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Getting the privilege to recognize, take part in Christian Leadership Academy

POSTED: January 27, 2014 4:16 p.m.

The Georgia General Assembly reconvened last week, completing nine days of our annual 40-day legislative session. To that point, the House and Senate adopted an adjournment resolution, HR 1108, setting the upcoming legislative session calendar through Feb. 18, taking us to the 24th legislative day.


On Friday, the House of Representatives also passed the amended fiscal year 2014 budget, House Bill 743, with only one dissenting vote. Now the amended budget will travel to the Senate for review and consideration.


It is always an honor to recognize people, groups, and organizations from our district that travel to Atlanta during the legislative session. On Thursday, the House adopted House Resolution 1129 to commend the Christian Leadership Academy of the Effingham YMCA. I sponsored this resolution to applaud this program, which lasts seven months beginning in September, and trains high school sophomores and juniors to carry Christian leadership principles into the future world of family, education, church, government, and business. Last month, I was honored to be invited to speak to this group of students about moral and ethical leadership and came away impressed.


Additionally, together with state Rep. Jon Burns, we passed House Resolution 1152, to recognize Monday as Effingham County Day at the Georgia Capitol.


The total fiscal year 2014 state budget is $20.3 billion, including the additional funding in the mid-year or “little budget” (which covers the remainder of the fiscal year ending on June 30) of $313.9 million. This additional funding is a result of revenue growth that exceeded projected collections, and can be taken as a welcome sign of an improving economy.


As we all take a sigh of relief from the budget reductions and cuts required in previous years, revenues for our state are gradually increasing. One major significant budgetary priority has been rebuilding the “rainy day fund.” This fund, officially called the revenue shortfall reserve, has been instrumental in softening the cuts required during tough economic downturns to help the state balance our budget.


I’m happy to say that through fiscal prudence and a slowly growing economy in Georgia, we have put more than $717 million back into our rainy day fund and are steadily rebuilding our reserves.


The House made only a few changes to the governor’s recommendations to the amended fiscal year 2014 budget. As passed by the House, some of the highlights of the mid-year adjustments include: $183 million for K-12 education (nearly 60 percent of all the additional collections),  $705,000 for the Department of Driver Services to reduce wait times for getting a driver’s license, $26.1 million for forestland protection grants, $27.1 million for transportation, $10 million for the Regional Economic Business Assistance grant program, $15 million for OneGeorgia Authority grants and loans to assist local communities with strategic economic development projects, and $25 million for OneGeorgia Authority to provide grants to local school systems for digital education and wireless technology enhancements.


The Senate will now review the amended fiscal year 2014 “little budget” as the House of Representatives goes full speed ahead on reviewing the FY2015 “big budget.”


Also noteworthy from this week’s activities, our state’s primary election date will now be held on May 20. House Bill 310, passed unanimously by the House during last year’s legislative session (March 4, 2013), was amended and passed by the Senate last week.


The House then voted to accept the changes to the legislation made by the Senate, with Governor Deal putting his final seal of approval on it and signing it into law Jan. 21. The change in the election date was deemed necessary as a Federal ruling determined that for federal elections, Georgia must give 45 days of absentee ballot voting for military and overseas citizens. To accommodate this ruling, state and local elections have now been legally moved to the same date as mandated for federal elections, May 20.


On Monday, the Georgia General Assembly continued day 10 of the 2014 legislative session. I will keep you apprised of important legislation that affects your families, your freedoms, and your pocketbooks. Working with and alongside the other members of both the House and Senate, your best interests will always remain my first priority.


Please let me know if I can ever be of assistance to you or your family. Please feel welcome to write to me at: 501 Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg., Atlanta, GA 30334, email me at bill.hitchens@house.ga.gov, or call my office at (404) 656-0178.

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