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Schools to get funding boost
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The first week of the 2014 Georgia General Assembly saw passage of an important elections bill and Governor Deal’s State of the State address.

The governor’s message stressed his cooperation with the General Assembly to manage our state by budgeting conservatively, implementing tax reform, downsizing state government, and creating over 200,000 jobs in the private sector. Implementation of these broad policy initiatives has improved our economy, allowing the opportunity to better fund our state’s top priorities.

Governor Deal’s budget proposes dedicating almost 82 percent of the FY15 new revenue receipts to education, with 68 percent going to K-12. Nearly $8 billion will go to K-12 education, an addition of $547 million, the largest single-year increase in K-12 funds in seven years. Proposals include a stategic focus of the Hope Grant to cover 100 percent of the tuition for technical college students pursuing welding, health care technology, diesel mechanics, and information technology.

The governor recommended creation of the new Zell Miller Hope Grant that will cover 100 percent of tuition for technical college students maintaining a 3.5 grade-point average. Creation of a $10 million 1 percent loan fund will benefit technical college students.

Governor Deal demonstrated his continuing support for deepening the Port of Savannah with a recommendation for $35 million in the FY15 budget. This brings Georgia’s total to $266 million, which represents our total share of this important project.

Georgia is now recognized by Site Selection magazine as the number one state in the nation in which to do business. Georgia’s conservative budget has continued the AAA bond rating from all three major rating agencies. The Rainy Day Fund has been increased by over 518 percent.  State revenues have continued their modest increase for each quarter since 2011 without raising taxes. The number of state employees has been reduced by 12,750 from five years ago.

House Bill 310 ensures Georgia is in compliance with the recent federal court ruling that held Georgia was not providing an adequate amount of time for military personnel to return absentee ballots. The bill aligns local, state and judicial elections to coincide with the new federal elections date requirements to prevent unnecessary election expenses to Georgia’s taxpayers through the imposition of multiple election dates.

House Bill 310 adjusts qualification dates for judicial, federal and state elections beginning in 2014. Judicial election candidates in 2014 will qualify on Aug. 19. All federal and state election candidates in 2014 will qualify on March 4.

House members received their committee assignments this past week. I will remain chairman of the Game, Fish and Parks, and a member of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Appropriations, Economic Development and Tourism, State Properties, and Transportation committees.

This past week marked my 10th legislative session. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to serve you. Please look for my weekly legislative update in the newspaper. Contact me with ideas and opinions you have, or if I can be of service in any way. You can reach me at (404) 656-5099 or email me at