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Gold Dome Update: Week Seven

This week in the Senate, we honored a very special group of people with several bills that were heard and passed on Friday. Law enforcement officers are the people who protect us, keep our neighborhoods safe and allow us to live everyday with the freedom that others lack. I am extremely grateful for their sacrifice and am proud to support our men and women in blue today and every day.

We heard four bills in chamber Friday morning that would benefit law enforcement officers, the biggest being  SB 160, better known as the “Back the Badge Act.” Police officers have recently been at the forefront of violence in our country and this is just one measure we passed to help protect them. This bill seeks to impose harsher punishments against those who commit violent acts against our officers. The bill calls for additional punishments for the crimes of obstructing police officers, blocking highways and being involved in a prison riots. Under current law, someone who harms a public safety officer receives a sentence of five to 20 years in prison. However, SB 160 imposes a mandatory minimum sentence by preventing any part of the five year minimum sentence from being suspended, deferred or probated. This bill represents our appreciation for all our officers and our support of all they do to keep us safe every single day.

SB 155 would establish the Local Law Enforcement Compensation Commission whose responsibilities would include examining the salaries and benefits local law enforcement officers receive and reviewing their compensation. This Commission will help us better understand what our officers need to ensure they are being compensated for the work they do and that their needs are met. We need to do all we can to not only recruit the best talent with competitive salaries but to ensure that our turnover rates decrease.

SB 154 would increase the punishment and fines required of anyone who is convicted of aggravated assault or battery against a public safety officer, which would hopefully decrease the amount of violent actions made towards law enforcement officers. In addition to this, SB 154 would increase the payments made to families of officers who are killed in the line of duty.

Along with passing bills on the floor, the committee I chair passed out HB 146 which would protect another underserved group of people: our firefighters. This bill would provide them with insurance coverage if they are diagnosed with a certain kind of cancer. This bill is important not only for firefighters, but also their children. We lose too many firefighters to things like cancer every year, and this serves as a small token of appreciation for everything they do. This bill would provide immediate relief to families and would take a burden off these brave men and women.

Supporting our public safety officers and firefighters will benefit our children and our children’s children. They are the backbone of our communities and make sacrifices every day to ensure our safety. It was an honor to pass legislation that shows our unwavering support for these brave men and women.

On Friday, we also passed Senate Bill 8 which would protects Georgia’s citizens against surprise billing by providers, hospitals and insurers for out-of-network services. Under SB 8, a process for appeal through the Georgia Department of Insurance would be created, and a database for usual and customary costs of services to be maintained by the Georgia Department of Community Health would be established. This should hopefully reduce the number of citizens who experience the frustration of surprise billing.

I encourage anyone with questions or comments to contact my office at any time. As always, I am honored to represent you in the Georgia Senate.