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State House discusses GBI, caregivers
Legislative update
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The Georgia General Assembly continues to move forward with the 2012 legislative session. The Legislature completed four days of session last week, ending Friday afternoon.
Legislation increased daily as bills moved through both the House and Senate committees. This equated to more time spent in committee meetings — discussing and analyzing potential legislation — as well as more time spent on the House floor debating the legislation before a vote by the entire House of Representatives. Since legislators represent different areas of our state, some bills are debated for longer than others, and many times it depends on the possible implications or benefits to the district and people we represent.
One local bill that we passed last week affects our district. I sponsored House Bill 973, and it passed unanimously. This legislation relates to the Bryan County Board of Commissioners and establishes the new districts approved by our local officials and based on the data from the 2010 Census.
On Feb. 22, the House passed nine bills, in addition to many bills relating to local legislation.
House Bill 895 passed unanimously and would expand the powers and duties of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in regard to gathering information about sexual offenders. It would allow the GBI to assist the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board and transfer investigators from the board to the GBI. 
House Bill 472 passed 152-6 and would allow a brewpub to increase the maximum amount of barrels that it is allowed to produce and sell.
House Bill 733 passed unanimously as well and would allow members of the Georgia Commission of Family Violence to continue to serve until a new appointment or reappointment is made.
Feb. 22 was significant because it was Georgia National Guard Day at the Capitol. The House recognized and honored the sacrifice of many families who had lost loved ones who were serving on our behalf in the Georgia National Guard. 
Following this recognition, the House passed nine pieces of legislation.
House Bill 514 passed 146-20 and would allow free tastings of distilled spirits with the requirement that it would only be one tasting per person in a day. 
Two weeks ago, we discussed House Resolution 1162, regarding education policy and charter schools. The House reconsidered this legislation and passed it Feb. 22 with a vote of 123-48.
For clarification, this legislation does not allow the usage of local funding. Also, as previously described, HR 1162 is a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would let the voters decide whether to clarify the authority of the state to establish a statewide education policy and the ability to establish charter schools. 
If passed by the Senate, it would go on the ballot as a statewide referendum. 
We passed House Bill 850 by a vote of 171-2. It would allow probate judges to require a person to submit to a background check when he or she is seeking to become a guardian of another person, but it only would be required if the judge chooses to require it.  
The intent is to ensure that any person taking care of those who are unable to take care of themselves (or are not of legal age) are capable of doing so. 
House Bill 687 passed 132-9 and would require alarm-monitoring companies to place two phone calls to verify that there is an emergency in the event that no contact is made on the first call. 
This would eliminate false alarms and would not include instances of fire alarms, panic buttons, robberies, crimes or medical needs. Our police and fire personnel often are dispatched due to false alarms, and this seeks to remedy that situation.
The House passed five pieces of legislation Feb. 23-24, in addition to local legislation. 
House Bill 875 passed unanimously and relates to the privacy of the records obtained by the Department of Natural Resources.
This legislation ensures that the personal information that the DNR gathers on individuals is not released through an open-records request. The intent is to prevent commercial solicitations.
For example, the DNR has hunting and fishing records that contains personal information, and this bill would make certain that our information is not obtained by merchants or other outside sources. 
House Bill 879 passed 136-26 and would help to ensure that children with diabetes in elementary and secondary education are in the care of properly trained employees in the school and that those employees are aware of how to respond to any diabetic emergencies.
The goal is to help young children manage the disease and provide care for them. This legislation would require local boards of education to train at least two school employees if there are children in the school who have diabetes. 
House Bill 419 passed 143-8 on Feb. 24 and would give consumers a right to bring their mortgages up to date if they pay all past-due payments as well as fees. 
The current law requires permission from the lender; however, this legislation would give the homeowner the right to do this.
The General Assembly continued its work at the Capitol on Monday for its 26th day of session. I will continue to keep all of you informed throughout the 2012 legislative session. 
Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, thoughts or concerns. It is both an honor and privilege to continue serving you in the Georgia General Assembly. 

Stephens can be reached at 404-656-5099; State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, Ga., 30334; or

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