Lawmakers prepare for final days of 2012 session
With legislation passed by the Senate now working its way through the committee process in the House of Representatives, and vice versa, last week was relatively quiet in terms of action on the House floor.
But there were a few bills that gained final approval and were sent to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. These included HB 477, which I introduced and would change the license renewal period for insurance agents from every year to every two years. I was able to persuade my House colleagues to agree to accept minor Senate changes to the legislation in a timely manner so that the governor can sign the bill into law prior to an upcoming deadline to start the transition to a two-year license period.
House members also agreed with Senate changes to HB 48, which would change certain provisions regarding the Freeport exemption process, sending that bill to the governor’s desk.
Meanwhile, the House approved a number of Senate bills last week, including: SB 300, which would require proper labeling for bottles containing sugar cane or sorghum syrup; SB 309, which would grant special hunting permits for big game or alligators to terminally ill children under the age of 21; and SB 343, which would designate the state accounting officer as the official comptroller general of Georgia, a position previously held by the state insurance commissioner.
Both the House and Senate gave final approval to HB 741, the amended budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2012, which ends June 30. Totaling $18.5 billion, the plan now goes to Gov. Deal for his signature.
The General Assembly will be in session four days this week with Thursday, March 22, being the 37th legislative day. Among the Senate bills under review in House committees for action in the final days are:
SB 312, which would require recipients of food stamps to engage in professional development activities, such as furthering their education, enrolling in an adult literacy class, or taking a job training course. This requirement would not apply to those working more than 30 hours a week or part-time students, since they are already furthering their professional development. With the Georgia unemployment rate above 9 percent, this measure will help ensure that those receiving public assistance are taking the steps necessary to become successful, tax-paying workers.
SB 316, which would extend the statute of limitations up to 20 years for offenses that harm children. After this change, adults can come forward and report cases of rape, molestation or incest that may have occurred when they were children. With only half of child abuse cases ever reported, this measure will allow prosecutors and victims to seek justice against those that commit these deplorable acts. Reporting abuse can ultimately prevent future abuse from occurring, so these adults may be able to save countless children by coming forward. I encourage you to report any instances of suspected child abuse by calling 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
SB 469, which would prohibit mass picketing on private property. While all Americans have a right to freedom of speech, this measure ensures that the rights of property owners are respected during protests.
SB 441, which would prohibit individuals from pointing lasers at aircraft and police officers. When pointed at an aircraft from many miles away, a simple laser pointer can cause a large glare on the glass of a cockpit windshield, temporarily blinding pilots and creating a serious safety concern for passengers and people on the ground. In 2010, more than 2,000 pilots reported being targeted by lasers. Although federal law already prohibits individuals from pointing lasers at aircraft, this measure will ensure an extra level of protection for Georgia citizens and pilots.
Also in SB 441 is a provision that prohibits people from pointing lasers at police officers. With many weapons containing laser sights, lasers can cause police officers to believe that their lives are being threatened. In 2005, this led to police shooting and killing a 24-year old Florida man after he pointed a laser at a group of deputies and refused to show his hands. SB 441 would help prevent a similar instance in Georgia, and allow police officers to do their jobs without unnecessary distractions.
House committees are reviewing more than 100 other Senate-approved bills and resolutions. I encourage you to please contact me with any concerns you might have regarding Senate bills or resolutions, or whenever I can be of service.