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Budgeting dominates state Senate
Legislative update
Ben Watson

This week, the Georgia Senate was busy as we debated several important pieces of legislation.
We also finalized the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 Budget by agreeing to the House amendments on the supplemental appropriations bill. The bill was signed into law the same day. The Senate Appropriations Committee will begin work on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget next week.
Two pieces of legislation the Senate approved will have a positive impact on our military families. Senate Bill 18, the College Credit for Military Service Bill, will allow practical military work skills or experience to be accepted by the Technical College System of Georgia for credit. The second bill, SB 58, also known as the Georgia Leadership and Service Admission Act, will encourage military service for high school students. SB 58 allows each legislator to recommend one student for a ROTC program each year.
Chatham, Bryan and Liberty counties have always been strong supporters of our military who serve at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Air Field, as well as the Georgia Army and Air National Guard. We unanimously passed both pieces of legislation.
The Senate approved expansion of victim compensation with SB 79. When a crime results in death, this legislation would double the amount of victim compensation available for surviving family members. SB 79 also expands eligibility for compensation. The endowment will help victims’ families pay for funerals, lost wages, counseling and other hardships. SB 79 passed, 50-3.
We also passed SB 65, which would increase exemptions for property in bankruptcy or insolvent estates. State law provides exemptions for those declaring bankruptcy. SB 65 doubles the residual exemptions for property in bankruptcy or other insolvent estates to 1,200 and $10,000, respectively. The bill passed 46-5.
SB 72 establishes new crimes and punishments for harming or killing a law enforcement animal. In Georgia, a person who injures or kills a police animal faces one to five years in prison. SB 72 increases the sentence to 10-30 years. “Tanja’s Law” is named in honor of a Walker County dog killed on duty and passed 46-3.
The Senate recognized the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Vietnam War by passing Senate Resolution 96 recognizing May 6-12 as the observance. More than 228,000 Georgians served during the Vietnam War and many of those men and women are living in Coastal Georgia.
We also passed SR 184 recognizing Feb. 19 as University of Georgia Day and congratulating the University’s 230th anniversary. The school educates more than 35,000 students and leads the nation in providing an education at an affordable cost. I am a proud alumni.
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Contact Watson at (404) 656-7880 or email

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