2015 Legislative Session: Week Six
On Tuesday, February 17, we began the sixth week of the 2015 legislative session. We were able to continue session as scheduled, despite the winter storm in other areas of the state. We completed day 19 of the session, so we are about halfway finished. With the 2015 legislative session heating up, an increasing number of bills were passed out of committees and voted upon by the full body of the House.
Senate Bill 5
The House and Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 5, which will enable the Georgia Ports Authority to accept federal dollars for the Savannah Harbor deepening project. The project began last month, and the project will deepen the Savannah River from 42 feet to 47 feet, allowing the port to accommodate larger container ships. The state of Georgia has thus far designated $266 million towards the project, and President Obama recently requested the appropriation of $42 million in federal funds from Congress. Thanks to the combination of state and federal funding, the project is currently scheduled to be finished by 2020. With the new improvements, Savannah Harbor has the potential to become one of the busiest ports in the world and positively impact counties all over Georgia.
House Bill 100
The House passed another important bill related to Georgia’s education system this week. The statute requires that a child be 5 years old by August 1st to be able to enroll in kindergarten. The current cutoff date is September 1st, and this change will take effect for the 2017-2018 school year; July 1st will be the cutoff date for the 2018-2019 school year and all years thereafter. This legislation will provide children with a better opportunity for success throughout their educational careers by ensuring that they are well prepared and mature enough to begin that journey. In the past, educators have been concerned with the maturity of younger students, and I think this legislation will help alleviate those concerns.
House Bill 198
This week, the House unanimously passed House Bill 198; this legislation is an important topic to protect teens and young adults in Georgia. HB 198 aims to lower the rate of suicide among teens by requiring annual suicide prevention training for certified public school system personnel in order for them to better identify symptoms of suicide. Suicide is a very real problem among young people, and is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This training will teach staff when to refer students to mental health services and how to identify those resources within their schools and/or communities. This training and implementation would be free for all school systems. It is our hope that this legislation will help equip Georgia school employees with the tools they need to prevent these unfortunate situations.
House Bill 119
We passed legislation to help protect our law enforcement officers this week. House Bill 119 authorizes probate judges to disclose to peace officers if a patient who is being held in their custody is legally determined to have AIDS. This legislation will help keep our men and women in uniform safe and allow them to take appropriate health safety precautions. It is necessary that we protect Georgia’s law enforcement officers, who already make so many sacrifices to keep us safe.
As for House Bill 170, I have received several calls, emails and messages from folks in the district regarding my position on HB 170. I cannot support HB 170 as it came out of committee this week. I do support shifting sales taxes on motor fuel to an excise tax because the excise tax must be used on roads and bridges and thus cannot be lost in the general fund. Read More.
If you have concerns or questions about proposed legislation, I hope that you will contact me. I am always eager to hear from you, so that I can better understand what issues are most important to you and your family. Please stop by and visit me at the Capitol if you are in Atlanta during the legislative session, or call my office at the State Capitol and let me know what I can do for you. The phone number is 404.656.0213.