Friday, March 1, was the 27thlegislative day of the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly. As we close in on the 30th-day “cross-over” deadline for legislation to pass the House of Representatives in time to be considered by the Senate, or vice versa, this year, this has been a busy past week at the committee level. Three bills that I co-sponsored were favorably reported by their respective committees and now await action by the full House.
The Rural Tourism Protection Act (HB 189), which would require mandatory advance notice by the state Department of Natural Resources to local governments before the closing of state parks or historical sites in their communities, was approved by the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee.
HB 207, which would establish a special turkey-hunting permit and extended turkey season for young and mobility-impaired hunters, was also cleared by the Game, Fish & Parks Committee. Under HB 207, hunters confined to wheelchairs or having permanent restrictive disabilities as well as those 16 years old and younger would receive special authorization to hunt turkeys on the Saturday and Sunday before the open season for other turkey hunters begins each year.
The House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee approved HB 316, which would remove the requirement that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Crime Information Center be notified of abandoned vessels. Under this proposal, notification of abandoned vessels to the state Department of Natural Resources would be sufficient in most cases.
Juvenile Justice Revision: House members voted unanimously Feb. 28 to approve a comprehensive revision of the state’s juvenile justice system. HB 242 calls for greater use of community-based programs for non-violent youth offenders rather than high-security youth detention centers.
Aimed at addressing the $91,000 per year it cost to house each juvenile offender in a state facility, the plan is expected to save taxpayers $88 million over the next five years and reduce the criminal recidivism rate among juveniles. This is the first significant revision of the juvenile justice code in 42 years.
HB 242 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Ethics Bills Approved: The House of Representatives voted Feb. 25 to approve ethics legislation that would impose a complete ban on lobbyists’ expenditures for gifts, meals and entertainment for legislators would take effect with exceptions for events to which all legislators or caucus members are invited. Individuals who represent organizations and visit the Capitol more than five days per legislative session to discuss legislation would be required to register as lobbyists under the proposed package. The lobbyist registration fee would be reduced from $300 to $25.
The ethics proposal would also restore the rulemaking authority that was stripped from the State Ethics Commission in 2009. HB 142 and HB 143 now go to the Senate for its consideration.
Other House Action: Also last week, House members approved and sent to the Senate the following legislation:
HB 70, which would allow the State Board of Education to waive a requirement for the special needs student scholarship program on a case-by-case basis.
HB 141, which would require transportation facilities, adult entertainment businesses, bars, hotels and hospital emergency rooms to post notices that offer help and services to potential victims of human trafficking.
HB 155, which would revise the game and fish laws related to the licensing and operation of shooting preserves.
HB 156, which would strengthen the state law against seducing or enticing a child through the use of a computer online service.
HB 210, which would ratify the governor’s executive order temporarily suspending the collection of state taxes on gasoline and aviation fuel.
HB 226, which would increase the solid waste management requirements for the transportation, storage and disposal of tires.
HB 244, which would make changes to the annual performance evaluations for teachers and administrators in Georgia’s public schools.
HB 293, which would change the Tuition Equalization Grant eligibility requirements for private colleges and universities that offer nursing programs.
HB 302, which would add to the list of controlled substances identified as dangerous drugs.
HB 315, which would provide for continuing competency requirements for registered nurses’ license renewal.
HB 320, which would exempt currently existing and compliant inert waste landfill operations from regulatory permitting.
HB 327, the Flexibility and Accountability Act for Student Achievement, which would categorize each school system to focus the state’s efforts on supporting struggling schools while allowing successful schools the flexibility to continue their efforts with less state oversight.
It is an honor to represent you at the State Capitol. Please contact me with your views on the issues, or whenever I can be of service.
Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) represents District 168 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.