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Source: US State of Georgia

By: Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry)

The Senate has now completed five out of the remaining eleven days of the 2020 session and as I had anticipated, we have been working rapidly, yet thoroughly, to make sure we pass all essential pieces of legislation before Sine Die. The fast paced environment at the state Capitol, paired with the excitement of returning, has produced an incredible amount of momentum and I have no doubt we will see many legislative successes in the final days. I would like to highlight a few of the positive developments we have made so far here.

The budget, as I have mentioned before, is the main focal point of our time here due to the need to pass a balanced general Fiscal Year 2021 budget by July 1, 2020. We have made quite some progress on this task through the passage of House Bill 793 in the full Senate body; this contains the Senate proposals for our state’s appropriations in the coming years. Overall, the budget recognizes $28 billion in total state funds, which will be allocated across all state agencies and departments. Within that, budget reductions reflect the 11% cuts that were estimated to help address the fiscal deficit that resulted from COVID-19 challenges. This will be reflected in the consolidation of similar agency programs, slight furlough days and a proposed cut in the salaries for state legislatures. These budget proposals have been difficult and reductions will unequivocally alter the general structure of Georgia in some shape or form. However, it is also important to recognize the ways in which we have been able to maintain some of our biggest priorities. Education, community health and public safety are a few of the areas that will maintain quite a significant amount of funding, while rural stabilization and agriculture will also see some necessary support. HB 783 was passed out of the Senate and has been sent for its final stages of deliberation.

Another piece of legislation we passed out of the Senate, and will significantly impact the people of Senate District 20, is House Bill 545. HB 545, referred to as the “Georgia Right to Farm Act of 2020,” would protect our family-owned farms and local agricultural operations by establishing guidelines that would limit the ability to file a nuisance claim. Within those limitations, a claim must be filed within two years of the established date of operation, as defined through the bill, and the location of the real property must be within five miles of the source of activity. However, none of the described guidelines will supersede current or future federal regulations of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Georgia’s agribusiness community is one of the largest economic sectors of our state and has contributed greatly to our ability to distribute both food and forest products to various communities. Given the current upsets to our business climate as a result of COVID-19, it is our duty to protect industries from expensive litigation and ensure that all Georgians are able to receive the necessary resources that they need.

The Senate has one week remaining before the 2020 legislative session officially comes to a close. During that time, we will be working rapidly to finish all committee reports and pass bills that will support Georgia businesses and families. There is still much to do before Sine Die, but we are already on a path to strengthening our state and making it a better place for all. I remain confident in our legislative future and if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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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 larry.walker@senate.ga.gov.

MIL OSI USA News