This week, the Senate convened the 155th Georgia General Assembly and inaugurated a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor and other constitutional officers. It was an exciting week, and a glance at some of the issues we will face in the upcoming months. I think it is worth mentioning that our state is at a crossroads as we change from one administration to another. Our state is at a time of great prosperity with our strong economy, but we are fighting to keep our state’s farmers above water after Hurricane Michael’s devastation. This legislative session is likely to be one of the most impactful we have seen in years as we have so many important topics, such as voting machines, rural broadband, health care and education, to consider. I look forward to keeping you updated on the strides we make and the progress we achieve.
The first day of the legislative session was also the inauguration of Governor Brian P. Kemp and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. It was an exciting ceremony as we heard for the first time from our newly elected constitutional officers as they hinted at their plans for the state. I was honored to serve as a member of the escort committee at this event along with other leaders in the Senate and House, and was inspired by Gov. Kemp and Lt. Governor Duncan’s desire to help grow our state and uphold the freedoms we hold dear. We have a lot to look forward to over the next several years.
Earlier this week, I was reappointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. I am incredibly proud to hold this position, one so important to the well-being of the residents and the economy of Georgia. With the losses last year due to Hurricane Michael, this role is more important than ever and I intend to treat the position with the respect it deserves. I was also appointed to serve in several other key membership roles as Vice-Chairman for the Education and Youth Committee, and as a member of the Natural Resources and the Environment and Appropriations Committees. I promise that I will work to ensure that every piece of legislation put through these committees is impactful and well thought out.
I appreciate that Governor Kemp in his State of the State address acknowledged the devastation of Hurricane Michael on the rural communities of Georgia. I was also happy to hear that broadband and medical care expansion to the rural areas of Georgia are high on his priority list. These are things that are important to myself and to all Georgians living in rural areas. I look forward to seeing the future accomplishments of the Kemp administration, and I plan to work alongside him in his goal to bring the needed resources to all regions of Georgia.
Additionally, some of my personal priorities this session coincide with issues that are often talked about in our district. I’m excited about sharing these with you as I believe they will have a direct impact on quality of life in our state. First, we believe improving the workforce through technical college education and opportunities in high school are imperative to building on the Governor’s promise to be the number one state in which to do small business. Second, we can build on our promise to encourage development by supporting an inland port in Gainesville. I am certain that this opportunity will boost our economy and provide jobs for our citizens. The last point I want to touch on is one that is near to my heart. School safety is of the utmost importance as I was once an educator and realize the challenges teachers face. I believe that by supporting improvements in school through allowing local government to allocate ESPLOST funds where they see fit, increasing awareness and funding for mental health programs and improving our individual school safety plans with the help of local law enforcement, we can make a tangible change. Also, I am pleased that Gov. Kemp has recommended a $3,000 pay increase for teachers and a 2 percent merit based raise for state employees.
As always, it is an honor to serve you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you and please contact my office if you are ever at the Capitol. I would love to talk to you about what you think is important. I look forward to seeing you under the Gold Dome!
About the author: Sen. John Wilkinson serves as Chairman of the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs 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 email@example.com.