Contact Information
Bill Werkheiser
GA House of Representatives
District 157
Coverdale Legislative Office Building
Suite 411-E
Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone: (404) 656-0126
Fax: (404) 651-8086
Mobile: (912) 237-0145
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Administrative Assistant: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Week 3 Legislative Update

During the third week of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, my colleagues and I passed one of the most important pieces of legislation of the year: the 2015 amended fiscal year budget (AFY 2015). This budget, which is a mid-year adjustment of state spending through June 30, 2015, was first introduced by Governor Deal at last week’s Joint Appropriations hearings. Since then, the AFY 2015 budget has been carefully reviewed and edited through a series of Appropriations Committee meetings. Thanks to the committee’s diligent work, the House version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 (AFY 2015) budget was packaged into House Bill 75 and was voted on and passed unanimously by the House on Thursday, January 29.

The House version of the AFY 2015 budget is very similar to Gov. Deal’s initial budget proposal which I covered last week. The amended budget includes an addition of $276 million in “new” funds, with 70 percent of that going towards education. Of the new education dollars, $128.5 million will go towards K-12 enrollment growth and $35 million will be added for local school systems to expand their wireless broadband internet connectivity. The House version of the budget also designates $7.4 million for equalization funding grants that will provide additional funds to K-12 systems that qualify based on per student wealth rankings. Higher education was also set as a budget priority, with funds designated for new engineering and military scholarships and the creation of the Georgia Film Academy. Lastly, the amended budget also includes $750,000 to support the Governor’s newly created Education Reform Commission. I am happy to see our state continue to put money into our school systems, as our children are our most precious resource.

While investing in the quality of our children’s education is a primary focus in HB 75, there are also several significant additions for economic development in our state. As we strive to ensure that Georgia remains the number one state in the country to do business, the House version of the AFY 2015 budget appropriates $20 million in grants towards job-creating economic development projects through the OneGeorgia Authority, as well as $20 million for Regional Economic Business Assistance grants. OneGeorgia and Regional Economic Business Assistance are two of our state’s most effective economic development tools for attracting new jobs to Georgia. In addition, $1.5 million is set aside to keep Xpress buses running in 13 metro counties, and $4.5 million will go to support routine maintenance in the Department of Transportation. By financing transportation and economic development projects such as these, we can make Georgia an even better place for business for years to come.

With a thriving economy comes an increase in our state’s population, and it is crucial that we take measures to ensure the good health and safety of all citizens. More than $5 million in the AFY 2015 budget is allocated for driver education programs to improve safety on Georgia’s roads. Funds are also set aside to expand the length of the Department of Corrections’ Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program from six to nine months, and the Board of Regents is issued $4.8 million to provide clinical trials on cannabidiol for children with medication resistant epilepsy. These programs, among others, will make Georgia healthier and safer for families across the state.

In addition to passing the amended budget, we also took time to recognize some outstanding citizens across our state. On Monday, January 26, the House celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in honor of our brave Georgians in uniform. Dozens of airmen and soldiers visited the State Capitol and were recognized for their accomplishments on the House floor with House Resolution 27. We also had the honor of witnessing a new member of the Georgia National Guard be sworn into the Army National Guard by our colleague and veteran, Representative John Yates. It was an honor to meet this new soldier, as well as the many others who make such tremendous sacrifices for our freedom and safety.

On Tuesday, January 27, we had the privilege of meeting another group of courageous Georgians in honor of National Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, we paid special tribute to the Holocaust witnesses of liberation. These heroic Americans served in the U.S. military during World War II, and therefore witnessed some of the worst atrocities in world history. They were each recognized in the House Chamber for their contribution to history preservation and the role that they played in the liberation of the Holocaust. Our colleague, Representative John Yates was among the six honorees that were recognized before the House. Finally, this week we welcomed members of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team to the Gold Dome. Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins, CEO Steve Koonin, coach Mike Budenholzer, shooting guard Kyle Korver, and forward Elton Brand all visited the capitol on Tuesday, January 27. After a recent16 game winning streak, the Hawks were recognized before the House for their sportsmanship, citizenship, and positive economic impact on the city of Atlanta.

As the 2015 legislative session moves into its fourth week, committees will be meeting more frequently to discuss pieces of legislation. I would love to hear your input on any bills that come before the House because your comments help guide my decisions on Capitol Hill. I encourage you to call my office at the State Capitol in Atlanta. All of my contact information is listed above. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your state representative.

Week 2 Legislative Update

During the second week of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, the House and Senate appropriations committees held a series of joint budget hearings. This week we began the important task of reviewing the governor’s budget recommendations and creating legislation that will direct the state’s spending. Through this process, we must outline two balanced state budgets: an amended budget for the current fiscal year (AFY 2015) and a full budget for the following fiscal year (FY 2016). These joint budget hearings provided us with an opportunity to closely examine the recommendations and hear testimonies from various state agencies, each explaining their budgetary needs and answering questions from House and Senate members.

In order for our state to continue to prosper, it is fundamental that we invest in a strong education system. Therefore, Gov. Deal recommended that the majority of these “new” funds be used for various educational initiatives. For FY 2015, the governor designated $15 million for local governments, including $8.3 million that will go directly to local school systems. The 2015 budget also includes an additional $35 million in grants designed to increase broadband internet access in Georgia classrooms across the state.

The investment in Georgia’s education system can also be seen in the Governor’s FY 2016. The governor’s budget for that year includes a half a billion dollars in new funding for the Department of Education and our local school systems. This will include $239 million for enrollment growth and $280 million for local school systems to increase instructional days, eliminate furlough days and enhance teachers’ salaries.

