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Capitol Recap: Special Session
By: Sen. Larry Walker (R - Perry)
While the common routines of the General Assembly remain on an indefinite suspension for the time being, our legislative business has not halted and our commitment to representing the great people of Georgia remains at a critical high. As a whole, we are faced with some challenging and unprecedented times. The number of COVID-19 cases has been steadily on the rise and its consequential impact on our state’s healthcare systems has left many patients and facilities anxious and overwhelmed. However, despite the current state of uncertainties, our oath to service has not dwindled. Our faith remains strong and we are able to come together to represent those that need it the most.
With that, my colleagues and I were called to return for a special session last Monday in order to ratify Governor Kemp’s declaration of a public health emergency in the state. As with each legislative decision made under the Gold Dome, this was not taken lightly. The legislative choice to extend the scope of powers in this current climate requires careful and thought-out discussion from all parties involved; ultimately, members of both the Senate and the House believed this is in the best interest of the great people of this state. House Resolution 4EX will grant Gov. Kemp additional powers to allocate our state’s resources and exercise his best judgment when it comes to protecting the health and safety of Georgia. While we will be called to reconvene on April 15, 2020, to reassess the state of COVID-19, I have full faith in the Governor and his response efforts during this time.
As part of Gov. Kemp’s efforts to combat the spread of this pandemic, the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY20) budget was signed on Tuesday with an added provision. Recognizing the public health threats affecting our state, the AFY20 budget allocates $100 million from the state’s revenue shortfall reserve, otherwise known as the “rainy day fund,” towards response and prevention efforts for COVID-19. This, importantly, will have little to no real implication on the amount of funding that is being allocated to or reduced from other state programs, and similarly, any amount that is not utilized will return to our state’s reserve. However, this funding will go a long way in promoting the safety of all Georgians through the Governor’s Taskforce, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Public Health’s efforts.
Despite the unprecedented nature of the current legislative cycle and the ever-present public health concerns affecting the state and the nation, Georgia’s strength as a community is as resilient as ever and serves as a reassuring reminder of the strength to come. Gov. Kemp’s Office, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been working consistently around the clock to gather real time data and mitigate the spread of the virus. I caution you to practice social distancing, remain calm and still support local businesses, as we work to flatten the curve. To those on the frontline and to those at home, I continue to pray for your well-being. I remain optimistic that Georgia will get through this, stronger than ever. Please reach out to my office if you have any questions or concerns or for more information on COVID-19, I encourage you to use the following resources:
Georgia DPH: https://dph.georgia.gov/
Small Business Administration: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/
Georgia COVID-19 Hotline: (844) 442-2681
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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 email@example.com.