Wrapping Up Our First Month Back

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Contact: Ines Owens, Acting Director
[email protected]
404.656.0028

Wrapping up Our First Month Back

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

January has been a productive month for the Senate, but this last week has been especially busy. Committees are now in full swing, and I had multiple guests that I was proud to have at the Gold Dome this week.

We recognized Wednesday, February 1, 2017, as White County Day at the Capitol. White County is the gateway to Georgia’s mountains and is home to many ecological tourist attractions, including the Chattahoochee National Forest, Unicoi State Park, Smithgall Woods Conservation Area and the Sautee Nacoochee Community Association. The White County Chamber of Commerce is working to develop and apply new ideas, techniques and technologies to generate and improve the lives of their citizens.

Also, on Wednesday, we honored the Civil Air Patrol of Georgia. The Patrol is celebrating 75 years of performing emergency services, aerospace education and cadet programs, or “Missions for America.” The “flying minutemen” of the Civil Air Patrol, since its inception, have consistently provided Georgia with these services. The Senate commended the selfless contributions the volunteers of the Patrol have made. I was honored to have minutemen from Gilmer County as part of the group that was recognized. Pickens County leadership also visited the Capitol on Wednesday.

On Thursday, a bill I sponsored, Senate Bill 6, was passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill would establish a Georgia Regional Transit Council, which would oversee the improvement of our regional transit systems. SB 6 represents one of the six Senate Majority Caucus priorities, so I am proud that it is moving through the legislative process.

We have started voting on bills, so please continue reaching out to discuss legislation with me. If you are ever down at the Capitol or want to come for a visit, please feel free to reach out to me or stop by my office. I would love to see you!

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Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected]

A New Future in Georgia

Featured, Politics

Georgia Senate

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Contact:          Ines Owens, Acting DirectorGooch,-Steve-2
[email protected]
404.656.0028

A New Future in Georgia

By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

With the completion of Legislative Day 28 this Friday, the State Senate continues to work hard as we approach Day 40, when the 2017 Legislative Session will conclude. The Georgia General Assembly has made great progress on a number of important issues, many of which will have lasting, positive effects around the state.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed two of our six Majority Caucus Priorities. Senate Bill 1 would create a new Department of Homeland Security and a State Board of Homeland Security that would both be responsible for creating and implementing a sound counter-terrorism strategy. This strategy will give Georgia the opportunity to lead the nation when it comes to fighting domestic terrorism. Under SB 1, critical infrastructure, such as bridges, railroads or power plants, are added as targets suitable to be charged for domestic terrorism.

Senate Bill 5 streamlines the Georgia Lottery’s Lottery for Education Account to ensure that Georgia is maximizing our lottery proceeds to fully benefit students across the state. SB 5 would require the Georgia Lottery to increase the funding amount by one percent each year for three years starting at 26.5 percent in Fiscal Year 2018. We must do all we can to ensure that our kids achieve their educational goals and I believe SB 5 is a step in the right direction.

On Friday, a bill I sponsored passed the Senate unanimously. Senate Bill 219 begins a new era in Georgia by establishing rules and procedures for the operation of Automated Driving System Operated Vehicles in the state. Automated driving systems are the future in transportation and SB 219 puts Georgia ahead of other states. Under SB 219, common sense restrictions will be placed on autonomous vehicles while ensuring they comply with state and federal driving laws. The vehicles must be registered as automated vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles, must maintain a valid insurance policy and follow speed limits designated by local order. Since human operators are not required in vehicles equipped with ADS, passengers are not mandated to have valid driver’s licenses.

I am proud to champion the passage of this legislation which will increase safety on our roads by limiting accidents caused by human error. In 2015, 90 percent of the car accidents that occurred in the nation were caused by human error. Automated driving systems can and will save lives by removing distracted and intoxicated drivers off the road. Georgia has the opportunity to be a leader in the nation and I look forward to championing SB 219 to becoming law.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns about pending legislation. My phone lines and doors are always open.

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Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected]

Looking Forward: 2017 Legislative Session Priorities

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

For your state lawmakers, a new year brings motivation and a fresh perspective on the needs of Georgians. Monday, January 9, 2017 marks the beginning of the first session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly, and your legislators have been preparing for months by researching potential topics and issues. There will be precisely 40 days to present, discuss and vote on legislation to be considered for signing by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2017. There are a number of potential issues that have caught my interest, and I look forward to using my knowledge and experience to make the best decisions for District 51.

