Legislative Report From the People’s House
The 2021 Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly has begun. Four legislative days and four days of budget hearings are behind us. Three items are out front in priority. 1. Budget/ Economy. Passing a Mid-Year and 2022 budget are Constitutional requirements for the Legislature to pass in the Session. Remember the mid-year budget is for adjusting to needs in the current 2021 budget. Mostly for increased enrollment for K-12 education and sometimes for cuts if revenue has declined. The 2022 budget will take us from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2022.
Despite the pressures from Covid -19, Georgia's economy continues to show signs of improvement. Tax collections in December, for instance, were up 7.7%
over last year's same month numbers. For this fiscal year that began in July 2020, tax collections are up $ 722.5 million. You may recall the Legislature cut this year's budget 10% last year out of fear Covid
would hurt revenues. Education was hit hardest with cuts of $950 million to K-12 schools. Governor Kemp's budget plan would provide an extra $1.2 billion for Georgia schools in fiscal year 2021 and 2022. The Governor's plan calls for $27.2 billion in state spending for, among other things, public safety, providing healthcare to 2 million citizens, building roads and bridges, state salaries and pensions for retired state employees.
2. Covid-19 Crises. The rollout of the Covid vaccine has been very frustrating to watch. I'll give you the best information I have. For January Georgia expects to receive 120,000 doses of vaccine per week. 40,000 doses automatically go to the Federal Long Term Care Facility Partnership Program. This is the program that CVS and Walgreen are vaccinating residents and staff of long-term care facilities. The other 80,000 doses are allocated to enrolled vaccine providers that are administering the vaccine to healthcare workers, law enforcement, first responders, and seniors 65 and older. I hear “who is next?” and that really depends on how much vaccine arrives. But the next phase will be teachers and other essential workers. I will do my best to keep you informed on an ever moving and elusive solution to vaccine delivery.
3. Election Reform. I know the controversy surrounding the November election and the January runoff is very much on your mind. It is on mine as well. I never like to make predictions on Legislative sessions and what might pass. I've been proven wrong so many times in the past. I feel though I can assure you some measures to change the way Georgia conducts elections will pass. Some of the measures being considered are, but not limited to, photo id for absentee ballots, ending no excuse absentee ballots, abolishing drop boxes for ballots, and the length of early in-person voting. Speaker Ralston has appointed a special legislative committee to study and recommend election law changes. This is not a study committee. It will function as a standing committee that will produce specific legislation to remedy any issue that prevents Georgia citizens from participating in free and fair elections. The committee will be headed by Rep. Barry Fleming of Columbia County. I have complete confidence in his ability and desire to produce good and effective legislation that will stand the test of the inevitable court challenges to common sense election reform.
Call me at 912-293-0725 or email me at [email protected] if you have any questions.
By Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia)