Rep. Shaw announces candidacy for re-election
This week is Georgia’s qualifying period for candidates seeking public office in 2014, and I am pleased to announce my candidacy for re-election to a third term as State Representative for House District 176.
As chairman of the Georgia Legislative Rural Caucus, I am well positioned to take a leading role on the issues and legislation that impact agriculture, natural resources and the needs of rural areas like ours. I have been able to use my experience to successfully sponsor important legislation like the state’s new metal theft enforcement law and secure funding for Valdosta State University and the technical colleges that serve our area.
Also, I have worked to ensure access to quality healthcare in rural areas by the legislative process as well as in coordination with the Department of Community Health.
I ask for your vote and continued support in this year’s election.
Meanwhile, last week was another busy week in the House of Representatives as the 2014 legislative session is entering its final 10 days. Legislation I introduced to provide Class E and Class F drivers’ licenses free of charge to qualified volunteer firefighters was approved on Feb. 26. HB 88 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Other legislation approved by the House last week included HB 826, which would provide local school systems with more flexibility in handling violations of school safety zones. Under HB 826, schools would no longer be forced to expel students who are caught with items like a fishing knife or a baseball bat in their cars on school campuses.
Currently, if a student is found on a school campus with these items in their vehicle, they are automatically suspended and charged with a felony. In these cases under this bill, local school systems will now be able to issue lesser penalties if they have no reason to believe that the student intended to use the object as a weapon. Granting local school systems the authority to deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis will help prevent a student's record and reputation from being tarnished with an offense that was actually an innocent mistake.
House members also approved a resolution requesting the State Board of Education to impose successful completion of the Skills for Success financial literacy class as a requirement for high school graduation. HR 1186 states that young people need to learn certain skills in order to successfully manage their lives as responsible and productive citizens, including the ability to write a resume, conduct a job interview, have a good work ethic, balance a checkbook, purchase insurance, properly budget their spending and establish and manage credit, among others, taught in the Skills for Success class.
We also passed HB 804 to protect children from the psychological trauma that can result from testifying in court about cases of abuse. Testifying before a court is an intimidating task, especially for a young child, and having to face an abuser can be even scarier. HB 804 provides young victims with another option. The bill allows them to testify remotely via live broadcast if the court agrees that testifying before the accused would cause serious physical or emotional distress for the victim. Not only will this measure ease discomfort for victims, but it might also eliminate one of the barriers that prevents them from coming forward about their abuse.
The House also approved HB 923 to help ensure that cases of child abuse are treated with the seriousness that they warrant. HB 923 increases public access to government records that relate to deceased children who had at some point come into contact with the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). The bill also updates the Child Fatality Review Board, which is responsible for examining DFCS cases that involve death. It is our hope that this increased transparency and review, combined with an increase in DFCS employees, will ensure Georgia is doing everything possible to protect children from abuse.
Supplemental Budget: On Feb. 25, the House and Senate gave final approval to HB 743, the midyear adjustment to the $20.2 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014, which ends June 30. A late change to the budget was a $5.5 million addition to the governor's emergency fund to help cover the state's costs in response to the two winter storms that hit North Georgia in recent weeks. The supplemental budget legislation now awaits the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.
Water Pollution Emergency Plans: House members passed HB 549 to protect our state's natural resources, such as our waterways and wildlife. This bill will help our state better prepare for a water pollution emergency, like the one recently experienced by West Virginia and the Ogeechee River Fish Kill in Georgia a few years ago.
HB 549 establishes a state water pollution emergency response plan. The bill requires that the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) maintain an emergency response program to handle critical threats and pollution to our state's water resources. The bill also requires appropriate and timely responses to emergencies that threaten the state's waterways.
Additionally, HB 549 requires that the EPD use proper public notification and coordination between the state and local communities to protect the health of Georgia's citizens during emergencies and keep them informed. I am proud that our state has taken these steps to protect our state's citizens as well as the aquatic wildlife that live along our waterways.