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Sen. Ben Watson's update from the State Capitol (week of April 1)
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

The 2019 legislative session adjourned one minute before midnight on Tuesday, April 2 after spending long hours on Friday and Tuesday considering a wide variety of bills. In this report, I’ll focus on legislation that passed the last two days of the session and in my next report, I’ll give an overview of the entire session.

I was pleased that HB 445 passed, a bill that I sponsored in the Senate, which amends the Shore Protection Act by creating a new definition for “dynamic dune field” and specifies where construction may be permitted on the landward side of a dune. The bill also creates the Shore Protection Committee, comprised of five members including the Commissioner of Natural Resources, which will have the authority to grant or deny permits according to the specifics of this legislation. This bill had not been updated since 1979 when Jimmy Carter was governor of our state. I believe this bill is a good protective measure of vital sand dunes and I appreciated the overwhelming support of the Coastal Delegation.

Regarding law enforcement, House Bill 282 would increase the amount of time required by law enforcement to maintain physical evidence related to a sexual assault case. It extends the time from 10 years after the initial assault of the victim to 30 years from the date of the perpetrator’s arrest. If no arrests are made, physical evidence must be kept for 50 years.

House Resolution 51 would create the Georgia-North Carolina-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission, responsible for establishing the correct boundary lines between Georgia and these neighboring states. In 1818, surveyors mistakenly set the line about a mile to a half-mile south of the 35th parallel, a line of latitude Congress originally set as Georgia’s northern border after our state ceded the Mississippi territory to the United States. If our border was set to its original boundary lines, Georgia would have access to the Tennessee River and millions of gallons of water. This bill assigns three Senators and three Representatives to serve on the commission to negotiate with Tennessee and North Carolina officials, with findings set to be reported by December of 2020. It’s my hope for an agreement between neighbors in a timely and mutually respectful manner that re-establishes original boundary lines.

House Bill 365 would make several updates to the Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) on vehicles by lowering the rate from 7 percent to 6.6 percent. Additionally, it would make updates to the ‘fair market value’ definition used to determine TAVT for new and used

vehicles. It also clarifies that TAVT would not be imposed on the transfer of title between legal entities that are owned by the same person – basically meaning family.

Electric bicycles are becoming more popular and House Bill 454 establishes use and safety rules for three different classes of electric-assisted bicycles. The classes are determined by the equipment used to aid the bike rider and the maximum speed they reach.

Thank you for your support, encouragement, questions and comments during this legislative session. With each trip to Atlanta, our community was always at the forefront of my mind. It’s my privilege to serve you in the State Senate.

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