With a number of issues still to be addressed, including criminal-justice reform, tax reform and the annual budget for fiscal year 2013, this will be a busy week at the Capitol.
• Progress of legislation: Three legislative proposals I co-sponsored have cleared their committees and are awaiting action on the House floor. HB 1056, which would clarify the application of the ad valorem tax on motor vehicles to be consistent with federal provisions, was reported favorably by the House Ways and Means Committee. HB 1064, which would repeal provisions against the occupation of live-aboard boats, was approved by the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee. Also, the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunication Committee passed HB 1160, which would change the term and manner of electing the chairperson of the Georgia Public Service Commission.
• Restriction on abortion: A majority in the Georgia House of Representatives voted Feb. 28 to approve legislation that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. HB 954 would allow abortions after 20 weeks only when there is substantial medical risk to an expectant mother but also would limit exceptions and require the procedure to be performed so that it “provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.” I voted against the measure, which passed by a margin of 102-65 and now goes to the Senate for its consideration. Despite my personal opposition to abortion, there is a serious shortage of obstetrician/gynecologists in Georgia and, therefore, some missing safeguards for the mother.
• Aviation authority: The House approved SB 339, which would dismantle the Georgia Aviation Authority and transfer the aircraft previously owned and operated by the Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Forestry Commission back to those agencies. The General Assembly passed a bill last year that returned ownership of other state aircraft to the Department of Public Safety. SB 339 now goes to the governor for his signature.
Other legislation approved by the House and sent to the Senate last week includes:
• HB 456, which would establish a “sunset commission” of legislators who could recommend abolishing various agencies in the executive branch of state government.
• HB 641, which would revise Georgia’s juvenile justice code.
• HB 898, which would establish a new category of banking entity in the state for companies that validate credit card transactions.
• Complete College Georgia: On Feb. 28, Gov. Nathan Deal launched the “Complete College Georgia” initiative, which aims to motivate Georgia students to complete a degree. The governor said he hopes his program will result in Georgia’s public and private colleges adding 250,000 more college graduates — who earn a one-year certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree — by 2020.
“To have a successful future in Georgia and remain competitive nationwide and globally, we have to have an educated workforce, and that means we need to do a better job getting people into college, making sure they receive a high-quality education and then graduating them,” the governor said.
Williams, D-Midway, represents District 165 in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 511 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, Ga., 30334; by phone at 404-656-6372; or by email at email@example.com.