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State Senate honors firefighters, Girl Scout cookies
Legislative report
Ben Watson
State Sen. Ben Watson, M.D., represents Bryan County in the Georgia Senate. - photo by File photo

The Senate assembled this week to consider a wide range of legislation and we passed several bills that could affect our district. We also had the opportunity to welcome several distinguished groups to the capitol.

We voted favorably on the amended budget, HB 43, which makes changes to the fiscal year 2017 state budget. This will include $27 million in increased pay for law enforcement and a per diem increase for foster parents. After the vote, the bill was sent back to the House chamber for their final passage. The budget process is intricate but this careful consideration from both chambers helps to ensure fiscal responsibility.

Our court system must run effectively in order for our community to thrive. Because there have been inefficiencies within the Recorder’s Court in Savannah, I sponsored SB 73 which would permanently move all administrative duties of the court, including hiring and firing court personnel, to the Recorder’s Court clerk and the Savannah city manager. I believe that this will solve human resource problems that have become prevalent in the past three years. This bill would also change how the chief judge is selected by seniority to being chosen by vote from the three judges of the Recorder’s Court. I believe that these changes will add to the effectiveness of the court with better prepared judicial leadership. As this bill travels through the legislative process, I will keep you updated.

The Georgia Mental Health Treatment Task Force bill was unanimously passed by the Senate. SB 4 would establish a task force to ensure that our state is providing necessary mental health services to suffering individuals and to understand the impact of untreated mental disorders. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental health illnesses and this legislation is designed to help ailing Georgians. I believe that the thousands who suffer in our communities deserve the careful consideration and potential solutions that this task force could offer.

The 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout cookie program was recognized with Senate Resolution 129. This excellent organization, originating in Savannah, has affected the lives of countless many over the years. Girl Scout cookie sales are anticipated by cookie lovers each year, but the program has greater benefits as well. Although this organization started here in our community, many people don’t realize that the cookie sale is the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world with 100 percent of sales staying in local communities. As a Savannahian, I was particularly pleased that SR 129 recognized such a significant milestone.

On Feb. 7, we had the distinct privilege of holding the 45th annual Firefighters Recognition Day and welcomed hundreds of men and women from across the state who valiantly put their lives on the line when they perform their dangerous profession. The Senate honored their commitment to their communities and I was glad to be part of this well-deserved recognition.

There will be much more legislation to consider as the session continues. As always, your input is important to me and I encourage you to contact me with your concerns and questions. I can be reached at or at 404-656-7880. Thank you for placing your trust in me and allowing me to serve you.

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