Small businesses are the heart of Georgia’s economy. Unfortunately, with the number of regulations, amount of government involvement and the length of time it takes to get a company up and running, small businesses often find themselves struggling. This session, the Senate Majority Caucus is looking to reduce these burdens on private businesses by fast-tracking professional licensing processes, conducting economic impact analysis before implementing new rules and eliminating nuisance taxes and fees that cost more to collect than they generate.

Georgia has been ranked the No. 1 state in the country to do business by Site Selection Magazine four years running. This is due to our favorable tax structure and other incentives luring new businesses to our state. However, raising the number of jobs in our state is only beneficial if we have a proper and educated workforce to fill those positions. By partnering with Georgia’s career and technical programs and in demand industries, we will work to encourage high schools to offer classes where students can gain skills and certifications that will prepare them for employment post-graduation. This will provide students with opportunities for employment and Georgia businesses with a skilled workforce.

With the constant threat of cyber-security and terrorist attacks on our nation and our state, it is imperative that we do everything we can to protect Georgians and the lives we lead. This means we need to ensure our local law enforcement officers have access to and are leveraging the full complement of state and federal resources. This will enable us to utilize the total capability of our state resources and multiply the benefits afforded by the fusion center’s intelligence analysts in supplying our officers with accurate, timely and actionable intelligence to prevent and dismantle would-be terrorist cells from ever gaining a foothold in Georgia.

In 2015, the General Assembly passed the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, House Bill 170. Over the past year, the Georgia Department of Transportation has awarded hundreds of projects that are designed to improve our state’s already existing infrastructure. It is imperative moving forward that we not only work to better our existing roadways but that we look at creating a regional solution that will ease congestion and allow for enhanced navigation of roadways throughout our state.

This year promises to be a session full of legislation designed to improve the lives of all Georgians. I am looking forward to working with my Senate colleagues to draft, vet and vote on legislation that will secure our state’s position as a great place to live, work and play. I am thankful to represent you and Senate District 51 under the Gold Dome for another year.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected]

Getting Started in 2017

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

On January 9, we reconvened for the first session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly. This year promises to be very busy and offers endless opportunities. I am honored to represent you in the Senate and motivated to serve you at the Capitol in 2017.

I continue to serve as Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee and will serve this year as Secretary of the Appropriations Committee. Additionally, I will serve on the Finance and Regulated Industries and Utilities Committees and as Ex-Officio on the Rules Committee. My election as Majority Whip by the Senate Majority remains and I will work hard to keep caucus members informed and educated about legislation. I am humbled to serve in this role and will take it very seriously. It is very important that the Senate Majority Caucus fully knows and understands how certain pieces of legislation will affect Georgians.

Governor Nathan Deal confidently set his agenda in the State of the State Address during a joint session held on Wednesday, January 11. He took us down memory lane and reminded us that when he entered office in 2011 businesses were going bankrupt, homes were being foreclosed upon and jobs were being lost, the unemployment rate was 10.4 percent, and the states rainy day fund was extremely low at $116 million. In his address, his update on the state’s economic and financial progress shows how far we have come. The unemployment rate has dropped to 5.3 percent, the states rainy day fund has increased to approximately 2.033 billion, and new records in trade, film production and tourism have been set.

Gov. Deal’s announcement in September 2016 to increase state-level law enforcement pay by 20 percent has led to more trooper applications than any other year. Along with law enforcement pay raises, Gov. Deal addressed his new proposal to increase the pay by 19 percent for DFCS caseworkers. Gov. Deal wants to ensure a competitive salary for those who fill vital roles and wants to retain the best possible candidates to look after our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

Healthcare is another priority Gov. Deal addressed. He will work with members of the legislature to enhance Medicaid and State Health Benefit Plan for treatments of those diagnosed with autism up to the age of 21. Gov. Deal also proposed his new budget of $2.5 million dollars which will cover the full child population of Medicaid and Peachcare for those children with behavioral and mental health issues.
Overall, we have a busy session ahead of us as we push Majority Caucus priorities to fruition and work on the Governor’s proposals to make our state outstanding.