In addition to K-12 education, the governor also set aside funds to restore two planning days for pre-K teachers and increase in awards for HOPE scholarships and grants. The governor also recommended an additional $6 million in low-interest loans for higher education. It is crucial that every student, from our youngest to our oldest, be fully prepared with skills for success.

In addition to education, it is important that we ensure Georgia’s children receive the best medical treatment options that are available. With that in mind, Gov. Deal allotted nearly $4.9 million for clinical trials through Georgia Regents University. These trials will study the efficacy and safety of cannabis oil in children with certain types of seizure disorders. I am happy to see that Georgia is at the forefront of studying new and recent trends in medicine.

Gov. Deal also outlined funding initiatives for a few other important programs. The governor’s budget includes funds for an additional 175 case workers to manage child abuse and neglect cases; 11 new adult protective service caseworkers to manage reports of elder abuse; the replacement of 187 state patrol vehicles; and an expansion of accountability courts, which are a more cost effective justice alternative to prison for non-violent, first time offenders.

Once the budget passes the House, it will go to the State Senate and repeat this same committee process. After making its way through the Senate Appropriations subcommittees, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate floor vote, the budget might be a bit different from its original version as passed by the House. At this point in the process, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will both appoint a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the state budget.

Once the conference committee reaches an agreement, their version of the budget then goes back to the House and Senate for a final floor vote. Both chambers must vote on the conference committee’s version of the budget to ensure that all contents are completely agreed upon by both chambers. Finally, if approved by both House and Senate, the legislations is sent to the governor’s desk for consideration. Once signed by Governor Deal, the budget becomes law. All legislation must go through this process before becoming law.

On a personal level, I have signed on to two bills making their way through the process. HB51 concerns redeeming properties purchased at tax lien sales. As it now stands, an individual is responsible for past due fees such as HOA fees that were obligated by the original land owner. This law would remove the burden and place it with the person who made the obligation.

Secondly, HB18 provides an exception for aerospace and aeronautical engineers to be certified by the State of GA when they are already certified by the FAA. GA does not have a process in place so this really just removes a hindrance to an industry that is tightly regulated and managed by the FAA already. It may surprise you but Southeast Georgia is working on a space launch project that would provide up to 2,500 jobs over several years during construction and a permanent workforce once the project becomes operational. We certainly don’t want to do anything that restricts economic growth and this bill removes unnecessary barriers.

Week 1 Legislative Update

On Monday, January 12, 2015, we began the 153rd Legislative Session of the Georgia General Assembly. Since it was the first day of the term, all 180 members of the Georgia House of Representatives were sworn into office. Several members of my family were able to attend and my wife was able to assist in the ceremony by holding my personal Bible.

On Wednesday, Gov. Deal delivered his annual State of the State address held in the House Chambers. This annual speech before a joint legislature, judiciary, special guests and the public gives the governor the opportunity to convey his assessment of the current condition of our state government and goals for continued progress and success in the new year.

In his address, Gov. Deal began by detailing the exceptional progress Georgia has made. The creation of 319,000 jobs and a 643 percent increase in the state’s rainy day fund are just a few examples of Georgia’s many accomplishments over the last four years. Georgia’s future is expected to become even brighter in the years ahead, as companies like Mercedes-Benz USA and Porsche North America solidify plans to re-locate their headquarters to Georgia.

The Governor's budget proposals continue his strong focus on education. Over $8 million will go directly to local school systems and an additional $35 million in grants to expand classroom access to broadband internet in the Amended FY 15 budget. In his Fiscal Year 2016 budget, Governor Deal allocates more than a half a billion dollars in new funding for Georgia's education system, including $280 million to specifically aid local school systems to increase instructional days, eliminate furlough days, and enhance teachers' salaries.

While there is plenty of good news on the state of our state, there are needs that will be addressed by the General Assembly in the coming months. For example, Gov. Deal called for the establishment of an Education Reform Commission to continue to better our state’s system. With education as a top priority, Gov. Deal also suggested a constitutional amendment that would create Opportunity School Districts. This model, which has been successful in other states, would authorize the state to step in to help rejuvenate failing public schools. Furthermore, Gov. Deal declared the legislature’s need to address the state’s diminishing transportation funds. Now that Georgia is the 8th most populated state in the nation, adequate transportation, and maintaining our roadways and bridges, is as critical as ever. Funding Transportation will be one of the greatest challenges that we will face this year.

This week, I received my committee assignments for the term. I am happy to announce that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments appointed me to serve on State Properties and Institutions, Industry and Labor and Information and Audits. Because of the amount of prisons in our area and my interest in inmate ministry, I am thankful to have a seat on State Institutions and Properties which oversees the Department of Corrections. I am also pleased to serve on the Industry and Labor committee because of my 30 years of owning and operating small businesses. Anyone who knows me understands my passion for organization and accounting, so the committee for Information and Audits is right up my alley. As I look at the assignment of my peers, I am amazed at the Committee and Speaker's ability to satisfy our requests, matching our individual skills sets and meeting the specific needs of each constituency.

Next week, we will not be in session but I will be attending the joint budget hearings held by the House and Senate. You may watch those hearings online at You may also watch the House in action, view live and archived committee meetings, and track legislation at the same website.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you and I welcome your thoughts and opinions as we move throughout the legislative session this year. I can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 912-237-0145.