Gold Dome Update: Week 12
The Senate adjourned Sine Die on March 29, 2018, having made many accomplishments under the Gold Dome this session. This was a historic year for Georgia and I am glad to have played my part. We passed the largest income tax cut in the state’s history, reformed adoption practices, enhanced fiscal responsibility, increased funding for education and made unprecedented reforms to help our state’s public servants. All in all, I am happy to report that this year was a success. We passed over 250 pieces of legislation this session and I would like to share some of those that I worked on that received final passage.
One of my goals at the beginning of session was to implement reforms to the state’s taxation practices. Senate Bill 328, which I sponsored, would remove certain tax exemptions from Georgia code that are being underutilized. These particular exemptions are costing the state more to offer than taxpayers are saving. As such, we have repealed the exemptions and the bill has been signed into law by the governor.
Three bills that I worked on this session emphasized the importance of local governance and control. I sponsored Senate Bill 324, which would allow local cities and counties to enter into joint projects to work on bridges, instead of having to coordinate through the state. I carried House Bill 419 in the Senate, which gives local communities the opportunity to regulate firework usage through their local noise ordinance within their jurisdiction, with a few exceptions. I also carried House Bill 979, which is specific to the city of Johns Creek, and would establish term limits for city council members and other locally elected offices.
Several bills passed this session will directly affect our state’s men and women in public service and I am always proud to serve their interests at the Capitol. I sponsored Senate Bill 327, which is an update to the Death Investigation Act. Current law requires an official medical examination to be carried out by a coroner or county medical examiner for deaths that are “unattended by a physician.” SB 327 simply removes this instance from the list of deaths requiring an official inquiry if there is no suspicious or unusual circumstances surrounding it. This will allow for the state’s coroners and county medical examiners to focus on more important crimes and issues. House Bill 703, which I carried in the Senate, creates the Office of Public Safety Officer Support within the Department of Public Safety. This office will allow for public safety officers who are also trained as counselors to provide peer-to-peer counseling services to fellow officers coping with PTSD or other related traumas as a result of his or her service in the line of duty. In addition, I carried House Bill 749, which would exempt retirement income from taxation if the income is the result of a death of a veteran.
I also carried three other bills that passed in our final days. House Bill 815 creates a new specialty license plate for the Georgia Masonic Charities Foundation and the sales of these license plates will go toward supporting the foundation’s work. House Bill 721 updates the regulations for drivers’ education schools and their requirements for on-the-road tests. Lastly, House Bill 79 requires that all data collected by automated license plate readers be destroyed 30 months after collection, unless being used in an active case or inquiry.
While our work at the Capitol may have concluded for the year, our work as legislators never stops. Throughout the interim, the Senate will work on a number of issues in study committees and commissions, which aim to compile suggestions that will turn into legislation next session. Earlier in the year, I sponsored Senate Resolution 935, which authorized the formation of the Senate School Safety Study Committee. I will head up the committee, which will travel the state and meet with local leaders, school officials and law enforcement to determine ways that each community can keep their schools and children safe. Additionally, to help us address the issue of school safety, the Fiscal Year 2019 General Budget includes an additional $16 million to fund grants for school safety statewide.
We had a very productive year making changes to the law that will benefit Georgians across the state. Although we are no longer in session, I will be sure to keep you updated with what we will be working on over the interim. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Senator. Please feel free to get in touch if I can be helpful or if you have any suggestions to improve our community for next year.