Weekly update 3/7/14
Monday, March 3rd marked the 30th legislative day of the 2014 session. Known as “Crossover Day,” this critical point in the session is the last chance for bills to pass the legislative chamber from which they originated. After Crossover Day, all legislation passed by the House must “cross over” to the Senate, and vice versa. Any bill that has not been passed by either the House or Senate by the end of this day will have little chance of becoming law this year. Due to this deadline, my colleagues and I in the House worked long hours on Monday to ensure that many important pieces of legislation were considered by the Georgia House.
One of the bills passed by the House on Crossover Day was House Bill 885, which would increase treatment options for children suffering from seizure disorders. HB 885 would tightly restrict and regulate the distribution of cannabidiol, an oil-based derivative of the cannabis plant. The derivative would only be available through medical trial at one of five Georgia academic research centers and prescribed by medical doctors. The treatment has been used to successfully control seizure disorders for children in Colorado, and I hope that it can now give hope to families in Georgia.
Also passed on Crossover Day were bills designed to promote economic development in Georgia. One such bill was House Bill 960, which aims to speed up the development of the Atlanta BeltLine project by enabling the private sector to help finance and build the transit project. The BeltLine is a proposed 22 mile bike path and light rail system that will circle Atlanta. It has been recognized by businesses all over the world for improving transportation and promoting a healthy lifestyle for Atlantans. It is the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta and among the largest urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States. I am proud that the Georgia House was able to adopt measures that will speed up this project. I look forward to the Atlanta BeltLine bringing jobs and increased transportation options to the City of Atlanta.
Another economic development bill that was passed was House Bill 958. One measure in this legislation establishes August 1-2, 2014 as a tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers. Not only does this tax break provide financial relief for parents, it also encourages shoppers to do business in the state of Georgia. Other measures in the bill give job-creating tax incentives to video game developers and developers of big, regionally important projects.
Finally on Crossover Day, we voted on legislation that would create new monuments at the State Capitol. House Bill 702 would place a monument of the 10 Commandments, U.S. Constitution, and Georgia Constitution at the State Capitol to celebrate the ideals and values that these documents represent. Similarly, House Bill 1080 would place a monument of Martin Luther King Jr. at the State Capitol in honor of his significant role in the history of Georgia and America. Many Georgians come to the State Capitol to tour and learn about the history of our state, and these two monuments will be great additions to our Capitol grounds.
After Crossover Day, we began reviewing and voting on Senate Bills. One of those bills, Senate Bill 23, aims to speed up action in reported missing person cases. The bill prohibits Georgia law enforcement agencies from establishing a “minimum waiting period” before they act on a missing person report. The legislation defines a “medically endangered person” and adds these individuals to the provisions of the Mattie’s Call Act. Mattie’s Call is a law enforcement initiated alert system that is used to locate missing elderly or disabled persons.
Meanwhile, our colleagues in the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2015 budget this week. The full fiscal year budget uses a projected state revenue estimate to guide state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year. The Senate passed a slightly different version of House Bill 744 than we previously passed in the House, and it will now move to a House and Senate Conference Committee to work out a final spending plan to submit for a final vote of the full legislature.
In addition to passing bills last week, we also received some news related to the deepening of the Port of Savannah. The Obama Administration’s 2015 fiscal year budget request was released, and it only appropriated $1.62 million for pre-construction, not the construction funds the state was expecting. This news was disappointing, as we have been expecting $400 million from the federal government to be designated to the project over the next few years. So far, Georgia alone has reserved $231 million to go towards the port, and we are planning for another $35 million this year. Even through tough budgetary years, Georgia has remained committed to appropriating funds to the deepening of the Port of Savannah. I’m disappointed that the federal government is not doing the same. Not only will the port bring business and prosperity to Georgia, it will also improve import and export opportunities for the entire nation. Understanding the importance of this project, Governor Deal announced plans to move forward with the project despite this setback. The governor is exploring several options, including bonds and public-private partnerships. I support Governor Deal’s decision to move forward; deepening the port will allow our state to accommodate bigger ships and help boost our economy tremendously.
As we think through tough issues in the last days 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 404-656-0109.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.