As mandated by the Constitution of the State of Georgia, your Georgia House of Representatives convened on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, for the first year of the 156th Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. To help curb the spread of COVID, all Members and House staff will be required to be tested twice weekly during the 2021 Session, wear masks, and practice social distancing. Both House and Senate chambers and all committee rooms have been configured to allow attendees to keep a physical distance so that the regular business of the legislature can be conducted.
Speaker David Ralston (7th) was re-elected as speaker; Representative Jan Jones (47th) was re-elected speaker pro tempore; Bill Reilly was re-elected clerk, as well as the doorkeeper and House messenger for the 2021-2022 term.
All members were sworn in and the Rules of the House were adopted for the 2021-2022 session.
The Speaker welcomed the new members and discussed the challenges the Georgia General Assembly has faced in the past, and how its members can keep Georgia moving through the pandemic and divisive climate of the past months to navigate a path to a brighter future for our state with leadership that is honest, fair, compassionate, and courageous.
The first adjournment resolution, HR 10, was adopted and sets the calendar through Legislative Day 5. Next week, the Joint Senate and House Appropriations Joint Budget Hearings, where we will hear from the state agencies as to their budget requests.
This Thursday, January 14, Governor Kemp will deliver the State of the State address. His address will not be a Joint Session, as usual, due to safety guidelines. Also due to political tensions, security is in high alert at the Capitol complex. Revenue collections are on the rise despite the pandemic. The State of Georgia’s net tax collections in December totaled $2.40 billion, for an increase of $171.4 million, or 7.7 percent, compared to December 2019 when net tax collections totaled almost $2.23 billion. Year-to-date, net tax revenue collections totaled $12.57 billion, for an increase of $722.5 million, or 6.1 percent, compared to FY 2020. We will await the Governor’s recommendation’s for the supplemental 2021 and FY 2022 budget.
We anticipate a number of election reform bills to be introduced. Speaker of the House David Ralston announced he will appoint a special committee in the House to address election integrity, election security and recommend changes to shore up confidence in Georgia elections. At the end of the day, the election system should be evidence based and uniform across our state to eliminate any issues of impropriety and any appearance of the same. The perception of the public, regarding the election process is paramount to the foundations of our democracy.
Governor Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner, Kathleen Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., announced plans to add adults aged 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders to the current group of individuals eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccination. Healthcare workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities are already in this highest priority group. The expanded administration of vaccine is expected to begin within the next two weeks provided there is adequate vaccine supply available. Although, with the urgency of getting the vaccine rolled out, it has been a slow start, because there hasn’t been enough of the vaccine supplied to Georgia, nor enough health care workers to give the immunization. These issues are being resolved.
I will be reporting weekly on other issues to keep you informed and please know my appreciation and dedication of the citizens of Franklin, Hart and Madison Counties. Meanwhile, if I can be of assistance to you on any matter of state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 404-463-3793 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Powell represents District 32 of the Georgia House of Representatives.