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Lawmakers hear State of Courts Address
Legislative update
Ben Watson
State Rep. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, represents District 1 in the Georgia Senate.

 The Georgia Senate had a busy week. We held numerous committee meetings to review legislation and listen to testimony either opposing or supporting bills being considered. The committee process is where the bills are vetted before being considered by the Senate, and it is a crucial part of the legislative process.
In addition, Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson delivered the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Feb. 4, highlighting achievements while focusing on challenges facing Georgia’s judicial system. He addressed the lack of accessibility to legal services in Georgia, especially among impoverished and rural populations. Thompson also stressed the importance of being prepared for continued population growth and the necessity of the General Assembly’s support in providing more resources to probate-court judges and staff.
In addition, Thompson applauded the success of Georgia’s specialty and veterans courts and their role as an alternative to prison for the state’s non-violent offenders. Finally, the chief justice celebrated Georgia’s first Hispanic and Asian superior-court judges in the state’s history.
The Senate Appropriations Committee held sub-committee meetings last week on the fiscal year 2015 amended budget with floor action due soon. The mid-year budget passed the House of Representatives last week, and this is the time to determine where budget adjustments must be made, especially for education and health-care spending. Our shortfalls mainly are due to an influx of people moving to Georgia seeking better jobs — a sign that we have a stronger economy than other states.
In floor action, we unanimously passed Senate Bill 2, which would allow local school boards to award diplomas to students who dually enroll in certain postsecondary institutions. Local school boards are permitted to award diplomas to students who: are enrolled in dual-credit courses; complete rigorous coursework at an eligible postsecondary institution; are at least 16 years old; complete state-required ninth- and 10th-grade core courses; receive an acceptable score on the readiness assessment required by the postsecondary institution; and complete either an associate-degree program or a technical-college degree program. This bill allows those students who simultaneously take high-school and technical-college courses to graduate from high school even though they may not have the hours needed to receive a high-school diploma.
I was proud to support and co-sponsor Senate Resolution 117, commending Kurt Gelfand and recognizing Feb. 4 as Prostate Cancer Awareness Day at the Capitol. Gelfand is a prostate-cancer survivor who started a campaign called “Save Our Dads” to raise awareness for the disease and support for efforts to cure it. The benefits of prostate exams and early detection of this disease cannot be overstated, and it is good to see people like Gelfand using their experience to educate others.

Call Watson at 404-565-7880 or email

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