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Rep. Ron Stephens: Third week of session a busy one
Ron Stephens
State Rep. Ron Stephens

Rep. Ron Stephens

Guest columnist

The Georgia House of Representatives returned to the Gold Dome for the third week of the 2023 legislative session this past Monday, Jan. 23. This was an important week as the Governor, Brian Kemp, gave his State of the State address and outlined his agenda for this year. 

We also celebrated our Men and Women of the Georgia National Guard. Several House committees began meeting this week to adopt committee rules and even discuss some of the first bills of the session. Every bill that comes before us faces an extensive evaluation process by its assigned committee, and many of the bills this session will undergo changes throughout the committee process to help perfect the legislation.

On Wednesday, the General Assembly convened for Gov. Kemp’s State of the State address. This annual address provides an opportunity for our governor to present his assessment on the current condition of our state government, as well as present his legislative priorities for the year ahead.

The Governor focused on the growth the state has experienced over the last year. In less than a year, Georgia generated four of the largest economic development projects in our state’s history, and these projects combined will create more than 20,000 jobs and spur more than $17 billion in investment just in rural Georgia. The governor also touted that 17,500 new jobs and $13 billion in investment have been announced in just the last few months, and 85 percent of these jobs will support various regions of our state, including Bryan County.

This next year, one of the governor’s top priorities includes passing legislation that supports our K-12 public school systems.

First, Gov. Kemp seeks to dedicate an additional $1.9 billion in the current and upcoming budgets solely for education needs, including fully funding the Quality Basic Education formula. He also plans to reinforce the teacher workforce by providing a $2,000 pay raise in the FY 2024 budget for teachers and certified school personnel, among other measures. The governor previously worked with the state legislature to raise teacher pay by $5,000 during his first term in office, and the proposed $2,000 pay increase would make the average teacher’s salary in Georgia more than $7,000 higher than the Southeast regional average.

In addition, the governor plans to invest in our state’s workforce by fully funding Georgia’s HOPE scholarship and grant awards at 100 percent of tuition at Georgia’s public higher education institutions. This would be the first time in more than a decade that scholarships will be funded at 100 percent of tuition.

The governor went on to outline his plan to address the growing needs of our health care workforce. During his address, the governor shared that 67 counties in Georgia have less than 10 physicians operating within county lines, and the state’s nursing shortage continues to impact our health care system. As such, the governor proposed allocating more than $4.5 million in the state budget for loan repayment programs to recruit and retain health care workers here in Georgia.

The House recognized Georgia National Guard Day at the Capitol on Thursday. Several Georgia National Guard leaders joined us in the House Chamber during their visit to the Gold Dome. The guard’s motto is “always ready, always there,” and Georgia’s 15,000 guardsmen continually fulfill their mission to always be ready to serve our citizens and our state.

I will continue to be your voice in dealing with problems or questions about your state government. I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation or current events that may impact our community. I am in 226-A of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 6565115 and my email is ron.

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