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2024 Session: Week 1 Update

2024 Session: Week 1 Update
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)
2024 Session: Week 1 Update
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)

Last Monday, the 157th Georgia General Assembly convened at the Capitol for the 2024 legislative session, which marked the start of the second year of our two-year term. With only 40 legislative days to accomplish the people’s business, my colleagues and I did not waste any time this week. In addition to convening in the House Chamber each day, Governor Brian Kemp gave his annual State of the State address before a joint session of the House and Senate.

On Thursday, we welcomed Gov. Kemp as he presented his assessment on the current condition of our state government. This event provides a unique opportunity for our governor to reflect on the progress of the state, as well as present his legislative priorities for the year ahead. This year, those include implementing tax cuts, fostering a strong workforce through enhancing educational opportunities, and maintaining safe, effective learning environments for all Georgia students and teachers.

Over the last year, Georgia’s government has provided nearly $5 billion of direct relief to taxpayers in the form of tax refunds, gas tax suspensions, and homestead tax exemptions. The governor applauded the state’s work to maintain a Triple-A bond rating, while simultaneously creating more than 171,000 new jobs. To build on this growth and economic prosperity, the governor announced his plans to speed up the implementation of the largest tax cut in state history. This proposed tax cut would decrease our state income tax to 5.39 percent starting this year and represent a savings of $3 billion for Georgia taxpayers over the next decade. In his address, Governor Kemp discussed his desire to prioritize school safety across the state. The governor pointed out that since 2019, Georgia’s government has invested heavily in all Georgia schools to help ensure the highest level of safety. To build on that investment, the governor is proposing a permanent appropriation in the state budget for school security. With these funds, schools will be able to determine how to use that money to best meet the security needs of their individual schools.

Not only is school safety a primary issue for the governor, but public safety also remains a top priority. He stressed the importance of supporting our law enforcement officers as they sacrifice their lives every day to protect us. Last year, the governor signed a budget that included a $6,000 pay raise for all state law enforcement officers. This year, he intends to work with the General Assembly to provide a pay raise of $3,000 for state law enforcement officers and state correctional officers.

Similarly, the governor urged us to follow through on last year’s efforts to pass legislation for the peace officer loan repayment program. Peace officers play a vital role in supporting the safety and security of Georgia’s residents. The governor also plans to continue efforts to combat human trafficking in Georgia. Under the leadership of the GRACE Commission, eight pieces of legislation that target traffickers, while also supporting victims, have been signed into law. These efforts have enabled Georgia’s GBI HEAT unit to investigate 369 cases of human trafficking since its creation. I will update you throughout the session of any legislative action regarding these two important initiatives.

Finally, Gov. Kemp discussed his plans to bolster retention and recruitment efforts across the state by proposing pay increases for state employees and teachers. In his remarks, he highlighted the importance of maintaining an efficient state government, while staying ahead of Georgia’s continued economic growth – none of which would be possible without the dedication and workmanship of Georgia’s state employees and teachers. To that end, Georgia’s state workers and teachers would see a four percent pay increase under the governor’s proposal. In addition to supporting Georgia’s current employees, the governor intends to allocate $500 million to shore up the state retiree fund, ensuring our state keeps its promise to our retirees and maintains solid financial footing. The governor closed his remarks by applauding Georgians for being strong, hard-working, and full of potential.

In addition to hearing Gov. Kemp’s State of the State Address on Thursday, the House voted to adopt House Resolution 779, our annual adjournment resolution, to set our calendar for this session. Each session is comprised of a maximum of 40 non-consecutive days. This year, our final day of session will be Thursday, March 28. We have an aggressive schedule and much work to do prior to the final swing of the gavel.

This past week, two new bills that I am sponsoring and a couple that I am co-sponsoring were filed: HB 909 – First Offender Act Modernization. The First Offender Act (1968) was Georgia’s original Second Chance law. It was enacted to prevent an isolated mistake from creating a lifetime of barriers. With certain offenses, not including violent crimes, sex crimes, crimes against law enforcement or DUI, upon completion of their sentence, a defendant is exonerated of guilt without impact to their rights or liberties. However, court records can still appear on private background checks due to information being found online. This bill would require sealing of GCIC and court records at sentencing. If passed, private background check companies cannot report successful First Offender cases, which would provide defendants with a true second chance.

HB 927 – The Blaze Pink Bill. This bill would authorize fluorescent pink to be worn on hunting outer garments in addition to fluorescent orange. In states where fluorescent pink has been added, hunting license sales have increased significantly. At a time when the whitetailed deer population is incredibly high, encouraging more Georgians to hunt is necessary.

HB 936 – Requires that multiple occupancy restrooms or changing rooms in a public school or local school system will be used exclusively by individuals of the biological sex for which the room is intended. This bill would also require that only members of the same biological sex may sleep in the same room on school overnight outings.

HB 942 – Increases the penalties for “sextortion.” In addition to what is included in the current Code, a first offense would require a psychological evaluation at the expense of the defendant and would require community service. Added to the current Code, second and subsequent convictions would require one to five years imprisonment and registration with the state sex offender registry. If the actions lead to the suicide or death of the victim, five to ten years imprisonment would be required. Also, the defendant would be required to pay court costs and other fees upon conviction.

Now that the 2024 legislative session has begun, I will spend most of my time over the next several weeks at the State Capitol. After we observe the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, my colleagues and I will begin our work on the most important piece of legislation of this session: the state budget. The House and Senate Appropriations committees will hear directly from the governor, other statewide elected officials, and state agency heads to discuss their recommendations beginning Tuesday morning. The Appropriations committees will continue to meet throughout the coming weeks to discuss budget requests, and I look forward to sharing updates with you about the process.

As our House committee meetings get underway throughout the session, you can attend these meetings in person or watch live streams of all official House committee and subcommittee meetings on the House website. To find a link and viewing instructions, visit Leesa-HaganforGeorgia. com/ constituents. I welcome you to reach out with your thoughts and opinions on issues or policies as we move throughout the 2024 session. You may email me directly at Leesa. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative for House District 156.

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