If you are a follower of politics in Georgia you have heard a few dozen times by now that this session will be one of the fastest in recent memory. The first week of the legislative session lived up to that billing as the legislature scheduled their first nine legislative days consecutively (with the exception of the weekend and Martin Luther King Jr. Day yesterday) and budget hearings were trimmed from three days to one afternoon. Here is a rundown from the first week:
Spencer introduces HB 750:
This week, Spencer introduced House Bill 750 which allows for non-profit organizations that promote access to affordable housing to be exempt from the requirement of getting a state license to offer low-interest mortgages (See the report from the Athens Banner-Herald). This means that non-profits will be able to focus their resources on helping low-income families realize the dream of home ownership. This legislation matches an exemption in federal law implemented in 2010 financial reform legislation that passed Congress. Application screening procedures at non-profits like Habitat for Humanity meet the same goals of government licensing by ensuring sound practice and keeping foreclosure rates low. Foreclosure rates on Habitat loans are between 1 and 2 percent.
Governor Deal gave his State-of-the-State address where he outlined his legislative goals and his vision for Georgia’s FY 2015 Budget. In his speech, he announced his intention that Georgia would start the deepening project of the Port of Savannah this year. He also outlined a proposal for a new Zell Miller HOPE Grant Scholarship program to provide 100% tuition for technical college students who maintain a 3.5 GPA and $10 million for a one percent interest loan program for technical college students. Finally, Governor Deal announced $44.8 million to improve internet and digital learning resources in schools across the state.
State-of-the-State Response by Senator Jason Carter:
Senator Carter gave a response to Governor Deal’s State-of-the-State where he outlined his vision for Georgia’s future. In his speech he announced a constitutional amendment proposal that would have Georgia legislators consider the budget in two parts. The first part would focus on education where all education spending is debated and voted on. The second part would be a debate and vote on all other funding programs in the state budget. Education constitutes a little over half of Georgia’s budget each year.
The House and Senate also passed their first bills this week. On Friday, the House passed HB 310 that sets aligns the state election calendar with the federal election calendar so that all primaries will take place on May 20th. A federal judge ruled last year that there must be a 45-day window between primary and general elections and subsequent runoffs to give overseas military personnel time to cast absentee ballots.
Finally, the House honored two legislators who passed away since the end of the 2013 session. Quincy Murphy has represented Augusta in the House since 2002. House Speaker David Ralston described him before the chamber, saying “I came to love Quincy very much over the years. Quincy was solid as a rock… although he was quiet, he was powerful, and the fruits of his labor bore that out.” The House also honored Calvin Hill who has represented Ball Ground since 2002. Speaker Ralston described Hill as “one of the most principled public servants in our state. He fought hard for the ideals he believed in and never grew weary of doing what was right.” We’d like to honor these two men and thank them for their combined two decades of service to our state as well as offer our thoughts and prayers to their families.
As always, thank you for the honor of serving as your Representative in the Georgia House. Have a great week!