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Sen. Ben Watson's update from the State Capitol (week of March 11)
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

The Georgia General Assembly is more than three-fourths of the way through the legislative session and the Senate is now focused on bills that passed the House and were sent to our chamber on Crossover Day. 

Much time was spent this week deliberating the House bills in various committee meetings. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittees also held meetings on the proposed the Fiscal Year 2020 General Budget, House Bill 31, which totals nearly $27.5 billion. Testimony was heard from various state departments and agencies, and the Appropriations Committee is expected to present their final budget recommendation soon.

One of the most important bills we have considered would update our voting machines. It’s vital that our democratic system is protected, elections are safeguarded, and voters are assured their votes are secure. As both the House and Senate considered this important issue, The Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission recommended a new system with touchscreens and printers. To use the new voting machines, a voter will touch the screen to pick their desired selection, and that machine then prints out the voter’s choices.

The new voting machines are a tremendous improvement over the existing system, in both accuracy and security, because a voter will be able to manually review their ballot before it is counted.

Once the voter is certain their vote is accurate, they will feed the paper copy into an optical scanner where the paper copy is stored in a locked bin at the bottom of the voting machine. The vote will then be cast and counted after the paper ballot has been verified by the voter. If a mistake is made while voting, a voter can take the printed copy to a poll worker and be able to re-cast their vote. The ballot fed into the bin can only be opened by a poll worker and is a permanent, physical record in the event of a re-count. I believe this is a good system that will protect our elections. This bill has received final passage in the Senate and House and is now on the way to the Governor where he is expected to sign it shortly.

As diabetes is prevalent in our state, I sponsored Senate Resolution 361, recognizing Georgians with type 1 diabetes and their families by declaring March 14 as Type 1 Diabetes Day at the Capitol. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where a person’s pancreas does not produce any insulin. People with this illness must take insulin injections to regulate their blood glucose levels. This has become an even heavier burden for this community with the astronomical increase in the price of insulin. More than 14 percent of Georgia’s population lives with type 1 diabetes and an estimated 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease annually. It’s my hope that this resolution will encourage Type I diabetics to manage this disease with diet, exercise, and medical treatment.

I was pleased to welcome Jerry Counihan, the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Grand Marshall, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee to the Capitol to commend them for their hard work on the big event with Senate Resolution 323. The Savannah parade is one of the largest Irish heritage celebrations in the United States and we are proud of this great tradition, which also showcases our beautiful city and southern hospitality to thousands of visitors.

As the session continues, please know that your input is valuable to me as I consider legislation that could affect our community. I encourage you to contact me at or at 404-656-7880.

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