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Important legislation passed as session ended

Capitol update

POSTED: May 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Georgia General Assembly concluded the business of the state at midnight on Friday, April 4.
Day 40 if viewed from afar would resemble chaos, but up close, was a fairly well orchestrated attempt to pass meaningful legislation.
I will be the first to admit, some good legislation didn't make it.  The reasons are many, but the reality of the General Assembly is consensus.  It takes a majority to pass legislation in the House and in the Senate and sometimes those bodies, filled with independent thinking men and women, fail to reach a consensus.  But often they do.
Some of the highlights from the last day of the session included some very important legislation.  Much of the day was filled with agrees and disagrees, the process where we agree to the modifications or amendments that the Senate has placed on legislation.  There also was legislation that managed to be debated on the last day after going through the required vetting at the committee level.
One of the more important bills debated allowed for more construction of public water supply reservoirs.  Senate Bill 342 funds up to 20 percent of the cost of obtaining permits for and constructing improvements to any dam that was originally constructed or financially assisted by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  The bill also funds up to 40 percent of the cost of obtaining a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The bill passed 111-59.
We also passed SB 406 that strengthens our penalties for dealing in pirated recorded materials.  The bill increases the penalties for reproducing or distributing recorded materials with the first offense of a minimum fine of $500 and up to $25,000.  The second offense would set a minimum fine of $1,000 and requires a minimum of 48 hours of prison, with the third and subsequent offenses with fines at a minimum of $2,000 up to $250,000 and a prison term of two to five years with at least six days served.  The bill passed 143-9.
One bill that passed shows the methodical process of passing meaningful legislation is SB 433.  This bill basically became the culmination of four years of work on the certificate of need (CON) issues for medical providers.  The bill is a compromise measure agreed to by most of the stakeholders and worked out by the legislators who had authored and carried CON legislation.  SB 433 includes the unanimous and majority recommendations of the Commission on the Efficacy of Certificate of Need, in addition to, the allowance for a destination cancer hospital within 25 miles of the Atlanta airport.  The bill passed overwhelmingly by a margin of 138-17.
We also passed SB 474 that will provide greater protection for children with regard to the use of the Internet.  The bill establishes parental controls over Internet access to children and enhanced the penalties for failing to report certain information to the Cyber Tipline at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  The bill passed 153-1.  
We passed a bill that should please outdoorsmen and women by lowering the fee for hunting and fishing license renewal so that Georgia residents receive the same financial benefit as non-residents who purchase temporary licenses.  The bill, SB 382 passed 162-1.
Next week, I will provide a recap of the legislative highlights from this year's Georgia General Assembly.
Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues that concern you. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens ,228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or email me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov.
 

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