Editor's Note: John Deffenbaugh, Dade’s voice in the Georgia House of Representatives, reported as follows on the ninth week of the House's current legislative session.
On Monday, March 5, the House reconvened for legislative day 30 and the ninth week of the 2018 legislative session. In addition to vetting Senate measures in our respective House committees, we also took up several pieces of legislation on the House floor this week, including the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget, which is one of the most important bills that we will pass all session.
The Georgia General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget each year, and the House took a step in filling this constitutional obligation on Friday, March 9, by granting initial passage to House Bill 684, the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 2019) budget. This year’s state budget is $50.85 billion and will guide our state’s spending from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. The FY 2019 budget was determined by a revenue estimate of $26 billion, which is an increase of $1.03 billion, or 4.1 percent, over last year’s budget.
Each year, education funding is always one of the largest budget items in the state budget, and this year is no exception, with 55.9 percent of the entire budget allocated to education. First and foremost, the FY 2019 budget includes $119.5 million for K-12 enrollment growth and training and experience for an additional 6,552 students and 1,869 teachers across the state. Furthermore, the budget includes $111 million for the University System of Georgia enrollment growth and increased square footage; $5.5 million for the Technical College System of Georgia enrollment growth and increased square footage; $27.1 million for the Dual Enrollment program; $2.7 million for 1,177 additional HOPE and Zell Miller private scholarships; and $65.3 million for 27,832 more HOPE and Zell Miller public scholarships.
Finally, one of the most important education appropriations included in the FY 2019 budget was $8 million for school security grants to improve security in Georgia’s schools, which was added to the budget in light of one of the deadliest school shootings in recent history. This funding is instrumental in helping to protect Georgia’s students, teachers and school staff members, and we hope that our Senate counterparts will join us in adding supplementary school security funding as well.
In addition to education funding, health care costs also make up a significant portion of the FY 2019 budget. The FY 2019 budget provides $16.9 million for a 4.3 percent provider rate increase for nursing homes and $962,022 for increased background checks for long-term care facility owners and employees. Mental health initiatives are also a significant budgetary focus in the House, and the FY 2019 budget provides critical funding for several mental health programs that will benefit our state’s citizens.
Specifically, the 2019 budget implements the Commission on Children’s Mental Health’s recommendations by funding child and adolescent crisis services, including four new respite homes; 13 new Georgia APEX Program grants to expand mental health services to students in 100 more schools; telemedicine equipment and services; and high-fidelity wraparound services training that will impact up to 3,000 young Georgians.
Georgia’s 2019 state budget also provides funding for Georgia’s highly successful accountability courts, as well as for nine additional assistant district attorney positions and nine assistant public defenders to support juvenile courts across the state. Finally, the budget includes appropriations for statewide transportation infrastructure construction, maintenance and improvements. These highlights are just a handful of all the items in Georgia’s FY 2019 budget, and the state budget in its entirety reflects the diversity of our state’s citizens, needs and opportunities.
Finally, on Monday, March 5, Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 159, one of the House’s most important bills this session, into law. HB 159 will significantly update and modernize Georgia’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly three decades, and this bill will streamline and expedite all types of adoptions in Georgia. The new adoption laws will increase efficiencies in every aspect of Georgia adoption, and these additions and revisions to our adoption code will bring Georgia up to speed with the rest of the country. Our state’s updated adoption code will benefit every family going through the adoption process and every child in Georgia in need of adoption, and this groundbreaking legislation will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2018.
With only eight legislative days remaining until we adjourn sine die, the General Assembly is in the final stretch of the 2018 legislative session. Legislative Day 40, the last day of session, is Thursday, March 29, and although we only have a few weeks left to finish our legislative business, my colleagues in the House, as well as our Senate counterparts, will be hard at work to ensure that we pass meaningful legislation for the people of our great state.
Until then, please feel free to reach out to me to voice any concerns or questions you have on any legislation up for consideration in the House or the Senate. I can be reached at my Capitol office at 404-656-0202, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.
--Representative John Deffenbaugh
House District 1