The General Assembly completed its 19th legislative session day Thursday. The members of the legislature now are working in full force as we work toward the completion of the 2011 session, a maximum of 40 session days.
As part of the legislative branch, the General Assembly has the primary responsibility of making laws, and many times that involves changing or updating the current law. This week we were in session for three days, and below are summaries of the legislation passed.
One piece of legislation I have sponsored is HR 251, and it passed through committee last week. This legislation encourages the support of the members of the legislature as well as the public to support Savannah becoming the first cruise-ship port in Georgia. This would positively affect the economy of the state and of Savannah. Not only would it bring jobs to Savannah and the surrounding areas, but it also would increase our tourism industry and promote the businesses within our area.
On Feb. 22, the House passed several pieces of legislation. One bill relates to elections and provides a cost savings for our local communities. HB 92 passed 148-20 and reduces the time period allowed for in-person, early voting. This bill would change the time frame from 45 days and limit it to three weeks, plus it would require a Saturday for voting. This would save money, especially for many rural communities, and it also would provide a Saturday for people to vote between 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Also passed was HB 30, which would enforce reasonable restrictive covenants in employment of personal and commercial contracts. This bill passed 104-98 and would allow the protection of information to companies involving trade secrets and includes a time period of two years.
HB 53 passed 155-2 and would allow a law enforcement officer to work for a private security company and would not mandate that the officer go through security officer training, the reason being that the officer already has received the necessary training by being certified under the Georgia Peace Officer Standard and Training Council.
Lastly, HB 232 passed, which fixes an unintended consequence of the Ethics Reform Bill passed last year. Passing 158-3, this legislation would remove the requirement that a bona fide commission salesperson must register as a lobbyist.
Four bills passed the House Feb. 23. HB 192 passed 160-3 and relates to the Quality Basic Education Act and allows the State Education Finance Study Commission to evaluate the Quality Basic Education Formula and education funding for public schools. Also relating to education, HB 172 passed 128-42 and would temporarily extend the sunset date to 2015 for local school systems to request flexibility or extend expenditure waivers for funds. Some of the requests for flexibility include maximum class-size requirements for kindergarten through eighth grade and extensions for deadlines for teacher contracts.
Also, HB 223 was passed 169-1 and would allow an exemption for the statewide application of minimum standard building codes for certain farm buildings or structures. Lastly, House Bill 90 was passed 162-3 and would authorize the state of Georgia to transfer its interest in heritage preserve properties in the Heritage Trust Program to a county or local government upon certain conditions. Local government control allows the people in our local communities to make decisions based upon what is best for the people in their area.
Thursday, only one piece of legislation was considered, and it passed the House 98-69. HB 179 relates to outdoor signs and would change some of the provisions. It would allow the removal of the vegetation and tree trimming within the viewing zone no more than 250 feet along the right of way. It also would bring all billboards under the same obscenity standards, require dilapidated billboards to be removed, allow local communities to decide where or if billboards will be allowed and require the replanting of other trees and landscape around the signs. This would be at no cost to the taxpayer, but it would raise the fees associated with the signs, and those companies would bear the costs associated with this legislation.
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 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga. 30334.
Stephens, R-Savannah, serves the 164th District, which includes South Bryan, and can be reached at email@example.com.