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House OKs budget with 1.6 percent spending increase
Hitchens Bill
State Rep. Bill Hitchens

Last week was significant in the General Assembly because it was the halfway point of the 40-day legislative session and was marked with the passage of the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, as mandated by our state’s constitution.

Some highlights of the budget include $60.4 million for school safety, with $30,000 allotted per school; $8.4 million for the APEX Program that supports counselors for mental health services in high schools; a $20 million farmers’ loan program for southwest Georgia farmers affected by Hurricane Michael; $2 million in assistance for rural hospitals affected by Hurricane Michael; and $500,000 for coding labs in rural or low income schools middle schools.

With agreement from the House and the Senate, the budget passed with $435.7 million in additional revenue for a 1.6 percent increase over the FY 2019 budget passed during the 2018 Special Session. This brings the total appropriation for Amended FY 2019 to $26.9 billion and represents a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that supports the functionality and improvement of our state. The bill, HB 30, is now on the governor’s desk for his approval.

Regarding healthcare, House Bill 186 passed overwhelmingly and ensures that the proceeds from the sale or lease of a hospital owned by a hospital authority or political subdivision of the state are put into an irrevocable trust and are only used to provide indigent health care. If certain conditions are met by the hospital authority or political subdivision, additional investment options are permitted. 

Another bill that addresses an important healthcare matter, HB 158, passed which requires that Medicaid recipients have the same access to antiretroviral regimens used to treat HIV and AIDS as those included in the formula established for the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program. The GA ADAP is a state administered program that provides HIV/AIDS medications to low-income individuals living with HIV disease who have little or no coverage from private or third-party insurance. I believe these bills are good legislation that will provide for Georgians in need.

Georgia is proud to be home to 13 military bases and thousands of military service men and women. I was pleased with the passage of House Bill 59, which will allow parents or guardians on active duty in the military to pre-enroll a student when official military orders to transfer into or within the state of Georgia are received. Students will be eligible to enroll in the same manner and time as students residing within the local school system, in the public school of the attendance zone in which he or she will be residing, or in a public school in a school system in which the military base or off-base military housing is located. This legislation will help military families re-locate more seamlessly and help school age children become acclimated to a new school in a timelier manner. Military families sacrifice much and have frequent adjustments to make as they serve our country. This is one way that we can support them as they transfer into or within our great state.

As the session continues, our community will be in the forefront of my mind with each decision I make. Please contact me at or at 404.656.0152 with your concerns and questions. Thank you for allowing me to represent you!