On Monday, January 13, the Georgia House of Representatives convened for the second regular session of the 155th Georgia General Assembly. House committees hit the ground running, Governor Brian Kemp delivered his second annual State of the State address, and we debated legislation on the House floor.
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of introducing Monroe native and current resident, Dr. Harris Malcom, Missionary with the Georgia Baptist Association, as the Chaplain of the Day. In introducing my life-long friend, I was reminded of James 1:2 in the way that Dr. Malcom trusts God and leans into Him. He reminded us to find contentment, confidence, and companionship, courage and comfort in the Lord throughout 2020.
Later that morning, the House and Senate convened for a joint session to hear Gov. Kemp’s State of the State address. This annual address provides an opportunity for our governor to present his assessment on the current condition of our state government, and his priorities for the year ahead. Gov. Kemp asked the General Assembly to help build a safer, stronger and more prosperous state, and he commended the legislature for its hard work to accomplish those goals over the last year. He reminded us of the great successes that we have accomplished recently, including reaching the lowest unemployment rate in the state’s history at 3.3 percent, creating 64,000 new private sector jobs and being named the number one state to do business for the seventh straight year.
In his address, the governor reaffirmed his commitment to Georgia’s schools. Gov. Kemp vowed to fully fund public education again. The governor stated that he will continue to dismantle ineffective Common Core curriculum and reduce the number of required tests that weigh down our education system. Finally, Gov. Kemp announced that his budget includes an additional $2,000 pay raise for all public school teachers in order to boost retention rates, improve recruitment efforts and ensure better educational outcomes for students across the state.
Gov. Kemp went on to urge the General Assembly to focus our legislative efforts on improving access to quality health care and promoting better health outcomes for Georgians. Last year, Gov. Kemp worked to introduce two innovative programs, Georgia Access and Georgia Pathways, designed to help lower health care costs and expand access to health insurance. This session, the House and Senate will work with Gov. Kemp, as well as patients, providers and the private sector, to pass legislation that will address the problem of surprise medical billing and create transparency in medical billing.
Another one of the governor’s priorities is public safety. After first taking office, Gov. Kemp established the Anti-Gang Task Force at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which partners with local law enforcement and prosecutors to help fight the threat of gang activity in Georgia. He also vowed to continue to fight human trafficking. Spearheaded by First Lady Marty Kemp, the GRACE Commission spent the last year coordinating efforts among local law enforcement, non-profit organizations and survivors of human trafficking to help end this modern day form of slavery. Gov. Kemp called on us to advance legislation that will close loopholes that leave children susceptible to exploitation in Georgia.
Focusing on protecting vulnerable children, Gov. Kemp announced that he will launch the Families First Commission to overhaul our state’s foster care system. Gov. Kemp also plans to increase the adoption tax credit from $2,000 to $6,000 and lower the adoption age from 25 years old to 21 years old.
After Gov. Kemp’s State of the State address, we cast the first two votes of the session in the House chamber. The House passed House Bill 276, which requires out-of-state online retailers with sales in excess of $100,000 annually to collect Georgia sales tax. These taxes have always been due, but were not being remitted as required by law. We also adopted House Resolution 882, which commends President Donald J. Trump as our Commander in Chief, our intelligence agencies and especially our U.S. Armed Forces on the recent military operation that resulted in the death of the world’s number one terrorist, Qasem Soleimani, with zero loss of innocent life. Unfortunately, our Democratic colleagues, voted against the measure, ostensibly because it mentioned the name of our president.
In addition to Dr. Harris Malcom, Walton County Tax Commissioner Derry Boyd visited the Capitol this week with other members of the Georgia Association of Tax Commissioners.
We have budget hearings this week as Gov. Kemp and our state agencies present their proposed budgets. It is an important week as that the General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget each year.
Now that the 2020 session is underway, please do not hesitate to call me about any legislative topics that may interest you during this legislative session. And, if you ever find yourself in the metro Atlanta area, I encourage you to plan a visit to the State Capitol. My office is located in the Capitol in room 415-B, our office phone number is 404-656-5024, and I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for allowing me to serve at your representative.