Legislative Update — January 31, 2014

Greetings from the Georgia House of Representatives!

We began the second session of the 152nd General Assembly on Monday, January 13, 2014.  With a goal to get back home to our constituents by April, we hit the ground running.

On Wednesday, January 15, Governor Nathan Deal jump-started the session by revealing his goals for the year in the State of the State Address.

In his address, Gov. Deal detailed the exceptional progress Georgia’s economy has made since the Great Recession.  The state’s unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2009, and 217,000 jobs have been created in the past three years.  Lower unemployment means more Georgians are back at work, and state revenues are returning to pre-recession levels. Gov. Deal presented his ideas on how to best allocate state revenues in his amended budget for the Fiscal Year 2014 (AFY 2014), the mid-year spending plan, which helps fund the final few months of the current fiscal year, and full budget for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 2015), the state’s budget from July 1 to June 30. He projects that revenues for AFY2014 and FY2015 will total $20.2 billion and $20.8 billion respectively.  Both figures are a slight increase from the $20 billion that was originally forecast for FY2014 last session.

Georgia’s education system ranked at the top of Governor Deal’s priority list in his address.  Among his goals for education was an increase in internet access at schools across the state, expanded online learning programs, and the creation of a new Zell Miller Hope Grant for technical college students who maintain a 3.5 GPA.  The Governor then delivered his budget proposal, detailing the funding for these, and other, state projects.

In his budget summary, Gov. Deal recommended that Georgia’s education system obtain the largest budgetary increase in the past seven years.  With a partnership between school systems, such funds have the potential to restore instructional days that were cut during the economic downturn and provide teachers with a much-needed and long-awaited pay raise.

Also included in the Governor’s budget proposal is funding to increase caseworkers for the Division of Family and Children Services, so that reports of child abuse and neglect obtain the attention they deserve.  Other objectives for the state include funding to deepen the Savannah port and the continuation of a three year plan for criminal justice reforms, which could help reduce recidivism and crime in Georgia.  Finally, the Governor’s budget proposals also increased funding for the juvenile justice system with the intent to improve the retention rates of juvenile corrections officers.

In addition to the State of the State address, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees began the process of reviewing the Governor’s budget recommendations and turning them into the actual legislation that will ultimately guide all state spending.  The process started on Wednesday, January 16th with a joint Appropriations Committee meeting.  Governor Deal led the presentations by detailing the major highlights of his budget proposals.  The Governor was then followed by the leaders of our state agencies, each of whom explained their agency’s budget and answered questions from House and Senate members.

Another milestone for the week was the House and Senate’s final passage of House Bill 310.  This legislation moves state and partisan county primary elections from July to May 20, so that the state elections will coincide with the federally mandated elections that were recently moved to May. If this fix had not been made, as voters we would have to vote at separate times to decide who we were going to send to Washington and who we were going to send to Atlanta.  The change in dates also provides troops overseas with more time to vote via absentee ballot.  For information about election dates and your voter registration status, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.ga.gov.

Finally, we also took some time this week to remember two great colleagues who passed away last year: Representatives Calvin Hill and Quincy Murphy.  Rep. Hill, from Canton, and Rep. Murphy, from Augusta, both served in the House for more than 10 years.  Their families visited the Chamber on Tuesday, January 14, to hear the readings of House Resolutions 1050 and 1051, which recognized the lives and accomplishments of the two representatives.  Reps. Hill and Murphy will be greatly missed, but their legacies will live on through their contributions to the state of Georgia.

Now that session has begun, I want you to know that I will be working hard every day we are in session in Atlanta.  I hope you will take the opportunity to review updates like this one to keep you informed about legislative matters.  You can also stay in touch by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov to watch the House in action, view live and archived committee meetings, and review legislation that we are considering.  I also hope to hear from you on your ideas and opinions regarding the issues facing our great state.  Please call my office at the State Capitol in Atlanta and let me know what I can do for you.  The phone number is 404-656-0177. Thank you for your time.

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-HD19) Wins StudentsFirst Endorsement

Paulette Rakestraw (R-HD19), Georgia State Representative from Paulding County, has been endorsed by Georgia Parents and Teachers for Putting StudentsFirst, the Georgia arm of StudentsFirst, a nationwide, bipartisan grassroots movement that works to focus the U.S. education system on what’s best for students. Legislators achieving the endorsement were evaluated based upon their responses to a questionnaire on education policies and, if incumbents, their record of support for common sense education reform efforts.

In the announcement, StudentsFirst said, “In her time in the House, Rep. Rakestraw has helped the cause of education reform by voting for HR 1162 (constitutional amendment authorizing charter schools), SB 184 (ending “last in, first out” layoff policies), and SB 410 (creating performance-based public ratings for schools). However, Rep. Rakestraw’s opponents in the primary prioritize the wishes of the education status quo instead of putting the interests of students first.”

