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Senate passes bill creating joint defense commission
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

This week under the Gold Dome, bills that passed the Senate and the House were sent to the other chamber for consideration on what we refer to as Crossover Day.

I was pleased that legislation I sponsored and worked diligently on, SB 395, passed the Senate unanimously and is now in the House for deliberation. The bill creates the Georgia Joint Defense Commission, which would advise the governor and Legislature on defense and military issues within the state and nationwide, make recommendations regarding plans to support the long-term development of our state’s military, and develop ways to enhance a community’s relationship with military installations and defense-related business.

The commission would also serve as a task force that would seek advice and prepare for potential base realignment or closure of military installations in our state.

Georgia has a proud military presence with the fifth largest military population in the nation, the largest infantry training base in the world and a yearly economic impact of $25 billion.

I believe that it’s imperative that our state remains prepared militarily and offers strong community support to our military men and women who serve so valiantly. It is my hope that this bill passes the House and becomes law, and I’ll keep you updated as the legislative process continues.

If you would like to read the bill in its entirety please visit

HB 918 passed both the House and the Senate, updating the current tax code with significant benefits for hard-working Georgians.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, this tax year, the standard deduction will double for individuals to $4,600 for single persons and $6,000 for married couples filing jointly. In tax year 2019, the top individual income tax rate and the corporate tax rate decrease from 6 percent to 5.75 percent.

Furthermore, in tax year 2020, the Legislature must vote to affirm the lowering of the top personal income and corporate tax rates to 5.5 percent. These changes expire when the federal tax cuts conclude on Dec. 31, 2025.

Other highlights of the bill include disaster relief provisions, including hurricane loss write-offs and giving hurricane victims penalty-free access to retirement funds. It’s estimated that over five years this legislation will save taxpayers $5 billion.

I’m a strong proponent of lowering taxes while still maintaining a fiscally responsible state budget and was pleased that the bill passed overwhelmingly. Since Gov. Deal took a leadership role in formulating this bill it is expected that the legislation will promptly be signed into law.

Regarding secure voting ballots, SB 403 passed which discontinue the use of electronic voting machines. Pending that the General Assembly appropriates the necessary funding, the state would utilize a new optical scanning voting system as early as the 2020 presidential preference primary.

The bill specifically requires that all electronic voting machines will be discontinued after Jan.21, 2024. Our election process should always be reliable and fair, and I believe that this is a good measure for safeguarding Georgia’s elections.

As we continue this legislative session, your input is important to me. I encourage you to contact me with your concerns and questions at or at 404-656-7880.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve you!

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