The 2011 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly is close to the finish line, with only three days of session remaining.
The legislature completed day 37 on Thursday, and many key pieces of legislation passed the House last week and some now move to Gov. Nathan Deal for possible passage into law.
Many Senate bills made their way through House committees and onto the floor for a vote. Very little legislation was debated in the House on March 28, as the majority of our day was spent attending committee meetings in both the House and Senate. In addition to various bills pertaining to local legislation, one House resolution passed. Celebratory gunfire has the potential to harm others and to discourage and increase awareness on this issue, the House passed H.R. 341 by 139-23.
On March 29 and 30, several other bills were passed. Not only locally, but also to the benefit of the entire state, the House passed S.R. 312 by 167-3. This resolution urges the members of the General Assembly to support the proposed deepening of the federal navigation channel at Savannah Harbor to -48 feet at mean low water. It promotes the deepening of the port in both Savannah and in Charleston, S.C. The deepwater ports in the Southeast are one of the keys to international trade in our country and to adequately accommodate the larger container ships, the deepening of the ports is necessary.
Also last week, the budget for Fiscal Year 2012, H.B. 78, was sent to Conference Committee. This includes members of both the House and the Senate and is done to work through the differences in the budget. One of the few requirements of the legislature is to pass the budget for the state.
As many of you might recall, we started out the new year with a snowstorm that spread across much of our state. The House passed S.R. 30 by 149-20, which urge the Department of Transportation to do several things to prepare for weather situations: prepare a list of contractors to be used during weather emergencies; authorize local governments to clear state roads when necessary; and encourage the department to coordinate with state and local government to form an action plan to remove snow and ice during emergencies in our state.
S.B. 17 also passed last week, 96-67, and would establish the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance benefits. This committee would be responsible for reviewing the proposed legislation on mandated health care, as imposed by the federal government. This bill is a protection for the citizens of Georgia.
Also passed was S.B. 30, 135-31, and it would require that municipal court judges in our state to also be attorneys that are licensed in Georgia. This would not apply to those that are already judges, as they would be grandfathered in under the proposed legislation.
S.B. 88 passed the House this week and it would increase the age requirements for child restraint systems from 6 to 8 years old. This legislation passed 128-32 and is a safety precaution to protect our children when traveling in motor vehicles.
Thursday was a busy day in the General Assembly. Members of the House met to discuss tax reform and determined that it was still necessary to allow more time for legislators to work out some of the details. Therefore, although we were scheduled to have session on Friday, this date was changed to allow more time to work on the tax reform legislation. The House agreed to Senate changes of H.B. 214, which would establish the Department of Public Health, and this bill now goes to Gov. Deal.
To monitor the use of controlled substances in the state, the House passed S.B. 36 by 117-45. This bill, the Patient Safety Act of 2011, would set up a database of all controlled substances dispensed in Georgia. This information would only be accessible to prescribers and dispensers and the goal is to discourage prescription drug abuse and also the illegal sale of prescriptions.
S.B. 58 also passed the House, 166-1, and is known as the Spencer Pass Hero Memorial Act. Named after a Highway Emergency Response Operator who was killed while helping a motorist in January, this bill now goes to Gov. Deal for his signature and possible passage into law. It would add state employed highway workers to the list of employees that are able to receive payment from the state after they are injured or killed doing their job on the road.
Stephens, R-Savannah, serves the 164th District, which includes South Bryan, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.