On January 14, the Georgia General Assembly began the 2013 Legislative Session with a much different look in one Chamber than in 2012.

The Georgia Senate elected David Shafer (R-Duluth) as President Pro Tempore and Senator Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) as Majority Leader and quickly passed Senate Rules that restored Lt. Governor Cagle’s power that had been previously limited and amended the Senate Rules to cap gifts from any person or group of registered lobbyists at $100 per gift.

The Georgia House of Representatives, as expected, re-elected David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) as Speaker of the House and Jan  Jones (R-Milton) as Speaker Pro-Tem.

In a surprise move, the Georgia Senate passed legislation that addressed the hospital bed provider fee with the passage of Senate Bill 24, the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, which gives the department of Community Health the power to promulgate a program which will work to gain matching federal dollars for the state’s Medicaid program.  Essentially, the Department will collect the fee with the Legislature maintaining oversight of the fee, including a provision that allows a veto over all administrative decisions.  Legislation to address this issue was necessary in order to address a looming $400 million gap in the state Medicaid program and a similar program in in existence with regards to nursing homes.

Governor Deal also unveiled a $19.8 billion dollar budget in his State of the State address, which was reminiscent of 2011 and 2012, in that it still shows effects of the economic downturn, with the gap reaching a billion dollars less than where the state was in 2007-2008, but shows growing signs that economically, Georgia is on the upswing, with a $550 million increase from last year’s budget.

There were additional positive highlights, including:

  • Restoration of the pre-K funding for 180 days and increasing pre-K teacher salaries;
  • $1.6 million for a reading mentor program;
  • Increased funding for the Technical College HOPE Grants;
  • Increase the HOPE Scholarship budget by 3%;
  • $50 Million Bond Package for Savannah Harbor

The Governor concluded by saying, “We have laid our foundations for a strong and successful Georgia-public safety, education, healthcare, economic development and ethics. I look forward to working with each of you this session as we continue to grow Georgia in these most crucial areas.  And together, we will run a state rather than its citizens’ lives.”

The General Assembly is out the week of January 21-26 for Joint House-Senate Budget Hearings and will re-convene on January 28 for Legislative Day 5.

Continue to read Priorities of the Week for updates and Council Members, each week at Advisory Meetings you will receive the complete Under the Gold Dome reports, which are posted on the Council website as well for your convenience.