Week 8 of the legislative session has officially passed, and we are less than one week away from Crossover Day.

I look forward to what my colleagues and I will accomplish as we approach our busiest days, and I will continue to keep you informed on legislation. We passed many important bills and resolutions last week, and I would like to tell you about a few of them.

On Monday, the Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 396, which would designate the pecan as the official state nut of Georgia. Pecans are an important crop in Georgia, and historically we have been one of the top pecan-producing states in the country. When Hurricane Michael hit, it devastated our pecan industries. Pecan growers are still recovering from the destruction, but our hope is this legislation will encourage pecan growers, and promote agritourism across Georgia. 

Additionally, the Senate passed a bill that will benefit our education system immensely. Senate Bill 367 would cut end-of-course tests in half for Georgia high school students. Under this legislation, exams would be limited to four core courses instead of the eight exams required now. SB 367 would also maximize instructional time by proposing a new testing window for grades 3-8, whereas tests will now be conducted in the last five weeks of school. This will allow teachers more time to focus on developing students academically and professionally. Additionally, the state will shorten the length of the Georgia Milestones assessment for students in grades 3-8 by removing redundant items that are already measured elsewhere. Our students are worth more than a grade on a test. They have talents and dreams. This legislation makes the proper reforms to recognize this.

The Senate also passed the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY20) budget. The AFY20 budget is derived from approximately 0.05-percent state fund growth and a 1.1-percent increase in Department of Revenue collections. In it are specific allotments and reductions that I would like to highlight:

•Reduces $2.3 million across multiple scholarship fund programs due to considerable funds available in reserve.

•Adds $819,000 for agents and analysts of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Gang Task Force and adds $420,000 for development of a gang database.

•Reduces a total of $1.8 million to share in cost reduction in statewide operations/non-grant activities.

Adds an additional $269,000 for startup costs for the Georgia State-wide Business Court.

This week we will meet for Crossover Day. We will work to ensure legislation that will positively impact the lives of Georgians can make it out of the Senate in the time to be debated in the House. If you have any questions regarding the budget or any other legislation facing the Senate, please do not hesitate to contact me. Although it will be a very busy week under the Gold Dome, I am never too busy to hear from you.

Sen. Frank Ginn serves as chairman of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee. He represents the 47th Senate District, which includes Barrow and Madison counties and portions of Clarke and Jackson counties. He can be reached at 404-656-4700 or by email at frank.ginn@senate.ga.gov.

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