State Rep. Ron Stephens, Guest writer.
We are approaching our final days of the 2022 General Assembly session. We will be in for four legislative days this coming week and we will adjourn legislative day 40 or “Sine Die” on Monday, April 4th. We are very close to finalizing the fiscal year 2022-2023 budget and will have it out of its reconciliation committee soon. In the meantime, we have had many bills before us from the Senate to review and some pertinent local legislation.
First, after much press coverage and debate between local political interests and the members of the Chatham Delegation, we passed House Bills 1509 and 1510.
The first bill, H.B. 1509 codifies the new district lines for the Chatham County Board of Commissioners. H.B.
1510 does the same for the Savannah Chatham County School District board members. The bill has been approved by the Senate and the new district lines will be in affect for the 2024 election cycle. In Bryan County, via the local legislation route, we passed H.B. 1550. This bill adds two members to the Bryan County Board of Elections and Registration.
I was the sponsor of this legislation, and it now heads to Senator Ben Watson in the Georgia Senate for their approval, Also in local legislation, we passed a bill focusing on the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority.
H.B. 1565 allows the City of Savannah the ability to have appointments limited to 17 members. This legislation was requested by the City of Savannah to make the board more effective in their task of being proactive in developing recommendations o the Savannah City Council for revitalization of Savannah’s downtown including comprehensive planning, beautification, and marketing.
As a boater, and many of us on the coast are, we unanimously passed S.B. 469.
This legislation, designed to enhance safety on the water aligns Georgia law with federal law regarding requirements related to visual distress signals and floatation devices. This bill passed the Senate and heads to the Governor for his approval or veto.
Many of us in the Georgia House of Representatives are keenly aware of the turbulence that has crept up the last two years involving our children and local school districts. With that in mind, the House easily passed S.B. 514 known as the “Unmask Georgia Students Act.” S.B. 514 provides that no local board of education, local school superintendent, governing body of a charter school, or school personnel can make or enforce any rules that require students to wear face masks or face coverings while present in any area of a school, unless that rule allows a parent or guardian to elect their child be exempt from such rule.
In the same vein, critical race theory and other race-baiting subjects have been slowly infiltrating our school systems across the state. S.B. 226 requires local boards of education to create a complaint resolution policy for local schools by January 1, 2023. The complaint resolution policy must allow parents or guardians to submit complaints to the school’s principal, or the principal’s designee, about inappropriate content that is harmful to minors and available to the students at the school.
The school’s principal or designee is required to investigate whether the material is harmful to minors within seven business days from receipt of the complaint, and within 10 business days of the complaint, the school principal or designee must confer with the parent or guardian and inform him or her whether the material was deemed to be harmful to was deemed to be harmful to minors and whether access will be removed or restricted moving forward.
Both these bills were hotly debated on the House floor but along party lines, the bills passed and now head to the Governor for his signature or veto.
I will continue to be your voice in dealing with problems or questions about your state government. I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation orcurrent events that may impact our community.
I am in 226-A of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 656-5115 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.