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Report from the Capitol | Week One

1/21/2019 - Hi. First, thank you for allowing me to represent you in the General Assembly. It is an honor, and every day when I walk into the Capitol and onto the Pickens County Marble floor, it reminds me how important this job is, to not only my district, but also Georgia.

Each week I will summarize what happens under the Gold Dome in the space I have, to give an insight on our government. I thank the Progress for allowing me to do this with you.

We start the session every year on the second Monday, and the night before is the Wild Hog Supper. First we have to be sworn in on Monday morning. Lots of families are there for this important event. I have to say it’s a pretty exciting time.

We then moved our attention to the swearing in of our Governor and Lt. Governor and others. In keeping with his campaign promise of “Putting Georgians First,“ Governor Kemp reached out to GA Tech and had the Inaugural event in their basketball arena where anyone who wanted to could attend …and many did. Plus, the weather wasn't an issue as it has been in the past. We had a special treat as Pickens High School student Emma Long sang our National anthem and did a beautiful job. Corporal Louis Thompson, a 97-year-old veteran from WWII led the Pledge of Allegiance for this important ceremony. Governor Kemp and Lt. Governor Duncan gave their first official speech, and if you want, their websites have it for you to view. Governor Kemp honored many outstanding Georgians including Hank Aaron, Herschel Walker, Bobby Jones, Otis Redding, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and outgoing Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra.

As we get reorganized, it can seem slow, but there is a lot going on. Select committees are meeting to assign everyone to their standing committees, and the very important job of selecting chairmen of 20 plus committees is going on, too. Offices are being moved, bills are being written and filed with the Clerk, news conferences are being held, speeches made, and plans made for the big issues of the session are underway. I will be in budget hearings and meetings this coming week.

The Ga. Chamber has their big kick-off breakfast at the World Congress Center on Tuesday morning, and the Chamber of Chatsworth/Murray County always has a table. We sat with them to hear the Governor and Speaker and Lt. Governor. Thousands of Georgians attend to hear their plans.

Our new Governor Brian Kemp came to speak to a joint meeting of the House and Senate. He entered the House Chambers to a standing ovation on Thursday. He started his first State of the State Address with a biblical story about two homes — one built on a rock and the other on sand, a story we all know well. Georgia has built its foundation for the future on a solid foundation.
Among the big items he announced were plans to provide a two percent merit pay increase for all state employees and raise teacher salaries by $3,000 while also funding school safety improvements, address mental health issues among students and staff in high schools, look for flexibility in addressing Medicaid issues, and battle gangs, drugs, and sex trafficking.

“We have more that unites us than divides us,” Kemp told the General Assembly. “Join us and let’s put hardworking Georgians first. I say pick up that hammer and some nails; and together, let’s build a safer, stronger Georgia.”

The speech was a chance for us to look at some of the issues Kemp wants to push during the 2019 legislative session as well as some of his priorities for Georgia’s 2020 budget. Education, crime, and health were key parts of Kemp’s address.

Governor Kemp also laid out some funding ideas to address school safety issues. A big part of that will be $69 million for one-time school security grants, which would be split up so each school gets $30,000 for security improvements. He also has put in his budget to increase funding by $8.4 million to address mental health issues in high schools.
He also touched on his Georgians First Commission, which he created by executive order on his first day in office to review regulations that might be seen as prohibiting companies from growing in Georgia. “We will work to make government more efficient and build a stronger, more diverse economy,” Governor Kemp said.

These were a few highlights of his speech; if you want a copy of it, let me know.

Pages: Young people from 12 to 18 have the opportunity to spend a day with us at the Capitol and be a Page. They get to see the legislative process up close. The pages are counted present at school the day they are at the Capitol and even get paid a small sum. I enjoy having these young people there and take a lot of extra time with them. I show them around and invite them to meetings if they can stay. Parents need to provide transportation, and the day can be long as we move on into the session. SO, if you are interested, contact my office at the address below, and we will send you the information to get signed up.

If you are in Atlanta, or plan on making a trip to the Capitol, please give my office a call before you come so we can be expecting you. We would love to see folks from Home. Drop in for a Coke or just to sit down. Thank you for the kind words of encouragement you say to me when I am out and around the counties, and please include us in your prayers. Your confidence in me means a great deal! Please don’t hesitate to contact me at 404-656-7857, or rick.jasperse@house.ga.gov, or 401 State Capitol; Atlanta, GA 30334.

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