By State Sen. Ben Watson, MD
The Georgia Senate has completed our twenty-seventh day of 40 session days. When we returned Monday, we went well over the halfway point of the 2021 legislative session, and “Crossover Day” was Monday.
Crossover Day is the last day a bill can be passed out of the House or Senate before being sent to the other body. It also is the second busiest day with the session scheduled to go late in the evening as we in the Senate try to get our legislation passed and sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
On the COVID-19 front, we in the Coastal empire are one of the leaders in the state in “putting shots in arms.” To aid that continued success, we pushed for the addition of Savannah to receive a “Mass Vaccination Site.” Thanks to Gulfstream Aerospace, the National Guard will be able to give 5,000 shots immediately, but as always this number will be dependent on supply. The mass vaccination site is located on Gulfstream property at the airport. In addition, sites will be established in Waycross, Columbus, Augusta, and Cartersville. With the addition of the new Johnson & Johnson single--shot vaccine regimen, Georgia will get about 85,000 extra vaccines per week.
Starting March 8, teachers, developmentally disabled individuals, and their caregivers started receiving the vaccine. The mass vaccination program will start St Patrick’s Day, March 17!
Looking ahead, passing a balanced budget that continues to prioritize public health, safety, and education will be a top priority for the General Assembly.
Reviewing election laws and further securing Georgia’s election system has been a top priority for me this legislative session. I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort to maintain secure, efficient, and fair elections by supporting common sense legislation to protect our democracy.
For example, I voted for Senate Bill 89 to encourage better training for elections officials. As they should be, elections in Georgia are administered on the local level by county election offices. To provide proper oversight and accountability, the legislation creates a position in the Office of the Secretary of State with the primary responsibility of reviewing local election procedures and provide recommendations for the facilitation of future elections.
Voter confidence is essential in a republic and, if signed into law, this measure will bring us one step closer to restoring Georgians’ trust in our election process.
Senate Bill 78 will increase the punishment for electronically distributing sexually explicit photos and videos on a pornographic website for the purpose of harassing or causing financial damage of victims. The legislation, which makes these actions a felony, recognizes changes that have occurred in our culture and the power of social media to harm people. This is good legislation and strengthens tools to prohibit predators on social media from exploiting and harming individuals.
Thank you for your continued interest in the General Assembly session. Feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email. I am in 325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.