Week Five 2016 Update
With the fifth week of session behind us, we are now past the halfway mark of the 2016 session! Committees have been hard at work, and many pieces of legislation have begun to make their way from the Senate over to the House. We achieved bipartisan support and passage of several important bills that deal with education, road safety, and military benefits.
House Bill 767, which ensures the safety of our state’s utility service workers, received unanimous support. HB 767 adds utility service vehicles and workers in the fields of electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, cable, telephone, or telecommunication services to the list of those covered under Georgia’s “Spencer Pass Law.”” The law requires drivers to make a lane change, if possible, when approaching any stationary towing, recovery or highway maintenance vehicle parked on the shoulder of the highway. If changing lanes is impossible, or unsafe, the driver must slow to a speed less than the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop, and violators would now be subject to a fine of up to $250. This bill will keep our utility workers, and citizens, safe on the roads.
We continued our focus on Georgia’s education system with the passing of House Bill 739. HB 739 gives the State Board of Education the option to establish a committee to study and recommend instructional materials and content, and also allows local boards of education to have a review process for any locally approved instructional material. As part of the process, the local or State Board of Education will post a list of proposed materials/content on their website for public viewing, as well as making all proposed instructional material/content available for individual review if requested. This will increase transparency, provide greater access to proposed classroom material, allow for local control of our education system, and increase parental involvement.
We also passed House Bill 659, which would require every local board of education and state charter schools to make financial information readily accessible for public access. Also, each school and district would send budget information to the Department of Education to be published on its website. Education funding accounts for more than half of our state budget each year and transparency of those funds is essential to establishing an open dialogue about the needs of our local school systems.
The House unanimously passed House Bill 757, or, the Pastor Protection Act, which reaffirms the separation of church and state in Georgia. Religious leaders will not be forced to perform marriages which violate their faith, and places of worship will not be required by Georgia government to host events that violate their religious doctrine. Under HB 757, businesses are also allowed to remain closed on a day of rest.
Lastly, the House unanimously passed House Bill 821, which will support Georgia’s military spouses and veteran population. HB 821 will require all state licensure boards to streamline the licensing process for service members, and their spouses, who move to our state from another. This bill allows eligible service members and spouses to qualify for temporary occupational licenses, licenses by endorsement, or expedited licenses to better aid their entry into Georgia’s workforce. This will be available to military spouses and transitional veterans who have a license from another state, as long as their training, experience, or testing meets or exceeds that of the Georgia license they seek. Transitioning veterans are also eligible if they are currently on active duty status or are within 24 months of their retirement and have received a specialty, certification, training, or experience in the military while a service member that meets or exceeds that of the Georgia license requirement they are seeking. I was honored to join my colleagues in an act of solidarity to give back to those veterans and their families who have given so much for this state and our nation.
Now that we are officially halfway through the 2016 legislative session, we will begin voting on more bills and resolutions every day. I encourage you to contact me at my capitol office with your thoughts and opinions, as I am always happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding legislation. My capitol office phone number is 404-656-0213, and my email address is Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.