Earlier this week, my colleagues and I began the first term of the 152nd legislative session. As a freshman senator, this week brought a lot of exciting firsts as I begin to learn the ins and outs of daily life under the Gold Dome. It is an honor to serve you, my constituents of the 6th Senate District. I was elected to address your needs and concerns and am ready to get to work.
A large portion of my time will be spent analyzing and perfecting legislation through the committee process. I was fortunate enough to be appointed to several influential and important committees that will allow me to examine numerous pieces of legislation across various subject matters. This term, I will serve as the Vice Chairman of the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee, Secretary of both the Finance and State and Local Governmental Operations Committees and a member of the Judiciary Non-Civil and Reapportionment and Redistricting Committees.
With several issues needing immediate attention and federal spending threatening to impact state operations, it is safe to say the work is clearly cut out for state legislators. This session, the Georgia General Assembly will tackle several challenging issues, including ethics and juvenile justice reform, improving our transportation infrastructure after the recent TSPLOST failure and strengthening Georgia’s public safety laws – just to name a few.
On day 4 of the Legislative Session, Governor Nathan Deal delivered his annual State of the State address, focusing on areas such as job creation, health care, juvenile justice reform, public safety, and providing a quality education for Georgia’s students. The Governor also offered his recommendation for the FY 2014, allocating a provisional $19.8 billion for FY2014. The severe cuts of previous years have been replaced with funding that will allow our state to grow and prosper, thanks to slow and steady growth in state revenues. In fact, Georgia’s revenue shortfall reserve or rainy day fund has increased by 226 percent over the past several years, a positive sign of Georgia’s economic recovery.
In his address, Governor Deal said “the number one goal must be to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the country to do business and to do that requires education, transportation reform, low taxes, less government, and a world class economic environment.” Advancing pro-growth business initiatives will give Georgia the extra edge when competing with surrounding states for jobs and economic development opportunities.
Next week, the Senate will recess in order to hold joint budget hearings. These meetings are a very important part of the legislative process, as it allows for a careful line-by-line review of the proposed budget and an open conversation between legislators and state agency officials.
Below is a list of legislation passed by the Senate during week 1 of the 2013 Legislative Session.
On the first day of the session, the Georgia State Senate boldly passed a resolution that will amend the Senate Rules and cap gifts from any registered lobbyist or group of registered lobbyists at $100 per item, event or meal. The new rule originates from proactive efforts by the Georgia State Senate to solicit input from both Senators and citizens on how to effectively address lobbyist expenditure concerns. This resolution passed with a vote of 42-12.
The Georgia State Senate passed a resolution relative to official employees and committees in the Senate. This resolution marks the beginning of the 152nd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly and passed with a vote of 48-5.
Senate Bill 24, also known as the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, passed the Georgia State Senate on Thursday with a vote of 46 to 9. SB 24 will authorize the Department of Community Health to establish a financial structure to protect Georgia’s healthcare system and obtain additional federal funding for the state’s Medicaid program.
SB 24 will allow the Department of Community Health to continue assessing an existing small fee – not to exceed the percentage of net patient revenues as allocated by the state budget – in order to ensure Medicaid rates remain at current levels. Collected fees will be deposited into a segregated account within the already existing Indigent Care Trust Fund, and at no time will the collected fees be merged with the general fund. The legislation mirrors a structure that Georgia nursing homes have successfully operated under for more than a decade and is supported by hospital providers statewide.
The Board of Community Health will be responsible for drafting the framework and regulations necessary to collect the fee, but the Georgia General Assembly will retain oversight and veto authority of all administrative decisions. If signed into law, SB 24 will become effective on July 1, 2013 and sunset on June 30, 2017.
Make no mistake - there is a lot of work to be done. However, our state has the leadership and wherewithal to navigate through these challenging economic times and prosper for many years to come. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in both the Senate and the House to pass meaningful laws that increase economic prosperity and produce much needed jobs for the people of Georgia.
Sen. Hunter Hill represents the 6th Senate District which includes portions of Cobb and Fulton counties. He may be reached at 404.463.2518 or via email.