When announcing his plans Monday to begin the transition phase of reopening the state, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp made some reference to the FY21 State Budget which has been on hold since Georgia lawmakers went on break because of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, neither Kemp, Lt Governor Geoff Duncan nor House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) made any reference to a return date.
“While I am encouraged by the data, proud of what we have accomplished, and confident of our plan moving forward, I know that the journey ahead is long.,” said Kemp. “We must remain laser-focused on defeating this virus and keeping Georgians safe. We must find ways to revitalize communities devastated by COVID-19. We must identify opportunities for economic growth and prosperity. We will have tough conversations about the budget, state spending, and our priorities and values as a state. Those conversations are underway, and here’s what I know: if we remain united just as we have in this fight against COVID-19, we can overcome the challenges and obstacles ahead.”
Georgia lawmakers have to return to approve a budget for FY21, even if they don’t take up any other legislation – although a lot is pending. The House and Senate did approve an amended FY20 budget to carry Georgia through June 30 date (the end of the fiscal year) but the FY21 budget was not approved prior to the called recess of the General Assembly. The House did give its okay to a $28.1 billion budget for FY 21 and sent it to the Senate. However, Senators never had a chance to vote on this proposal before the March 13 recess.
While no date has been set for the resumption of the 2020 session of the Legislature, Speaker Ralston recently appointed a five-member committee to make recommendations on when it’s safe for lawmakers to get back to work.
In his memo announcing the committee, Ralston said, “As we look forward to resuming the 2020 Session of the Georgia General Assembly at a date to be determined, I have today appointed a committee to review our protocols and make recommendations on specific operations during that time. None of us can know what the remainder of the session will look like. All we can know is that how we conduct our business will be significantly different than when we suspended the session on March 13.”
The committee is being co-chaired by Leader Jon Bums (R-Newington) and Leader Bob Trammell (D-Luthersville). Members of the committee include: Chairman Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta), Bill Reilly, Clerk, Spiro Amburn, the Speaker’s Chief of Staff, Holli Pitcock, the Speaker’s Office Director of Constituent Services and Betsy Theroux, House Messenger.