State House passes bills to help Southwest GA

State House passes bills to help Southwest GA
Legislators have been busy this session passing bills in the house. (Source: WALB)
Representative Darell Ealum said the house has been busy this session. (Source: WALB)
Representative Darell Ealum said the house has been busy this session. (Source: WALB)

ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - It's been a busy legislative session at the state capitol. Last week's Crossover Day had lawmakers working well into the night.

Now, we're learning more about what members in the House recently passed, specifically to benefit people in Southwest Georgia.

Lawmakers added $220,000 for Albany Adult Developmental Disabilities Services into their finalized supplemental budget.

The funds specifically would help Albany ARC, which serves people with disabilities in 30 counties across South Georgia.

Representative Darrel Ealum said members of the House have recently become more aware of the problems families with kids and adults with disabilities are facing on a daily basis.

"It's being highlighted, we are looking at it more closely. So funds are being appropriated much more readily than they were in past years," said Ealum.

Representative Ealum said if the money is approved, more families who have loved ones with disabilities should be able to get help in Southwest Georgia.

It was this time last year when the House Resolution 389 created the House Rural Development Council to do a two-year study of rural Georgia. Legislators have been tasked with looking at issues rural areas of the state are facing and how to bring growth to those communities.

"Our economy in Georgia is very very strong. It has been for the past five, but a lot of that strength has not come to the outer rural areas like Albany and Southwest Georgia," explained Ealum.

Representative Jay Powell co-chairs the council. It's made up of more than 20 other representatives throughout the state. They made their way to our area, stopping at hospitals as well as universities and technical colleges, learning about everything from grade school struggles to broadband internet.

"You have a lot of farmers that need high internet speed," said Ealum.

Thanks to the findings from the council, the house passed a bill to create a communications services tax act that would allow corporations and electrical companies to provide broadband service in these rural communities.

During this session, Representative Ealum said the house also passed a bill to take the work of the development council a step further.

"Now we have developed a new commission that is going to work hand and glove throughout the entire state to raise awareness in the rural areas," said Ealum.

Ealum said the house passed a bill to partner with a university and create a Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation.

"It's actually going to be located in one of our universities. It's going to have to be one that offers a degree for folks who want to focus on rural areas," said Ealum.

In the wake of last month's deadly Florida school shooting, Georgia lawmakers are also addressing school security measures.

It comes at a time when schools are on high alert.

This week the house introduced a resolution to create a committee to study school security across the state.

The committee would give recommendations about how to create safer schools.

Representative Ealum used to serve on Dougherty County's School Board.

He said during his time, the system made significant changes to the schools to make them safer.

"In most of our schools you have to go into a secure area and then you cannot walk right into the school. Most of them, it's locked and you have to go through an open door into the office, sign in and then be allowed to go into the rest of the school," explained Ealum.

Ealum said the House recognizes the need for that security in all schools.

In the 2019 House version of the fiscal year budget, there will be $8 million in bond funding for school security.

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