State Sen. Ben Watson, MD, Guest writer.
With Thursday’s adjournment signifying the end of our 18th legislative day, we are quickly approaching the halfway point of the 2022 Legislative Session. With the constitutionally-allowed forty days of legislative sessions that the General Assembly can use to take care of the business of the State, it is important with the rule that “crossover day,” the last day a Senate bill can be sent to the House for debate and passage and vice versa, is rapidly coming. That day is Day 28 and is scheduled for March 15, 2022.
The Senate worked this week on the 2022 Mid-Year Supplemental budget, and I expect a senate vote on it in it in the coming days. We worked to balance the midyear budget of $29.9 billion, taking into consideration a surplus that resulted from higher-than-expected revenues and COVID funding from the federal government. It has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
As discussed in prior weeklies, a massive tax refund will be coming your way as we look to approve the governor’s plan to return $1.6 billion back to taxpayers. Those refunds would be between $250 and $500. We also included a $2,000 raise for educators, fulfilling the $5,000 pay increase that Gov. Brian Kemp promised on the campaign trail in 2018, and reverses cuts made to education early in the pandemic when revenues initially plummeted.
Also included in the package is an across-the-board $5,000 pay raise to state workers in hopes of curbing employee turnover.
This is the first cost-of-living adjustment that state workers have received in over 14 years.
One of my own personal top priorities has been to expand, help and support mental health issues, including $10 million to fund service cancelable loans to Georgia students.
enrolled in behavioral health degree programs. We take this path in hopes of bolstering mental health workforce. This program is a major element of the behavior health proposal announced last month.
In other legislative action, we passed several measures aimed at providing additional financial security for our officers and imposing harsher penalties on those who carry out the most detestable of crimes.
For instance, we passed Senate Bill 84, which would add communications officers to those eligible to enter into the Peace Officer’s Annuity and Benefit Fund.
We also passed Senate Bill 461, legislation that would make it that much more difficult for someone convicted of human trafficking to be bailed out by elevating that authority to a superior court.
One issue that I’m very supportive is the riddance of bullying at all levels of our society. The Senate passed a cyberbullying bill, S.B. 316, legislation that would require parents and students notified that certain acts of cyberbullying may be considered stalking. This is such an important step to take to thwart the unsettling rise in mental health struggles among our student population.
We also passed S.B. 360, known as “Colton’s Law,” which would increase penalties against those who are convicted of cruelty against a disabled minor.
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 email@example.com.
I look forward to continuing to serve you.