Week 10: Updates from the capitol

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ATLANTA — As legislative session moves into its final days more bills are making their way from the House of Representatives into Senate committees and onto the Senate floor. Our focus is now on reviewing and voting on House bills now that Senate bills are in the House.

Wednesday, we celebrated the brave men and women who serve our local and statewide police departments during Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the Capitol. Sheriff Andy Hester, from the Turner County Sheriff’s Office, came to the Capitol to help us celebrate this wonderful recognition. It was inspiring to see so many fill the Senate Chamber. Gov. Nathan Deal spoke to everyone in attendance and encouraged us to thank our local law enforcement officers for the work they do on a daily basis.

HB76, known as the Fiscal Year 2016 General Budget, will appropriate $21.7 billion to fund FY 2016 beginning July 1, 2015, and ending June 30, 2016. It includes funding insurance benefits for 22,000 part-time school employees and their families, as well as adding and additional $154.4 million for Quality Based Education enrollment growth and training for teachers.

Funding will also go toward transportation projects, including repair and maintenance to our roads. Public Safety departments will receive funding to create jobs, provide educational enhancements for vocational and academic programs and lengthen the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program.

HB170, the Transportation funding Act of 2015, passed the Senate on Friday. The Senate’s version of the bill included a ten-year strategic plan outlining the use of the transportation department’s resources. The Senate’s version would reduce the 29.2 cent excise tax proposed by the House to a 24-cent excise tax. The Senate substitution also instructs the Georgia General Assembly to make a $250 million annual payment toward department of transportation debt service.

HB 170 will now move back to the House for consideration. If they disagree with our version, the Senate and House will create a conference committee to work towards a bill both chambers can agree on.

HB 1, known as the Medical Marijuana bill, allows the use of cannabidiol oil for several medical conditions. After passing in the House the bill was placed in the Senate Health and Human services Committee. After four and a half hours of testimony on Thursday, the Health and Human Services Committee was able to successfully merge HB1 and the Senate’s version, SB185. The committee passed HB1 and it will now be sent to the Senate floor for voting. If it passes, the bill will be sent back to the House for a vote on the amendments made by the Senate.

On Thursday, March 19, I had the honor to serve as the Chaplain of the day for the Senate. It is a true blessing to serve my fellow colleagues in this capacity and I look forward to the opportunity to do it again.

As always, I am humbled to represent District 13 under the Gold Dome. Please contact my office at any time if you have questions or concerns about pending legislation or address other concerns in our district. 

Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, represents the 13th Senate District which includes Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, and Worth counties and portions of Sumter and Wilcox counties. He can be reached by phone at 404-463-5258 or email at greg.kirk@senate.ga.gov