Rep. Shaw re-elected as Rural Caucus chair
During the first week of the 2015 legislative session, I was honored to have been re-elected as chairman of the Georgia Legislative Rural Caucus for another two years.
The Rural Caucus, the second largest caucus in the Georgia General Assembly, is a bipartisan group organized for the purpose of taking a leading role in issues and legislation that impact agriculture, natural resources and the needs of the state’s rural communities.
I look forward to continuing to work with my fellow rural legislators from around the state to ensure a strong future for Georgia’s rural economy and way of life.
Also, members of the House of Representatives received our committee assignments for the 2015-16 legislative term. I was very pleased to have been appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for the annual state budget.
I will also continue to serve as vice chairman of the House Insurance Committee and as a member of the Economic Development & Tourism Committee, Game Fish & Parks Committee and Small Business Development Committee.
‘State of the State’: On Jan. 14, Gov. Nathan Deal delivered his annual “State of the State” message to a joint session of the House and Senate. “Now, our economy is seeing positive growth with thousands of new jobs added every month,” Gov. Deal said. “We’re seeing the tell-tale signs of cranes and bulldozers humming on newly cleared land. We’re seeing home values recover and Georgia families rebuild their savings. And Georgia has been named the No. 1 place in the nation in which to do business by several major rating agencies and has repeated that designation by one of them already. In short, I’m here to report to you today that the state of our state is strong, and getting stronger every day.”
The Governor spoke in favor of an additional financial investment to improve the state's transportation infrastructure, as recommended by a special study committee. The study committee had estimated the need for an addition of $1 billion to $1.5 billion annually to maintain the current road system.
“We must maintain and improve our roads and bridges; we must provide congestion relief; and we must prepare for more freight and more businesses,” the Governor said. “We can debate how much it will cost to do something; but let us not forget how much it will cost to do nothing.”
On education, Gov. Deal asked lawmakers to pass a constitutional amendment to establish an "Opportunity School District," in which the state would take over the operation of individual failing schools. He has also appointed an Education Reform Commission for the purpose of overhauling the state's Quality Basic Education funding formula for local school systems.
“If we want our young people to have hope, let’s give them the greatest beacon of hope we can confer on them – a quality education that leads to a good job, a stable family and the stairway to the future,” Gov. Deal said.
The Governor continued his call for criminal justice reforms and proposed combining the supervision functions of three state agencies – the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Corrections – into a new Department of Community Supervision.
Gov. Deal expressed support for decriminalizing and controlling the use of cannabis oil for the medical treatment of certain conditions, including childhood seizures. He said he does not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and opposes allowing marijuana to be grown or sold in the state.
Solar Financing Plan: Legislation aimed at assisting homeowners and small businesses with generating their own energy from solar panels has been approved by a subcommittee of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. HB 57, which would allow residents and business owners to lease solar panel systems for their property, has the support of the Georgia Solar Energy Association. The bill now goes to the full committee for its consideration.
Budget Hearings: Following the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, I will join my fellow members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for hearings and initial work on the proposed budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2015 and the annual budget for fiscal year 2016. The full General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 26 for the fifth legislative day of the session.
Please feel free to contact me throughout the session with your thoughts on these and other issues, or whenever I can be of service. My legislative office is located at 508-A Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone 404-656-0213 or email email@example.com.