The Georgia General Assembly returned to the Gold Dome on Feb. 18 for the sixth week of the 2020 legislative session. With one-third of the legislative session already under our belts, the week was busy from start to finish.
On Feb. 19, we passed one of the most important bills of the legislative session, House Bill 792, to amend the state budget for the current fiscal year. The House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees have worked many long hours so far this session to finalize the AFY 2020 budget bill based on Gov. Kemp’s budget proposal and fulfill our constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget. During this process, the House made adjustments to the governor’s recommendations to reflect several House priorities and restore funding to vital state programs and services.
One of our priorities included restoring important funding for programs and services related to criminal justice, public safety and the court systems. The House also included new funding of more than $1.2 million for the GBI’s gang database and task force to help local law enforcement agencies combat gang violence.
We also restored funds for several areas within the Department of Community Affairs, such as $54,225 in funding for the Georgia Advocacy Office to ensure that citizens with disabilities receive pro-active support and $100,000 for the southwest state hub of the Statewide Independent Living Council’s Home Access Program to promote independence for people with disabilities.
The House reallocated more than $345,000 to the state’s Forestry Research program to further address the 2.4 million acres of forest that were impacted by Hurricane Michael in 2018. Under HB 792, the House restored funding for several services that seek to enhance access to health care for citizens across the state. The amended budget restored $2.6 million for public health grants to county health departments, which provide basic health care services, programs and resources to local communities.
HB 792 also included a restoration of $150,000 to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia for training, education programs and mobile unit testing. Furthermore, the House’s budget fully restored the 4% cut to the Mercer School of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine operating grants and fully restored the proposed 25 percent cut of $463,000 for the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center at Mercer School of Medicine. The House also prioritized funding adjustments for mental health and disability services in the AFY 2020 budget. HB 792 added $5.4 million to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities for crisis beds and behavioral health core services, which would allow the DBHDD to maintain its current serving capacity.
Feel free to contact me by email, Gerald.firstname.lastname@example.org, or at my office at (404) 656-5105. You may also feel free to write to me at 206 Washington St. SW, 131 State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga. 30334.