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By State Representative Greg Morris, Vidalia

With Fall arriving, it is time to resume the People’s House Report. What was a relatively uneventful Summer, turned into very eventful early Fall. Disturbing trends for Georgias economy, the very scary health crisis surrounding vaping, and a disappointing court ruling.

The Georgia Economy. As a member of the House budget writing committee, I attended a hearing in which we were told by the state’s fiscal economist that there was a 50/50 chance of a mild recession next year. We were told to expect a decline in tax collections for the first quarter of this year’s budget. Because of these predictions, Gov. Kemp has ordered state agencies to cut 4% from their budgets for this fiscal year (July ’19 through July’20) and 6% from next year’s budget(July’20 through July’21). The Governors plan would exempt k-12 schools, Medicaid, and transportation. The cuts would trim 200 million this year, and 300 million next year. The severity of the cuts are to adjust to what appears to be a possible economic downturn, but also to reallocate recourses to fund his priorities such as completing the teacher pay raise.

The first two months of fiscal 2020 saw revenue collections fall short of projections by 97 million. Those are serious scary numbers. One of the advantages from being around for a while is that you know a little more about what to expect. The mild recession of 2003 and the Great Recession of 2008 proved there are no easy answers or magic bullets in cutting budgets . The new projected cuts could go deep among the non-exempted agencies, such as the DNR, GBI, Georgia State Patrol and Behavioral Health. And that’s not acceptable either. I applaud Gov. Kemp for taking decisive action on behalf of the taxpayers of Georgia as a precaution. I also applaud Speaker Ralston and Lt. Gov. Duncan for calling House and Senate budget writers to the Capitol early to begin work on the budget early. I just hope the economist and the projections prove wrong

Heartbeat Bill/H.B.481. Federal Judge Steve C. Jones issued a ruling last week that blocks H.B.481 from taking effect Jan. 1 2020. The American Civil Liberties Union, the miserable curs they are, sued Georgia saying the law that bans abortions once a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat is unconstitutional. The ruling was not a surprise to me but a disappointment nevertheless, and another example of judicial activism overriding the will of the people expressed through their elected representatives. I don’t believe we will prevail in any court other than the Supreme Court, with Justice Kavanaugh hopefully being the deciding vote in favor of life. Gov. Kemp has pledged to keep Georgia in the fight for the unborn, appealing every unfavorable ruling against H.B. 481.

Vaping. Georgia has confirmed at least one death in Georgia that is being blamed on vaping. The Georgia Poison Center has received 19 reports people at emergency rooms suffering from lung illnesses due to vaping. About 25% reported vaping liquid THC. The Center said most of the patients are in their 20s and 30s , but some were teenagers and one was 13 years old. According to a Georgia State study, vaping is not effective stopping tobacco smoking as most smoker wind up using both. It also appears only 20% of THC products on the market are legally produced. Rep. Gerald Greene of Cuthbert plans to introduce legislation banning the sale of flavored vaping products and restricting advertising targeted toward kids which I plan to support.