Long days ahead at the Capitol as ‘Crossover Day’ approaches

3/3/2012

With “Crossover Day” - the 30th day of the session and final legislative chance that most bills have to pass the House of Representatives and make their way to the Senate, and vice versa - scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, members of the General Assembly will put in some of our longest days to ensure a quality review of as much legislation as possible before time runs out this year.

The long days actually started last week, as my metal theft enforcement legislation was approved by the House Judiciary Committee at 9 p.m. on Feb. 29, following a full day of business on the House floor. HB 872, which I introduced and would impose tighter regulations on the recyclers and scrap metal dealers who provide the market for stolen metal, now awaits action by the full House.

Also last week, House members voted unanimously to approve HB 513, which I introduced and would allow the issuance of a group life insurance policy to approved groups. The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration. Another bill that I introduced, HB 931, is scheduled for a vote on the House floor Monday, March 5. This measure would update provisions of state law regarding domestic farmers’ mutual fire insurance companies.

In other business last week, House members approved a number of measures aimed at protecting the wellbeing of children in our state, including HB 215, which would ensure that registered sex offenders cannot work as school bus drivers. The legislation accomplishes this by prohibiting registered sex offenders from receiving the commercial driver’s license required to drive school buses, charter buses, and other commercial vehicles that may be used to transport children.

HB 845 would help protect children from the flu viruses, which are particularly dangerous for children and the elderly, by increasing access to flu vaccine information in early learning facilities. With the Centers for Disease Control estimating that 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year for influenza, we felt that parents should have access to information that can keep their families safe from this potentially deadly disease.

An important public education bill approved by the House was HB 692, which would take back salary bonuses paid to teachers or other certificated professionals based on the results of standardized test if the test scores were found to be falsified by that teacher or professional. This legislation is in response to the high-profile cheating scandals regarding test scores in the Atlanta and Albany school systems.

Also last week, after many years of research and meticulous work, the House passed HB 641, which would provide a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s juvenile code. By updating Georgia’s laws affecting children, this bill allows the state to better help children who enter the state system either through no fault of their own, such as those in foster care, or through their own actions, such as those in juvenile detention. HB 641 would make Georgia’s juvenile courts more efficient in handling cases of abuse, neglect, youth violations of the law and other circumstances requiring court intervention. The legislation would also improve communication between state agencies by requiring them to create a coordinated plan for each child in the state system. HB 641 would help foster children by ensuring they have access to caring adults who can provide them with the guidance, skills, and opportunities needed to become independent adults.

Legislation that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy was approved by the House on Feb. 29. HB 954 would allow abortions after 20 weeks only when there is substantial medical risk to expectant mother but would also limit exceptions and require the procedure to be performed so that it “provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”

Among other bills approved by the House and sent to the Senate last week were HB 456, which would establish a “sunset commission” of legislators who could recommend abolishing various agencies in the executive branch of state government; HB 463, which would authorize the sale of individual insurance coverage on personal property kept in self-service storage facilities;
HB 520, which would increase the maximum amount of solar-generated electricity that Georgia Power buys back from its customers who co-generate their own power; HB 541, which would establish the offense of threatening or intimidating a law enforcement officer, public official or other person related to his or her involvement in a judicial proceeding; HB 898, which would establish a new category of banking entity in the state for companies that validate credit card transactions; and HB 1146, which would establish the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Services Board.

Finally, the House approved SB 339, which would dismantle the Georgia Aviation Authority and transfer the aircraft previously owned and operated by the Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Forestry Commission back to those agencies. The General Assembly passed a bill last year that returned ownership of other state aircraft to the Department of Public Safety. SB 339 now goes to the governor for his signature.

As always, please contact me with your views on the issues or whenever I can be of service.


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