2015 Legislative Session: Week Nine
On Friday, March 13, we reached day 30 of the 2015 legislative session. Each year the 30th legislative day marks a crucial deadline for the Georgia General Assembly. This date, which is also known as “Crossover Day,” is the final chance for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated. After Crossover Day, all bills passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa, and we will then spend the remaining ten legislative days considering Senate bills. As a result, we worked long days this week to ensure a quality review of as much legislation as possible before the crucial “crossover” deadline.
Here is a list of bills we passed in the House this week:
- House Bill 131 (or The End to Cyberbullying Act)- This bill strives to provide our children with a safer, healthier learning environment by expanding public school policies on anti-bullying to include any bullying that occurs over the internet, also known as “cyberbullying.” HB 131, would prohibit bullying through the use of technological equipment such as cell phones, wireless communication devices, computers, email, instant messaging, etc. The End to Cyber-bullying Act would apply to any case of cyberbullying, regardless of whether the act originated on school property, using school equipment, or off campus through personal cell phones and social media websites. With the popularity and increased use of technology, this legislation is necessary to address a common problem among our youth. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 43% of teens were victims of cyberbullying last year, and another study found that cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to those who had not experienced it. Because cyberbullying has such a profound impact on the happiness and health of our students, it is necessary that we take precautions to combat this detrimental act
- House Bill 17 (or the Hidden Predator Act)- A bill aimed at reforming the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims. Under current Georgia law, a child sex abuse victim may only bring action against his or her abuser within five years after the victim turns 18 years old. Current law also bars the victim or their guardian from accessing police and other investigation records in which the victim is the subject of a reported child sexual abuse investigation. HB 17 would provide a 30 year extension to the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims. The legislation would also allow for a retroactive “window” that would provide a two-year time frame for sexual abuse victims, whose civil claims were blocked by the statute of limitations in the past, to file a case against their perpetrator. Additionally, the legislation would amend current Georgia law to allow victims, or their legal guardians, to access police and other investigation records. Not only will HB 17 ensure that justice is served, but it will also help law enforcement officers catch predators.
- House Bill 225– This legislation ensures proper licensing requirements for drivers in app-based ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, which utilize a digital network to connect passengers to rideshare drivers as a form of for-hire transportation. HB 225 is aimed at addressing public safety concerns by creating oversight and putting these rideshare services under the same regulations as taxis and limousines. Unlike rideshare drivers, traditional taxi and limo drivers must go through a state issued background check with fingerprinting to obtain a “chauffeur endorsement,” which indicates that the driver is authorized to operate a vehicle to transport passengers for pay. HB 225 clarifies this discrepancy by requiring rideshare drivers to secure similar “for-hire license endorsements,” and go through background checks. These ride share companies would be permitted to conduct their own background checks and will be subject to state audit. The legislation also requires the companies to obtain the same levels of liability insurance as taxi and limo drivers and either pay state sales taxes or an annual fee for each car in its network. I feel confident that HB 225 strikes a great balance of ensuring public safety, while also supporting an environment that is conducive for popular, innovative ride sharing businesses.
- House Bill 48– This bill honors our brave men and women in uniform by allowing law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders who have sustained a major injury on the job to receive special license plates. Currently special license plates are also available to the family members of fallen service members, and HB 48 extends that privilege to brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Another measure in HB 48 allows disabled veterans to receive free license plates for cars or motorcycles. These heroes and their families make enormous sacrifices for our country, and I am glad that HB 48 provides them with this extra recognition
- House Bill 110– This legislation will legalize the sale of fireworks in the state of Georgia. Currently fireworks are sold in four of our five neighboring states, but Georgia businesses are currently only allowed to sell sparklers. These restrictions lead many Georgians to drive across state lines to buy their fireworks. HB 110 opens the profitable firework market to Georgia business owners, allowing more dollars to stay at home and creating new jobs as these stores open. The money from firework sales will not only boost local economies, but it will also generate new tax revenue. If approved by the Senate and Governor Deal, I look forward to seeing the positive economic impact of HB 110.
Now that Crossover Day has passed, we will begin considering pieces of legislation that have already been approved by the Senate. During these last few weeks of session, I hope that you will contact me to express your ideas and opinions. Please also let me know if you have any comments or questions regarding issues facing our great state. Your comments are always welcome and are important to me. You can reach me at my capitol office at 404-656-3937 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.