3/30/2018 - This was the 12th and final week of the 2018 legislative session, and on Thursday, March 29, the House and Senate completed Legislative Day 40 and adjourned sine die. If you have ever wondered as I did a few years ago why legislative Day 40 is commonly referred to under the Gold Dome as “sine die,” it is a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.” So Thursday night about 12:15, we adjourned “sine die.” This is a busy week when late night work is common to ensure that quality legislation was passed this session to benefit our state and its citizens. A lot happens in the last few days as House and Senate members work together so it will take me a few weeks to tell you about it.
Some highlights of the two days were that the House approved a measure that would help equip Georgia’s students for their professional careers. Senate Bill 401 would require postsecondary institutions that provide dual credit courses to provide enrollment and student record data to the Office of Student Achievement, which would collect and monitor such data and would annually measure and evaluate the dual enrollment program. The bill would also require middle school students to be provided with counseling and information to assist them in evaluating their career orientated aptitudes; and all students would develop a graduation plan with their parents or guardians based on their academic skills, career orientated aptitudes, and career interests before the end of eighth grade.
In an effort to expedite statewide deployment of broadband services and other emerging communications technologies, the House passed House Resolution 1698 , Senate Bill 426 and Senate Bill 402 this week. HR 1698 urges the House Rural Development Council (RDC), which was established during the 2017 legislative session, to examine how to best spur economic growth throughout rural Georgia, to explore ways to streamline and make equitable the use of public rights-of-way while preserving local control of and fair compensation for such rights-of-way. Further, the resolution urges the RDC to examine new pole rates, rentals, and pole ownership to level the playing field among current and future communications services providers. In their study of how to best manage public rights-of-way, the resolution encourages the RDC to solicit input from the Georgia Department of Transportation, local governments, communications services providers, and other relevant parties. Also awaiting the Governor’s signature is SB 426, which authorizes electric membership corporations (EMC) to supply and operate broadband services in rural counties with a population of 50,000 or less if the EMC secures a certificate of authority from the Public Service Commission. We all know that access to broadband services and other emerging communications technologies is essential for communities to grow and thrive, and these measures aim to expand to such critical services to every corner of our state, and especially rural Georgia. Senate Bill 402 contains numerous technical changes to facilitate broadband expansion in rural areas. These technical changes include facilitating grant programs for rural broadband and creating a certification process for cities and counties to be designated “Broadband-Ready Communities.”
In a piece of work that will affect us all we passed House Bill 930 that would create a new regional governance and funding structure for transit in the metropolitan Atlanta region. This one was important to us, as many of us travel to the metro region for jobs, healthcare, and to see grandchildren. HB 930 intends to improve the coordination, integration, and efficiency of transit in the metropolitan Atlanta region and promote a seamless and high-quality transit system for the 13-county metropolitan Atlanta region. The bill allows counties to work together and separately to reach transportation goals they determine. Improving Broadband and Transportation were both major House priorities this session.
Finally, before we adjourned sine die for the year, the House fulfilled our only legislative responsibility as outlined in Georgia’s Constitution. On Thursday, March 29, we gave final passage to the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) Budget, House Bill 684, by adopting a conference committee report. Amongst many, many important budgetary appropriations, the final FY 2019 budget includes an additional $166.7 million for local school systems, $16 million for school security and $100 million in bonds for transit. These additional education dollars would fully fund Georgia’s Quality Basic Education formula, which provides K-12 school funding, for the first time since its creation back in the early 1980s. This final, comprehensive budget would provide for the wide-ranging needs of our state’s and its citizens and I will spend time in a future article explaining more about it.
Although the Georgia General Assembly has adjourned sine die and the 2018 legislative session has officially come to an end, I hope that you will continue to contact me if you have any questions regarding your state government. I don't have to encourage many of you, as my answering machine was full when I got home on Friday. Over the next 40 days, Gov. Deal will review and sign or veto measures that received final House and Senate passage this session. Any bill the governor signs will become law, and any legislation not signed or vetoed within this 40-day period will automatically become law as well. We have worked hard on many issues this session on behalf of you and our State, and we are proud of the legislation we have crafted and passed for the good of our state. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime at Capitol office at 404-656-7857, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be home a lot more now, so feel free to contact me at home at 770-893-2039. Please leave a message, I might be out walking with Marcia, playing with the granddaughter, or working in the garden!
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Representative for the most beautiful part of our State.