Tillery: Week One Highlights
Week one of the 2021 General Assembly is underway. One of the first things I noticed was all the new faces. Out of 56 state senators, 11 are starting their first term. This represents an almost 20% turnover from last session. The three pressing topics are clear: (1) the state budget, (2) COVID-19 and (3) election integrity.
The budget is the only bill we are constitutionally required to pass. The constitution also requires that it is balanced. Governor Kemp’s budget proposal hit our desks Thursday. It includes no further across-the-board reductions seen in last year’s budget. It begins to fill some of the holes last year’s budget created, as well as adding over $650 million back to the Quality Basic Education formula that funds local schools. The Governor also included $30 million for broadband expansion into rural areas.
The state is administering approximately 11,500 COVID-19 vaccination doses daily. But this number is highly outpaced by demand for the vaccine. I’ve heard the frustration from many of you. The Governor is marshalling the Georgia National Guard and Georgia Emergency Management Agency to assist in further distribution. To further assist in distribution, the Governor has also waived state laws via executive order to allow EMT’s and Cardiac Technicians to administer the vaccine as well. This year’s legislative fights concerning COVID-19 will likely center around allowing Georgia businesses to stay open. Some expect the federal government may wish to head in a different direction. Governor Kemp and the legislature have been clear – if a business can safely operate, Georgians need their jobs and services.
In just four session days, there have been at least six election reform measures floating through the halls of the Capitol. They range from requiring a photo identification for absentee ballots to eliminating drop boxes for absentee ballot collection. I expect many more bills to be introduced on this topic. Whether all these ideas remain separate or roll into one large bill, the message is clear – there will be election reform and it will happen this year.
From January 19th to the 22nd, the legislature will not convene for session days so that the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate may hold joint meetings with state department heads and commissioners. These meetings are streamed online and you are welcome to tune in at www.legis.ga.gov. As always, if you have a question about anything going on at the Capitol, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Atlanta.
Sen. Blake Tillery serves as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia)