By Sen. John Wilkinson (R–Toccoa)

On Jan. 17, the Senate wrapped up its first week of the 2020 Legislative Session and started preparing for the 36 days to follow. As part of the second term of the 155th Georgia General Assembly, members of the Senate and our established leadership were able to get started on a number of issues and initiatives that will better the lives of all Georgians and help us continue our economic success in business and agriculture. We had a number of wins last year, such as House Bill 481, the LIFE Act, House Bill 35 that I carried in the Senate, and a number of other Senate Bills I sponsored. I believe this year we will be just as productive, as we tackle some of the most critical policies in our state and district. I will keep you updated on specific legislation down the road, but I will continue to fight for your needs and our beliefs.

As Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, the financial prosperity of farmers and rural communities will remain one of my top priorities. The devastations following Hurricane Michael are still felt throughout Georgia and despite the federal aid and legislative assistance we received during the year, there is still a long road to recovery. Our state’s ability to support our agriculture industry, a foundational aspect of our economy, is a number one issue. In addition to my position on Agriculture, I will also continue my involvement as Vice-Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee, member of the Natural Resources and Environment and Appropriations Committees, and Ex-Officio of the Rules Committee. I will seek legislation that ensures every aspect of Georgia is able to thrive.

On Wednesday, I attended the Eggs and Issues Breakfast hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Here, I was fortunate enough to listen to Governor Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and U.S. Senator David Perdue talk about Georgia’s competitiveness in our nation. Georgia is indeed a great place to do business, as seen by our exceptionally low unemployment rates and vast business expansion – both in Georgia and the United States. Governor Kemp acknowledged our ability to sustain and even further this great success, and I was especially appreciative of his acknowledgement to spend greater investments in education. As highlighted by the Governor and Lt. Governor, education is key to generating greater innovation and entrepreneurship. Likewise, our rural communities deserve greater attention in health, education and development in order to fuel the economic prosperity we have here.

Gov. Kemp’s State of the State Address built upon these priorities even more. Some of the initiatives he announced were lower healthcare costs, efforts to reduce gang action and human trafficking, and a Professorship in honor of Sen. Johnny Isakson to spark Parkinson’s research. I, in particular, want to recognize his emphasis on the value of education in Georgia. As put by the Governor, our teachers are public servants working tirelessly to help Georgians realize their true God-given potential. I stand in complete support of the Governor’s plan to fully fund education and provide teachers the necessary resources they need through a $2,000 pay raise.

These, coupled with the Senate Majority Caucus’ priorities will help impact even more Georgians. A few of the caucus priorities I would like to highlight are incentives to expand broadband access to rural areas, an effort to empower the work of our law enforcement, systems to create marketplace fairness and reforms of our healthcare system to improve the well-being of all constituents.

I would like to end the first week by remembering our colleague Sen. Greg Kirk. We were blessed by his presence and his exuberance will be greatly missed in the Capitol. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. If you would like to talk about the legislative impact on your community, please contact my office or stop by. I look forward to working with you!

Sen. John Wilkinson serves as Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. He represents the 50th Senate District which includes Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens and Towns counties and portions of Hall and Jackson counties. He can be reached by phone at 404-463-5257 or by email at john.wikinson@senate.ga.gov.

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