Georgia’s second winter storm of the year caused an interruption in the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday, Feb. 17, for the 22ndlegislative day.
There is plenty of work remaining for the House of Representatives in the days and weeks ahead. Legislation at the top of the agenda for the second half of the session includes the following:
Budget - The $20.8 billion annual state budget plan for fiscal year 2015 was favorably reported by the House Appropriations Committee and was due for a vote Monday on the House floor.
Medicinal Marijuana - Legislation to authorize the use of a certain form of cannibas for the treatment of seizure disorders remains under consideration in the House Health & Human Services Committee.
Gun Carry Rights -Legislation expanding carry rights for licensed gun owners was favorably reported by the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee and awaits action by the full House.
HOPE Grants - Legislation that would increase the HOPE Grant award for technical college students to pay full tuition remains under consideration in the House Appropriations Committee.
Sick Leave - A proposal to require an employer who provides sick leave to allow an employee to use sick leave to care for an immediate family members was favorably reported by the House Human Relations & Aging Committee.
Criminal Justice - Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to assist the transition of criminal offenders into productive, law-abiding citizens upon their release from incarceration also awaits legislative action.
The session is now scheduled to reach final adjournment on March 20.
Private Probation: On Feb. 10, a majority of the House of Representatives voted to table legislation that would have made changes to state law dealing with probation officers who work for private companies.
Sponsors of HB 837 said the measure is necessary to address a court ruling last year stating that judges cannot "stop the clock" on a criminal sentence if an individual on probation had stopped checking in or paying fees to a private probation company, and that it was unconstitutional for private probation companies to use electronic monitoring.
A bipartisan group of House members successfully amended the legislation to leave stopping the clock on a sentence to the discretion of the judge and to prohibit private companies from charging more for supervising misdemeanor offenders than state probationers charge felons. Other amendments were made to require private probation officers to tell a judge what specific steps were taken to locate a probationer and give probationers the right to come to court and explain why they had stopped reporting rather than having judges issue arrest warrants based solely on the word of the probation officer.
Those amendments led supporters of HB 837 to at least temporarily end debate and pull the proposal from consideration.
School Workers' Unemployment: Over my strong opposition, legislation that would prevent some school bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other non-teaching employees from seeking unemployment compensation outside the school year was approved by a majority of House members. HB 714, which would adversely affect some 64,000 of our state's lowest-paid workers and drive Georgia families deeper into poverty, now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Sportsman’s Licenses: Two legislative proposals dealing with hunting and fishing licenses in Georgia were approved Feb. 6 by the House of Representatives. HB 740 would allow active-duty military personnel in Georgia to be considered in-state residents for the purpose of obtaining hunting and fishing licenses.
HB 786 would allow the purchase of a Type I Lifetime Sportsman’s License for children less than 2 years old, regardless of the residency of the parents or the child. Presently, these licenses are available to children and certain grandchildren of Georgia residents. The legislation is aimed at boosting the economic impact for fish and wildlife management as well as simplifying the process of obtaining a license. Both bills now go to the Senate for its consideration.
Economic Development: House members passed legislation Feb. 6 that would prevent certain areas adjacent to military installations from losing qualification as a “less developed area” because of minor adjustments to census tracts. Such designation provides tax benefits to certain low-income areas. HB 791 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
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.
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.