2/15/2021 - It's been a busy week at the General Assembly, and the next two will be busier, as bills are heard in committees and decisions are made whether they should move forward or not. The two most important committees this year are of course our Budget committee and the Elections Integrity committee. Both were very active. The Amended Fiscal Year 2021 (AFY 2021) budget received final passage this week. The final version of the AFY 2021 budget is based on a revenue estimate of $26.56 billion, which is an increase of $654.3 million, or 2.5 percent, over the original budget. On a side note, here; this increase is due to Governor Kemp opening back up our economy quickly and getting our state moving. Other states are in tough financial situations due to the shutdown. With this increase in new revenue, the General Assembly allocated funds to high-priority needs like health and education. This new funding will support the Department of Public Health and boost funding for high-demand public health grants due to COVID-19. HB 80 also reflects the Governorís recommendation to restore funding for K-12 education. Finally, this budget recognizes and utilizes additional federal assistance, which will allow us to give Georgia teachers and other school workers a $1,000 pay raise this year. After passing in the House and Senate, HB 80 was sent to the Governorís desk to be signed into law.
The committee on Elections Integrity had its first full meeting this week and started hearings bills that would ensure our confidence in our election process and the sanctity of our vote. This issue is the one I get the most questions on right now, and as bills come out of the committee, I will let you know what happens. I expect a few to come out of the committee this week.
A bill you mightíve heard about is House Bill 290; it would require hospitals and nursing homes to allow patients to visit with family members for a minimum of two hours each day, even during public health emergencies. Hospitals and nursing homes are concerned for everyoneís safety. We have all had or heard about the issues of not being able to care for our loved ones who were hospitalized during the Covid emergency. We know that holding someoneís hand during this makes a difference in the outcome. This bill will move forward as some changes are made to the legislation to make it work for all.
The House voted on House Bill 112: The Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act. This act was enacted early on in the pandemic to provide certain immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19 for health care facilities, health care providers, businesses, or individuals. Originally set to expire this July, HB 112 would extend these protections until July 14, 2022, and the bill will now undergo consideration in the Senate. This bill allowed our businesses and health care facilities to open up and run quickly during the pandemic.
An interesting occurrence that goes on this time of the session is our continued work on the budget for the next year. Itís a huge job, and just about everyone in the Capitol has a part in it. These meetings occur early in the morning usually at 7:30, and have priority over all other meetings. I am a member of two of them, the committees that oversee Higher Education and Transportation.
I greatly appreciate any feedback I receive from my constituents, and I welcome you to contact my office for questions or concerns about the legislative session. My Capitol office number is 404-656-7153, my home 770-893-2039, and my email address is email@example.com. Please contact me anytime.