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General Assembly gets down to work
Legislative report
Ben Watson
State Sen. Ben Watson represents Bryan County in the Georgia Senate. - photo by File photo

The first official week of the legislative session is one that sets the tone for the work that will get done during the Georgia General Assembly.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle welcomed 55 senators who were sworn in by Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Charlie Bethel.

Chuck Payne was elected to the senate in a Jan. 2 special election. Results will be certified and he will be sworn in soon as the 56th member of the senate.

This ceremony is always a poignant moment for me when I think about our exceptional community and my commitment to represent you with integrity.

During the week, each member was given their committee assignments. The committees are where bills are researched, drafted and discussed.

For the first time in my legislative service I joined the lieutenant governor’s leadership team as chairman of the redistricting and reapportionment committee. This committee will evaluate multi-jurisdictions across the state. I am honored by this assignment and intend to foster an environment of mutual respect across party lines and work efficiently while still being thorough with each decision.

On Jan. 11, Gov. Nathan Deal gave his State of the State Address in which he highlighted his fiscal year 2018 budget proposal and his amended fiscal year 2017 budget. He also focused on education and the unacceptably high number of failing schools across our state.

The governor emphasized that this pattern must be broken since there is a devastating ripple effect on our families, communities and economy when our children are not properly equipped for the workforce.

He said that we can expect to see legislation this session aimed at turning this trend around so our children can have bright futures. He also proposed a 2-percent salary increase for all state teacher positions and a funding increase for K-12 education. In addition, he proposed a 20-percent pay increase for police officers and a 19-percent pay increase for DFCS case workers.

Gov. Deal also expressed his desire that coverage for autism treatment under Medicaid and the state health benefits plan extend to age 21. In support of our veterans, the governor proposed increased funding to remove barriers to mental health services.

As we continued to prepare for the work ahead, the Senate unanimously approved the re-election of Sen. David Shafer as president pro tempore for the 154th General Assembly.

This is his third term in this position and his experience will undoubtedly prove beneficial for a proficiently run session. I look forward to working with him again this year.

As the session continues, I’ll keep you informed each week about our deliberations and legislation that could affect our district. As always, your input is important to me.

Please feel free to contact me at or at 404-656-7880 with your questions and concerns.

Thank you for placing your trust in me and allowing me to serve you!

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