On Friday, March 30, 2018, at approximately 12:12 a.m., the Georgia Senate adjourned Sine Die for the 2018 Legislative Session. These 40 legislative days have been filled with huge victories, a couple of which I would like to highlight here:
Quality Basic Education (QBE)
On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, Governor Deal announced an increase of more than $194 million for the FY 2019 state revenue estimate. As a result, Governor Deal amended his initial budget recommendation to include an additional $167 million for K-12 education. His recommendation resulted in the QBE funding formula being fully funded for the first time since 1985. This gives our public schools the money they need to improve student performance by reducing classroom size and enhancing public safety initiatives.
House Bill 918, the first income tax cut since 1937, has been passed and signed by the Governor, making it Georgia law. House Bill 918 will substantially lower the top income tax rate for individuals and corporations from 6 percent to 5.75 percent in 2019 and to 5.5 percent in 2020, pending approval from the Georgia General Assembly. It also doubles the standard deduction for filers of all statuses. This is great news for all citizens, as a family of four with $30,000 in annual household income would pay 32 percent less in taxes.
Furthermore, I would like to touch on the bills I sponsored during this session.
Waiving Medicaid Recipient Estate Claims
Under current law, the Department of Community Health (DCH) may make a claim against the estate of a Medicaid recipient for any amount of medical assistance. Senate Bill 370 amends Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia by clarifying that DCH can waive the first $25,000 against the estate of a Medicaid recipient. I believe that this is the best way to level the playing field for everyone. Senate Bill 370 passed unanimously through both the Senate and House.
The Georgia Agricultural Education Act
This session, I introduced Senate Bill 330, which will create agricultural education pilot programs in several elementary schools throughout the state. Under SB 330, the Department of Education will also work with local school systems to establish school based agricultural education curriculum for middle and high school students. Because agriculture is the state’s No. 1 industry, I believe it is important for students to understand where their food comes from at an early age. Senate Bill 330 passed unanimously through the Senate and House. I am honored to have been a part of such a monumental moment for agricultural education in Georgia.
Reducing CUVA Discontinuation Penalties on Family-Owned Farms
Senate Bill 458 would allow family-owned farms that wish to discontinue Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) agreements to do so at a reduced penalty if the landowner is over 65 years old and the land has been in the covenant for 13 years or more. I believe that this bill also serves as a way to level the playing field and to protect our family-owned farms in Georgia.
If you are interested in hearing about pieces of legislation that passed or have questions about bills that are eligible for the Governor’s approval, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. You can reach me at 404.463.5257 or by email at email@example.com. As always, it has been a pleasure to serve you in the Georgia Senate.
About the author: Sen. John Wilkinson serves as Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and Vice Chairman of the Education and Youth Committee. He represents the 50th Senate District which includes Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Rabun, Stephens and Towns counties and portions of Hall and Jackson counties. He can be reached by phone at 404.463.5257 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.