Senate Gets Down to Business
By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
Although the Senate was in session for only two days this week, my colleagues and I were very busy under the Gold Dome addressing budget proposals and a key piece of legislation on the Senate Floor.
The week started with Joint Senate and House Appropriations hearings on the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets. Governor Deal kicked off the hearings which included several different agencies presenting their budget proposals. I am happy to say that the state’s budget continues to be in good shape, with the General FY19 budget topping $26 billion for the first time. The General FY19 budget proposals were drafted with an estimated 2.9 percent state fund growth and around 3.8 percent tax revenue growth over the Amended FY18 revenue estimates. Included in the General FY19 budget are increases in funding for education and transportation.
The General FY19 budget addresses the needs for the state to meet determined employer contributions within the Teachers Retirement System with a proposed increase of around $364 million. Additionally, around $120 million would be appropriated for enrollment growth and training. Along with these positive changes in the General FY19 budget, an important proposal in the Amended FY18 budget is adding $15 million to purchase 194 school buses statewide. This will positively impact our students by ensuring that buses are not overcrowded.
The state’s growing need to address transportation infrastructure is also addressed in the General FY19 budget. An additional $31.6 million in projected revenues resulting from House Bill 170 – passed during the 2015 Legislation Session – will be added to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) budget. I am very happy to see that a piece of legislation we passed a couple of years ago is still making positive impacts for GDOT.
Along with attending the budget hearings and carefully reviewing the proposals for the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets, my colleagues and I took up a very important piece of legislation in Senate Chamber. On Thursday, the Senate passed the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, also known as the Adoption Bill, or HB 159. This bill passed with bipartisan support and is now headed over to the House of Representatives for their review. Final passage of this legislation and a signature into law by the Governor would allow our state to update our adoption system which has been the same for nearly 30 years.
The Senate’s version of HB 159 clarifies many of the laws regarding who can adopt, who can act as a legal guardian and the rights held by the biological parents before and after giving their child up for adoption. Additionally, the version the Senate passed on Thursday states that if an agency is not involved in a private adoptive process, living expenses cannot be paid. The only expenses that can be paid in a private adoption are medical and counseling. These are just some of the highlights of the Senate version of HB 159. As this legislation moves through the legislative process, my colleagues and I will work with the Governor and House of Representatives to ensure there is cooperation to address concerns anyone may have. It is imperative that we pass this legislation so that we can assist the large number of children who are in foster care and need a loving and stable home.
The pace of the session is going to pick up quickly with standing committees beginning to hold meetings next week to vet legislation pending from last year along with new bills introduced this year. As we move forward in the session, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns and feedback. It is always great to hear from my constituents and our door is always open.
Getting Started in 2018
By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
On Monday, January 8, 2018, we reconvened for the second session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly, which many anticipate will be very fast-paced. The Georgia Senate began our business with leadership changes and three new members. We will also welcome another new member next week who won a special election on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.
In addition to welcoming three new members, Sen. David Shafer, who served as the Senate President Pro Tempore since 2013, resigned his position and the Georgia Senate nominated and elected Sen. Butch Miller to serve in this role. Sen. Miller is a fellow North Georgian and we are honored to have him as our next Pro Temp. The Senate Committee on Assignments also announced chairmen and committee assignments for the upcoming year.
In addition to my duties as Senate Majority Whip, I will continue to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee, the Secretary of the Appropriations Committee, as a member of the Finance, MARTOC, Regulated Industries and Utilities committees and as ex-officio on the Senate Assignments and Rules committees.
As we draw near to the second week of session, we will begin budget hearings as we craft the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets. During these meetings and agency presentations, I will keep the prosperity of all Georgians in mind as we finely comb through proposals. Our focus will be on saving tax payers’ dollars while ensuring economic growth and job creation continues to grow in our great state.
Something new here at the Georgia Senate is livestreaming of standing committees that meet in one of the five rooms wired during the Senate Transparency Project. This is in addition to the Senate Chamber being livestreamed during session days. The goal of this project is to bring transparency to standing committee meetings, where legislation is discussed and vetted before moving forward in the legislative process. Another objective is to provide access to our process for those who do not live in the metro area and cannot get to Senate committee meetings quickly. I truly encourage you all to take the time to watch these livestreams. But, if you can’t get to a computer during the meeting time, each and every meeting video is archived to be watched during any time—day or night.
