Friday was the 27th legislative 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 in time to be considered by the Senate, or vice versa, this has been a busy 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 advance notice by the state Department of Natural Resources to local governments before closing state parks or historical sites in their communities, was approved by the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee.
HB 207, which would establish a special turkey-hunting permit and extend turkey season for young and mobility-impaired hunters, was also cleared by the Game, Fish and Parks Committee. Under HB 207, hunters confined to wheelchairs or having permanent restrictive disabilities as well as those 16 and younger would receive special authorization to hunt turkeys on the Saturday and Sunday before the open season.
The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee approved HB 316, which would remove the requirement that the GBI and the Georgia Crime Information Center be notified of abandoned vessels. Under this proposal, notification of abandoned vessels to DNR would be sufficient in most cases.
Juvenile Justice Revision: House members voted unanimously Feb. 28 to approve a comprehensive revision of the 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 cost per year to house a juvenile offender in a state facility, the plan is expected to save $88 million over the next five years and reduce recidivism. This is the first significant revision of the juvenile justice code in 42 years.
HB 242 now goes to the Senate.
Ethics bills approved: The House voted Feb. 25 to approve ethics legislation that would ban lobbyists’ expenditures for gifts, meals and entertainment for legislators, except for events to which all legislators or caucus members are invited. Individuals who represent organizations and visit the Capitol more than five days per session to discuss legislation would be required to register as lobbyists. 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.
Other House Action: Also last week, House members approved and sent to the Senate the following legislation:
• HB 70, which would allow the 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 ERs 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 law against seducing or enticing a child online.
• 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 requirements for the transportation, storage and disposal of old tires.
• HB 244, which would change the annual performance evaluations for teachers and administrators in 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 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. Please contact me with your views on the issues or whenever I can be of service.
Williams, D-Midway, represents District 168 in the Georgia House. Contact him at 511 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334; by phone at 404-656-6372; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.