Update from Under the Gold Dome: Week Nine

With only eight legislative days left this session, the next three weeks are going to be our busiest and longest yet. We are in the process of vetting and debating all of the House Bills that made it to the Senate while also holding Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meetings on the Fiscal Year 2020 General Budget – House Bill 31. Passing this budget, which totals around $27.5 billion, is the one constitutional duty we have to meet before Sine Die on April 2, 2019. This is not a task any of us take lightly so the process of reviewing the proposal by the House will take many hours over several days. I believe that when it comes to utilizing your taxpayer dollars to fund our state, there is no limit on the amount of time we need to spend to ensure that every single dollar is appropriated in a fiscally conservative manner.

Along with reviewing the budget and holding standing committee meetings on House Bills, the Senate addressed six pieces of legislation in the chamber this week. Of the six, there is one bill that I would like to highlight since it will have an impact on every single person over the age of 18 who exercises their civic duty to cast a ballot during elections. As citizens of this great state and nation, it is imperative that we get engaged and involved in the election process. Every voice must be heard and it is my firm belief that everyone’s vote should be counted. In order to secure and update our state’s voting system, I was proud to support House Bill 316 this week. Under HB 316, our state’s 16-year-old voting system will be updated to ensure that our machines are modernized for current technology standards, secure and user friendly.

The new system is similar to the old one with machines utilizing touch screen technology for the selection process, but the major change is the paper receipt voters will receive with their ballot summary. The paper receipt will allow the voters to ensure the candidates they selected and the way they answered constitutional amendment questions are accurate. By having a printed copy of your selections, each and every voter can confirm their ballot reflects their voice and their choice. Upon confirming the printed record, the voter will then scan a barcode on the paper receipt to officially submit their ballot. These machines are user friendly and will avoid any confusion that paper ballots can cause with misprints or illegible handwriting. I believe this is a step in the right direction because we have two ways to confirm and secure your vote – the machine and the paper receipt. This legislation has been approved by both chambers and is now on the governor’s desk for his approval.

Along with debating legislation in the Senate, it was a great honor to recognize a hero in our law enforcement community on Thursday. Along with my colleague Sen. Renee Unterman, I was proud to co-sponsor Senate Resolution 47 which recognized Suwanee Police Chief Michael S. Jones for earning the title of 2018-2019 Georgia Police Chief of the Year. Having begun his career in 1974, Chief Jones has served his community in Suwanee for the last 20 years. His commitment to the wellbeing and safety of our citizens is commendable and it was a privilege to have him join us in the Senate Chamber.

Our public safety officials like Chief Jones can never be thanked enough for all they do to keep us safe each and every day. As we get closer to Sine Die and conversations at times get heated at the Capitol, our public safety officers keep order and ensure that our members, visitors and all who wish to express their opinions can do so in a safe and orderly manner. I want to personally thank them for all they do for us. Upholding our laws and securing the Capitol grounds is a job they do not take lightly and one that is appreciated more than we can ever say.

As we head into the home stretch for the 2019 session, our days and nights will be long but I am never too busy to hear from you. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office by phone or email. I look forward to hearing from you!