On June 3, 2020, both Speaker David Ralston and Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan issued a letter to the members of the Georgia General Assembly notifying them that the 2020 legislative session would resume on Monday, June 15, the 30th Legislative Day.
This week, the legislature completed days 30 through 34 of the legislative session. Both the Senate and House established guidelines for returning to the Capitol in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the procedures outlined, most lobbyist did not return to the Capitol and instead worked remotely by using the live stream options available for both the chamber and committee meetings. Social distancing and masks were required if you did visit the Capitol and the process for testifying at a committee meeting or watching a committee meeting were vastly different than what we have experienced in the past. One thing was evident at the Capitol, legislators were eager to get to work. The one item that is required to be accomplished during the legislative session is the passage of a balanced State budget. Shut downs resulting from COVID-19 have resulted in a large reduction of state revenues; therefore, all state agencies were required to accommodate a 14% cut in their budgets as a result of the reduced revenues. The budget cuts will impact the Department of Banking and Finance.
Commissioner Kevin Hagler of the Department of Banking and Finance (Department) presented his proposed budget reductions to the Appropriations Committee. In his presentation, Commissioner Hagler indicated that the Department’s budget is $13MM while assessments collected total $23MM. The Department is 100% funded by state funds and 85% of the budget relate to personnel expenses. As a result of the 14% reduction, the Department will have a reduction in positions from 108 to 95. Six retirements will not be back filled, six vacancies will be abandoned, and one reduction in force will be made, which is a total reduction of 13 positions. Department staff will be furloughed for four days. There will be reduced funds from operations mainly from travel and training expense and there will be some cuts to information technology funds. The Department will also recognize a reduction in rent expenses from the closure of the Woodstock and Loganville field offices. The Department’s budget does show additional funds of $480M, which reflects the move of the Georgia Industrial Loan Act from the Insurance Commissioner to the Department if SB 462 is passed by the legislature.
At the time of the writing of this blog, the House passed an adjournment resolution establishing Days 35 through 40 of the session as June 22 through June 27th. SINE DIE (or the adjournment of the session for the year) would fall on Saturday, June 27th. If the Senate does not agree to the adjournment resolution presenting by the House, then Day 35 and 36 of the session will be held on Saturday and Sunday and SINE DIE would be Thursday, June 25th.