The third week of the 2021 legislative session under the Gold Dome began Jan. 26. This week was especially busy as we spent four days in session and several House committees held their first meetings, both virtually and in-person, to begin considering legislation.
During our third week of session, the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees passed the Amended Fiscal Year 2021 (AFY 2021) budget and sent a finalized supplemental budget to the House Rules Committee. On Thursday, my colleagues and I voted on and passed House Bill 80, the AFY 2021 budget, on the House floor.
In June 2020, the original Fiscal Year 2021 budget was set using a revenue estimate of $25.9 billion and reduced funding for all state agencies in preparation for a state revenue decline due to the pandemic. Our state’s economic outlook has improved greatly since then as businesses have safely reopened and much-needed federal relief has been distributed.
The House’s version of the AFY 2021 budget is based on Gov. Brian Kemp’s comprehensive budget proposal for the remainder of the fiscal year, and his revenue estimate for the AFY 2021 budget is $26.56 billion, which is an increase of $654.3 million, or 2.4 percent, compared to the original budget.
Directed by the governor’s proposal, HB 80 restores critical funding and reflects the House’s priorities, such as restoring 60 percent of previous reductions to K-12 education funding formulas and boosting grant funding to support our public health agency as it addresses the pandemic. This budget also recognizes $2.7 billion in federal funds that are meant to help our agencies, colleges and local school systems respond to COVID-19.
In my appropriations committee for Public Safety & Criminal Justice that I serve as chairman of, in HB 80, we also identified funding opportunities to help our criminal justice and public safety agencies conduct their work more efficiently. In our AFY 2021 budget, my colleagues and I allocated more than $427,000 to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) for recruitment and retention of medical examiners.
Georgia’s medical examiners conduct nearly 40 percent more autopsies than the recommended amount due to staff shortages caused by low wages and this funding would make these positions more competitive. At the governor’s recommendation, HB 80 also includes an additional $223,600 for the GBI to expand the state’s gang database with critical gang-related information provided by local law enforcement.
Additionally, the amended budget accounts for $100 million from the CARES Act for public safety agencies to help other state agencies as they continue to respond to the pandemic.
One bill that I am proud of, that has worked in Georgia, is the requirements we laid out for teenage drivers. Dubbed “Joshua’s Law,” it was the requirements for what teenage drivers must complete for being able to get a driver’s license.
We also put a sunset provision on the bill in case it was determined that the legislation did not accomplish what was the intended effect. Fortunately, it did, and I have asked that they remove the sunset provision and make the law permanent by introducing HB 202.
In conclusion, I encourage you to let me know of issues that are important to you in Effingham County and Chatham County. I am in office 401 of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 656-7855 and my email is email@example.com.
I look forward to this session and serving all of you.