Keep­ing hard at work in off-sea­son

Kel­ley stays on task ahead of 2020 leg­isla­tive ses­sion

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Myrick [email protected]­stan­dard­jour­nal.com

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.”

kevin myrick

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.

kevin myrick

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.

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