Last week saw the completion of the first nine days of the 2013 legislative session in the Georgia General Assembly. Now that any new chairman and committee members have been announced and assigned, the committee process is full speed ahead with many pieces of legislation awaiting action.
As session progresses, all legislation that is introduced must be assigned to the appropriate committee, and all pending legislation must then be vetted through the committee process (and usually sub-committee as well) and read three times in the House before it can come to vote before the whole chamber.
This week at the Capitol, the General Assembly celebrated several important days. However, three events important to our area included: Savannah/Chatham County Day; Tourism Day; and National Guard Day.
Many elected officials, as well as citizens, traveled to Atlanta for Chatham County Day at the Capitol, followed by the Seafood Fest, which was also well attended by legislators from across our state.
Tourism is the fifth largest employer in our state and as our national and state economies recover and tourism increases, it will spur further economic growth and development.
We also honored the sacrifice of our troops with National Guard Day. I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve in the National Guard. Not only do they respond when we have disasters in Georgia or around the United States, their commitment and dedication is critical to our national defense as they deploy and serve around the world.
On Monday, the House passed House Resolution 50, which set the legislative calendar for the first 29 legislative days of the session, taking us through March 5. This week, multiple pieces of local legislation from legislators around the state were also heard on the House floor, though none that affects our district.
There were other measures passed by the House this week. House Bill 55 passed 164 to 1 to allow a superior court judge who has jurisdiction over a particular crime under investigation to issue a warrant with statewide application. The bill is of particular importance to law enforcement as they seek to track and locate drug dealers and drug traffickers.
House Bill 57 also passed 167 to 1. This measure updates the list of prohibited drugs to include the most recent components used in synthetic marijuana.
Senate Bill 24, the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program Act, passed the House 147 to 18 on Friday. This bill would authorize the Department of Community Health to establish, assess and discontinue provider payments to hospitals.
The extension of this fee, passed in 2010 and set to expire this year, will fill a $689 million gap in the Medicaid budget. With the passage of SB24 by both the House and the Senate, it now heads to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature into law.
Ethics reform is a topic that is sure to be discussed throughout the session. Speaker Ralston has sponsored House Bill 142, which went through the first subcommittee hearing on Thursday. As currently written, the legislation would ban all lobbyist gifts and greatly limit those groups and individuals allowed to lobby without first registering with the state and paying the corresponding registration fee.
This legislation will be discussed comprehensively to ensure that individuals are not denied their First Amendment right to free speech. As debate occurs, the bill will likely be amended multiple times during the committee process prior to being voted on by the full House.
The Georgia General Assembly continues the 2013 Legislative Session. Please contact me with your ideas and opinions or if I can be of service to you in anyway. It is your input and common sense ideas that develop into the best legislation and potentially becomes the laws of our state.
Please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga. 30334 or e-mail me at email@example.com.