Georgia was greeted on President’s Day with frigid temperatures that lasted throughout the week. With snow and ice threatening the state, the Capitol was closed on Monday last week to ensure the safety of all employees. Some areas of the state – including District 51 – were hit harder than others. This major ice storm caused thousands of North Georgia residents to lose power for several days, and the task of restoring power was not an easy one. Employees from Georgia Power, Georgia EMC, Blue Ridge EMC, Habersham EMC, Jackson EMC, Sawnee EMC, Amicalola EMC and Jackson EMC worked around the clock to get this crucial utility back up and running throughout the week.
I’d like to offer a sincere “thank you” to these hardworking linemen, as well as the law enforcement officials, fire and rescue personnel, state and local public works departments for their tireless efforts in the bitter cold. I’d also like to thank the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for their quick response to this storm and their assistance in what could only be considered an enormous clean-up and power restoration effort.
The Senate passed numerous pieces of legislation last week, including Senate Bill 4, an economic development bill which I sponsored. SB 4 seeks to streamline the contracting process in order to maximize the private sector’s role in urban redevelopment projects, like the Atlanta BeltLine. The Atlanta BeltLine, once an abandoned 22-mile railroad corridor, is transforming the city of Atlanta with its network of public parks, trails, and greenspace located along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor that once circled the downtown area.
Last week while I was back in Georgia, I received a lot of questions about the President’s weak response to the extremist group, ISIL. I hear you and I agree with you whole heartedly. The President has done nothing to assure the American people that he will do whatever it takes to eliminate and destroy these murderers. While President Obama is focusing on political correctness, ISIS is growing stronger.
Early in February, ISIL showed the extent of its barbarism when 27 year old Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian army pilot and ISIL hostage, was burned alive. It is one of the most savage murders in the name of religion the world has ever seen. The very next day, King Abdullah II of Jordan unleashed airstrikes on ISIL– pledging that they will annihilate and punish those who murdered one of their soldiers. Meanwhile, President Obama was at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. preaching political correctness and excuses when referring to the barbaric actions of radical Islam. His criticism of Christian and American history at the National Prayer Breakfast was highly offensive to many, including myself.
Just last week, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded in Libya by ISIL. It is a cold, hard fact that they were murdered for no other reason than their religion. The very same week, the White House hosted a Countering Violent Extremism Summit, where President Obama quibbled with labels and understanding the different types of extremist. We have been dealing with extremism for decades and the President’s summit was, as usual, too little, too late. But to the families of the 21 Christian men, Jordanian pilot, and British, Japanese, and American hostages – these murders all fight under the name and mission of ISIL.
Instead of focusing on labels, the President needs to turn his attention to eliminating radical Islamic terrorists. President Obama’s military authorization should have been presented to Congress last year. The United States should have had been world leaders and been the first to stand up against ISIL. They have had too much time to recruit, grow, and continue with death and destruction. It must end. I’ve said from the start, we don’t want to put our soldiers in danger, but we can’t rule out any of our options that could be effective in defeating these terrorists.
In four legislative days last week, the Senate passed a number of important bills and finalized the amended fiscal year 2015 budget. I’m also proud to say that my bill, Senate Bill 130 titled the “Smokefree Cars for Children Act,” has already received bi-partisan support.
SB 130 was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where I will request a hearing and seek a “do-pass” recommendation for the bill.
As part of my work on the Senate Science and Technology Committee this week, we heard a Senate Bill 113 that would encourage the testing and development of autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, in Georgia. Currently, other states are moving past Georgia for these research and development dollars. Similarly, with several of the key players in this technology like Mercedes-Benz and Kia already headquartered in Georgia, our state is in a unique position for economic development around this exciting technology.
Here are some brief summaries of some of the bills that passed through the Senate this week:
Senate Bill 18 establishes policies for the Technical College System of Georgia to grant academic college-level credit for learning from military service, prior work experience or self-study. I voted “yes”.
Senate Bill 62 removes limitations on probate courts so that they now have jurisdiction over all fish and game violations. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division has historically filed these offenses with probate courts. I voted “yes”.
Senate Bill 58, called the “Georgia Leadership and Service Admission Act,” will allow every member of the Georgia General Assembly, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to recommend a student who meets HOPE Scholarship requirements to a college in the Board of Regents system if that student agrees to participate in Reserve Officer’s Training Corps while enrolled in college. I voted “yes”.
Senate Bill 79 expands the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s powers and duties for victim’s compensation claims. It raises the capped payout amount for funeral costs to $6,000 and expands the list of family members that can file for compensation. The Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program helps victims and their families through the emotional, physical and financial aftermath of a crime. I voted “yes”.
Snow flurries, ice and freezing rain threatened to stall business at the Capitol this week, but we were lucky enough to be able to travel safely to continue as scheduled. We passed quite a few bills this week designed to help support and protect the military service members in our state.
Military members past and present are the lifeblood to the workings of our nation. Without them, we would not have the freedoms and liberties we have today. This week we passed two pieces of legislation, SB 18 and SB 58, which will help us give back to the brave men and women who fight for our country.
