The Georgia General Assembly returned to the State Capitol for the final week of the 2024 legislative session on Monday, March 25 for a busy committee work day. After working in our committees on Monday to finalize legislation, the House convened for Legislative Day 39 on March 26, and then, the session came to an end after we completed Legislative Day 40 on Thursday, March 28, also known as Sine Die. It was a very busy week as we worked late into the nights carrying out the people’s business and making progress for Georgians statewide, and I will share some of the bills that we voted on from the Rules calendars in our final days, as well as highlight legislation that received final passage in the General Assembly. 

On the last day of the session, we gave final passage to the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY 2025) budget, which will become effective July 1, 2024, fulfilling our sole constitutional obligation of the session. Set at a revenue estimate of $36.1 billion, representing a historic increase of $3.7 billion, or 11.4 percent, over the previous fiscal year’s budget. The passage of this budget marks a significant milestone in Georgia’s commitment to addressing the diverse needs of its citizens and reflects a robust investment across various sectors for the state’s growth and prosperity. 

The FY 2025 budget demonstrates a significant commitment to Georgia’s education sector, prioritizing key initiatives essential for advancing K-12 education. Notably, HB 916 fully supports the Quality Basic Education (QBE) program with a historic allocation of $14.1 billion in state funds. This budget also includes measures to boost teacher salaries, earmarking $373.6 million to raise the state base salary schedule by $2,500. Moreover, funds are allocated for salary increases for school nutrition workers, bus drivers, school nurses and Regional Education Services Agencies (RESA) staff, along with $8.5 million designated for $1,000 salary supplements for school custodians. Additionally, $6.3 million is allocated to the school nutrition program to cover breakfast and lunch costs for reduced-paying students, and $2 million in school nutrition formula funds is provided to local school systems to maintain affordable meal prices, addressing key priorities outlined by the House. The budget also prioritizes literacy with $6.1 million for reading grants, including literacy coaches and pay supplements. School safety receives $109 million for the School Security Grants program, providing $45,000 grants to each school. Additionally, $200 million is allocated for student transportation, addressing increased operating costs, with total funding reaching $353.5 million in FY 2025. This increased funding reflects the House’s commitment to enhancing education and safety measures in Georgia.

Additionally, Communities in Schools receives an extra $1 million to support students academically and non-academically, with a focus on improving attendance, behavior and graduation rates. The FY 2025 budget allocates more than $57.5 million in new lottery funds to the Department of Early Care and Learning. These funds will implement recommendations from the House Early Childhood Education Working Group, including reducing class sizes, increasing start-up grants for new classrooms, providing classroom replenishment grants, enhancing transportation funding, boosting operating funds for private Pre-K providers and improving pay for Pre-K lead and assistant teachers. These strategic investments highlight the House’s commitment to enhancing educational opportunities and outcomes for all students in Georgia.

My legislative colleagues and I also made significant strides to increase funding for Georgia’s higher education system to enhance educational excellence, workforce development and student preparation. As such, the budget includes $1.5 million for the David Ralston Center for Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities at the University of Georgia, addressing workforce needs for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, HB 916 allocates an extra $15 million for the Dual Enrollment program, supporting high school students’ access to college-level courses. We’ve prioritized healthcare infrastructure investments to enhance health outcomes and meet public health demands statewide, allocating $500,000 to Morehouse School of Medicine’s Center for Maternal Health Equity for infant mortality research. Additionally, the budget includes $1 million for supplemental illness-specific insurance for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). HB 916 also boosts funding for various Medicaid providers, with $5.6 million for therapists, $12.6 million for primary care providers, $392,173 for optometrists and $648,829 for pharmacists. Additionally, the budget allocates $10.5 million for dental services and $603,883 for dialysis treatment of acute kidney injuries among the Medicaid population. To tackle housing challenges, the budget allocates funds to Georgia’s economic development sector. Specifically, within the Department of Community Affairs, $1 million is earmarked for the accountable housing initiative, aimed at providing stable housing for the homeless while ensuring long-term affordability. Additionally, the House supports the governor’s proposal to allocate $3.7 million for enhanced homelessness services through federal grants. Furthermore, $6 million is appropriated for the Rural Workforce Housing Initiative, which aims to improve housing options in rural areas to meet the workforce’s needs.

