Category Archives: Politics

Deal Signs Education Bills Increasing Opportunities for Students, Military Members

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed legislation that expands students’ and service members’ access to postsecondary education and jobs skills training.

“Investing in education at every level — from our youngest minds to graduating high school seniors to returning service members and military veterans — has been, and remains, one of my top priorities,” said Deal. “With the help of the General Assembly, we’ve demonstrated our commitment to students, teachers and education initiatives each year. To that end, the 2017 budget includes an additional $300 million intended for teacher salary increases, $26.2 million more for Pre-K teacher pay raises and another $29.4 million for Move on When Ready programs.

“The legislation I signed today builds upon previous efforts to advance educational opportunities for all Georgians. As students exit the classroom and enter the workforce, they must be prepared and equipped with the skills necessary to succeed. This legislation will help cement Georgia’s reputation for the top-notch quality of our workforce, the strength of our economy and the vibrancy of our communities.”

Signed legislation includes:

  • HB 801, which incentivizes student enrollment in STEM college courses
  • HB 54, which provides tuition grants to children of law enforcement and public safety officers killed in the line of duty
  • HB 1072, which expands financial aid opportunities for members of the Georgia National Guard
  • HB 895, which provides support and training for charter school board members to ensure sound fiscal management
  • SB 18, which grants technical college credits for skills acquired during military service
  • SB 364, which changes teacher evaluation measurements and state testing requirements
  • HB 802, which increases contribution limits for families utilizing college savings plans
  • HB 798, which expands Zell Miller Scholarship eligibility for Georgia’s highest achieving home study students

All 2016 legislation updates may be found here.

Deal signs FY 2017 Budget

Gov. Nathan Deal today held budget signing ceremonies throughout the state for next year’s $23.7 billion state budget. The signed version of House Bill 751 will support Georgia citizens by funding initiatives in education, public safety, economic development, health care and other key areas.

“The FY 2017 budget will help build upon the things that matter most to the citizens of this state: An education system that promotes quality in the classroom, communities that will be safer tomorrow than they were yesterday, a government that utilizes efficiencies to help Georgians, and an economy that supports job growth,” Deal said. “I commend the General Assembly for working with me once again to balance the budget while meeting growing cost demands, funding priorities and strengthening our Rainy Day Fund.”

FY 2017 budget highlights include:

  • $23.7 billion in total state appropriations
  • $825 million in new state general and motor fuel funds for transportation
  • $8.9 million for the continuation of criminal justice reforms
  • $29.4 million in additional funds for the Move on When Ready dual-enrollment program
  • $300 million in additional funds intended for teacher salary increases
  • $26.2 million for Pre-K teacher pay raises
  • $172 million in additional funds for salary increases for state employees, as well as an additional $56 million to address employee recruitment and retention needs in positions with high turnover

The finalized budget includes an additional $300 million for K-12 education that local school districts can use to enhance teacher salaries while also working to keep students and teachers in the classroom for full calendar years.  Education funding, which is the largest segment of state appropriations, also includes substantial support for Pre-K teachers, tuition coverage for an additional in-demand industry for Georgia’s technical college students, and over $29 million in additional funds for Move on When Ready. Georgia has recently worked to expand dual-enrollment opportunity for high school students seeking to earn college credit through its Move on When Ready program.

The budget also includes funding for salary increases to help recruit and retain high-performing state employees, including for jobs with large amounts of turnover, such as public health nurses, corrections officers and public safety officers.  This effort can enhance services provided for Georgians by reducing turnover and increasing efficiency. The amount includes approximately $3.8 million for law enforcement officers at the Department of Public Safety, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Natural Resources to ensure the state continues to retain experienced and skilled officers to keep Georgians safe, which is in addition to any statewide increases.

The state’s transportation agency will receive approximately $825 million in additional appropriations as a result of last year’s House Bill 170, which has resulted in a sustainable increase in funding that will help maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges. In addition, the state will again utilize $100 million in bonds for bridge repairs and improvements.

Next year’s budget also continues to promote inmate education initiatives, as well as expanded use of community based alternatives to sentencing, which play a pivotal role in the state’s criminal justice reform efforts.  These efforts are yielding positive results for state finances and the individuals involved.

The fiscal year begins July 1.

Congressman Collins: Freedom of Religion is a Constitutional Right

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Collins issued the following statement on the ongoing court case of Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling, a Marine who was criminally charged, court martialed, and reduced in rank for refusing to take down a Bible verse in her desk area at her office. She is challenging an earlier decision by Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, at the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which is the highest military court.

“No American should have to endure workplace hostility because of their religious convictions. Lance Corporal Sterling has taken her case up to the highest military court, and fought a hard battle to defend her sincerely held beliefs. As a Chaplain in the Air Force Reserve, I have seen the important role faith plays in the lives of service members. Chaplains serve as a spiritual resource for service members of any faith, or no faith at all. It is our job to offer counseling to anyone seeking guidance, and we are also there to stand up for free expression. I signed an amicus curiae brief last year with 40 other Members of Congress who support Lance Corporal Sterling’s fight for religious freedom, and I will continue to stand up for those in the armed forces who face discrimination for their beliefs.”