On Monday, March 18, my colleagues and I resumed our legislative business on Capitol Hill for Legislative Day 33 and the start of the tenth week of this legislative session.
The House began the week on Monday with the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 67 to address certain funding gaps in our local school systems. This legislation would particularly support southwest Georgia public schools that were impacted by Hurricane Michael last fall. SB 67 would allow school systems which have experienced damage from a fire or natural disaster to immediately qualify for regular state capital outlay funds, regular advance capital outlay funds and low-wealth capital outlay funds to repair these damaged school facilities. SB 67 would also create a pathway for schools to qualify for low-wealth capital outlay grants if the school system’s five-year SPLOST revenue does not generate enough funding for the local required match to qualify for grants that finance updates, repairs or consolidation.
Inspired by the nationwide effort to pay tribute our country’s heroes, SB 170 would designate the Honor and Remember organization’s flag as the state’s official emblem to remember the service and sacrifice of members in the armed forces who lost their lives in the line of duty. Displaying this special flag would be reserved for military holidays, such as Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW-MIA Day, Veteran’s Day, Gold Star Mother’s Day and when a member of the armed forces who is a resident of Georgia loses his or her life in the line of duty.
The House also took up Senate Bill 17 this week, which is one of several measures introduced this session to promote broadband development and expansion in rural Georgia. SB 17 would provide the groundwork for increasing broadband services throughout our state and especially in our rural areas. Specifically, this bill would expand the Rural Telephone Cooperative Act by authorizing nonprofit telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates the ability to furnish, improve and develop broadband services in rural areas.
To continue in our efforts to improve our state’s foster care system, we passed SB 167 which would enhance court proceedings regarding the custody of children in foster care. This legislation would increase the amount of preference given to foster parents when the court has exhausted its options for a child to be placed with a family member or relative.
Finally, on Friday, the House passed Senate Bill 1, or “C.J.’s Law,” to increase the penalties for certain hit-and-run crimes in Georgia. Currently, Georgia lacks strict regulations that allow for harsh prosecution against a driver who strikes a pedestrian unintentionally but leaves the scene while knowing they could have caused serious, irreparable harm to the person.
We completed Legislative Day 35 on Friday, March 22. With only five legislative days remaining in the session, the House will be busier than ever during this crucial time to guarantee that the legislation being considered is good policy for Georgia and its citizens.