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Sen. Ben Watson's update from State Capitol (week of Feb. 4)
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

To kick off a successful fourth week of the 2019 legislative session, a bill that affects the Skidaway Island community quickly passed both the House and Senate and is now on the governor’s desk for his signature.

 House Bill 29 is an amended bill that would incorporate a city of Skidaway Island and allow for homestead exemptions. It would also require a referendum before any increase in property taxes. The bill additionally moves the voting date for the special election to approve these exemptions and incorporate the city within Chatham County from November 2018 to the third Tuesday in March 2019. The bill was carried by Rep. Jesse Petrea in the House, and I sponsored it in the Senate.

The Senate also considered legislation that could have an enormous impact on our state’s economic development. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the logistics industry in Georgia makes up 18 percent of the state’s gross state product (GSP) with 5,000 companies providing logistics services. I was pleased that the Senate Committee on Transportation offered a substitute to SR 19, creating the Georgia Commission on Freight, Innovation and Logistics to provide a strategic plan for these improvements while also creating vocational programs to fill future workforce needs. With such a plan in place, our entire state will benefit.

I reported to you last week that hearings had taken place in the Senate Public Safety Committee regarding SB 25, which requires oncoming vehicles to stop when encountering a school bus loading or unloading children unless there's a physical barrier dividing the roadway, such as a concrete median or a grass strip. I’m pleased to report that SB 25 passed the Senate unanimously, and our colleagues in the House are taking up similar legislation in the form of HB 75.

After a contentious gubernatorial election, the General Assembly was tasked with considering updating Georgia’s voting machines. Different proposals are being deliberated including paper ballot-only, as well as touchscreen electronic voting machines with a verifiable paper ballot. Landmark Communications recently released a poll of Republican and Democrat voters, with 79% supporting new electronic voting machines with a verifiable paper ballot. These are different results than what a recent University of Georgia poll found, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which states that voters preferred paper ballots. As the Senate considers this vital information, I’ll keep you updated and remain committed to fair and accurate elections.

 We will continue to address issues that affect our community as the legislative session continues. Please know that your input is valuable to me. I encourage you to contact me at or at 404-656-7880 with your questions and concerns. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve you!

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