2016 Capitol Update Week 6 – Big Budget, Big Trucks, Big Buildings

We returned to the Capitol after the President’s Day holiday for an incredibly busy week. Here are several highlights:

HB 751, the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget (FY 2017) – Big Budget

The General Assembly has one constitutional obligation each year; to pass a balanced state budget. The House passed HB 751, the FY 2017 budget at $23.7 billion in state funds by a vote of 167-1. The total budget exceeds $47.5 billion including Federal funds and grants.

Of the $23.7 billion in state spending, education accounts for more than half. FY 2017 includes a $300 million appropriation for K-12 education for local school boards to givesalary increases. HB 751 also includes $44.4 million for formula earnings at both the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System. College students will NOT experience a tuition increase next fall due to the work of Governor Deal, Speaker Ralston and the General Assembly.

Georgia continues at the forefront of criminal justice reforms and state juvenile justice facilities have seen a 25 percent decrease in population. To maintain this progress, FY 2017 includes an additional $3.8 million to expand the state’s accountability courts. Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson credited accountability courts with reducing crime by 45 percent and saving the state more than $51 million in prison costs in 2015.

The FY 2017 budget also included $825 million in new state general and motor fuel funds, a result of HB 170 the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, to help improve the state’s roads and bridges. Speaking of roads and bridges, please note the position I tookin opposition to HB 411 to increase truck weights detailed below.

I voted YES on the FY 2017 budget. Click link for a one-page budget summary – Thanks Pro Tem Jones!

HB 34, the “Georgia Right to Try Act”

Authored by retiring Rep. Mike Dudgeon, HB 34 was unanimously passed by the House and would give some terminally-ill patients faster access to experimental drugs and procedures that have passed the first of three phases in the FDA drug approval process. There are 24 states that have similar legislation in place, and it is my hope that Georgia will become the 25th state to enact this type of legislation offering suffering Georgian’s an opportunity at life-altering treatment. I voted YES.

HB 798, HOPE for Home Study Students

Authored by Grayson’s Rep. Joyce Chandler, HB 798 would change some requirements for the HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarships to consider home schooled students and students graduating from previously ineligible or non-accredited high schools. The bill seeks to keep our brightest students in Georgia. I voted YES.

HB 411 – Big Trucks

Much of my work at the Capitol is in committee or in the office or on the computer – researching, writing, advocating for what you have indicated to me is in the best interest of our community. One such issue deals with HB 411 that would dramatically increase truck weights on our county and city roads. I opposed the measure as did many others. For a taste of what goes on in committee and rarely makes the news, I’ve attached two letters I authored in dissent to the bill. At present, HB 411 remains in the House Transportation Committee and may not pass this year.

HB 411 Dissent and HB 411 Substitute Dissent


HB 592 – Big Buildings

I authored and the House passed HB 592 this week providing the designation of Structural Engineer in Georgia. The bill creates no new bureaucracy; rather, adds two initials S.E. after the Professional Engineers current P.E. designation for those practicing in this life-safety area of the field. The bill passed 169-2 and I voted YES on my own bill.

Next Week

HB 859 – Campus safety bill providing law-abiding students over the age of 21 with a Weapons Carry License the ability to carry a concealed firearm on college campuses except in dormitories or sporting events. I intend to vote YES.

Committee Meetings

Both the House and Senate are now actively considering bills – both remaining from last year as well as newly introduced legislation. You may view the meeting schedules online as well as watch many of the meetings live via your computer.

Live Video from both Chambers

Let me hear from you

As always, I remain appreciative that you allow me to serve as your state Representative. I encourage you to contact me with any comments or questions you have about the legislation being considered at the state Capitol.  You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0254 or on my cell at 404-966-5804 or via email at brett.harrell@house.ga.gov.

Thanks for allowing me to serve,