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Sen. Ben Watson: Senate releases legislative plan
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Sen. Ben Watson

Guest columnist

Your Georgia General Assembly is in full swing as we begin the process of introducing new legislation, assigning them to relevant committees for review and amending or determining that they aren’t going to move forward. This week we also hosted the Governor for his State of the State remarks. In addition, the leadership of the Senate revealed their legislative initiatives for the 2023 General Assembly session as well as the future.

Governor Brian Kemp gave his State of the State Address on Wednesday to a joint House-Senate session, held in the House chamber. He reflected on his first term and credited the state’s greatest achievements to both chambers working hand-in-hand with his office, resulting in economic growth. Gov. Kemp outlined education, public safety, and healthcare as legislative priorities. He also clearly stated some budget highlights, citing the $1.9 billion to be devoted to education and fully funding the QBE Formula. Gov. Kemp also announced 17,500 news jobs that are expected to bring in more than $13 billion in investments to Georgia.

Gov. Kemp made clear that he intends to fulfill former-Governor Zell Miller’s vision for the HOPE Scholarship, covering 100% of tuition for eligible students. By covering 100% of tuition, students will receive roughly $1,000 in additional financial assistance in the coming school year.

The Senate released our Legislative Initiatives Plan, addressing four points of focus including the economy, workforce development, public safety and health and wellbeing for families.

We intend to conduct prudent income tax reform and a tax credit review, support and implement new taxpayer and homeowner tax relief initiatives, and lay the groundwork for the continued electrification of transportation.

By continuing to create an educated workforce, we will work to improve literacy rates in line with graduation rates, implement learning loss grants from the COVID pandemic, and review degree requirements for state employment. Regarding public safety, we will seek serious penalties for the recruitment of minors for gang activity, seek aggressive bail bond reform for violent offenses, and set enhanced school safety legislation. The Senate strongly supports a continued focus on the health and wellbeing of families and at-risk youth, and we will further look at the expansion of telehealth services for rural and underserved communities. I believe there will be bipartisan approval for increased support for foster families and children, as well as for extended benefits for income-eligible pregnant women.

One issue that I will personally be involved in this session is the treatment for certain children in our foster care system.

While many of the children in our foster care system are well treated, all children in foster care deserve to receive a proper education and the physical and mental health care they need.

However, there are a few that unfortunately have grave mental disorders from trauma or other issues and struggle to be placed into a longterm foster care situation or adoption. These children are often alone, being shuffled around due to their mental issues, and with limited hope. To that end, we will work aggressively to find solutions to the problem and work to find a legislative solution to guarantee their needs are met and their safety is protected.

Thank you for your continued interest in the General Assembly session. As your public servant, feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email.

I am in 325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880, and my email is ben.watson@senate. I look forward to continuing to serve you.

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