The Senate met this week for days 19-22 of the legislative session with the goal of passing legislation to benefit our state’s men and women in blue who put their lives on the line every day. I am pleased to say we passed several bills to benefit our law enforcement community.
While law enforcement compensation legislation was the main focus, we also passed other bills covering a wide range of topics.
We also made progress on our only constitutionally required duty, passing a balanced budget, with the passage of the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. In total, the Senate saw 20 bills passed on the Senate floor, all of which have been sent to the House for consideration.
In addition to passing legislation, the Senate also heard from several special guests including Reverend Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., city of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and the family of Otis Redding, Jr.
We’re halfway through the 2018 legislative session and I expect the remaining days of session to be just as busy, if not busier, than this week.
Creating the State Health Benefit Plan Advisory Council
Senate Bill 31 would create the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) Advisory Council. The Council would advise and make recommendations to the Commissioner of the Department of Community Health on changes to the SHBP. The bill would require at least two members of the Board of Community Health to be participants in the SHBP. SB 31 passed with a vote of 52-0.
Updating Georgia’s Cybersecurity Laws
Senate Bill 315 would create a new cybersecurity crime of unauthorized access of a computer or computer network as a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature which could result in up to a year of jail time, a $5,000 fine or both. SB 315 passed with a vote of 41-11.
Waiving Medicaid Recipient Estate Claims
Senate Bill 370 would clarify that the Commissioner of the Department of Community Health (DCH) can waive the first $25,000 against the estate of a Medicaid recipient. Under current law, the DCH may make a claim against the estate of a Medicaid recipient for any amount of medical assistance. SB 370 caps a claim waived at the first $25,000 of any estate. SB 370 passed with a vote of 52-0.
Recognizing Georgia Young Farmers Association
Senate Resolution 736 commended the Georgia Young Farmers Association and recognized February 12, 2018, as Young Farmers Day at the state Capitol. The Georgia Young Farmers Association was founded in 1970 and has nearly 6,000 members in 56 chapters throughout the state. The organization aims to promote agricultural best practices among young farmers.
Alcohol Sales on Sunday
Senate Bill 17 would allow local governments to authorize by referendum the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption at wineries, restaurants whose gross revenue is made up of 50 percent food sales and hotels after 11 a.m. SB 17 passed with a vote of 38-18.
Establishing an Outdoor Recreation Mentor Program
Senate Bill 332 would establish an outdoor mentorship program within the Department of Natural Resources for those who have never held a fishing or hunting permit. In addition, SB 332 would also allow non-resident youth ages 15 and below to purchase a hunting or fishing permit at a reduced cost. SB 332 passed with a vote of 56-0.
Revalidating Automobile Registration Decals
Senate Bill 342 would eliminate a law enforcement officer’s requirement to impound a vehicle that doesn’t have a current tag registration decal. SB 342 would allow the owner of the vehicle without the required revalidation decal to retain custody of their vehicle until the assigned court date. SB 342 passed with a vote of 56-0.
The Georgia Measuring Success Act
Senate Bill 378 would mandate any legislation containing new tax incentives, or the modification of standing tax incentives, to undergo a financial analysis by the bill’s author and the state auditor. SB 378 passed with a vote of 55-0.
Recognizing the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation
Senate Resolution 638 recognized February 13, 2018, as Georgia Farm Bureau Federation (GFBF) Day at the state Capitol. The GFBF was founded in 1937 by 50 farmers in Bartow County advocating for sound public policy in agricultural production. The GFBF has grown to include 158 county chapters with more than 285,000 members.
Emergency Medical Services Recognition Day
Senate Resolution 674 recognizes February 13, 2018, as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Recognition Day at the state Capitol. Georgia EMS professionals respond to more than 1 million calls for assistance annually. EMS is celebrating its 44th year of service and there are more than 16,000 state EMS personnel who provide essential life-saving services.
Teachers of Math Day
Senate Resolution 712 recognized February 13, 2018, as Teachers of Math Day at the state Capitol. The Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics (GCTM) works to promote high-quality mathematics education for all students. GCTM is composed of educators who teach in a variety of classrooms ranging from preschool to graduate school.
