Gold Dome Update: Week Eight

This week in the Senate, we participated in one of the busiest days of each legislative session, Crossover Day. Crossover Day is the final day in which Senate Bills may pass through the Senate with enough time to also pass through the House before the final day of session, or Sine Die. In order to meet this deadline, we worked well into the evening on Friday to pass much needed legislation in the hopes to see the bills signed into law. I would like to highlight several bills that passed this week and that I was happy to co-sign.

One of the more significant bills offered to the Senate this week was SB 1. This bill is one of the priorities of the Majority caucus and was fine-tuned in multiple hearings in the Public Safety Committee, of which I am a member. This bill gives Georgia the opportunity to lead the nation when it comes to fighting domestic terrorism. The bill would update the existing definition of domestic terrorism to include modern techniques not currently a part of Georgia code. Specifically, it adds critical infrastructure, such as bridges, railroads or power plants, as targets suitable to be charged for domestic terrorism. Additionally, the bill would create a new Department of Homeland Security and a State Board of Homeland Security that would both be responsible for creating and implementing a sound counter-terrorism strategy.

As we continue to recover from the recession that rocked our nation’s economy nearly a decade ago, it is necessary now more than ever to save money. Simply not enough Americans are taking the initiative to open up savings accounts to keep their money safe. To help encourage more Georgians to save, the Senate passed the “Save, Earn, Win Act”, or Senate Bill 134, which incentivizes saving by authorizing banks and credit unions to offer a new prize-linked savings account in which depositors would be entered into a lottery which would pay a prize to the winner. The thrill of a game and the prospect of winning a prize will hopefully encourage more Georgians utilize our banks and begin to save their wealth.

Speaking of a lottery, the Senate also passed a bill to streamline the Georgia Lottery’s Lottery for Education Account to ensure that we are maximizing our lottery revenue to fully benefit our students. SB 5 would require the Georgia Lottery to increase the funding amount by one percent each year for three years starting at 26.5 percent in Fiscal Year 2018. By doing so, we are ensuring a higher percentage of lottery revenue will go directly to helping our kids achieve their educational goals.

In another effort to help our children, the Senate passed SB 170, also known as the Georgia SERVES Act. The bill would help us retain foster parents, as well as recruit new ones. Specifically, the bill would require the Department of Human Services to develop a uniform statewide foster care volunteer certification system. Unfortunately, our current foster care system lacks the necessary amount of volunteers to quickly vet those who wish to become foster parents. SB 170 fills a void in our current foster care policy and establishes a single, streamlined verification system to ensure that those who are eligible can be certified quickly and efficiently.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 211 to establish new requirements for research-based student assessments for our state’s first and second graders. By allowing greater input from our local school systems and by granting them access to real-time data, we can ensure that our assessments are appropriate and our schools have the ability to monitor a student’s progress throughout an academic year to gauge the effectiveness of our tests. With local school systems determining what is best for their students, they can reduce the number of mandatory tests administered.

 We also passed a bill to address other needs of our children, specifically those with hearing imparities. SB 206 would require insurance companies to provide hearing aids to children under the age of 18. Hearing aids can also be costly, especially for a child whose hearing is not yet fully developed. This bill would cap the cost of a hearing aid to $3,000 per ear, saving families potentially thousands of dollars. This is a wonderful measure which will greatly increase the quality of life for our children and will assist them in leading a prosperous life.

We also passed SB 222, calling for the creation of a Local Government 911 Authority who would be responsible for administering, collecting, auditing and remitting 9-1-1 revenue for local governments. This Authority would also maintain and improve 9-1-1 services throughout the state. This bill will greatly improve our 9-1-1 telecommunications infrastructure by allowing the Authority to determine where improvements need to be made and granting them the authority to make those changes. Ultimately we will improve public safety.

While it was quite a busy week, I am never too busy to address any comments or concerns that you may have. If you have any questions about these or any other bills or pending legislation, please get in contact with my office. It remains a pleasure to serve District 56.