The budget includes $3.2 million for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to establish the Macon Crisis Stabilization Diagnostic Center, which will be the state’s first crisis support center for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Additionally, HB 916 provides $500,000 to assist homeless Georgians through housing vouchers, behavioral health services and rapid rehousing initiatives. The budget also supports veterans with funding for a coordinator to aid homeless veterans and $1 million for behavioral health services for active-duty military personnel and veterans through the Georgia Veterans Service. Furthermore, HB 916 shows a commitment to protecting Georgia’s children by allocating $1 million to expand the capacity of court-appointed special advocates and $1 million to enhance forensic and mental health services at the state’s Child Advocacy Centers.

HB 916 allocates significant funding for public safety initiatives, particularly aimed at strengthening law enforcement, preventing crime and supporting victims. Notably, the bill sets aside $45.9 million for a $3,000 salary increase for law enforcement officers in 21 state agencies, demonstrating a commitment to attracting and retaining skilled professionals in law enforcement. Additionally, the FY 2025 budget includes $10 million for the Georgia Department of Corrections to establish 400 transitional center beds at the Metro Re-entry Center, aiding inmates’ reintegration into society post-release. The budget also directs $12.7 million to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) to support 48 domestic violence shelters and $2 million for 28 sexual assault centers, covering administrative and facility costs to ensure compliance with state standards. Lastly, HB 916 appropriates $4.3 million to the CJCC for hiring a dedicated sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator, reinforcing the integrity of forensic medical examinations crucial for prosecuting sexual assault cases.

Additional notable investments in the FY 2025 budget include $260 million for a four percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees; $5 million for third-party ballot-text auditing technology to enhance election verification and transparency; and $2.4 billion to bolster Georgia’s transportation system, improving mobility, reducing congestion and ensuring the safety and efficiency of roads, bridges and transit networks. The FY 2025 budget now awaits signature by Governor Kemp. 

The House also gave final passage to many other important measures this week, sending many bills to Governor Kemp to be signed into law. I will highlight a few of the bills that we sent to the governor’s desk. 

First, we gave final passage to House Bill 404, also known as the “Safe at Home Act.” This legislation, introduced during the 2023 legislative session, is a top priority for me and my House colleagues. This bipartisan legislation seeks to safeguard the rights of both renters and landlords in Georgia. HB 404 would mandate that rental properties must meet certain standards for human habitation. Specifically, the bill would prohibit landlords from shutting off a rental home’s air conditioning utilities prior to an eviction. The bill would also limit security deposits to no more than two months’ rent and would require landlords to provide a three-business day notice before initiating eviction proceedings for unpaid rent or charges. Additionally, eviction notices would be required to be visibly posted on the renter’s door in a sealed envelope. Georgia renters have the right to live in homes that meet certain minimum health and safety standards, and overall, this bill would provide greater protections for tenants under state law and hold landlords accountable for keeping their properties safe for renters.

The House voted to give final passage this week to House Bill 663, the “No Patient Left Alone Act.” HB 663 would require the presence of designated essential caregivers with patients in long-term care facilities during treatment. Under this bill, both minors and adult patients would have the right to have an essential caregiver to be physically present at all times while that patient remains in the hospital or facility. Importantly, these caregiver rights could not be terminated, suspended or waived by the hospital or long-term care facility, the Department of Public Health or any governmental entity, regardless of emergency declarations by the governor. This legislation was introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented many Georgians from visiting their loved ones in such facilities. This legislation would ensure that patients are never left alone without their family or caregiver by their side to provide crucial support and advocacy for their loved one.  

House Bill 993, which received final passage this week, aims to safeguard Georgia’s minors from potential harm by introducing measures against online grooming. This legislation would impose criminal consequences on individuals who knowingly and intentionally use electronic means to groom minors, persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing them into committing sexual offenses or acts of human trafficking. Perpetrators of this crime would face felony imprisonment ranging from one to five years. Importantly, these penalties would apply regardless of whether the crimes occur within our outside of Georgia, as long as it involves a minor residing in Georgia. HB 993 would address the growing threat of online exploitation and grooming, which would provide crucial protection for Georgia’s vulnerable children against online predators.

Furthermore, my colleagues and I voted to give final passage to legislation that would expand paid parental leave benefits for our state employees and teachers, recognizing their invaluable contributions to our state’s workforce. House Bill 1010 would increase the number of hours of annual paid parental leave for state employees from 120 to 240 hours, or six weeks, doubling the amount of paid leave that these workers currently receive. This extended leave could be used following the birth of a child or when a child is placed in a home following foster care placement or adoption. This House-led initiative underscores the importance of family bonding during these critical life events and would help our state attracts and retains a top-tier public workforce.   

