Feb. 23 marked the 20th day and halfway point of the 2015 legislative session. Among the bills passed last week was one of the most crucial pieces of legislation of the session, the fiscal year 2016 budget. This year’s budget was set by a revenue estimate of $21.7 billion, a 4.5 percent increase from the fiscal year 2015 budget.
Of the new revenue in the FY16 budget, 60 percent of those funds are budgeted for K-12 education expenses. K-12 education funds, totaling $571.9 million, will help fully fund enrollment growth, allow for additional training for teachers, provide charter system grants and State Commission Charter School supplements, increase opportunities for agricultural and career/technical education, and distribute more dollars to local school systems in hopes of eliminating furlough days and raising salaries for teachers.
The FY16 budget includes an infusion of $55 million in state dollars and $210 million in bonds to improve our roads, rail, airports and bridges. Maintaining and repairing our roads and bridges is vital to every part of our state, and it is our duty to ensure that our roadways continue to be safe for Georgia drivers.
House Bill 76 includes $3 million to improve the financial health of struggling and closing hospitals in rural Georgia by leveraging technology to improve patient outcomes. Additional investments were made in our future doctors, with an increase in funds for both Mercer and Morehouse Schools of Medicine, funding for 11 additional primary care residency slots and the establishment of a rural clinical rotation for primary care students in Sandersville.
The fiscal year 2016 budget, HB 76, will now go to the Senate for their review and consideration.
House Bill 1 was passed overwhelmingly in the House and would decriminalize the possession of medical cannabis oil in Georgia for individuals with certain medical conditions who have obtained cannabis oil legally in another state. Details of this bill have been discussed in previous articles. Because we realize that this legislation is merely a medical starting point, the bill also creates the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis to examine the possibility of future policies related to medical cannabis oil in our state.
House Resolution 304 passed and will encourage Georgia’s technical schools, colleges and universities to include education on gerontology and dementia in their academic curriculum. As the elderly population continues to rise, health care professionals will begin to see more and more patients with dementia and other health issues related to aging, and our health care professionals must be prepared to handle these cases.
We passed House Bill 70 to recognize the white tail deer as Georgia’s official state mammal. According to Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources, white tail deer bring in more than $800 million per year in hunting license fees, sporting equipment sales, food, and land leases, therefore having a significant economic impact on the state of Georgia. This legislation, however, does not grant the animal any protection from hunters or change hunting laws in any way.
This article briefly touched on several bills passed last week. If you need more details, do not hesitate to contact me. You are always welcome to visit or call my office at the State Capitol. The number is (404) 656-5099. I look forward to hearing from you.