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Tillery: Week 11 Highlights

The anticipation continues to grow as the final day of the Legislative Session, Sine Die, is just around the corner. With only one week of legislative days remaining, the Georgia General Assembly is operating at full speed ahead in preparation for the final day. With Crossover Day behind us, there are only a few more days for bills to be reported out of their respective committees to be eligible for consideration on the Senate Rules Calendar and, with the majority of these bills being House Bills, the Senate has been hard at work to square away legislation from the other side of the hall. Here is a brief recap of this week’s major developments: As you may recall from a few weeks prior, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 330, the “Giving the Gift of Life Act.” On Tuesday, the Senate took action on the House version of this legislation, House Bill 275. Under HB 275, an individual would be provided immunity from losing their life insurance policy based solely on their decision to donate a kidney, intestine, lung, or bone marrow. As I have said before, this legislation has the ability to impact citizens across the state in an extremely beneficial way. Additionally, HB 275 would increase the existing income tax deduction of $10,000 to $25,000 for living organ donors as well as providing a maximum tax credit of $54,000 for each employer that provides paid leave so that an individual is able to donate an organ without the fear of losing their insurance policy. I am grateful to see this legislation pass through both the Senate and the House and am hopeful that it will be signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp very soon.

Tuesday was National Agriculture Day and the Senate took action on legislation related to agriculture in the form of House Bill 1303. HB 1303 would make permanent an elementary agriculture education program in Georgia and would require school systems to employ an agricultural education teacher to provide elective courses on the subject in schools. In conjunction with these requirements, HB 1303 requires that the Department of Education establish agricultural education curriculum in school systems across Georgia. With agriculture being a leading industry that contributes to Georgia’s prosperous economy, I believe requiring agricultural courses to be taught in schools is a very beneficial way to bring awareness and education on this critical component of our infrastructure to students.

Perhaps the biggest development that took place in the Senate this week was the passage of House Bill 911, the General Budget for the 2023 Fiscal Year. Last week, I mentioned to you that numerous Appropriations subcommittee meetings took place to discuss Governor Brian Kemp’s proposed budget as amended by the House. This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee met early Wednesday morning to pass the budget out of committee. On Friday, the budget was heard for a final vote by the Senate body in its entirety. The FY 2023 budget accounts for roughly $30 billion to fund Georgia’s state agencies and departments through the coming fiscal year. The budget focuses specifically on areas of healthcare, education, and public safety and includes programs to raise salaries for our teachers and state employees. Knowing that the only money our state has to spend comes in from of your tax dollars, we take meticulous measures in order to guarantee these funds are allotted in a fair and fiscally responsible fashion.

Later in the week, Brian Kemp signed House Bill 1302, which would provide tax refunds to all eligible Georgia taxpayers. House Bill 1302 would guarantee all Georgia taxpayers would receive a tax refund of $250, $350 or $500, depending on filing status. There is still another bill that would reduce Georgia’s income tax pending. It is imperative that we spend taxpayer dollars in the most efficient and effective way that will benefit the people and, when the government takes more than it needs, it is our responsibility to return those dollars to the taxpayer. As you well know, our country has experienced record high inflation rates in recent months. Because of this, hardworking Georgians are more than deserving of these refunds, especially due to Georgia’s strong economic standing following the pandemic. Most Georgians can expect to see these refunds hit their bank accounts in the next six to eight weeks. I believe we are making good strides to maintain this fiscal responsibility by putting the money back in the hands of Georgians. I am pleased to see this legislation be signed into law.

With only five legislative days left, the countdown is on to Sine Die. With that being said, please continue to reach out with any comments or concerns that matter most to you. It is a pleasure to serve you.

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. The 19th District is expected to add Bacon and parts of Coffee County in 2023. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

By Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia)

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