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State Assembly Closes Session with Key Decisions on Budget, Medicaid, MARTA and More

2014 legislative update of week 10 from Ga. State Rep. Lynne Riley.

State Assembly Closes Session with Key Decisions on Budget, Medicaid, MARTA and More

By Lynne Riley, Georgia State Rep. (R-Dist. 50)

2014 Legislative Update – Week 10

March 22, 2014

On Thursday, March 20th, the Georgia General Assembly completed the 40th and final legislative day of the 2014 session.  This last day of session is known as “Sine Die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.”  We worked until midnight to ensure the passage of important legislation in key policy areas of education, criminal justice and public safety.

House Bill 744, the only piece of legislation that we are constitutionally required to pass, is the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which will guide all state spending from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015. Totaling $20.8 billion in state funds, the final version of this budget includes many of Governor Deal’s original budget recommendations.

One of the most noteworthy features of the budget is a $314.3 million increase to Quality Basic Education (QBE), which will provide local school systems with the flexibility to eliminate teacher furlough days, increase instructional days and increase teacher salaries.

Increased funding was also designated for higher education, including $7.2 million for the creation of a new Zell Miller Grant for technical college students. Additional details of the FY 2015 budget may be found at my website www.LynneRiley.com. The final budget now heads to Governor Deal for his review and signature.

The House also gave final passage to Senate Resolution 415. SR 415 calls for an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that would cap the maximum income tax rate that can be imposed. SR 415 would prohibit any increase in the state’s 6 percent income tax. SR 415 calls for a voter referendum, so the citizens of Georgia will decide this issue at the polls in November. Many thanks go to Senator David Shafer for his leadership in this initiative.

Final passage was achieved for House Bill 990 this week. This bill will require an act of the Legislature to expand the Medicaid program in Georgia. As determined by the United States Supreme Court, each state may choose whether to expand Medicaid as was envisioned by the Affordable Care Act, but are not mandated to do so.  While Governor Deal has declined to consider Medicaid expansion, this decision should rightfully rest with the General Assembly, which has the constitutional responsibility to appropriate funds for service delivery in Georgia. Kudos go to Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones for her effective leadership in the passage of HB 990.

Also passed during our last week of session was Senate Bill 365, which is a continuation of a multi-year criminal justice reform effort in Georgia.  Similar to past years’ legislation, SB 365 includes several measures to help non-violent, first time offenders get back on their feet and become law abiding, working citizens.

The House and Senate gave final approval to House Bills 264 and 265 this week. These bills will revise the management and operations of MARTA.  As Chair of the MARTOC sub-committee that oversaw a comprehensive review of the MARTA act in past sessions, I am pleased that these reforms were supported by our colleagues in 2014. Many thanks go to MARTOC Chairman Mike Jacobs for his extensive work and solid leadership on this issue.

Two additional bills that I sponsored in 2014 were approved in the Senate this week. HB 761 will revise code references for public retirement systems in Georgia.  HB 788 will provide for a voter referendum to preserve tax-exempt status of real property of the University System of Georgia that may be contractually managed by private vendors to improve efficiencies and save tax dollars. I am proud that all four of the bills I sponsored in 2014 were successfully approved.

The Fulton County Delegation introduced a number of bills in 2014 affecting local government services, and all of these bills were approved in the House and Senate. Revisions to the Fulton Schools Pension Plan per the request of the Fulton County Board of Education will provide for more effective and efficient management of the plan.  As was done in 2013 for other court systems in Fulton County, bills approved in 2014 will allow the Fulton County Juvenile Court and the Clerk of Superior Court of Fulton County to have oversight of their department budgets. A bill to revise and clarify local law that will apply to any new Community Improvement Districts created in Fulton County was also approved.

All of the legislation that was approved in the House and Senate this year will now go to Governor Deal for his consideration.  The governor has 40 days to sign or veto the legislation.  This means that any bill or resolution passed by the General Assembly that the governor has not vetoed by Tuesday, April 29, 2014, will become state law. 

Although the 2014 session is over, my colleagues and I will continue to work to serve you throughout the year. I hope that you will contact me with any questions or concerns that you might have regarding your state government.  You can reach me at my capitol office at 404-651-7737, or by email at Lynne.Riley@house.ga.gov. You can also stay in touch through my website at www.LynneRiley.com. Thank you for allowing me to serve you! 

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