Thank you to all of my constituents for your involvement and constant care for the 51st District of Georgia. You inspire me to continue fighting for our great state and the “American Dream”. Please call or email me with any questions, comments or concerns you have and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected]

The 2016 Legislative Session: A Winner for Economic Development

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Georgia General Assembly ended the 2016 legislative session by setting a record. We officially adjourned at 12:30 a.m., which is the latest adjournment time in history. There has always been a rush to finish all legislative business by midnight on Day 40; however, after consultation with Legislative Counsel, it was determined that legislation could still be considered past the midnight deadline. As it turns out, we needed every minute of that extra half-hour to finish our business for the year.

I’d like to shine a spotlight on several bills passed last week that encourage job creation, reduce heavy tax burdens on individual families and small businesses, and support local economic initiatives. These are some of the most important bills passed each year, but they are often overshadowed by a few bills that receive significant media attention. The Georgia General Assembly’s most important job is to keep our state among the top competitors for new business development and expansion.

Two bills will greatly contribute to rural economic development in Georgia. The first, House Bill 936, will ensure that available job creation tax credits in rural areas are measured against the average wage for each new job that is created, and not as a total of the new jobs created. The second, House Bill 937, will expand the Georgia Regional Economic Assistance Program (REAP). This is a program that supports counties that are economically underdeveloped by allowing a sales tax refund for new tourism attractions or a tax refund on sales created by the economic project.

House Bill 935, a bill I carried in the Senate, will expand ad valorem tax exemptions to businesses that package, ship, store or process goods sold over the phone or internet. This is a great incentive for online businesses to open new distribution centers within our state, and it truly is a win-win situation for the business, the community and the consumer. Opening new centers equals job creation and community investment—but it also means faster and more efficient shipping practices. Local and county governments must hold a referendum in order for the tax exemption to be enacted.

House Bill 922 will create an income tax credit for any taxpayer who creates 50 new “quality” jobs. These jobs would need to include at least a 30-hour work week and pay at least 110 percent of the county’s average wage. The bill also provides an income tax credit for working a job at a disregarded entity (such as an LLC or a partnership), which the taxpayer owns or in which the taxpayer is a partner.

I understand that there may be a number of questions about legislation passed this year, especially with the number of bills passed during the legislative session’s final days. Please reach out to my office at any time with these questions, or other comments and concerns. As always, we will do our best to clarify, listen or find an answer.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected]

 

Reviewing Georgia’s Budget

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By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

The Senate reconvened for week two after taking a long weekend to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Every year, the Georgia General Assembly comes together to review and approve a budget for the state. Passing a balanced budget is a requirement set forth by the state constitution, so this means we must come to a consensus before the end of session—otherwise, the end of session will never come. It is a priority for both the House and Senate to set a reasonable, fiscally responsible budget that provides for our great state and its people.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I spent the week with other legislators closely reviewing Governor Deal’s budget recommendations for both the Fiscal Year 2017 general budget and the Fiscal Year 2016 amended budget. This in-depth look at the budget allowed us to break down the big numbers and look more thoroughly for where funds should be distributed during the year. This review process included presentations from state agencies that provided us with information about their most pressing funding needs. This testimony is needed in order for the Georgia General Assembly to create a well-established, detailed budget that is agreed upon by both legislative chambers.

Within the Appropriations Committee, I serve as the chair of the transportation and as a member of the higher education subcommittees. Throughout the week, I worked with my fellow subcommittee members to carefully review these two specific areas of the budget. I take this role very seriously and know that my voice within these subcommittees can be my biggest contribution to the completed budget. I am able to speak openly, add meaningful input and speak out against line items that does not support or benefit the important needs of District 51.The discussion will continue until a full budget plan is agreed upon in both the House and Senate chambers—this is sometimes a process that can last into the final weeks of the legislative session. Although the process can be tiring, I will work diligently to ensure the most fiscally responsible course of action for our state.

I’d like to invite students age 12 – 18 to apply for the Senate Page Program. This unique program offers a first-hand look at the legislative process at the Georgia State Capitol. Senate Pages serve the Senators by delivering important information and other messages to the Senate Chamber throughout the legislative day. If you would like more information on becoming a Senate page, please contact my office and we will be glad to help you.

In the coming weeks, we will start closely reviewing and moving bills through the legislative process in the Senate.  Your feedback on these bills is integral to my work on your behalf, so please continue reaching out to personally discuss legislation with me. I take every phone call, email or office visit into consideration when casting my vote in the Senate chamber. Please do not hesitate to call or email me at any time. I am in office to serve you!

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected]

 

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