On day four of the session, Gov. Deal gave his last State of the State address. Within his address, Gov. Deal focused on the growth across the board within the state of Georgia. For the past five years, Georgia has been named the number one place to do business. Overall, we have a very busy session calendar ahead of us as we work on the Governor’s budget proposals, legislation pending from last year and other issues that may arise.
I would like to say thank you to all of my constituents for your encouragement and care for the 51st District of Georgia. Please call or email me with any questions, comments or concerns you have and I look forward to hearing from you.
ATLANTA – Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega) was recognized as one of Georgia’s most influential people by Georgia Trend magazine. The magazine’s annual list recognizes the 100 Most Influential Georgians.
“It is an honor to be recognized among this distinguished list of leaders in our great state,” said Sen. Gooch. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and local community leaders to keep Georgia moving in the right direction. Over the past several years, we have seen numerous businesses moving to Georgia leading to additional economic growth and job creation. We will work hard during this upcoming session to continue this progress for our state.”
Georgia Trend recognized Sen. Gooch’s work in the Georgia Senate and his consistent efforts to improve education and public schools for children in his district and around the state. They also acknowledged his work on job creation, immigration, tax reform and the right to bear arms. Sen. Gooch has also been a leader for transportation in Georgia.
Georgia Trend releases their 100 Most Influential Georgians list annually. The list includes individuals who make a positive impact on the lives of Georgians and make decisions that affect the well-being of the state. Naming the top 100 is a year-round process and the final list includes those who “have exhibited the character necessary to inspire, challenge, lead – and influence us.”
Additional information can be found on the Georgia Trend magazine website link below:
This past Friday we continued our discussion about rural Georgia with 51st district (R) State Senator and Lumpkin County’s economic development director, Steve Gooch. Our three areas of focus: rural Georgia economy, broadband access, and health care. Although the district doesn’t want to see something in the line of the KIA plant they most certainly would be open to small companies offering high paying, high tech jobs. In order to attract these types of companies; the area must provide good schools, fast internet, and quality health care. We discussed Piedmont Mountainside new stand alone emergency health care center in Gilmer County; a model for quality health care in rural areas. When our discussion turned to high speed internet for the area, Gooch was unable to say they “moved the ball” concerning Senate Bill 232, Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act.
Steve Gooch and John Williamson speak on FYN’s Candidate Day for the citizens on the eve of the election day.
LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. — Much is at stake in state and local elections May 24 but you can’t vote if you’re not registered and the last day to register is Tuesday, April 26.
One of the most important races is in the 9th District where incumbent U.S. Congressman Doug Collins of Gainesville has come under fire from conservatives for his support of President Obama’s Omnibus bill. His challengers include former 10th District Congressman Paul Broun, Lanier Tea Part Patriots founder Mike Scupin, White County educator Roger Fitzpatrick and retired Army and National Guard Brigadier General Bernie Fontaine.
State Senator Steve Gooch of Dahlonega is running for re-election in the 51st District and has drawn a challenger in John Williamson, co-founder of the Gilmer CountyTea Party.
Several key races highlight local elections. Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery has drawn a challenger in current District 1 Commissioner Doug Sherrill. Dr. David Miller and Bill Scott will compete the seat being vacated by Sherrill. There is a four-way race for District 2 Commissioner where the candidates are incumbent Steve Shaw, Bobby Mayfield, Carlton Smith and D.J. Wight.
In the race for District 1 Board of Education, the candidates are Catherine Ariemma, Jay Sessions and Mera Turner.
John Williamson, a 34 year resident of Gilmer County, announced today that he has qualified for the 51st District Senate seat in the May 24th Republican primary. “I am dissatisfied with the paths taken by our legislative leaders, especially with their increased taxation. Rather than sitting back and complaining I decided to take action, to volunteer to be a part of the political process and do what I can to move the ship of state back to common sense Republican ideals. I want to give the voters in the 51st district a choice, one that values transparency; a choice to break away from the entrenched power politics that intimidates us in North Georgia and responds only to the wishes of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the corporations that want to force their values on us and our state. I recognize the difficulties of making a significant change in our state government, but I can promise you that my votes will reflect our shared values.”