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By State Representative Greg Morris, (R-Vidalia)

I have now served through 20 Legislative Sessions, most of which started out with high hopes only to end with less than I had hoped for. Happily, I can report the 2018 Session ended with more positive results than any in recent years. Here are some highlights.

FY 2019 Budget. H.B. 684 set a revenue estimate of 26.2 billion. 90% of the new revenue (1.2 billion) is consumed by education as well as health and human services expenses. Specifically,742 million(60%) is budgeted to fund K-12 and higher education. 359 million(29%) is budgeted for health and human services. 127 million (10%) in the remaining new funds is appropriated to public safety, economic development and general government agencies as well as debt service.

Tax Cuts/H.B. 918. Thanks to President Trump’s tax cuts passed in December 2017, the Legislature passed tax cuts on the state level that will save Georgia taxpayers an estimated 5 billion dollars over the next 5 years. This bill decreases the income tax rate from 6% to 5.75% effective tax year 2019. H.B. 918 doubles the standard deduction to $4600 for a single taxpayer and $6000 for a married couple filing a joint return effective tax year 2018. The bill also includes a provision to lower the individual and corporate rate further to 5.5% in 2020. I was proud to support this measure that keeps more taxpayer money where it belongs. In the pockets of taxpayers.

Education. Higher revenue estimates late in the budget process brought really good news for K-12 education. 166 million was added to the 2019 Budget to fully fund the QBE formula for Georgia school systems for the first time since 2003. Each school system in our area will receive a much needed increase in funds to supplement their budgets. The 2019 Budget included over 361 million to help fund the Teacher Retirement System and increase its stability. The bond package in the budget also includes 16 million in funding for school security grants.

Distracted Driving/ Cell Phones. H.B 673 passed along the lines I mentioned earlier. This bill prohibits the holding or supporting a wireless telecommunication device while driving. Texting, watching videos or recording videos are prohibited just like talking if you are holding or supporting the phone. The fines are $50 for the first offence, $100 for the second, and $150 for all subsequent offences. There is a one, two and three point assessment against your license for each successive offense. Utility service providers, law enforcement, and first responders are exempt while on duty. I voted no on this bill because I still think as it is written the law cannot be enforced fairly. Nevertheless, this will be the law upon Gov. Deal’s signature.

Rural Broadband. First let me say the Legislature did not pass any bill that would increase or create new taxes/fees for satellite or cable TV, streaming services like Netflix, or music downloads etc. In a later report I will explain how S.B. 402 helps create the “framework” to encourage the deployment of rural broadband services. This session did not provide a funding mechanism to increase access to more broadband connectivity.

Gun Control. Thank you for your many emails and calls voicing concerns that the recent calls in the national media for gun control measures might pass in Georgia. I can report that no gun control measures were considered, much less passed. Georgia remains one of the top 2nd Amendment protectors in the nation.

For staff use only.