On Thursday, House Bill 451 also received final passage to support our state’s first responders. HB 451 would require a public entity to provide supplemental, illness-specific insurance to certain first responders diagnosed with occupational post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This coverage would be available once per an individual’s lifetime, and it would include a $3,000 cash benefit and an income replacement disability benefit provided 90 days after diagnosis, if needed. First responders are often exposed to traumatic and potentially life-altering situations in the line of duty. This legislation would support those diagnosed with PTSD by reducing some of the financial burdens of treatment and allow them to continue serving their communities without compromising their well-being. 

Furthermore, the House continued our commitment to passing measures that would put money back into the hands of hard-working Georgians. With that, we granted final passage to House Bill 1019, which would increase the statewide homestead exemption for all ad valorem taxation for state, county and school purposes from $2,000 to $4,000. Individuals would be eligible for the exemption if they reside in the home as their primary residence. The statewide homestead exemption has not been updated in several years, and this bill would help homeowners with the rising costs of homeownership. 

Finally, House Bill 1021 received final passage, and this measure would allow each taxpayer to deduct $4,000 from their Georgia taxable income for each dependent. The current allowable deduction per dependent is $3,000. HB 1021 would provide another way for Georgians to keep more of their hard-earned money and help reduce the financial burdens of caring for dependents.

The House passed Senate Bill 395, which would make opioid antagonists, like Narcan, exempt from classification as a dangerous drug when used for overdose prevention. SB 395, named “Wesley’s Law,” would allow for visitors and school employees to possess and administer an opioid antagonist if the person believes someone is suffering from a drug overdose on school property or at a school-sponsored activity. Public schools would be required to make a reasonable effort to maintain a supply of opioid antagonists and notify emergency medical services and the student’s guardian after administering an opioid antagonist. Furthermore, this bill would allow opioid antagonists to be sold and supplied in vending machines. Additionally, harm reduction organizations and people who dispense, supply and administer opioid antagonists would be immune from liability when acting in good faith. Also, the bill would require government buildings, courthouses and schools with automated external defibrillators to provide opioid antagonists to assist in the event of an opioid overdose. An individual who experiences an overdose can lose their life quickly, so this bill would make these drugs more readily available so that this life-saving treatment can be administered before it’s too late. This bill also received final passage and has been sent to the governor for his consideration. 

Lastly, the House passed Senate Bill 384, which would support those living with disabilities and seeks to boost state government employment for these individuals. This bill would make it so that our state government becomes a model employer for hiring individuals with disabilities by encouraging state agencies to consider best practices relating to the recruitment, hiring, advancement and retention of a broad range of qualified individuals with disabilities at all levels and for all occupations. In doing so, SB 384 would create the Georgia as a Model Employer (GAME) Program, which would be developed and implemented by the state’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator. Notably, the GAME Program would include: technical assistance and training for state agency human resources personnel and hiring managers for the recruitment, hiring, advancement and retention of qualified individuals with disabilities; assistance with implementing plans for reasonable accommodations by state agencies under the ADA; and developing evaluation forms and reports for the purpose of data collection and analysis relating to individuals with disabilities employed by state agencies. Each state agency would be required to submit a plan to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities by September 1, 2025, and by September 1 of each year afterward, and the state ADA coordinator would also submit an annual report on the progress of state agencies. This bill would help bolster our workforce by encouraging state agencies to hire more qualified individuals living with disabilities.

Now that the 2024 legislative session has come to an end, Governor Kemp will have 40 days to sign or veto legislation that received final passage by the House and Senate. These measures will become state law upon his signature, and any legislation not signed or vetoed within 40 days of Sine Die will automatically become state law. To keep up with which bills the governor signs into law this spring, please click here.

During the interim, my legislative colleagues and I will continue to examine current and emerging issues facing Georgians that may need to be addressed in next year’s session. Even though this legislative session has come to a close, I hope you will let me know how I can continue to support our district and what issues are important to you and your family in the months ahead. 

I am looking forward to spending the remainder of the year back home in House District 144 now that session is behind us. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime at my Capitol office at 404-656-0152, or by email at

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.

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