Keeping hard at work in off-season
Kelley stays on task ahead of 2020 legislative session
State Rep. Trey Kelley remains a busy man despite it being the off-season for the legislature.
It might not seem like it, but the Majority Whip of the State House and representative of the 16th district still has plenty to do following the closing gavel of the 40-day session that ended back in April. There’s events where he is asked to speak, work to do on committees and help he can provide to people right here in Polk County.
“Even when we’re outside of the session, there’s still plenty of work to do,” Kelley said. “I really think that’s the most important part of my job, helping my constituents with services and things that they need. Almost daily I have citizens reach out to me that need assistance with state agencies, or need help with their VA Benefits and I help connect them with our congressman.”
“What we do during the session is very important, but what I do outside of the session is the most important part of my job, of being the liaison and help them get results from state government,” Kelley added.
In recent weeks, Kelley joined other state legislators to talk about additional areas where they can make an impact on communities large and small outside of the metro areas around Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta and Columbus.
“We’re already at work, earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend one of the House Rural Development Committee meetings that took place in Jasper at Chattahoochee Technical College,” Kelley said in a late August interview. “The House Rural Development Committee is something that we’ve been working on the past two years to really focus on the issues that are impacting our rural communities like ours. Each committee comes with a specific kind of focus, and the one I recently attended focused on education.”
That’s been a big issue on the state level over the past several years as budgets include ever increasing amounts dedicated to spending on the classroom level. Just this past year, Governor Brian Kemp submitted a budget to increase teacher pay for each educator by $3,000, with more increases to come.
Challenges remain across Georgia in education improvements. That’s one area the committee is hoping to find innovations on giving students a leg up when they pursue work or further education after they graduate high school.
“We say that education is our number one priority, and we don’t just say that. We put our money where our mouth is,” Kelley said. “Education has never been funded at a higher level than it has been under Republican leadership both under Governor Deal, and now under Gov. Kemp.”
Kelley pointed to Kemp’s campaign promise of $5,000 raises being fulfilled over the next two years after the raise in the FY 2020 budget. Kelley said the next session he anticipates funding to be included for the other $2,000 of Kemp’s promised raises.
He also said that funding in this year’s budget like $70 million in spending for local school safety improvement grants is another example of how they are seeking to improve schools overall across Georgia, and counselors who help with mental health issues in a student’s life.
“One of the things that we heard from the Rural Development Committee is that students need help with soft skills,” Kelley said. “Teaching kids how to write a resume, or teaching kids how to look someone in the eye when they shake their hand. Teach them that it is important to show up on time, if not before, to a job interview or work. These are a lot of things that at one time were taught at home, but now for one reason or another are getting missed. To develop a strong, educated workforce that can meet the needs of Georgia, we’ve got to address that too.”
Other issues still pressing are the development of rural broadband infrastructure, a much-needed asset to help communities and businesses statewide compete on in a global marketplace.
Kelley said legislation this past session was designed to help with the spread of broadband by allowing electric cooperatives to provide access and to make investments in connectivity improvement.
Now the work of finding additional federal dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is part of the process.
There’s also the work that keeps Kelley busy no matter what time of year: Majority Whip.
Elected by members to serve in the role back in November 2018, Kelley will continue in his role for at least one more session as the state house heads into what promises to be a busy election year following the 2020 session.
“If I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected here in my community, I’ll be offering myself up to continue to serve the caucus in that role as well,” Kelley said. “It’s important work that we’re doing. One thing that Gov. Kemp has talked to us about is trying to reign in some state spending in other areas as we continue to offer up a lean budget.”
Kelley said that spending levels remain efficient — adjusted for inflation at the same level as the early 2000’s — but he said that he’ll be working with legislators to find new ways to remain lean on the state’s bottom line.
“The house is going to begin having budget hearings earlier than we ever have,”
Kelley said. “We want to make sure that if cuts are being made to the budget, we want to do so in a very thoughtful way while respecting the tax dollars that the citizens have entrusted us with.”
He added that he believes that as a “strong fiscal conservative” he wants to seek out ways to rid the state of waste in budgets.
“I believe if we take an analytical approach to this, we can find ways to do that and hopefully push forward even further tax relief,” Kelley said.
He’s already ramping up for a 2020 campaign to remain in the state house for a new term first in the GOP Primary and then on next November’s ballot. He added that it was his honor to continue to serve his district and looked forward to talking about all the “good things that we have accomplished together.”
State Rep. Trey Kelley remains busy even when out of session, stopping by the Holloway Hunny Pot Festival to say hello to friends in Cedartown before taking off for other events on Saturday, Sept. 7.
Trey Kelley visits with constituents for a few moments during the Holloway Hunny Pot Festival in Cedartown in one of just many stops that keep him busy even when the legislature is out of session.