It’s been a tough start to Georgia’s legislative session thanks to a major budget battle that’s already dominating the session.
Despite strong economic times, Georgia is in major belt-tightening mode. We’ve always been a well managed, fiscally conservative state because we’ve purposefully underestimated our annual revenue. But now we’re facing revenue shortfalls because of a 2018 state income tax cut.
The governor’s proposed budget will mean deep cuts to critical services like mental healthcare, food inspections and public defenders. The legislative session has adjourned session until February 18 to allow House leaders time to mitigate the damage. In the meantime, I’m working on issues I know are important to you.
Too many of my constituents are struggling to pay their high health insurance premiums and deductibles, and they’re tired of surprise bills for things they thought were covered. So, I filed SB 339, a bill to allow all Georgians, regardless of age, income or insurance status to purchase Medicaid Managed Care. The program would be modeled after our successful Peachcare for Kids program and priced at the same cost it takes for the government to deliver the services. With a public option, the government sets the price instead of a for-profit company, which eliminates profit motive and increases competition in the market to keep costs down for everyone, including those with private plans.
Last year, the Governor vetoed a bill guaranteeing recess for our youngest students. I’ve worked on this issue for decades. Protected play time is essential for child development and learning, so I’m filing a bill to ban graded homework for students in grades K-2. This would give parents the ultimate “local control” over downtime for their kids. I’m also working on a bill to ensure that school trailers are both temporary and safe for our kids.
For our older kids, I’m working on a bill that would require colleges and universities to prorate tuition and fees for part-time students. I’m also busy educating legislators about how young adults are getting priced out of college and technical school due to rising tuition, fees, housing and books. Sadly, Georgia’s popular Dual Enrollment program, which allows high school students to earn free college credits, has been cut drastically this session, pending a final House vote.
We’re all sick of sitting in traffic and we know that managed toll lanes aren’t the ultimate solution. So, I filed SR 654, a Constitutional amendment to allow Georgia’s gas tax to be used for public transit, in addition to roads and bridges. It has already opened up a productive dialogue with the Senate Transportation Committee about the need for dedicated public transit funding. I look forward to working with them on this issue.
It’s an honor to serve you in our legislature. For more frequent updates, subscribe to my weekly email at http://sallyharrell.org/news.
— State Sen. Sally Harrell