As we finish yet another week of the legislative session, I’m excited to update you on everything we have accomplished. The past two weeks in the Senate were busy, as we began committee meetings and voting on our first pieces of legislation of the session. As always, the work we do is to benefit the citizens of this great state of Georgia, and I look forward to updating you on all of the work we have done.
February marks the beginning of Black History Month, a celebration of the outstanding achievements of Black Americans and their continued contributions to history. As chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, I have introduced legislation that will positively impact Black Georgians’ lives. Accordingly, I introduced Senate Bill 15, which aims to reform how Black American history is taught in our schools.
This bill will ensure all children in Georgia learn about the comprehensive history of Black people, including the history before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, the antislavery movement, and the contributions of Black people to American society. Throughout this month, I hope we can all reflect and honor the generations of African Americans who struggled and fought for equality and justice and all those who continue the fight today.
I am also proud to introduce and sponsor Senate Bill 16, which calls for creating a Georgia Commission on Black Women and Girls. This commission’s creation is essential in ensuring that we are continually advancing Black women’s interests in this state. Ultimately, the 14-person commission will dedicate themselves to understanding how legislation affects Black women in Georgia. I will continue to lift our Black women up in celebration of the incredible legacy we will continue to leave for generations to come.
Last week, our Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the proposed amended fiscal year (AFY) budget, which keeps many of the House recommendations, except for a few areas in which we were able to find savings and redirect funding. Below is a quick highlight of our Senate version of the 2021 AFY budget.
♦ $11 million in bond financing for the Georgia Department of Public Health, $150,000 for nursing staff and $7.5 million for the governor’s emergency fund.
♦ $50,000 for the state to hire a chief labor officer to oversee all unemployment insurance benefits and respond to financial audit requests.
♦ Additional $3 million for the GA World Congress Center to promote Georgia Historical Society would receive $50,000 instead of the $24,000 originally proposed.
♦ $150,000 for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to push through temporary permits for nurses to administer COVID-19 vaccines.
♦ $286,000 to hire a chief medical officer, a deputy commissioner of public health and a chief data officer to support the agency with COVID-19; two additional Department of Public Health positions.
♦ $18 million to replace and upgrade the public health surveillance system for vaccinations.
This budget now heads to the Rules Committee, the final stop before a full Senate vote. If the House agrees with our Senate changes, it then goes to the Governor for his final signature. Next, we turn our eyes towards the Full 2022 Fiscal Year Budget. Once passed by the House, we will begin Senate budget proceedings.
COVID-19 Vaccination Update
Our attempts to combat COVID-19 remain at the forefront as we closely monitor the state’s high demand for vaccines. As of last week, Georgia has shipped all its Moderna allocations and administered nearly 70 percent of the state’s current vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). To date, one million Georgians have received the vaccination and more than 500,000, 65 and older, have received their first dose.
In order to ensure Georgians receive timely and needed vaccinations, Gov. Kemp recently signed an executive order to allow more medically trained professionals to safely administer the COVID-19 vaccine. For information regarding the 1A+ phase of Georgia’s vaccine distribution and other important COVID-19 facts, please visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.
As we continue our work through the duration of the session and beyond, I am proud to represent you under the Gold Dome. Thank you for your continued support. I look forward to getting back to work this week for more session days, legislation and representing my constituents. If you have any questions or concerns about Senate proceedings, please reach out to my office.
Tonya P. Anderson, D-Lithonia, represents Senate District 43, which includes parts of DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton counties.