2018-04-18 / Front Page

Burke, Green discuss legislation

Rep. Greene noted he worked to help increase the Forestland Protection Act Grant reimbursements to a total of $31.6 million, including funding for 2016 and 2017 reimbursement monies which Early County and the Board of Education did not receive.

Rep. Greene sadly noted he introduced HB 777 repealing the Georgia code providing for the Historic Chattahoochee Compact. “I was contacted by HCC board members to end the commission. They had no funding to keep it going. Alabama had ended their support several years earlier. A lot of good things came out of it.”

Originally organized in 1970, in 1978 the Georgia General Assembly and the Alabama Legislature passed identical legislation to establish an interstate compact for the operation of the Commission.

For the first time in recent history, the Georgia General Assembly fully funded the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula and eliminated austerity cuts with passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget. “This should cut out any furloughs or any cuts in education,” Rep. Greene noted.

The budget also includes $16 million to fund school safety grants throughout the state. Rep. Greene noted Early County School System will receive a $38,149 school safety grant.

He noted House Bill 918 changes Georgia’s tax code by cutting individual and corporate state income taxes.

“This critical measure will save Georgians millions of dollars this year alone,” said Rep. Greene in announcing his support for HB 918. “This is a one of the largest cuts in state income tax in Georgia’s history, and the first since 1934.”

Other important House Bills Rep Green pointed out were passed during the General Assembly included:

HB 673, the “distracted driving bill” restricting use of electronic devises while driving.

SB 402 which will increase access to broadband internet in rural Georgia.

HB 886 which reforms the GATE sales tax exemption, tightening eligibility requirements.

HR 1106 designating U.S. Highway 27 through Stewart, Randolph, Clay, and Early counties as a Purple Heart Highway.

Sen. Dean Burke

“The 2018 legislative session was filled with bills that are going to have lasting, beneficial impacts on all Georgians,” stated Senator Dean Burke. “I am pleased with the work that we accomplished this year.”

Below he points to several important pieces of legislation.

House Bill 159, or the Adoption Bill, has already been signed into law by Governor Deal. This bill will update a nearly 30-year old adoption code in Georgia by simplifying the adoption process not only for birth mothers, but also for adopting families.

Another piece of legislation that passed early in the session was House Bill 918 — the largest income tax cut in Georgia’s recent history.

House Bill 918l cuts the top income tax rate from the current 6 percent to 5.75 percent by 2019 and to 5.5 percent by 2020, if approved by the General Assembly.

Also under HB 918, the standard deduction for all filers would be doubled from $2,300 to $4,600 for individuals and from $3,000 to $6,000 for married couples.

This tax cut comes after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the federal level.

The General Assembly passed House Bills 683 and 684 which lay out the amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget and the proposed 2019 Fiscal Year budget. The FY19 budget amounts to a record-breaking more than $26 billion to be allocated to different agencies and development initiatives throughout the state.

Included in this budget is the “fully funded” Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula —a goal that hasn’t been met in Georgia’s recent history. This funding will fully cover the QBE formula for K-12 schools.

Also included in the budget is funding for a new Rural Health System Innovation Center, created through House Bill 769. This legislation includes the establishment of “microhospitals” which will have two to seven beds and provide services 24/7 to stabilize patients.

HB 769 also addresses grant programs which will offset the costs of insurance for physicians who practice in underserved areas of Georgia. And the bill would increase the value of tax credits to 100 percent related to contributions to rural hospital organizations.

The General Assembly having worked several years to assist the healthcare crisis in rural parts of the state, Senator Burke sponsored Senate Bill 357.

“Many regional hospitals in rural areas have shut down and the ones that remain have a difficult time recruiting and retaining doctors,” Senator Burke noted. “Throughout the state, various health organizations (both public and private) have reported a lack of coordination with each other, noting similar health studies being performed by different organizations not knowing that the work is being repeated.”

Under SB 357, a Health Coordination and Innovation Council is created made up of 18 members to act as a central housing and sharing center for all things healthcare in Georgia.

Both HB 769 and SB 357 address healthcare access and quality for rural parts of the state which in turn will positively impact the healthcare outcome throughout Georgia.

Another measure for development in parts of rural Georgia is through

Senate Bill 402, or the Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act, will increase access to broadband internet in rural Georgia.

To further address rural economic development, the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation was created by House Bill 951. The center will assume responsibilities of the Centers of Innovation for Agribusiness administered by the Department of Economic Development to provide pilot programs for rural development.

Sen. Burke also focuses attention on House Bill 673, which addresses distracted driving. “The safety of our citizens is a top priority and with continuous development of technology, Sen. Burke noted. “If signed by the governor, starting on July 1, 2018, individuals will be in violation of the law if they hold or support electronic communication devices, write or read from these devices or watch, record or broadcast videos.”

First-time offenders will receive a fine of $50 while second and third time offenders will receive $100 and $150 fines respectively.

Sen. Burke is chairman of the Ethics Committee, vice-chairman of the Health and Human Services committee and a member of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and Appropriations committees. He may be reached by phone at 404.656.0040 or by email at dean.burke@senate.ga.g ov.

Rep. Greene is chairman of the State Properties Committee and a member of the Appropriations, Economic Development & Tourism, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Retirement and Rules committees. He may be reached at 404-656-5105 or by email at Gerald.Greene@house.g a.gov.

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