Gold Dome Update: Week Six

Week six took us beyond the halfway mark for the 2018 Legislative Session, and Crossover Day is now just six short legislative days away. We had a very busy week on the Senate floor, passing 20 bills, and our committees continue to work tirelessly to vet legislation to benefit the people of our great state.

The Georgia Measuring Success Act, or SB 378, passed the Senate on Tuesday with bipartisan support. As the sponsor of the bill, which increases transparency and responsibility in the fiscal note process, I am very proud to see it pass with not a single vote against. SB 378 requires any new legislation, or existing legislation being modified, that relates to tax exemptions to go through a rigorous financial analysis. The analysis is required to be completed by the bill’s author, in conjunction with the state auditor, to measure the effectiveness and impact of a piece of legislation before its passage. It is critical to ensure that any legislation dealing with tax incentives has the potential for a return on investment and is utilized to its full potential.

Four bills that were considered in the Public Safety Committee passed the Senate the week, and I am very glad to have played a role in their passage. Each bill was the direct result of the Compensation of Police and Sheriffs (COPS) Task Force that met over the interim to determine ways to better serve our state’s law enforcement officers. I would like to thank the task force’s chair, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, its co-chair, Sen. Greg Kirk, and each member of the task force for their hard work and dedication to Georgia’s public servants.

The first bill is SB 366, sponsored by Sen. Steve Gooch. Its goal is to make pay more competitive for law enforcement officers, especially in rural communities. SB 366 requires local governments to send law enforcement payment data to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which will compile and analyze the findings and create a wage compensation study. This study will then be sent back to the local governments, which are required to adopt a guidance pay scale. The next three bills from the COPS Task Force were sponsored by co-chair Sen. Kirk. SB 367 expands who can receive indemnification payments for public servants who lose their life in the line of duty to include one’s estate. SB 368 will provide additional support to local law enforcement in the form of equipment, funding, operations and training by allowing the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to work with local police departments. SB 369 will require a $5 pre-trial diversion fee to be paid directly into the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund. Each of these four bills strives to increase officer retention and attract new, qualified candidates by increasing salary competitiveness.

I am also happy to announce that SB 319, the Consolidation of Fire Safety Services in Georgia Act, was given a unanimous “do pass” by the Senate Public Safety Committee and will soon be heard on the Senate floor for a vote. I sponsored this bill, which consolidates governmental activities relating to fire safety into a new department, the Department of Fire Safety. This new department and the Commissioner of Fire Safety, a position created by SB 319, would be housed under the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC). The goal of this bill is to streamline fire safety services under one umbrella in an effort to provide better safety services, response times and preparedness.

 This week, I was also given the pleasure of welcoming some of Georgia’s emergency medical services professionals to the state Capitol. The Senate honored them with SR 674, proclaiming February 13, 2018, as Emergency Medical Services Recognition Day. I am so thankful for the more than 16,000 individuals who dedicate themselves to saving lives, and it was an honor to have them with us.

While this week may have been busy, the pace is only going to pick up from here. I look forward to serving the citizens of District 56 in the coming weeks under the Gold Dome, and as always, if you ever have any questions, comments or concerns about any legislation facing the Senate, please do not hesitate to contact me.