Sen. Bruce Thompson: Update from the Gold Dome

18
Feb

Sen. Bruce Thompson: Update from the Gold Dome

Your Georgia Desk

From Senator Bruce Thompson

Senator Bruce Thompson

Update from the Gold Dome

Work in the Senate has definitely picked up steam this week. On Wednesday, the Senate passed our version of the fiscal year 2015 amended budget in House Bill 75. There are very few differences in the budget proposals from the Governor that have now been vetted by the House and Senate. Some of the highlights include an additional $126.2 million to account for midterm enrollment growth in our K-12 education system and $2.4 million for enrollment growth in charter systems.

All three versions of the budget include an additional $4.9 million to fund clinical trials for children with medication resistant epilepsy, $515,000 to establish the Georgia Film Academy to train students for jobs in the booming Georgia film industry and $6.2 million in state and federal funds to hire 103 additional Child Protective Services caseworkers. Another important line item is the $20 million allocated for deal closing initiatives to encourage companies to relocate to Georgia. The amended budget is a testament to the sound fiscal policies of our state that make Georgia the number one state to do business.

On Thursday, the Senate made a bold and decisive step towards ending child sex trafficking in Georgia. It is a sad fact that criminals have had far too easy a time abducting, victimizing and selling children as part of an underground sex trade. Through the great work of my Senate colleague Sen. Renee Unterman, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 7 and Senate Bill 8 with bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 8 creates the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and Commission, increases the legal punishments for perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse and adds more protections for victims of these despicable situations. These legal protections range from increases on the statute of limitations for civil claims against sex traffickers to the forfeiting of cars used to operate these illegal businesses. The bill also requires convicted sex traffickers to be listed on the sexual offender registry.

Senate Resolution 7 is necessary to send this new penalty fee to the voters for their approval as required by our state’s constitution. These pieces of legislation work in tandem. The Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund will be used to provide medical treatment and rehabilitation for victims. It will eventually be up to the voters to approve the creation of this fund, and I hope that they will. We must protect our children from the predators who pimp, pander and traffic young people. Our constitution sets a high bar for the creation of funds like these, and it will be ultimately up to the voters to make it law.

Through the committee process for this legislation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that victim services were the best defense against child sex trafficking. This legislation gives law enforcement more tools to protect our children, rescue victims caught up in this industry and prosecute those looking to sexually exploit Georgia’s children.

As we look for more ways to protect our children, I am excited to announce that I am working on a bill to restrict smoking in cars with a child present. Second hand smoke is full of dangerous toxins detrimental to the development of a young child. More information on this bill will be announced as it moves forward in the legislative process.

Lastly, the General Assembly set its working calendar for the rest of the session, which rarely gets done so early in a legislative year. I want to applaud the leadership in the General Assembly not only for being decisive about our schedule, but ensuring that we are a citizen legislature sent to carry out our limited responsibilities then return home to our districts. The resolution set Sine Die, legislative day 40, for Thursday April 2nd, which is just before the Easter holiday.

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