With the last day of the 2017 legislative session on March 30, we spent this past week passing several bills that will improve the lives of Georgians. I will mention a few here but for a complete listing the website is www.house.ga.gov.
Regarding law enforcement, a bill passed called "Back the Badge Act of 2017." This bill, SB 160, first defines a public safety officer to include peace officers, correctional officers, emergency health workers, firefighters, highway emergency response operators and certain officers of the court. This legislation expands the crimes of aggravated assault on a public safety officer and aggravated battery on a peace officer and increases the punishment for these offenses. Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line daily for our protection and this legislation emphasizes that they are deserving of our respect.
In an effort to improve educational opportunities for our students, SB 186 unanimously passed. This bill allows students who received a high school diploma by completing a technical college diploma program or who have obtained at least two technical college certificate of credit programs in one specific career path to be eligible for up to 30 degree hours of the HOPE grant. The student must also meet Georgia residency requirements. This bill also includes provisions for kinship caregivers to give legal consent for educational services, medical services relating to academic enrollment and participation in curricular and extracurricular activities. This is positive legislation that gives students more options for a better future.
Technology is always advancing and the car industry has also been affected by technological developments. SB 119 allows for autonomous vehicles, defined as one that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input, to operate on Georgia roads. The vehicle must have the ability to obey all traffic laws and to be covered under liability coverage with the same limits as commercial and limousine carriers. The bill passed with a vote of 151 to 17 with some lawmakers still being skeptical about the viability of these vehicles, although forecasts show this is the wave of the future.
This week we met our state constitution’s requirement with the passage of House Bill 44, the fiscal 2018 budget. The revenue estimate of the bill is $24.9 billion with the most funding earmarked for education. Of course there are many other state departments and programs that will receive funding, also, including an increase in merit-based pay for teachers, a salary increase for law enforcement and many provisions for healthcare. This is a wide-ranging document that provides for many aspects of our state’s needs and it is available at www.house.ga.gov/budget if you would like to review its entirety.
Please know that your input is valuable to me as we approach the last few days of the session. Please contact me with your questions or concerns at 404-656-5115 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to represent you.