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Greg Kirk: Week 10 update from the capitol

The 2017 session is rapidly coming to a close, so it’s important to keep our priorities in order. The General Assembly has drafted 4,972 pieces of legislation this year alone, but we only have five more legislative days to pass bills that work to make Georgia the best state to live, to work and to play.
Principal among all of our priorities is the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The Georgia Constitution requires the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget before the session ends, and we are close to doing just that. The budget, or House Bill 44, has reached a point of contention, since the House of Representatives and the Senate have their own versions of the budget. At this point, both chambers are standing by what they want out of the record-breaking $25 billion budget, so we’re setting up a Conference Committee made up of three members from each body to create a compromise both chambers can agree on.
Every Senator wants different line items to make it to the Governor’s desk, myself included. There are two items in this budget that would directly benefit Senate District 13. The first is a $1.6 million allocation to renovate the Carlton Library and build the Fine Arts Building at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton. The second is a $2 million bond investment for the Heart of Georgia railroad that connects Americus in Sumter County to Rhine in Dodge County. These quality investments will only further ensure that Senate District 13 continues to grow and develop.
While the budget is the only thing the General Assembly is required to pass, it is by no means our only priority. One of the bills we passed unanimously this week was House Bill 86, which would expand Georgia’s definition of sexual abuse to include sexual trafficking. This terrible, heartbreaking crime has plagued our state for far too long, and it’s beyond due time that the General Assembly enact legislation that brings sexual traffickers to proper justice. I’m proud to be part of a legislature that is continually taking the necessary steps to make our children safer.
A bill I sponsored earlier this session, Senate Bill 169, received final passage from the House of Representatives this week. SB 169 would allow for the creation and sale of Georgia license plates that would read “Back the Badge” across the bottom. The proceeds of these license plate sales would go to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund. The effect of this bill would be twofold: first, it would create a grassroots public relations campaign to protect and support our local law enforcement officers; and second, it would provide financial support to those officers so that they can stay on the force. I’d like to thank one of my constituents, Alan Crosby, who thought of this idea as a way to honor two fallen officers from Sumter County and across Georgia.  I’m glad that the House approved this bill so that the Governor can put this plan into motion.
The Georgia Senate has gotten a lot done in 35 days, and we’re only going to keep working harder for Georgia’s citizens until time runs out.  Please, if you have any questions about what’s going on up here in Atlanta, reach out to my office. I’ll be happy to talk with you, as always.

Sen. Greg Kirk represents the 13th Senate District which includes Crisp, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, and Worth counties, and portions of Sumter and Wilcox counties. He may be reached at 229.854.9706 or by email at greg.kirk@senate.ga.gov.