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A new session begins under the Gold Dome
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Last week under the Gold Dome, the Georgia General Assembly completed the first four days of our annual 40-day session. With 36 legislative session days remaining, we are just beginning our job of representing our districts, our citizens and our state.

Officially, all members of the Legislature were sworn in this week, our leaders for each chamber were elected, and committees were assigned to each legislator. This week in the House chamber, we welcomed Governor Deal as he delivered the State of the State address, laying out his priorities for our state and the upcoming fiscal year 2014 budget recommendations.

The first day of this legislative session began with a prayer and all members, new and old, were sworn in to uphold the Constitution of Georgia and the United States. Speaker David Ralston and Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones were re-elected to their respective leadership positions as well.

Also last week, all members of the legislature received their new committee assignments. This is an integral part of the law-making process given that the majority of debate on bills occurs in committees and sub-committees, before ever reaching the floor of the House or Senate. Then, once the bill passes one chamber, it crosses over and goes through the same process again. This detailed process helps to ensure the bills which become our laws in Georgia, are adequately vetted before final passage and signature by the governor.

Along those lines, I received my House committee assignments. A rarity for a freshman legislator, I have been given the privilege of serving on the House Appropriations Committee. My other committees include Defense and Veterans Affairs, and Public Safety and Homeland Security. I thank Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments for their confidence in me and look forward to this new challenge.

On Wednesday, Gov. Deal addressed a joint session  of the House and Senate and discussed his priorities and recommendations for both the amended fiscal year 2013 and the fiscal year 2014 budgets.  The governor’s proposed budget for FY 2014 is $19.8 billion.

Governor Deal stated, “We will move forward with confidence, focusing on the proven foundations of a growing Georgia, those that keep us steady during times of uncertainty but also during times of prosperity; foremost among these are public safety, education, healthcare and economic development.”

The General Assembly will not officially be in session through Jan. 25; however, many members, myself included, will be actively participating in joint budget hearings at the Capitol.  The purpose of these hearings is to review the governor’s budget proposals with state agencies and discussing the impact the governor’s recommendations will have on their departments. The official Budget Appropriations Act for FY2014 will begin in the House of Representatives and will be reviewed, amended and sent to the Senate to follow the similar process.

As the former commissioner for Public Safety and the former director of the Office of Homeland Security, I have insight into the budgetary needs for state agencies and have helped develop the budget from the state agency side. As a state legislator, this prior experience gives me a better perspective on what is necessary and appropriate for funding for state agencies.

On Jan. 28, the Georgia General Assembly will continue day five of the 2013 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 Coverdale Legislative Office Bldg., Atlanta, GA 30334, email me at, or call my office at (404) 656-0177 or (404) 656-0178.