2018 Georgia General Assembly Session — Week Three Update

 On Monday, January 22, the House convened for the third week of the 2018 legislative session. By the end of this week, we completed Legislative Day 10, which means the General Assembly is now one-fourth of the way through our 40-day session with just 30 legislative days remaining. This week was busy and productive, and the pace has noticeably picked up as House committees met more frequently to consider and vet proposed legislation. The House also saw measures introduced this week that were recommended by our interim House councils and commissions, and we worked with the Senate and passed an adjournment resolution that set our legislative schedule for the remainder of the session. While it may seem like we have a great deal of time left in the 2018 session, we have several important issues to address before adjourning Sine Die.

Although Georgia’s economy has grown exponentially over the past several years, not all parts of our state have experienced the same levels of prosperity. For this reason, the House is heavily focused on improving economic opportunities for our state’s rural communities. Last session, we adopted House Resolution 389, which established the House Rural Development Council (RDC). During the interim, the members of the RDC traveled to many different rural communities across the state and met with local leaders, studied issues specific to Georgia’s rural areas and explored ways to encourage economic growth. The RDC closely examined the components of economic development and related policy areas, such as education, infrastructure, access to health care and economic growth incentives. Then, in December, the RDC released the first of two reports outlining several legislative recommendations that would boost rural Georgia’s economic opportunities. This week, we saw the first rural development-related bill, House Bill 735, be introduced for the House’s consideration. HB 735 would create a tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures to incentivize investment in rail infrastructure in rural Georgia. This measure is likely the first of many pieces of legislation that we will consider this session to help Georgia’s rural communities grow, and the RDC’s proposals are a result of the council’s findings and hard work during the interim. Since this bill was just introduced this week, it will now make its way through the legislative process, and I will update you as it moves through the House.

Our state’s continued economic success largely depends on a connected and efficient transportation network, which is why transit is also a top priority in the House this session. During the 2017 session, we adopted House Resolution 848, which established the House Commission on Transit Governance and Funding. This commission is charged with studying our state’s transportation needs and exploring ways our state can sufficiently plan and provide for those needs. Like the RDC, the transit commission held hearings across the state during the summer and fall of 2017, and this session, we can expect to see legislation come up aimed at meeting Georgia’s wide-ranging transit needs as a result of the commission’s report. Both the transit commission and the RDC have worked diligently since the end of the 2017 session to study pressing issues facing to our state, and it is exciting to see initial proposals come to fruition in the form of legislation.

We also worked with our counterparts in the Senate and adopted another adjournment resolution this week, which determined our calendar for the remainder of the 2018 legislative session. Legislative Day 40, or Sine Die, is the final day of the legislative session and will be Thursday, March 29. Until then, my House colleagues and our Senate counterparts have a busy and aggressive schedule and will be working diligently to pass meaningful bills for Governor Nathan Deal to consider signing into law.

Also this week, the House Rules Committee held its first meeting of the session on Thursday, January 25. After bills have passed out of their respective committees, they must also pass out of the Rules Committee, which determines which bills should be debated and voted on the House floor. Bills that pass out of the Rules Committee are generally heard on the House floor the following legislative day, so we will likely vote on the session’s first pieces of legislation next week as several committees are beginning to pass bills out of their committees.

While we largely focused on reviewing Gov. Deal’s state budget recommendations last week during joint appropriations committee hearings with the Senate, this week, the House Appropriations subcommittees held several hearings at the Capitol to further review the governor’s budget proposals. The General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget every year, so after we review Gov. Deal’s budget proposals in our various Appropriations subcommittees, my House colleagues and I will draft a bill for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 (AFY 2018) budget and another bill for the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget. The AFY 2018 budget, nicknamed the “small budget,” is an adjusted budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. The small budget uses a more precise estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between anticipated and actual state revenue. The FY 2019 budget, nicknamed the “big budget,” is the state budget for fiscal year 2019 beginning on July 1. This budget is based on projected state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. Once passed by the respective Appropriations subcommittees, those portions of each budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will then review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.

After the House Appropriations Committee passes complete budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019, the measures will then go to the Rules Committee, where they will be placed on the House calendar. Each budget then goes to the House floor, where every member of the House will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on each budget and ask questions before voting.

Once the AFY 2018 and FY 2019 budgets pass out of the House, they will go to the Senate and repeat this same committee process before being voted on by all of the members of the Senate. By this point, each budget will likely differ from its original versions as passed by the House. When this happens, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will both appoint a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budgets.

Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, their versions of the budgets will go back to the House and Senate for a final vote. Both legislative chambers must vote on the conference committee’s versions of the budgets to guarantee that all contents of the bills are fully agreed upon by both chambers. Finally, if approved by both the House and Senate, the budgets are sent to the governor’s desk where Gov. Deal can either sign or veto the legislation. Once signed by Gov. Deal, these budgets become law. All legislation must go through this process before becoming state law.

While we had a busy week on the House floor and in House committees, my House colleagues and I also took time to honor a distinguished Georgian and former state representative in the House Chamber. On Thursday, January 25, Congressman Doug Collins visited the Georgia State Capitol and brought greetings and updates from our state’s congressional delegation in Washington D.C. Congressman Collins praised our legislative body for the work we are doing on behalf of all Georgians, and he noted that the Georgia General Assembly is an excellent and productive legislative example for Congress to follow. It was an honor to welcome Congressman Collins to the House from our nation’s capital, and his continued commitment to bettering our state is an inspiration.

Finally, the House celebrated National Guard Day at the Capitol on Thursday by recognizing some our state’s most honorable citizens. Several men and women of the Georgia National Guard visited the House Chamber and were presented with House Resolution 902. The Georgia Department of Defense, which provides military-ready forces to the president and disaster response forces to the governor, employs over 10,891 Army National Guard Soldiers, 2,746 Air National Guard Airmen, 583 State Defense Force members and over 600 state employees. Since 9/11, over 18,000 Georgia National Guard members have been deployed overseas, and more than 200 are currently being deployed. These courageous men and women have selflessly served our state’s citizens in so many ways, and it was an honor to recognize their great contributions and sacrifices for all Americans, and especially all Georgians, and welcome them to the House Chamber.

As we continue to make our way through the 2018 legislative session, House committees will continue to meet more frequently to review proposed legislation. I serve as a member of the Appropriations, Economic Development and Tourism, Juvenile Justice, Regulated Industries, Science and Technology, Small Business Development, and Special Rules committees, and I encourage you to contact me to discuss any measures that will be discussed by these committees or any other legislation that may interest you. Please visit my Capitol office, which is located at 501 Coverdell Legislative Office Building Atlanta, GA 30334 anytime. You can also reach me by phone at my Capitol office at 404-656-0178 or by email at paulette.rakestraw@house.ga.gov. Your input and comments are invaluable to me, and I hope that you will reach out to me or to my assistant, Kayla Bancroft, with any questions or concerns you may have about our district or our state as a whole.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.