On Monday, Jan. 11, members of the Georgia General Assembly gathered at the state Capitol for the first day of the 156th Legislative Session.
Since this marked the first day of the 2021-22 term, every member of the Georgia House of Representatives took the oath of office and was formally sworn in by Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda Weaver.
With my wife, Vickie, at my side, I was honored to take the oath and be sworn in to represent the citizens of Walton County.
The way we conduct our legislative business has changed in many ways due to the threat of COVID-19. Many of our committee meetings this session will have in-person and virtual attendance options, and the public can watch live streams of all official House meetings on our website from the safety of their homes.
As is customary during the first week of session, Gov. Brian Kemp came before the joint legislature and judicial branch to deliver his State of the State address on Thursday. This annual speech gives our governor an opportunity to convey his assessment of the current condition of our state and our shared goals for continued progress and success over the next year.
A video of Legislative Day 4, which includes Gov. Kemp’s address, can be found at https://
bit.ly/3snKHU9. Gov. Kemp reflected on the many storms our state has weathered since the start of the pandemic. He also reminded us of the steps that were taken this last year to combat the deadly virus in Georgia, including opening mobile hospital units, implementing a widely available COVID-19 testing infrastructure and deploying the Georgia National Guard to assist in response operations. Our state also prioritized personal protective equipment procurement and additional health care personnel staffing, allocated a quarter of a million dollars in CARES Act funds to assist in the fight, and the governor plans to distribute additional federal funding through early March.
Through Operation Warp Speed, the state has administered more than 283,000 COVID-19 vaccinations as of Jan. 13. Together, we observed a moment of silence for the thousands of Georgians that succumbed to the virus and commended our health care heroes who have been on the frontlines saving lives every day.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, was in attendance for the annual address, and we applauded her for her unparalleled leadership that has guided our state’s carefully measured response to COVID-19.
To further protect lives and livelihoods against the virus in the coming months, the governor also laid out some of his top legislative priorities for this year, which include expanding the new PPE tax credit to include pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers. Gov. Kemp also announced his intentions to build upon ongoing efforts to support schools by restoring funding to school systems across our state, fully funding enrollment growth and holding schools harmless for enrollment reductions.
The governor went on to discuss several funding initiatives to support teachers, families with special needs children and institutions that serve minority students.
The governor then revealed his plans to boost access to rural broadband grants to help improve broadband access across Georgia; this effort is especially critical for new remote learning environments. In addition, he outlined a funding proposal to implement the Georgia Pathways and Access program in order to drive down health care costs and increase access to quality health care.
Before Gov. Kemp closed his address, he highlighted some of his budget recommendations, which do not include any new budget cuts for our state agencies and departments, nor furloughs or layoffs for state employees, and no increase in state taxes.
Next week we will begin reviewing Gov. Kemp’s budget proposals through a series of Joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee hearings, which is commonly referred to as “budget week.”
Now that the 2021 session is underway, I will be working diligently on behalf of our entire district while I am at the Capitol. I hope you will take the opportunity to review updates like this to stay informed on legislative matters that affect our district and state. The House recently launched its new website, www.legis.ga.gov/
house, where you can track our progress throughout the session. It features a new intuitive layout with a number of tools for you stay up-to-date on what’s going on at the Capitol, such as archived committee meetings and an easy to use legislative search function.
You can also find links to the official House social media accounts and live streams of next week’s budget hearings on the new homepage.
I welcome you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 404-656-5024.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.