Under the Gold Dome…a message from Rep. Howard Maxwell
As of last Friday, we officially completed 32 of our 40-legislative day session. The quick pace continues as we have begun a review of the many Senate bills sent to the House following Crossover Day. Last week we passed many measures, including the 2019 fiscal year budget. Governor Deal also signed House Bill 159 into law, updating our states adoption code for the first time in nearly 3 decades. Below you will find a highlight of what we accomplished over the last week to help our great state move forward for the benefit of all Georgia citizens.
2019 FY Budget
Last week we completed our constitutional requirement of passing a balanced budget through the passage of House Bill 684, the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget. The 2019 FY budget will be a guideline for state spending during our next fiscal year which will begin July 1, 2018. Below you will find a highlight of 2019 budget allocation.
Rural assistance efforts continue as we have allocated funds focused on boosting economic development and ensuring access to quality healthcare for those living outside of metro regions. Funding will be allocated in the following ways: Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown marketing program Downtown development attorney to help Georgia’s small towns secure redevelopment grants Funding to secure a Deputy commissioner of rural Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovations Two rural surgical fellowships at St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital Statewide residency recruitment fair for rural medical facilities Insurance premium assistance for physicians who practice in underserved counties with one or less physicians 10 regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) training positions to train EMS personnel in rural Georgia Rural Health Systems Innovation Center Funding for soft skills training and character education development for rural lowest performing schools Mobile audiology clinic to provide audiological care to children in rural Georgia Birth-to- five literacy and numeracy in rural Georgia
In recent years, over half the budget has been put towards improving education in our state. As Georgia continues to grow, it is of critical importance that our students our job ready or prepared to pursue higher education goals. $119.5 million for K-12 enrollment growth and training $361.7 million for the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) to support 117,957 retired and 218,193 active TRS members. Two Advanced Placement exams, one STEM exam and one non-STEM exam, for low-income students Funding for the Chief Turnaround Officer program to help Georgia’s schools in most need of assistance $1.6 million for a student mental health awareness training program, including response and intervention training, for students in preschool through 12th grade $111 million for the University System of Georgia enrollment growth and increased square footage $5.5 million for the Technical College System of Georgia enrollment growth and increased square footage $27.1 million for the Dual Enrollment program $2.7 million for 1,177 additional HOPE and Zell Miller private scholarships $65.3 million for 27,832 more HOPE and Zell Miller public scholarships $8 million for school security grants to improve security in Georgia’s schools
Quality healthcare for all is a concern as we work towards improving access conditions through the 2019 budget. This year’s budget also considers our state’s need for additional mental health care programs. $16.9 million provider rate increase for nursing homes $962,022 for increased background checks for long-term care facility owners and employees. $568,057 towards the Marcus Autism Center to cover the cost of treating autistic children with the greatest needs. $2 million to the Department of Public Health to address our states high rate of maternal mortality Funding for child and adolescent crisis services, including four new respite homes 13 new Georgia APEX Program grants to expand mental health services to students in 100 more schools Telemedicine equipment and services High-fidelity wraparound services training that will impact up to 3,000 young Georgians. Funding to expand the Georgia Crisis Access Line’s operating hours and to create a mobile application to provide mental health crisis services. $2.2 million for Department of Human Services care coordinator positions to improve mental health outcomes for foster care children.
The 2019 budget also includes funding areas which are designed to meet various needs of our state. Funding to clear hurricane debris and remove sunken vessels along the Georgia coastline $15.1 million for growth towards out-of-home care $15.2 million in additional funding to increase foster care per diem rates for relative and child placement agency foster care providers Funding for Georgia’s highly successful accountability courts Nine additional assistant district attorney positions and nine assistant public defenders to support juvenile courts across the state Statewide transportation infrastructure construction, maintenance and improvements
I am pleased to announce further support of Georgia small businesses through Senate Bill 2. This bill, also known the FAST Act, works towards Fairness, Accountability, Simplification, and Transparency - Empowering Our Small Businesses to Succeed. SB 2 works to increase accountability, expedite local government permitting and reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses. Under the bill, an appointed working group would develop best practices and standards for certifying counties and municipalities as “Ready for Partnership Georgia” by establishing a process to review, renew and revoke certifications. The certification will be based on the following: County/municipality licensing and permitting fees Time required by the local government to process license and permit applications Consolidation of forms and documents to avoid repetitive information requests We believe that SB 2 will further strengthen our state’s business-friendly reputation while relieving our small businesses of repetitive burdensome regulatory requirements.
Short Line Rail Credits for Rural Georgia
Did you know that Georgia’s freight rail network provides $2.4 billion in direct economic impact to our state? For this reason, we overwhelmingly adopted House Resolution 1225 to benefit our 29 Class III short line rails, which stretch over 1,000 miles across Georgia. HR 1225 urges Congress to assist short lines through the passage of the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy (BRACE) Act. This act would make the federal Railroad Track Maintenance Tax Credit, which expired in 2016, permanent. The credit would be used for rail improvements, allowing short line and regional rail lines to claim 50 cents for every $1 spent, up to $3,500, per mile on track improvements. The BRACE Act would greatly benefit our rural revitalization efforts as this investment will improve infrastructure, provide jobs and promote growth in rural communities.
State Accreditation Study Committee
Last week we also adopted House Resolution 1162 for the benefit of Georgia’s schools, teachers, and students. HR 1162 would establish the House Study Committee on the Establishment of a State Accreditation Process to explore if the formation of such would be of benefit to Georgia’s public schools and school systems. Currently, there is no state entity responsible for accrediting Georgia’s public schools or local school systems. As a result, many of these schools and school systems seek accreditation through private organizations. The five-member study committee would explore the following: Resources and structure needed for a state accreditation organization Exploration of foreseeable issues with existing private accreditation agencies Analyzation of ways to align accreditation review with charter renewal for charter systems and contract renewal for strategic waivers school systems Establishment of a state process to annually review system charters and contracts Potential consequences of losing state accreditation Establishment of a school board review commission
Study Committee recommendations for proposed legislation would be filed in the committee report, due by Dec. 1, 2018, to allow for further review by the General Assembly.
This week brings the tenth week of the 2018 legislative session. While we have accomplished a great deal thus far, there is still much to be done. I will continue to update you through day 40 to keep you informed of major happenings under the Gold Dome. Please remember that this is simply an update and does not reflect my support or opposition to any bill. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me anytime. As always, thank you for allowing me the honor of representing our district interests on Capitol Hill!