2022 Session: Week 13 Update
The Georgia Constit ution lim its the General Assembly to a maximum of 40 days, and we reached it on Monday, April 4. The final day is known as “Sine Die,” a Latin term meaning “without assigning a day for further meeting.” The House of Representatives worked a little past midnight to ensure that we handled as much important legislation for our state as possible. Final passage was given to many quality pieces of legislation, including a new state budget, which will now go to Governor Brian Kemp for his final consideration.
The Fiscal Year 2023 Budget
Did you know that the only constitutional obligation the General Assembly has is to pass a state budget? We voted to adopt a conference committee report for the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 2023) budget late in the evening, which will go into effect on July 1, 2022. Due to positive economic projections, this budget permanently restores nearly $669 million that was eliminated when the pandemic began in 2020. A few things of note in the budget are: $758 million for the state’s workforce to help reduce the high turnover rate of state employees, which impacts important government services. Specifically, it provides a well-earned $5,000 cost-of-living adjustment for eligible state employees, allows state employees to withdraw and be compensated for up to 40 hours of accrued leave annually, and increases the employer 401(k) match up to nine percent.
Using $148.9 million in new funds, this budget also bolsters funding for mental health coordinated care and law enforcement systems throughout the state. Law enforcement agencies will be able to hire additional law enforcement positions and make salary adjustments to further tackle crime and keep citizens safe. Our state health and judicial agencies will receive more funding to support and expand services for Georgians who are facing a mental health or addiction crisis, including expanding accountability courts, suicide prevention support, crisis bed availability and a workforce to deliver those services.
This funding would work in conjunction with provisions in the House’s Mental Health Parity Act.
Funding for K-12 education accounts for nearly 40 percent of the FY 2023 budget. It funds to provide a $2,000 pay increase for certified teachers and employees, allowing us to complete Governor Kemp’s original goal to increase teacher pay by $5,000.
I would like to thank the House Budget and Planning office, members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, and especially, our Senator Blake Tillery for the countless hours of work throughout the year to put together a budget that is balanced and greatly benefits the people of this district and the entire state.
An Historic $1 Billion Tax Cut The Georgia Tax Reduction and Reform Act of 2022 also received final passage on Sine Die. It provides an historic income tax cut to save Georgians about $1 billion annually beginning in 2024. It eliminates personal income tax brackets and replaces them with a single flat rate of 5.49 percent. This tax rate gradually decreases each year until it reaches 4.99 percent under certain circumstances. It increases personal exemptions to $12,000 for single and head of household taxpayers and to $18,500 for married taxpayers who file a joint return. The personal exemption for married taxpayers filing a joint return would gradually increase to $24,000 by 2030. Because of responsible, yet bold, economic stewardship throughout the pandemic, we are able to continue providing efficient, effective government services, while also working to keep more of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in their pockets where it belongs.
Protect Children from Predators
The House unanimously gave final passage to House Bill 1188 to help keep predators away from Georgia children. HB 1188 clarifies in Georgia law that each separate act of child molestation and sexual exploitation of a child should be charged as a separate crime. The state has prosecuted these offenses separately in the past, but a Georgia Supreme Court ruling a few years ago directed these offenses to be grouped into one charge, which left victims without due justice. This bill addresses this court ruling and makes it clear that these offenders should be charged separately for each horrendous crime. It also makes it a crime for any high-risk sex offender to use a social networking website to communicate or gather information about a person who the offender believes is under 16 years old and makes it illegal for these offenders to impersonate a minor under 16 years old. Georgia children deserve protection under the law from these pedophiles, and HB 1188 sends the strong message that this is not a safe haven for these predators.
Urging the President to Take Action HR 1147 urges President Biden to consider current global tensions and take measures to ensure America’s long-term energy affordability, security, leadership and progress. This resolution encourages actions that result in the continued operation of existing oil and natural gas pipelines, the construction of new pipelines and an end to restrictions on developing the nation’s onshore and offshore oil and natural resources. We need energy independence!
The Dean of the House
The Dean of the House is an honorary title given to the member who has served the longest. We took a moment on Sine Die to recognize our current Dean who is retiring this summer. State Representative Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) addressed the House for the final time to reflect on 48 years of public service as a Georgia state representative. Dean Smyre was first elected in 1974 and has earned the reputation as a strong consensus builder who reaches across the aisle frequently to find common ground. The president nominated Rep. Smyre to serve as the U. S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and he will begin the confirmation process this summer. I am thankful to have had the honor to serve with Dean Smyre, even if for just one session. The new Dean of the House will be Gerald Greene (R-Cuthbert) who has served since 1982 and has family ties to Toombs County.
Now that the 2022 session is finally over, I will begin looking at various issues affecting the citizens of the 156th district that may need to be addressed in next year’s session, as well as campaigning for the 2022 election. You are always welcome to contact me with any questions or concerns about issues that are important to you. You can reach me by email at [email protected] Also, because the House has adjourned for the year, I will be spending most of my time in our district. Feel free to contact me if you’d like me to speak at a meeting or if you have questions about any legislature, whether it passed or not. It has been a true privilege to serve you in Atlanta these past few months as your representative.
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)