The 2012 legislative session continues to move forward as legislation and committee meetings increase.
After being in session for four days last week, the General Assembly now has completed nine of the 40 legislative session days.
On Jan. 25, the Senate joined the House of Representatives for a joint session to hear Carol Hunstein, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, deliver the State of the Judiciary address.
On the other days of session, members of the Legislature spent the majority of their time attending committee meetings and voting on legislation, both in committee and on the House floor.
Jan. 26 was Chatham County Day at the Capitol. I look forward to it every session as people from our community come to Atlanta and represent our county. Elected officials and citizens came to the Capitol and heard remarks from the local delegation, as well as Gov. Nathan Deal.
As our days and time spent in Atlanta at the Capitol increase, legislation is quickly making the journey through the legislative process.
To refresh the procedure of the bill process in the House of Representatives, here is a brief overview.
All legislation in the House must be read three times before it goes to the House floor for debate and possible passage.
Once legislation is drafted and introduced by a member of the House, it is sent to a House committee (or subcommittee), where the details of the bill are addressed.
It is during these committee meetings that the legislation is debated and discussed with fellow committee members, including pros and cons and implications.
If the bill survives the committee process, it goes to the House floor for debate, amendments, substitutions and possible passage. If passed, the legislation goes through a similar process in the Senate.
The House voted on several bills last week that have made their way through the House committee process.
Several local pieces of legislation were passed, but one local bill specifically affected only our district.
I sponsored House Bill 709, which relates to the Bryan County Board of Education. This legislation passed unanimously and was required to establish new districts approved unanimously by our local officials based on the 2010 Census data.
On Jan. 23, the House passed the Adjournment Resolution (House Resolution 1140), which set our schedule for the remaining days of session throughout the next month.
On Jan. 24, House Bill 424, which relates to death benefits under the Superior Court Clerks’ Retirement fund, passed 165-4.
Currently, the law only pay would the death benefit to a member’s beneficiary if the member dies in service. However, this legislation would extend the benefit to include any member that dies who is active or retired.
House Bill 683 passed 150-20 and would allow an authorized officer or employee of a business to respond to a garnishment request instead of requiring that only a lawyer be able to respond to the request.
House Bill 713, which passed 162-1, would make minor changes to the Quality Basic Education Act (House Bill 186) and would delay the implementation of some of the college and career readiness initiatives until the 2013-14 school year.
In addition, the legislation also would establish a program of career education study in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The goal is to allow students to explore various career opportunities throughout their educational experience.
On Jan. 25, House Bill 351 passed 137-6. This legislation would change current fines/fees collected by the probate court or state court from the current rate, which is based on a scale, to a flat rate of $3 for each criminal or quasi-criminal case. This makes the process more efficient and easier to determine.
The General Assembly continued its work Monday at the Capitol for the 10th legislative day of session. I will continue to keep all of you informed throughout the 2012 legislative session. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, thoughts or concerns. It is both an honor and privilege to continue serving you in the Georgia General Assembly.
If you would like to reach me, call me at 404-656-5099, write me at State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, state Capitol, Atlanta, Ga., 30334, or email me at email@example.com.