By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
The 155th convening of the Georgia General Assembly occurred Monday morning at the state capitol in Atlanta.
It was an exciting week as we inaugurated a new Governor for the first time in eight years and a new Lt. Governor for the first time in 12 years. I am honored to serve as a Governor’s Administration Floor Leader and look forward to working closely with Gov. Kemp on supporting rural Georgia initiatives including expanding broadband, ensuring we all have access to quality healthcare - not just those in the metro area of our state - and increasing opportunities for growth and job development in rural Georgia. Keeping homegrown talent in rural Georgia is crucial to our future and I’m always interested to hear your ideas on this topic.
Along with serving as a Floor Leader for Governor Kemp, I received a few “promotions” in the Senate as well. I will now serve as Vice-Chairman to my friend and Senate legend Jack Hill (R – Reidsville) on the Senate Appropriations Committee. I am eager to serve under his leadership and I am sure our budget will balance appropriate agency funding while remembering it’s not our money, but the taxpayer’s money we spend. I will also serve on the Assignments and Reapportionment committees, both of which are extremely important to our area with the upcoming 2020 Census. I will continue to serve on the State Institutions and Property and Economic Development committees.
After the pomp and circumstance of inauguration day subsided, it was straight to work. Governor Kemp rolled out several budget initiatives in his first “State of the State” address Thursday. These include:
- $69 million in school security improvement grants for all of Georgia’s 2,294 public schools;
- $500,000 to create a GBI taskforce to combat growing gang violence;
- $1 million for crafting healthcare flexibility options for Georgia’s Medicaid population;
- $8.4 million to address mental health issues in Georgia high school students;
- $480 million to ensure a $3,000 pay raise for every K-12 public school teacher as a down payment on his promise to increase to a total of $5,000
Gov. Kemp also detailed his plans to keep Georgia moving forward and to make us the number on state in which to do small business. Next week, we will complete our budget committee hearings where every department head presents recommendations and justifications for their expenditure of your tax dollars. I intend to give you a more complete breakdown of the Governor’s budget proposals then.
Locally, we’ve had a few wins early this year: a new cell tower in Alamo finally provides cell service to Wheeler County High School and surrounding areas. We’re not where we need to be here yet, but this is a long-overdue first step. After four years of pushing, we were also able to secure the first section of $18 million for expanding natural gas capacity for Wheeler, Montgomery, Toombs, and Treutlen Counties. This is so important because nearly every business looking to expand in or move to our area requires natural gas or propane for energy. Public Service Commissioners Tricia Pridemore and Jason Shaw were pivotal to this accomplishment