Rep. Rakestraw said, “My position on education matters is very clear. When our students rank #26 in math and science when measured against other countries, our educational systems are failing. Our children will have to compete for jobs in the future in a global economy, against students whose education has better prepared them. Parents are ready for more educational choices that fit their children so they can succeed at learning. This will help our students in the future compete for jobs in a global marketplace. Teachers also want to be free of government paperwork and red tape that prohibit them from spending their time in the classroom teaching. The system is broken and StudentsFirst does a great job in shedding light on the problems we face in our schools all across America. I am very proud to been endorsed by this movement, which defends the interests of children in public education and pursues transformative reform.”

StudentsFirst is a bipartisan grassroots movement of more than 1 million members nationwide, working to focus our education system on what’s best for students, supporting common-sense reforms that help make sure all students have great schools and great teachers. Launched by former Washington D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in December 2010, StudentsFirst has successfully helped pass more than 70 student-centered policies in 17 states, and our movement continues to grow.

Rep. Rakestraw, Paulding County’s first female legislator, represents the citizens of District 19 in Paulding County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves on the Children & Youth Committee, the Economic Development & Tourism Committee, and on the Special Committee on Small Business Development.

Paulette Rakestraw (R-HD19) Provides Job Growth Update

Paulette Rakestraw (R-HD19), Georgia House Representative from Paulding County, pointed today to new evidence that legislative actions continue to have a positive impact on bringing job growth to Georgia. The evidence came in the form of Governor Nathan Deal’s recent announcement that Interroll, the world’s leading supplier of conveyer systems and components, will locate its North American manufacturing plant, showroom facility and technology center in Paulding County. The company, based in Switzerland, plans to initially create 70 jobs and invest $10 million in the new, 93,000 square-foot operation.

“In the legislature, we have successfully taken steps to reduce taxes on manufacturing and on citizens, and to streamline government red tape,” said Rakestraw. “I have worked with Governor Deal on his Competitiveness Initiative and on the Small Business & Job Creation committee’s “Red Tape Watch” to identify areas where Georgia can reduce burdensome regulations on small business to improve the business climate in our state. Here in Paulding County, local leaders have created an ‘opportunity zone’ to attract businesses. Interroll’s announcement proves that these steps are working. Companies continue to move here and bring jobs with them. It’s a very exciting time for Paulding County and Georgia.”

On her website, Rep. Rakestraw provides a list of companies that have moved to Georgia in the last year alone.

Rep. Rakestraw, Paulding County’s first female legislator, represents the citizens of District 19 in Paulding County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves on the Children & Youth Committee, the Economic Development & Tourism Committee, and on the Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation.

Rep. Paulette Rakestraw Comments on Job Growth in Georgia and Paulding County

Georgia State House Representative Paulette Rakestraw (R-Hiram) (http://paulettehouserep.com), discussed job growth in Georgia, and more specifically in Paulding County, with citizens at a local business association meeting. Rakestraw said a combination of factors have worked together to create significant jobs growth in Georgia and locally in her Paulding County district.

“In the legislature, we have successfully taken steps to reduce taxes on manufacturing and on citizens, and to streamline government red tape,” said Rakestraw. “I have worked with Governor Deal on his Competitiveness Initiative and on the Small Business & Job Creation committee’s “Red Tape Watch” to identify areas where Georgia can reduce burdensome regulations on small business to improve the business climate in our state. Here in Paulding County, local leaders have created an ‘opportunity zone’ to attract businesses and I’ve been involved in helping get that approved for our local community. I’ve been able to cut taxes and pass business-friendly legislation to create an environment that will bring jobs to Georgia. (http://paulettehouserep.com/issues)

“Georgia is now ranked as one of the five most competitive states for doing business and the sixth-friendliest towards small businesses. While our ranking has improved, I join with Governor Deal to make it our goal to be the number one state. What we are doing so far is working. Companies continue to move here and bring jobs with them. It’s a very exciting time for Georgia.”

Rep. Rakestraw, who is Paulding County’s first female legislator, provided this list of companies that have moved to Georgia in the last year alone.

Aspen Village, 40 jobs in Paulding County

Baxter International, 1800 jobs

Carter’s, 600 jobs

Caterpillar, 1400 jobs

CBS Corp., 101 jobs

Chep USA. 173 jobs

Dinex Group. 250 jobs

Erdrich Umformtechnik, 178 jobs

MG International, 30 jobs in Paulding County

Mohawk, 500 jobs

National Envelope, 40 jobs in Paulding County

Pyramax Ceramics, 60 jobs

Starbucks Manufacturing, 140 jobs

State Farm, 500 jobs

Toyota, 350 jobs

Tennec, 350 jobs

Wellstar Hospital, 500 jobs in Paulding County

Rep. Rakestraw represents the citizens of District 19 in Paulding County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves on the Children & Youth Committee, the Economic Development & Tourism Committee, and on the Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation. Learn more about Rep. Braddock at http://paulettehouserep.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/paulette.rakestraw.