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Friday, January 19, 2018

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, JANUARY 19, 2018

SESSION BEGINS WITH UNCERTAINTY FROM WASHINGTON

The 2018 Session of the General Assembly has opened with a bright outlook for the state for the year ahead but with a degree of caution due to uncertainty from Washington. Gov. Deal has submitted conservative budget proposals for Amended FY 2018 and the General Budget for FY 2019. There seems to be a general feeling among members to expedite the Session and not delay getting back home for campaigns this election year.

GOVERNOR'S AMENDED BUDGET PROPOSALS

The Governor's Amended budget proposal adds $313.0 million or 2.3% to the FY 2018 Budget.

Highlights include:

--$102.1 million for the Midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth

--$43.6 million for Indigent Care Trust Fund and Medicaid

--$17.6 million to repay counties & school systems through the Forestland Protection Act
Grants

--$10 million for Beach nourishment at Jekyll Island due to hurricane damage

--$25.2 million to bring some rural airports up to modern 5000 ft. runway standards

--$1 million for Technical College System for 2 Mobile Welding Teaching Laboratories to teach welding

--$3.4 million for heavy equipment for Forestry Commission

--$15 million for 194 school buses for local systems

--$500,000 for supplies for GBI to address backlog of DNA processing for sexual assault kits

--$15.1 million for child welfare services for expenses of children in state custody

GOVERNOR'S FY 2019 BUDGET PROPOSALS

The General Budget for FY 2019 totals a little over $26 billion and increases spending by
3.7 %.

Highlights include:
--$361.7 million for the Actuarially Determined Employer Contribution to maintain the Teachers Retirement System

--$255.9 million for Medicaid to fund growth and to offset the loss of other funds

--$100 million in Bonds for the third year of a three year plan to upgrade, repair and replace bridges statewide

--$22.9 million to implement recommendations of the Commission on Children's Mental Health

--$34.4 million for growth of Dual Enrollment for High School students

--$15 million for Developmental Disabilities Waivers expansion and supportive housing

--Approximately $7 million added to $3.5 million in Amended 18 for recommendations of the Children's Autism Initiative

-- $259.5 million in Bonds for construction and renovations of K-12 facilities statewide

--$266.7 million in Bonds for capital projects at Regents institutions statewide

LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN THE SENATE

--SB 299-- Attempts to minimize fraudulent property and general transactions. Requires an attorney to sign before recording that the transaction is not fraudulent. Increases the penalty of a notary public for knowingly notarizing a certificate containing false statements from a misdemeanor to a felony.

--SB 321-- Doubles the penalties for false or fraudulent Medicaid claims.

--SB 315-- Defines the crime of unauthorized computer access, placing it alongside the crime of computer password disclosure. Denotes the penalty for these crimes as a misdemeanor of high and aggravated nature, while adding two new venues where these crimes apply.

--SB 319-- Removes office of State Fire Marshall from the Department of Insurance. Creates the Department of Fire Safety, Commissioner of Fire Safety, Fire Safety Advisory Board, and a Professional Development Division tasked with overseeing training.

--SB 324-- Allows municipalities to contract with any neighboring county to build and maintain bridges.

ADOPTION BILL PASSES SENATE

--HB 159-- At least 6 months state residency is required. Allows for payment of birth parents' expenses and legal fees in both private and agency adoptions. Allows parents to temporarily delegate parental authority through a power of attorney to a relative or approved non-relative.

Currently, it takes on average 30.7 months in Georgia to complete an adoption. This bill seeks to move the state closer to the national adoption average of 13.4 months.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2018 budget (H.B. 44) may be found at http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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