On Tuesday, we unanimously passed Senate Bill 18, a bill that will allow the Technical College System of Georgia to accept previous military work experience for academic credit. The brave men and women who serve and protect our country deserve to be credited for the knowledge they acquired through their service.
In addition to helping those who have already served in the United States Military, we passed SB 58, a bill that will support the dreams of high school students who wish to obtain military training while earning a college degree. SB 58, which passed the Senate on Wednesday, will create the Georgia Leadership and Service Admissions Act. This act will enable each member of the General Assembly to provide a written recommendation to one student each year. This recommendation will be for high achieving students who exhibit leadership abilities to use for admission into a ROTC program at an institution in the University System of Georgia.
After another busy two weeks under the Gold Dome, my colleagues and I have completed day 19 of the 2015 Legislative Session. Next week will begin on Monday with legislative day 20, which means we will officially be at the halfway mark of the 2015 Legislative Session.
I am proud to announce I made a trip to Brookwood High School on Thursday to visit the Brookwood Entrepreneurship Academy and sit in on some of their classes. The Entrepreneurship Academy gives high school students the opportunity to learn valuable business skills and entrepreneurial knowledge so that when they graduate, they are fully prepared to enter their career pathway with confidence. Similar Entrepreneurial education programs have been implemented at Central Gwinnett and South Gwinnett High Schools. I would like to thank Brookwood High School and its staff, especially its principal, Bo Ford, for allowing me to visit with some of District 9’s brightest students and see the Brookwood Entrepreneurship Academy’s success.
Now that session is in full-swing, we’re hard at work examining legislation that will continue to make improvements in Georgia. Although skies were sunny last week, Georgia legislators were greeted on Monday of this week by a bout of ice and snow flurries, which resulted in all Georgia Legislative activities being canceled for the day.
The legislative Session resumed on Tuesday with the passing of Senate BIll 18. SB 18 allows the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) to accept prior work experience and skills learned through the Military for academic credit. SB 18 passed by a vote of 53-0. SB 18 also ensures that members of Georgia’s military have the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained through their service to their academic careers. Our military men and women have made vast sacrifices for our country, and deserve to be credited for the skills and knowledge they have gained through their service.
This week in Texas, United States Federal Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered a halt to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, agreeing with Georgia and twenty-five other states that filed a lawsuit opposing the President’s unconstitutional attempt to rewrite our immigration system around Congress. This is a welcome announcement as the President himself said twenty-two times that he did not have the authority to move forward with his executive orders.
The decision temporarily prohibits the Obama administration from carrying out programs the President announced in November that would grant amnesty to as many as five million undocumented immigrants and cause irreparable harm. The most important decision made by Judge Hanen is that, contrary to the Justice Department’s claim, the states are legally allowed to bring this lawsuit because they are going to suffer concrete, measurable costs. For example, it will cost states millions of dollars in mandatory fees set by federal law when these states have to process additional driver’s licenses.
While I look forward to watching this case as it moves through the legal system, House Republicans have already acted to stand up to the President and restore the balance of powers when we passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security and block the executive orders. However, Senate Democrats continue to block movement of this bill and are refusing to even let amendment debate begin. They are sending a clear message that they would rather grant legal status and work permits to those who have broken our laws and are in our country illegally instead of protecting the paychecks of the fine men and women who work to protect our homeland.
In 1867, the first Reconstruction Act was passed by a Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, dividing the South into five military districts and granting suffrage to all male citizens, regardless of race. A politically mobilized African American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican party to power, which in turn brought about radical changes across the South. By 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the support of African American voters.
On January 20, 1870, Hiram R. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. On February 25, two days after Mississippi was granted representation in Congress for the first time since it seceded in 1861, Revels was sworn in.
HB 59 – State tort claims; waiver of sovereign immunity for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Willard-51st)
HB 85 – Alcoholic beverages; sale or furnishing to patients or inmates of Central State Hospital and sale or possession near or upon the grounds; change certain provisions (RegI-Harrell-106th)(AM# 36 0490)
HB 211 – Controlled substances; Schedule I, III, and IV; change certain provisions (JudyNC-Broadrick-4th)
HB 261 – Alcoholic beverages; sale during certain times on Sunday in commercial service airports owned or operated by a municipal governing authority; provide (Substitute)(RegI-Harrell-106th)
Legislation ending Georgia’s lucrative tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles was resurrected Tuesday in a House subcommittee under curious circumstances.
House Bill 122, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, was voted down in the same Ways and Means subcommittee last week. But when the panel convened again Tuesday, it was announced that HB 122 had only been “tabled” last time, which is legislative-ese for being postponed.
After the bill was un-tabled it quickly passed by unanimous voice vote. No Democrats were present.
The chiropractor husband of former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer pleaded guilty Tuesday to orchestrating a scheme that defrauded taxpayers of more than $80,000.
John Boyer admitted to a mail fraud conspiracy charge, and a judge will sentence him May 6.
Prosecutors wrote in court documents that he devised the kickback plan that ended the political career of his wife. Elaine Boyer resigned in August and pleaded guilty to similar charges. She is scheduled to be sentenced March 20.