March 9, 2018

The legislature met on Monday, Wednesday, Friday this week, and the days in between session days were filled with committee meetings.

The week began with the Senate agreeing to the $25.4B supplemental budget as passed by the House last Thursday.  As reported in the last update, this amended FY 2018 budget included an additional $109M in spending because Governor Deal revised his revenue estimate based on this year’s early tax collections.

Also on Monday, the House revised and passed SB 2 that is backed by Lt. Governor Cagle. This revised bill creates a voluntary state-run program to certify cities and counties which are “ready for partnership” based on meeting certain criteria established by a 13-member board.  The intent of the legislation is to make local governments more business friendly. The board will be comprised of three appointees each by the governor, senate and house, as well as one appointee each from GMA, ACCG and the Ga. Chamber.  Some of the criteria considered by the board are how much local governments charge for permits/licenses, how long it takes to issue a permit/ license, and how they resolve conflicts over permitting or licensing.

The House and Senate Transportation committees each held hearings on transit bills passed by the opposite chamber.  Senate Transportation heard Rep. Tanner’s HB 930.  House Transportation heard Sen. Beach’s SB 386 after which the committee stripped the current language from the bill and inserted the language from HB 930.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations committee passed the FY 2019 budget which was then passed by the full House earlier today.  This $26B budget includes $361M for the teachers’ retirement system, a $200M increase to pay for growth in the state’s Medicaid program and loss of federal funds, an additional $35M for Savannah harbor deepening, $100M in bonds to repair and renovate bridges, and a one-time bonus of up to $900 for state retirees.

Today the Senate approved the conference committee report on HB 205 from last session.  This bill by Rules Chairman John Meadows establishes a system for dealing with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” should that become an issue in Georgia.

This week was also qualifying week for all 236 legislative seats, state constitutional officers, Public Service Commission seats for PSC districts 3 and 5, and all 14 U.S. House seats.  A list of qualifiers can be found on the Secretary of State’s website. Some noteworthy observations include Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) not running for reelection and his wife running for his seat.  John Barge will try to recapture the School Superintendent’s position that he vacated when he unsuccessfully ran for governor; he will face current Superintendent Richard Woods and one other Republican candidate in the primary.

There are eight days left in this legislative session.  The General Assembly will reconvene on March 12 and is scheduled to meet Monday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

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