201901.18
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Gold Dome Update: Week One

On Monday, January 14, 2019, the Senate reconvened for the first half of the 155th Georgia General Assembly. A new Governor and Lieutenant Governor were sworn in, along with five new Senators. I am excited to work with new leaders and colleagues this session as we debate and vet legislation for the betterment of Georgia.

I am proud that I was appointed to serve as Chairman of the Public Safety Committee for the second time. It is a great honor to serve in this capacity, and I would like to thank Lt. Governor Duncan and our Senate leadership for this opportunity. Ensuring the continued safety for citizens of district 56 and across the state will be a top priority for this committee and a focal point of legislation I will sponsor this upcoming session.

One area of public safety that we will address this session is school safety. This is an issue that is incredibly important to me and to all Georgians. During the 2018 interim, I had the privilege of chairing the School Safety Study Committee, and it was one of the most impactful study committees I have been a part of as a Georgia Senator. While traveling the state and hearing from experts, educators, teachers and students, two things were clear – we must make school’s safer but there is not a ‘one-size fits all’ solution. As a result of the findings, our committee created several recommendations which have now been drafted as legislation.

Earlier this week, I filed two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 15, entitled the “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act,” and Senate Resolution 12. SB 15 would create a requirement for schools to institute practices that reduce the threat of violence in schools. This will be done through threat assessments, drills and coaching on what appropriate action is, and when to take it against a potential threat. While these parameters will be in place, each school board will have local control on how to implement the guidelines outlined in SB 15.

Senate Resolution 12 proposes a Constitutional Amendment that would allocate funds from an ESPLOST to be used by schools for security projects such as additional staffing and mental health counselors for students. This is a fiscally responsible and logical way to increase security measures, as we are simply allocating funds that already exist. These two pieces of legislation are just the beginning of measures that will be taken to ensure that each and every one of our students feel safe every day they are attending one of our schools. Our chamber will work with the House so we can get this important legislation through the process and enacted into law as quickly as possible.

Along with having support from our friends in the House, I was happy to hear Governor Brian Kemp echo these same priorities in his State of the State address. His commitment of $69 million in one-time funds to our 2,292 public schools for security purposes is truly commendable. The Governor’s mission aligns closely with my own, and that of the rest of the legislature. School safety is an issue that stretches across parties and across chambers, and I am grateful to the governor for his support.

As always, when considering any legislation, I will put your best interests at the forefront of my decision making. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to build a better life for all Georgians. I am honored to represent you under the Gold Dome and I look forward to keeping you updated as we continue through the 2019 Legislative Session.