2023 Session: Week 3 Update
The Georgia House of Representatives got back to business for week three of the 2023 legislative session on January 23. We voted on our first set of local bills, and several House committees held their first meetings. However, the highlight of the week was Wednesday when members of the House and Senate met during a joint session for Governor Kemp’s fifth annual State of the State address.
The yearly gathering in the House chamber provides a unique opportunity for our governor to present his thoughts on the current condition of our state government to the legislature and judiciary as well as present his legislative priorities for the coming year. These priorities include investing in our classrooms, workforce, public safety, and health care. If you’d like to see the full address, you may view it here: www.gpb.org/politics. I will briefly share a few highlights below.
Before discussing his priorities for this session, Governor Kemp reflected on the foundation we have built together and the progress our state has experienced over the last year. In less than twelve months, we announced four of the largest economic development projects in our state’s history. These projects combined will create more than 20,000 jobs and spur more than $17 billion in investment in rural Georgia. Of note to our area, 85 percent of these jobs will support various regions of our state outside the metro Atlanta area.
To support both new employees and existing communities where these new jobs will be located, the governor announced his plans to establish the Rural Workforce Housing Fund, which would help local development authorities steer new affordable housing to these areas. I look forward to partnering with Governor Kemp and my colleagues this session to find other ways to support our growing workforce and provide affordable living opportunities for workers.
One of the governor’s top priorities includes passing legislation that supports our K-12 public school systems. Gov. Kemp has asked us to adopt a budget that fully funds the Quality Basic Education formula, reinforces the teacher workforce pipeline by providing a $2,000 pay raise in the FY 2024 budget for teachers and certified school personnel, and provides grant funding to encourage paraprofessionals to pursue a full teaching certification.
Another priority of Governor Kemp and the legislature is creating safer communities where we can all live, work, and raise our families. During his first term, the General Assembly helped create the GBI’s Anti-Gang Task Force and the attorney general’s Gang Prosecution Unit to remove violent offenders from our communities. Just six months after launching the new prosecution unit, more than 50 gang members have been indicted. To ensure continued success, the governor is pushing for legislation that would increase penalties for individuals who attempt to recruit children into a gang. First Lady Marty Kemp will continue working with the Grace Commission, House and Senate leaders, the attorney general, and the GBI to combat the horrific crime of human trafficking in Georgia.
We are all aware that Georgia’s nursing shortage continues to impact our health care system. The governor has set aside $4.5 million in the proposed state budget for loan repayment programs to recruit and retain health care workers here in Georgia. He also urged the General Assembly to fund 102 additional residency slots at hospitals across the state. The General Assembly recognizes the vital work our health care workers do every day, and I appreciate Governor Kemp for working with us to address the state’s health care worker shortages.
I am pleased with Governor Kemp’s budget recommendations because they support my top priority as your representative – growing Georgia’s rural economy.
In addition to hearing the State of the State address this week, my colleagues and I welcomed two very special groups in the House Chamber. On Monday, the Consul General of the Republic of Korea, Yoonjoo Park, joined us to celebrate Korean American Day at the State Capitol. He provided special remarks to highlight the strong bond of friendship between Korea and the state of Georgia. According to Consul General Park, more than 100 Korean companies, including Kia, SK Battery America, and now Hyundai, are operating in our great state. These companies have produced more than 15,000 jobs in the last five years and have spurred a cumulative investment of about $21 billion in Georgia. It was an honor to celebrate the economic advancements made in our state because of this strong alliance.
On Thursday, the House recognized Georgia National Guard Day at the Capitol. Several Georgia National Guard leaders joined us in the House Chamber during their visit to the Gold Dome, and Brigadier General John Gentry commended the House for its continued support over the years. The guard’s motto is “always ready, always there,” and Georgia’s 15,000 guardsmen continually fulfill their mission to always be ready to serve our citizens. From serving at our local food banks to protecting our cities during civil unrest, our state defense force steps in when our communities need it the most. I am grateful to the guard for their service to our state.
Seeing friendly faces from the district while we’re in session is such a joy! Thank you to Michele Johnson, Executive Director of the Toombs County Development Authority, and other members of the Region 9 Georgia Department of Economic Development for visiting on Monday. They are tireless proponents of business growth in the community. Also, it was a pleasure to see McRae-Helena Mayor Mike Young on Wednesday while he was in Atlanta for a Georgia Municipal Association meeting. If you plan to visit the Capitol during session, please let my office know so we can make arrangements to meet.
Finally, several House committees began meeting this week to adopt committee rules and discuss some of the first bills of the session. Every bill that comes before us faces an extensive evaluation process by its assigned committee, and many of the bills this session will undergo changes throughout the process to help perfect the legislation. As we continue through the session, I hope you will reach out with your questions or concerns about legislation that may come before the House, including bills that are in the committee process. You can reach me at 404-656-0325 and [email protected] ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)