January 18, 2019

The House and Senate convened on Monday, January 14, to begin the 2019 General Assembly Session.  This week has been filled with procedural, ceremonial and inaugural activities.  Monday afternoon, Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan and others were sworn-in at an inspiring ceremony in front of a large crowd on the Ga. Tech campus.

House and Senate members took their oaths of office in their Chambers at the State Capitol and there were 40 newly elected legislators in the group.  The most recently elected legislator was retired Probate Court Judge Mitchell Scoggins who won the special election to fill the open seat in House District 14 (formerly held by Rep. Christian Coomer who is now on the Ga. Court of Appeals).

There are two House seats still vacant.  In House District 5, Republicans Jesse Vaughn and Matt Barton, the top vote-getters in the Jan. 8 special election, will face each other in a run-off on Feb. 5. There will be a special election on Feb. 12 for House District 176 which became vacant when Rep. Jason Shaw was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Doug Everett at the Public Service Commission.

Representatives re-elected Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) to be Speaker of the House and Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) to be Speaker Pro Tem.  In the Senate, Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) was re-elected to be Senate President Pro Tem.

Governor Kemp gave his first State of the State speech in the House Chamber Thursday morning.  It was an upbeat speech that began with him touting Georgia as the Number One state in which to do business.  One of the first items the Governor mentioned is a $3000 salary increase for teachers that is included in his FY 2020 budget as well as a 2% increase for state employees.  Another issue featured in his speech was school security, and he noted $69M for school security grants in his amended FY 2019 budget and $8.4M in funding for mental health services for high school students. Governor Kemp spoke about gang activity and has included $500,000 as an initial investment to form a Gang Task Force within the GBI.  He also addressed health care issues and has added $1M in the DCH budget to pursue options for the state’s Medicaid program.

The Senate and House have posted committee assignments and chairmanships for the 2019-2020 term. Changes in Senate Chairs include Sen. Ben Watson as the incoming Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and Sen. Bill Cowsert as the incoming Chair of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.  Changes in House Chairs include Rep. Jay Powell as Chair of the Rules Committee, Rep. Barry Fleming as Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Chuck Efstration as Chair of Non-Civil Judiciary, and Rep. Brett Harrell as Chair of Ways and Means.

The Governor released his FY 2020 and Amended FY 2019 budgets yesterday.  The legislature will take off Monday for MLK Day then will be in recess the remainder of the week for Appropriations Committee budget hearings. The legislature will reconvene on Monday, Jan. 28, for Legislative Day 5.  The House and Senate have passed an adjournment resolution (SR 14) setting the schedule through Feb. 8.


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