Your Georgia Desk:
Gold Dome Update: Week Three
By: Sen. William Ligon (R- Brunswick)
As a result of the severe winter storm that hit portions of Northern Georgia this week, the Georgia General Assembly did not convene as regularly scheduled. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle gaveled in at 10 a.m. as required by state law, but no committee meetings or other state business was conducted until Friday morning.
Throughout the week, I have been extremely encouraged by the outpouring of Southern hospitality and generosity demonstrated by Georgians across the state. While the 3rd Senate District was extremely fortunate and missed out on the brunt of the winter weather, our neighbors to the north experienced some of the worst weather conditions that we have seen in decades.
Now that the snow has melted and things are getting back to normal in the Capital City, the Georgia General Assembly resumed business on Friday, January 31, 2014.
Last week, Senate Bill 296 passed through the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee. As a sponsor of this bill, I attended the committee hearing to ensure the bill was passed in its original form. Senate Bill 296 sets a maximum acreage limit of 1,675 acres of developable land for Jekyll Island – a 78 acre increase from the current 1,597 acres of developed land. The passage of this bill would alleviate ambiguities stemming from tidal changes, erosion and other natural events. It revises the current law based on the percentage of land to be developed or undeveloped to a fixed acreage and honors the formula to keep 65 percent of Jekyll Island in its natural state and allow only 35 percent of the land to be used for development.
Throughout the committee process, numerous groups and interested stakeholders testified in favor of the bill. The additional 78 acres designated by this bill is to be used in the follow ways: (1) 12 acres for the expansion of the existing campground, which is turning away individuals daily due to lack of space; (2) 46 acres to be used for public health, public safety or public recreation and; (3) 20 acres to be available for unrestricted uses in the future.
Senate Bill 296, along with its companion in the House, House Bill 715, has received broad support from the local community, including the Jekyll-Island State Park Authority, Green Law and the Georgia Conservancy – just to name a few. This bill will serve to protect our community’s natural resources and extend recreational opportunities for the people who call Jekyll Island home and the millions of tourists that visit the island each year.
Senate Resolution 806, which I sponsored, was also referred to the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. This resolution encourages Congress to enact legislation that would fully fund the annual dredging cycle at the Port of Brunswick and continue to fund the program for years to come. The continued dredging of the Port of Brunswick is just as important as the expansion of the Port of Savannah and plays a critical role in the economic development of the entire region. For Fiscal Year 2014, the Port of Brunswick handled over three million tons of cargo, an increase of over 47 percent from the previous year. The maintenance of the Port of Brunswick is also important to securing future economic investment, protecting jobs around the port, and developing community partnerships.
Another bill I sponsored, Senate Bill 306, seeks to permanently ban pumping surface water into any aquifers governed by the Georgia Coastal Zone Management Program, which includes aquifers located across our border in Florida. This bill serves to protect our water in South Georgia. The concern is that if we get surface waters injected into the aquifer which are not thoroughly pure, they could contaminate our water sources – and we want to do everything we can to maintain the purity of our water system.
In July 2012, the United States Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. This act, which was created to modify the National Flood Insurance Program, is currently run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a few other supporting federal agencies. As a result, flood insurance rates have skyrocketed to the detriment of homeowners, particularly along Georgia’s coastal areas. In response, I’ve sponsored Senate Resolution 747, which calls on the United States Congress to repeal or amend the act in its current form and provide relief for Georgia homeowners. This resolution is an important first step toward restoring flood insurance premiums to an affordable level and eliminating the negative impact this act has had upon home values and the local community.
Next Tuesday, February 4, 2014, I will join grassroots leaders and elected officials from throughout the state at a “Stop the Common Core” rally and press conference at the Georgia State Capitol.
The rally and press conference will call on the Governor as well as the State Legislature to withdraw Georgia from its participation in Common Core national standards and forego any testing associated with these standards. I will also highlight my bill, SB 203 – An Act to Restore Educational Authority to Georgia Citizens, which will provide an orderly process to withdraw from the Common Core and help ensure that a transparent public process is established for the adoption of Georgia’s educational standards. Additionally, this press conference will focus on how this unprecedented national framework for education greatly increases data collection and data tracking on students. Therefore, it is vitally important for the legislature to pass SB 167, The Student and Teacher Right to Privacy Act, which I am sponsoring, to prevent life-long data tracking from Pre-K through college and career.
As always, it is an honor to represent the 3rd Senate District at the Gold Dome. Please stay in touch with me and share your thoughts and concerns as we work through the 2014 Legislative Session. For more information regarding a specific piece of legislation, or to view a list of all legislative action this week, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website athttp://www.legis.ga.gov.