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Sen. Ben Watson: Bill aimed at helping cities with costs of unpermitted events
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Sen. Ben Watson


The Georgia General Assembly was actively engaged this week in formulating the state’s two budgets, one to complete the 2023-24 fiscal year and the other to prepare for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. This was also the first real week of passing bills as they became ready for floor votes.

The first budget is the mid-year reconciliation budget where we make corrections to the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget which began on July 1, 2023. The House of Representatives passed H.B. 915, the Amended Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget, which is set by a revenue estimate of $37.5 billion. In addition to revenue growth, the governor’s revenue estimate for the Amended Fiscal Year 2024 budget includes $2 billion in surplus funds for a total infusion of $5 billion, or an increase of 15.6% over the original estimate. The Senate now has an opportunity to put their requests and modifications to the bill. It is important to remember that, constitutionally speaking, all budgets must be created by the House before the Senate has a say. One problem regularly faced by the residents of Tybee Island has been the unsanctioned, hosted annual party for Orange Crush weekend, in which thousands of revelers from across the nation flock to Tybee to party. To help address the issue of extreme cost to taxpayers, I joined state Representative Jesse Petrea to support legislation aimed at giving the City of Tybee Island, and/ or any other local government, the ability to hold promoters of unpermitted events accountable for any costs resulting from the events. The cost of these events has become significantly burdensome to taxpayers.

Both Senate Bill 443, which is sponsored by myself and fellow Chatham County Senator Derek Mallow, and House Bill 1079, sponsored by Rep. Petrea and Reps. Ron Stephens and Bill Hitchens, allow a local government to sue promoters or organizers of unpermitted events resulting in a public nuisance that impedes travel by police, fire, emergency medical services, or other government employees acting in their official capacities. Local governments would be able to recover, on behalf of the public, those costs associated with public safety, traffic control and sanitation services.

After discussions with Tybee Island officials, local government representatives and legal counsel, the Chatham delegation concluded that additional tools were needed to help address situations where event promoters attempt to bypass permitting processes.

To support the ongoing task of trying to ensure voting ballots are secure, the Senate passed Senate Bill 189, which passed along party lines. This legislation requires the official tabulation or count of any ballot based on the mark on the ballot. The legislation stops the use of QR codes, barcodes, or similar coding but a watermark.

I supported this measure to help ensure that ballots that are cast by voters reflect the actual intentions of that voter. This is another step in making our elections more secure.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I supported passage of our first tort reform bill, S.B. 426, which brings us in line with 46 other states relating to motor carriers.

This legislation protects truck drivers from out-of- control judgments and is designed to help lower insurance costs for drivers. As we progress through the session, I will keep you updated on the legislation affecting our community. Thank you for your continued interest in the General Assembly session.

As your public servant, feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email. I am in 325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880, and my email is ben.watson@senate. I look forward to continuing to serve you.

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