2/1/2021 - It's funny how fast a week can pass in the legislature. Our sessions are filled with "morning orders" which is a time for legislators to speak for a minute or so on whatever they want. This time has been taken generally talking about the loss of community leaders and friends and family due to Covid or tragic accidents like at the poultry plant in Gainesville last week. Itís very solemn to hear these messages and to know that the very same thing is happening in your own neighborhoods.
I wanted to take a moment and talk about vaccine availability. Yes, you are not alone in frustration about getting an appointment to receive the vaccine if you were in the appropriate target group. It has been beyond frustrating for many. There is no excuse for not answering the phone or failed systems for communication or scheduling. The demand has overwhelmed everyone in the shot-giving business. The real issue is the amount of vaccine that Georgia is being given by the federal government. Considering a population of 10 million or so folks, our 150,000 or so doses per week allotment doesnít go very far. From what I understand, the producers are at maximum production, and they themselves are having issues obtaining all they need to keep production at maximum. Think about it; thatís a lot a little glass jars and rubber stoppers and all that goes with it. I know they are doing all they can to supply the United States with all the vaccine we need. This will get better over time, but right now it is very hard to get in line for the shot. My work right now is to make sure our rural areas are getting an appropriate amount of vaccine to take care of our folks. We have been promised a new central appointment system available any day now; that will help.
Many of our committees had their first meeting of the year. You may have seen the announcement in the paper last week about my appointment as Transportation Chairman; I had my Transportation meeting Thursday afternoon; and like all others, we set the rules for the committee, introductions, and all that standard stuff. I donít know if you know it, but you can watch any House or Senate committee meeting online. That includes the very important Special Elections Integrity Committee that was also appointed this week by Speaker Ralston. This group will be reviewing all the statutes and laws around elections and making recommendations for laws we will pass to ensure a better and more secure election process. If you were interested in when these meetings are; please use the information below to let me know, and I will let you know when they meet.
The most important thing we did last week was to pass the amended budget that will ensure smooth funding for the rest of the budget year, ending June 30, 2021. Most of the money went to restore a bunch of the reductions in K-12 education and Higher Education from last yearís Covid budget. We increased funding in Public Health to help with vaccine administration in addition to the nearly 1 billion dollars from federal sources for work on Covid issues. There was an increase in funds for programs that affect families in foster care, the spread of broadband in our state, and mental health issues in Georgia.
Those are the quick highlights, as I am limited in space here. If you want details, I can provide them it you; you just have to ask! As important bills come up for debate, please call on me to fill in the blanks that are not reported. I like doing that a lot. Either call my Capitol office 404-656-7153 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will do our best to answer your questions or concerns.
Thank you for the honor of being your Voice in the House.