Sen. Kennedy: State of the Assembly
Monday, March 20th, 2017
Sine Die is rushing up to meet the General Assembly, and the urge to get as much legislation through as possible can make legislating chaotic. Despite that, I am keeping Senate District 18 at the forefront of my mind and I was proud to honor several distinguished groups from our district this week.
First Mercer Law School students and Mercer University undergraduate students visited the Capitol. Mercer University is in the top 15 percent of schools in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report, and its law school is the oldest in the nation. As an alumnus of this distinguished university, I was beyond proud to honor them in the Senate chamber this week.
Another incredible group from Senate District 18 that I had the privilege to introduce were students from Crawford County Youth Leadership. The group is made up of 11th graders from Crawford County High School who were selected based on their academic performance and community involvement. These students will be able to pursue opportunities which will enable them to form a self-motivated approach to learning and pursuing their future. These bright kids are the future of our state, and I was glad to have them at the Capitol.
One of the most important things that the General Assembly does every year is pass a balanced budget, as mandated by the Georgia Constitution. There are several line items that I was excited to vote for in the Fiscal Year 2018 general budget. Many of the proposed allocations I am interested in involve the judiciary network of Georgia, such as $278,000 to open another legal counsel position in the Judicial Qualification Commission and a two percent pay increase for L3 assistant district attorneys.
Another judicial line item that I was eager to see in this year’s budget was a $340,000 increase to the Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant program and funds for a new fidelity manager in the program. We all love our children, and we want the best for them, especially when they’re in a bad spot. Properly funding the JJIG program is imperative because it gives convicted youth a way to give back to the community. With this additional funding, even more convicted youth will be able to remedy their mistakes sooner and avoid getting caught up in the justice system for the rest of their lives.
There are also local allocations in this budget, some of which would directly benefit Senate District 18. Middle Georgia State University, in Macon, would receive $2.8 million to purchase aviation equipment and Fort Valley State University, in Fort Valley, would receive $5 million to fund the planning, design, construction and equipment for the Student Support renovations. Middle Georgia’s universities are some of the finest in the land, and it’s only fitting that they receive more state funding to become even better.
While the Senate passed our version, the House is required to agree to the changes we made. Unfortunately, they did not and a Conference Committee was appointed to come up with a compromise both chambers can agree on. With all of those line items in mind, I’m looking forward to thoroughly reviewing the compromise made by the Conference Committee. The additions to Georgia’s legal system and to middle Georgia will serve to directly benefit not only those in the legal system and in middle Georgia, but to Georgia as a whole.