Update from the Capital
By: Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga)
The General Assembly took a break from the regular legislative schedule during the week of January 19 – 23 to attend budget briefings and review the funding requests presented by state agencies. While the Governor’s budget recommendations are certainly a guiding framework, it is up to the House and Senate to finalize the general FY 2016 and the amended FY 2015 appropriations bills—right down to the very last line item. While the amended FY 2015 bill has already passed the House and is now undergoing review in the Senate, the general FY 2016 budget will take much longer to evaluate.
Past years of responsible budgeting, even during tough financial times, has allowed Georgia’s economy to rebound faster than many other states. The proposed budget increase—from $20.8 billion in FY 2015 to $21.7 billion in FY 2016—is proof that Georgia is continuing to grow and invest in the future of our state. Governor Deal’s FY 2016 budget recommendations include $239 billion to fund enrollment growth and training for over 1.72 million K – 12 students and 121,000 teachers and administrators. An additional $280 million has been included to increase instructional days and properly compensate our best educators.
The HOPE scholarship program allows Georgia college students to receive a quality, affordable education in their home state, but the program has seen a sharp decrease in funding in recent years. Governor Deal has recommended, for the second year straight, a 3 percent increase in the award amount for HOPE scholarships and grants. This will be funded through $16.7 million in additional lottery funds. Nearly $19.7 million in bonds has been recommended for new capital projects, as well as renovations and new equipment, throughout the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).
Improving Georgia’s transportation infrastructure remains a top priority for both the Governor and the General Assembly. Approximately $17.5 million in additional motor fuel funds have been allotted for road and bridge projects, based on anticipated collections.
Every year, the Georgia General Assembly must also revise the current fiscal year budget to account for unexpected expenses or revenue shortfalls. The Governor has recommended that the Amended FY 2015 Budget include an additional $134 million to cover school enrollment growth, $4.8 million for Georgia Regents University to conduct clinical trials for the use of cannabidiol oil to treat children with severe seizure disorders, and $15.4 million for the improvement and expansion of child welfare services. An additional $20 million is slated for strategic economic development project grants and loans for local communities.
During the week of January 26 – 30, the Georgia Senate passed its first bill. Senate Bill 1 seeks new guidelines for the coverage of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in children up to six years old, including diagnostics and medically necessary treatments or therapies. The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, a program supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism each year. This ratio is higher than childhood diabetes, cancer and AIDS combined. I am proud of the Georgia Senate for standing united in the protection of children who need early intervention and behavioral therapies to live up to their full potential.
Please feel free to contact my office at any time to talk about pending legislation or address other concerns in our district – my door and phone lines are always open!
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Sen. Jeff Mullis serves as Chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate District, which includes Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Chattooga County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404.656.0057 or by email at email@example.com.