Source: US State of Georgia
By: Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry)
Successively following last week’s extensive dedication to reviewing the budget, members of the General Assembly reconvened on Tuesday for Legislative Days 13 through 16 of the session. With each and every Appropriations subcommittee meeting, the General Assembly is getting closer to adopting our budgets for the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021. As always, our intention as your state senators is to ensure this process presents Georgians with the greatest possible impact, while still maintaining a conservative spending model. In order to maximize the number of benefits available to citizens, we must also exert an equal amount of effort in determining the legislative solutions for other challenges affecting our state and Senate District 20, in particular.
I am happy to report this week was immensely successful, as my colleagues and I voted to pass eight pieces of legislation out of the Senate floor. One of those bills is Senate Bill 335, which I co-sponsored to help strengthen our state’s support of the foster care system and children. The first section of the bill would grant foster parents, children and family members free access to state parks, as a means of giving back to families that have generously dedicated themselves to providing a safe and stable network to these children. The subsequent sections are related to improving the level of care provided to foster children. This includes requiring juvenile court clerks to report on and track certain data, allowing the Department of Human Services to assist child-placing agencies with casework services and providing different levels of training for foster parents and caregivers. Ensuring every single child in Georgia is able to reside in a loving and caring home is one of our state’s number one urgencies and this passage helps us move one step closer to that.
I have also recently introduced a bill that has garnered a significant amount of support and attention thus far. This is Senate Bill 396 which would designate the pecan as the official state nut. Pecans are largely known throughout the United States, and the world, for its incredible health benefits and vast versatility in the culinary world; however, its impact on the state of Georgia extends far beyond that. In 2015, Georgia famers produced 37% of the total amount of pecans grown in the United States and as of current, there are over 170,000 acres of pecan trees planted throughout the state. Georgia is comparatively one of the top pecan producing states, which has contributed to the success of our local agricultural businesses and state-level tourism. Hurricane Michael has diminished our state’s ability to maintain this supply, to some extent, although SB 396 should help increase economic demand and statewide recognition.
In keeping with this theme, Georgia’s agricultural industry has proven to play an integral role in ensuring the continued stability of our state’s fiscal resources. The multitude of regional facilities not only fuels a significant portion of our state’s workforce, it also contributes to our overall economic viability in terms of income stream and our ability to produce and trade. Georgia’s local farmers deserve the upmost level of recognition and I am proud to say the Senate passed Senate Resolution 669 establishing February 18, 2020, as Georgia Future Farmers of America (FFA) Day at the state Capitol. FFA provides a distinct educational opportunity to some of our youngest and brightest minds to help prepare them for a career in science, business, technology and agriculture; these are sectors that are growing in both supply and demand. FAA accordingly has an inarguable impact on the economic prosperity of our state and its motto “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve” embodies invaluable qualities.
The Senate will reconvene next week for Legislative Days 17 through 21, which will mark us seven days away from Crossover Day. At that point, all legislation must be voted out of the Senate in order to give the House ample time to discuss it, and vice versa. As a result, committee meetings will pick up speed over the next week and while I intend to keep you updated, please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions or concerns about legislation.
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Sen. Larry Walker serves as Caucus Vice Chairman for the Majority Party. He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Houston, Laurens and Pulaski counties. He may be reached by phone at (404) 656-0095 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.