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2022 Session: Week One Update

The 156th Georgia General Assembly convened in Atlanta for the 2022 legislative session last Monday, January 10, 2022. With only 40 legislative days to accomplish the people’s business, the House of Representatives got down to work. Highlights of the first week included celebrating Hunker Down Day to send the UGA Bulldogs off for what turned into an incredible win over Alabama and Governor Brian Kemp’s annual State of the State address. Gov. Kemp delivered his fourth State of the State address on Thursday before the legislature and members of the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. During this annual address, the Governor discussed the current conditions of our state and presented his goals for the year ahead. After reflecting on the challenges and successes of the last year, Governor Kemp unveiled several of his legislative priorities for this year, including education, health care, and public safety.

Regarding education, most notably, the Governor encouraged the legislature to fully fund the state’s schools and restore educational cuts that were made due to the pandemic and recommended a $2,000 pay-raise for K-12 teachers, assistant teachers, and pre-K teachers. Additionally, he shared his plan to provide one-time pay supplements to other critical school personnel, such as school bus drivers. Since this pandemic began, teachers and school staff have exceeded their job requirements to provide quality education for our students.

Next, Governor Kemp asked the General Assembly to continue to focus on improving health care in our state. To address the shortage of health care workers across the state, Gov. Kemp announced his plans to expand nursing programs, add 136 primary residency slots for the Georgia Board of Health Care Workers, and increase funding to mitigate rural doctor shortages. The governor estimated that these investments would add 1,300 practitioners to the health care work force in our state. These investments would benefit all of us by addressing the health care worker shortage and the high rate of burnout they currently face.

Finally, Gov. Kemp plans to launch a new antigang unit in the attorney general’s office that would partner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement to prosecute gang members. He also encouraged us to appropriate funds to address the backlog of criminal investigations caused by the pandemic, upgrade GBI crime lab equipment, and provide additional staff in the crime lab and medical examiner’s office. To enhance law enforcement recruitment efforts, the governor outlined his plan to provide a raise for state law enforcement and other state employees and requested that the Technical College System of Georgia add law enforcement and criminal justice degrees to the state’s high-demand career initiatives. Also, First Lady Marty Kemp and the GRACE Commission will work with the House and Senate this session to add human trafficking to the list of serious violent and sexual offenses that require a superior court judge to grant bail. As we’ve unfortunately seen in our local community over the past several weeks, the rising crime rate must be addressed.

This week, my colleagues and I will begin the state budget process through a series of Joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee hearings, which is often referred to as “budget week.” The governor released his budget proposals after his address on Thursday, and over the next several days we will delve into them and hear directly from state agency heads regarding their needs for the current and upcoming fiscal years. The governor’s budget recommendations, along with the recommendations from state agencies, will ultimately help us to form legislation for the state’s budget in the coming weeks. I look forward to bringing you news about our state budget throughout the legislative session.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the University of Georgia Bulldogs for their 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship title. We are proud to have these national champions hail from our great state, and they represented Georgia well as they defeated the University of Alabama. The first day of session coincided with game day, and the House made sure to wish the Bulldogs the best of luck. We started the legislative day with an exciting highlight reel from this season, and as the Speaker of the House gaveled us out for the day, we joined together and sang, “Glory, Glory to old Georgia.” Go Dawgs!

Now that the legislative session is underway, I will spend most of my time over the next three months at the State Capitol. I welcome you to reach out to me with your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the session, and if you plan to visit Atlanta, please stop by my office! It’s always good to see a friendly face from home. You may email me directly at Leesa.Hagan@house. to get in touch. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative for House District 156.

By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)

2022 DAY 4 — Rep. Leesa Hagan with the newly elected House Majority Chair, Rep. Bonnie Rich.

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