Legislative pace increases as session passes halfway point


Friday, Feb. 17, was the 21st legislative day of the 2012 General Assembly, meaning we have passed the halfway point of the session. In the past week, the number of bills making it to the House of Representatives floor began to increase, and the legislative pace will continue to quicken between now and the end of the session.

Last week, House members passed a resolution (HR 1325) urging Congress to repeal an outdated law so that illegal cell phone use can be more easily detected in prisons. Illegal cell phone use has become a huge problem in Georgia’s prisons.

In 2011, the Georgia Department of Corrections confiscated more than 8,500 illegal cell phones. These phones are often used by inmates to initiate attacks against prison guards and coordinate gang activity from behind bars. Georgia corrections officers have reported that they could dramatically decrease the violence with the use of cellular jammers, devices that prevent cellular phones from receiving signals from base stations.

Unfortunately, prisons are unable to use cellular jammers due to an outdated federal law. While we cannot change this law ourselves, we can send a strong message to Washington, which we did with HR 1325.

In other business, the House approved: HB 728, which would clarify provisions of state law pertaining to property covenants; HB 729, the annual effort by the General Assembly to revise the state tax code so that it aligns with changes in federal tax laws; HB 744, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act; HB 785, which provides that the issuance of state licenses for physicians and dentists “shall not be conditioned upon or related to participation in any public or private health insurance plan, public health care system, public service initiative or emergency room coverage”; HB 800, which would change certain qualifications for assistant adjutants general; HB 824, which would revise the formula for allocating the state’s equalization grants to school systems in less-developed counties; and HB 835, which would allow a 5 percent variance of weight limitations for towing disabled commercial vehicles. All of these measures now go to the Senate for its consideration.

Legislation that will change a state law that inadvertently excluded some military-trained nurses from a license to practice in Georgia has now become law. On Feb. 16, Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 675, which revises the definition of approved nursing education programs for registered professional nurses and licensed practical nurses.

Through the passage and signing of this bill, around 150 nursing professionals will now be eligible for employment in Georgia. The bill passed the General Assembly unanimously.

The governor said, “With the current shortage of healthcare professionals in our state, this bill will provide more opportunity for highly qualified nurses to practice here. Legislation sometimes has unintended consequences, and no one ever wanted to prevent these professionals from working in Georgia.”

Lawmakers also continued our Red Tape Watch initiative last week. Through this series of hearings, we have had the opportunity to hear from small businesses across the state, as they shared the challenges they face with unnecessary government regulations. The feedback has provided us with some insight into possible areas for improvement.

For example, business owners from several different industries have complained about delays in working with state agencies to obtain inspections and licenses. Also, many owners of day care centers complained of a new requirement that employees must have a technical or college degree. Some of these centers say they may have to lay off workers who have been working with them for 20 years. We need to look at policies like these and determine if this is the right step to take.

My colleagues and I appreciate these many business owners who have stepped forward with their stories, and we look forward to finding ways to resolve these issues so that small businesses can flourish and create more jobs.

As always, I am at your service. Please contact me with your views and concerns about any of the issues we will be addressing at the State Capitol during this upcoming session.

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