January 27- "The Senate In A Minute" is an update on the Georgia General Assembly from State Senator Blake Tillery of Vidalia.
This week concluded Legislative Days 5-8 (but our third week in Atlanta…hence the term “40 days and 80 nights!”). Governor Deal’s FY 2018 budget proposal has now taken shape. The $25 billion package includes a 20 percent pay raise for state uniformed police officers (bringing their pay to approximately $46,000 a year), 2 percent increase to the teacher pay schedule, and fully funds both the Employees’ Retirement and Teachers’ Retirement Systems.
Several projects currently listed in the governor’s budget proposal directly relate to District 19. Three Georgia Department of Transportation projects were just announced this month totaling over $7.1 million. I am happy to see our district receiving the necessary funds needed to maintain our roads, improve safety, and promote commerce necessary to grow jobs.
A plethora of other bills were also introduced this week. Some of those relating to items I have heard discussed back in the district include:
· expanding those allowed to conceal carry without permit (former out-of-state police officers)
· limiting the cost of hunting and fishing licenses (lock in cost of license when you first buy)
· changes to the current tire disposal fee many of us pay when buy a new set of tires
· a “Destination Resort” bill, which would basically allow casino gaming;
· a bill increasing the percentage of lottery revenues that must go to the HOPE scholarship (currently approximately 25 percent of revenues go to HOPE)
· A bill allowing a 90 percent state income tax credit for donations made to certain rural hospitals (including Appling Hospital, Jeff Davis Hospital, Liberty Regional, Meadows Regional, and Wayne Memorial)
These bills, along with many others, now begin the committee vetting process, as my colleagues and I will attempt to fine tune these and other legislative priorities I’ve previously discussed. If you have ideas, issues, or concerns about these or others, I invite you to contact me quickly.
Please keep our neighbors in Southwest Georgia in your thoughts and prayers. The destruction and hurt that region is feeling from the violent storms over the past week cannot be understated. We are lucky to live in a state that cares about its citizens no matter where they live. The amount of support their region is receiving from across our state and nation is proof that we are capable of coming together in trying times, a lesson that should be applied in all aspects of our lives. President Trump has already called Governor Deal twice to offer his help as well.
Many local groups and individuals have begun their visits to the Capitol. If you are ever going to be in town, please stop by my office. I would love the opportunity to talk to you and hear your comments and concerns. You’re the reason I’m here and it’s always great to see home folks. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you under the Gold Dome.