(Contributed by Capitol Beat News Service)
State Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas. (Georgia Senate photo)

Note: the following item was provided by State Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas

We have officially come to the end of the 11th legislative week; an incredibly busy and productive time. We now have less than a week of the legislative session to go, with Sine Die, or the last day of the session, happening next Wednesday. We passed over 30 pieces of legislation this week and also made huge advances in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ensuring our elections process is more secure.

On Thursday I was extremely proud to see Senate Bill 202 be signed into law on Thursday that provides for election reforms and security. This new law will create additional ID requirements in order to vote absentee, provide additional voting drop box security, as well as adds more opportunities for early voting. When voting in person, a photo ID is required, so it would only make sense that an ID be required for the absentee ballot process as well.

In an effort to make voting more accessible, two Saturdays of early voting will be mandatory. Counties will also be given the option to have two Sundays of early voting as well. Your voices on this issue were heard, and we have fought hard for change. This legislation is a huge step in our fight to ensuring our elections are secure and fair.

Additionally, Georgia has been proven time and time again to be ahead of other states in our COVID-19 response, as our economy is bouncing back strong, and we have worked diligently to provide businesses and citizens the necessary resources to fight against this virus. As of this past Thursday, every Georgian over the age of 16 is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Previously, only high-risk individuals were eligible for the vaccine. Now, we are joining the small number of states, such as Alaska and Mississippi, who have opened up the eligibility pool to all adults.

I applaud Gov. Brian Kemp in his efforts to end COVID-19 in Georgia, as numerous lives will be saved through these vaccines, and notably, we will be a huge step closer to returning to normalcy. For state and county vaccination appointments, please visit either one of these two websites: Georgia Department of Public Heath (https://gta-vras.powerappsportals.us/) or My Vaccine Georgia, which is operated by the Georgia Department of Emergency Management (https://myvaccinegeorgia.com/). If you have a doctor or doctor group, you can also check with them to see if they are offering vaccination appointments.

In addition to ensuring the health of Georgia’s citizens, we also made strides to ensure the health of our economy. This week, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Budget, which is to take effect on July 1. The budget reflects $27.2 billion, which is a 5% increase in spending over this fiscal year’s original budget. We plan to use these extra funds to support small businesses, nonprofits, tourism, and hospitality and travel industries.

By doing so, we will continue to grow Georgia’s economy. The funds will also be used for state investments in water, sewer and broadband, as well as to backfill revenue gaps. Additionally, the FY22 budget calls for 2.6% more spending on education, mental health, rural communities, internet access and state retirement.

My colleagues have worked tirelessly on this budget throughout appropriations meetings, ensuring that it prioritizes the needs of Georgians across our state.

The legislature will work over the next few days to address the remaining business of the legislative session, and I am committed to representing the best interests of our district in all legislative matters discussed. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.

Sen. Jason Anavitarte represents the 31st Senate District which includes Haralson, Paulding and Polk County. He may be reached via email at jason.anavitarte@senate.ga.gov

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