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Gold Dome Update: Week Seven

The Senate kicked into high gear this week before Crossover Day, which will take place next Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Senate Bills need to be passed out of the Senate by Crossover Day in order to be considered in the House before Sine Die. This week, we passed 19 pieces of legislation, welcomed several honorable guests and joined Governor Nathan Deal in announcing changes to the state’s tax code.

One piece of legislation I have been working on throughout this legislative session is Senate Bill 319, the Consolidation of Fire Safety Services in Georgia Act. I am glad to report that it was voted out of the Senate with bipartisan support, and it will now go to the House of Representatives for further consideration. SB 319 creates a new Division of Fire Safety and combines all of the state’s fire safety services into the new division. SB 319 also outlines a transfer of all authority related to fire safety from the Commissioner of Insurance to the new division. All of this is being done in an effort to increase the effectiveness, preparedness and responsiveness of fire safety services in Georgia.

Another piece of legislation the Senate passed this week was SB 375 also known as the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act.” This legislation has been misinterpreted and misreported and I would like to provide some clarity. Under SB 375, faith-based organizations that wish to place children with adoptive parents would be able to decline placement based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. This legislation puts Georgia’s children first by broadening the amount of agencies that can actively place children in loving families and homes. SB 375 simply provides faith-based organizations the legal backing and right if they choose to not proceed with a placement. I care for and support all people and this bill will help children.

The fight for lower taxes won a major victory this week as Governor Deal introduced House Bill 918, addressing Georgia’s tax code. The update includes a doubling of the standard deduction for taxpayers of all statuses, effective January 1, 2018. In addition, the update will reduce the income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.75 percent for both individuals and businesses as of January 1, 2019 and contains a provision to lower income tax rates further, to 5.5 percent, effective January 1, 2020. These changes will put money directly back in taxpayers’ pockets, and I would like to thank Governor Deal, Lt. Governor Cagle, House Speaker Ralston and all the legislators involved for their efforts. HB 918 passed the House on Thursday and I look forward to vetting this legislation when it is brought up in the Senate. On Friday I chaired the subcommittee of Finance to pass this historic income tax reduction which passed unanimously.

On Thursday, the Georgia General Assembly hosted the annual “State of the Judiciary Address.” During this year’s address, Chief Justice P. Harris Hines of the Georgia Supreme Court spoke to the joint session for the last time, and shared his goals for the future of Georgia’s judiciary. While there have been many successes during his time on the bench, he emphasized that there is still work to be done, especially regarding criminal justice reform and providing mental health services.

Among the many guests welcomed to the Senate this week were members of Georgia’s congressional delegation: Senator Johnny Isakson (R – GA), Congressman Barry Loudermilk (GA – 11), Congressman Jody Hice (GA – 10) and Roswell’s own Congresswoman Karen Handle (GA – 6). It is always a pleasure to welcome members of our statewide delegation to the Chamber and we thank them for taking the time out of their schedules to meet with us.

Each day, we are continuing to make progress for our citizens, and please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have concerns, comments or questions regarding any legislation before the Senate. I remain thankful for the opportunity to serve as your Senator, and be sure to stay tuned for continued updates from under the Gold Dome.