates $17,795,000 in bonds for the construction of a new Coastal Pines Technical College campus in Kingsland, Georgia. Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base will benefit greatly from these expanded educational opportunities that will prepare a highly skilled workforce, those we depend upon to make repairs on the submarines and equip them with state-of-the-art technology.
A couple of extra local FY 2019 budget allocations I want to mention include an $187,000 increase in the Department of Natural Resources grant funding for McIntosh County and an extra $100,000 allocated to the Coastal Georgia Greenway that runs through Camden, Glynn and McIntosh counties.
Our coastal wetlands will also benefit from the passage of House Bill 332 and House Resolution 238, which will create and allow for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund. The Senate agreed to the House substitute for HR 238, a constitutional amendment, which, if adopted by the voters on a statewide ballot, would allow up to half of the sales and use tax collected by outdoor recreational establishments and sporting goods stores to be allocated to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund, established by HB 332. These funds would be used to protect properties such as state and local parks and wildlife preserves. It would, for example, provide a source of revenue for closure of Noyes Cut, which would rejuvenate significant portions of marshland near Dover Bluff in Camden County.
On the final day of session, the House agreed to Senate Bill 339, which is the Campus Free Speech bill that I sponsored earlier this year. I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate, and the House, for their support of these First Amendment protections for our college students. SB 339 directs the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia to develop policies promoting free speech and expression on their campuses and to create a mechanism to discipline students who violate such policies.
Two other bills of mine also passed during this last week. They were Senate Bill 338 and Senate Resolution 489. SB 338 ensures that the legislature can exercise more oversight with regard to agency rulemaking, a process which sometimes goes beyond the intent of the laws we pass. SR 489 creates a Senate Study Committee on the Prescribing Patterns for Antidepressants and Other Psychotropic Medications. Unfortunately, there appears to be a potential pattern of overuse in our population, especially our youth. The Federal Drug Administration has issued its strongest black box warning against such medications being prescribed to anyone age 24 or younger.
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