Celebrating Georgia Pre-K’s 25th Anniversary
Senate Resolution 727 which recognizes October 1-5, 2018, as Georgia Pre-K Week. The 2017-2018 school year marks the 25th anniversary of the Georgia Pre-K program, which has prepared more than 1.6 million of Georgia’s children for success in kindergarten and beyond.
Requiring Life Insurance Policy Locator Websites
Senate Bill 248 would require life insurance companies operating in Georgia to review the life insurance policy locator website to aid in finding policies of deceased policyholders. The bill will assist in alerting beneficiaries who may not know about the policy in their possession. SB 248 passed with a vote of 52-0.
Expanding Jurisdiction for Technical College System Officers
Senate Bill 348 would allow Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) law enforcement to exercise the same powers granted to University System of Georgia law enforcement. Under SB 348, TCSG officers would be able to enter into agreements with local law enforcement agencies and vice versa. In addition, SB 348 gives campus officers jurisdiction of up to 500 feet from the respective TCSG campus. SB 348 passed with a vote of 48-1.
Decreasing Wage Disparities for Local Law Enforcement
Senate Bill 366 would require local governments to submit annual wage compensation information for law enforcement agency employees to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The department would then conduct an analysis of the data and submit the information back to local governments to adopt guidance pay scales. In addition, SB 366 would create a grant program to help designated Tier 1 counties lessen wage disparities among law enforcement officers across county lines. SB 366 passed with a vote of 52-2.
Supporting Local Law Enforcement Agencies
Senate Bill 367 would expand the list of qualified individuals who can receive a state indemnification payment to include their estate. SB 367 outlines that the indemnification would be a one-time payment made for a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. SB 367 passed with a vote of 54-0.
Providing Technical Support for Local Law Enforcement
Senate Bill 368 would allow the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to provide technical support to local law enforcement agencies by providing equipment, grant funding, operations, training and other local agency needs. SB 368 passed with a vote of 54-0.
Pre-Trial Fees Helping Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund
Senate Bill 369 would require $5 of every pre-trial diversion fee to be paid into the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund. In addition, the legislation would require pre-trial fees to be collected by the clerk of courts. SB 369 passed with a vote of 55-0.
Clark Atlanta University Day
Senate Resolution 687 recognized February 14, 2018, as Clark Atlanta University Day at the state Capitol. Clark Atlanta University was established in 1988 upon the consolidation of Atlanta University and Clark College. Clark Atlanta University is one of three Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the city of Atlanta and one of six in the state.
Stop The Bleed Day at the Capitol
Senate Resolution 689 recognizes February 14, 2018, as Georgia Stop the Bleed Day at the state Capitol. Annually, more than 180,000 people die from blood loss as a result of traumatic injuries sustained in vehicle crashes, natural disasters, and mass casualties. Stopping blood loss is one of the most common preventable causes of death and Stop the Bleed aims to educate bystanders on how to help in emergencies before medical professionals arrive to the scene.
Commending Medical Association of Georgia Medical Reserve Corps
Senate Resolution 717 honors the Medical Association of Georgia Medical Reserve Corps (MAG MRC) for its 2017 emergency disaster response efforts in the state of Georgia. MAG MRC contributes to Georgia’s state disaster response plan and sent professionals and personnel to respond to Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria in 2017.
Creating Alternative Assessment Pilot Programs
Senate Bill 362 would create a pilot program in schools to develop and implement alternative assessment and accountability systems. The program is estimated to last three to five years and would be open for application in 10 school districts. The legislation aims to develop highly efficient assessment systems that provide real-time feedback in identifying areas of student mastery and deficiency. SB 362 passed with a vote of 52-0.
Passing the FY18 Amended Budget
House Bill 683 is the supplemental appropriations bill for the state of Georgia for the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The amended budget totals $25.3 billion for FY18, including $306 million in new spending. The three largest items in this year’s amended budget include $86.8 million to account for K-12 enrollment growth, $82.8 million for Medicaid between state and federal funds and $25.1 million to expand runway lengths at 11 regional airports. HB 683 passed with a vote of 53-0.
The Georgia Senate will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 20.
I hope you will take the opportunity to review my weekly updates to stay informed on legislative matters that affect our district and state.
I am always eager to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me at any time.