Your Georgia Desk
Update from the Gold Dome
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”.
- Senate Bill 51 clarifies Georgia law for the dispensing of expensive medical products called biologics. It defines the terms “biological product” and “interchangeable biological product” to better resemble definitions from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Public Health Service Act. I voted “yes”.
- Senate Bill 4 is a public-private partnership bill to expand the redevelopment of urban areas, especially around the Atlanta Beltline, with more surface transportation projects. Those projects could include improvements to current mass transit facilities, sidewalks or bike lanes. I voted “no”.
- Senate Bill 72, called “Tanja’s Law,” strengthens the punishments for crimes committed against a police dog while the dog is performing its official duties. I voted “yes”.
These bills will now cross over to the House for their consideration. If they are passed in the House, they go on to the Governor for his signature.
Also, after some final discussions with the House, House Bill 75 the $21.1 billion Fiscal Year 2015 Amended Budget was sent to and signed by the Governor last week.
The Governor’s “Opportunity Schools” proposal to reform some of Georgia’s most struggling schools was before the Senate Education and Youth Committee on Friday. His plan would create a statewide school system similar to plans that have worked in other states to help our education system serve all the students of Georgia. The constitutional amendment that accompanies SB 133 will eventually require voter approval in 2016 for the entire system to become law.
The General Assembly is now through day 20 and half way done with this session. The Senate convened today and will convene on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.