Georgia General Assembly Making Progress Week 4 ATLANTA - February 5, 2016
The Georgia General Assembly has now completed day 16 of the 2016 legislative session. With our deadline fast approaching, the Senate has kicked it into high gear as we work to vet and vote on the many bills being brought to the Senate floor.
Wednesday, the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 691 recognizing February 3, 2016 as 4-H Day at the Capitol. I had the honor to welcome 4-H members from McIntosh County to my office. The individuals are the future of Georgiaís agribusiness, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to talk with them and learn about their goals.
I presented Senate Bill 310, the Transparency in Education Act, to the Senate Education and Youth Committee Wednesday. This bill deals with competitive grants over $20 million and their requirements for implementation in K-12 education. SB 310 prohibits any grant from being implemented without an analysis of grant terms by the legislature. Any analysis must include long-term projections of unfunded costs, anticipated transfer of control, purpose of the grant, rules of compliance and an explanation of how it will affect existing law. We must let our parents, teachers and those interested in education who could be affected by these grants know what these competitive grants mean for our schools so we can better determine if it is something we wish to pursue. This open and transparent process will promote more stability and continuity in our education policies and keep us from switching programs every few years.
Fireworks Law Needs Revision In the Third District and other areas of the state, citizens have been unhappy with the way legislation from last session has allowed the indiscriminate use of fireworks on any day of the year. The law did not even allow city and county governments to provide ordinances regulating the manner of their use.
Rep. Alex Atwood has introduced a legislative fix to the problem, HB 774, and I will look forward to seeing his bill arrive in the Senate.
Early Voting Has Begun for the Presidential Preference Primary
The Presidential Primary in Georgia is March 1, however, Early Voting has already begun. Dates for Early Voting are Monday through Friday during the weeks of February 8th through February 26th, and one Saturday, February 20th from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Generally voting hours during the week are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.and take place at the Board of Elections, although some counties will have more than one location. For specific information on where to vote in your county, visit the following link:
Register for Feb. 10 Religious Freedom Day at the Capitol
Take time to register for Religious Freedom Day which will take place within walking distance of the Georgia Capitol on Feb. 10, 2016. Doors open at 7:30 AM at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot. Speakers include the Benham Brothers. The deadline to register for the breakfast is February 5. In the afternoon, Dr. Franklin Graham will lead the prayer gathering from noon until 1 PM.
The public has a total of 60 days to review the proposed standards and provide feedback before the State Board of Education votes on whether to approve them. Survey opportunities will close on March 14, 2016, 5:00 P.M. EST.
If you would like to send me a detailed letter that you would like submitted to the State School Board and Superintendent Woods, please send your letter to my Capitol address in time for it to arrive in my office no later than March 10. My address is: Senator William Ligon, 421-C State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334.
You Have Less Than 60 Days to Comment on New Standards for Science and Social Studies - Here is How to Make Your Voice Count
The State Board of Education has posted, for a 60-day public comment period, the first Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) for science and social studies.
State Superintendent Richard Woods welcomes your comments and input on these standards and urges you to take the time to share your comments with him and with us before these standards are finalized and voted on by the State Board of Education.
To see an overview of the science standards here and the social studies standards use the link shown below:
In Camden County, much work has gone into a proposal for developing Georgia's first spaceport, and the next step has just been taken with the start of the session. Rep. Jason Spencer has filed his legislation, the Georgia Space Flight Act, HB 734, which would provide the legal structure needed to move forward with the spaceport.
Right now, we have a total of eight different religious liberty bills pending in the General Assembly. Our founders recognized the free exercise of religion as a basic human right that they enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, however, protecting our first freedom is up to us. You can help support passage of religious freedom legislation by coming to the Capitol on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 and attending Georgia Religious Freedom Day. The day will start at the Depot with breakfast with the Benham Brothers at 8 a.m. Franklin Graham will host a prayer gathering at noon at Liberty Plaza. A variety of faith based organizations and churches are expected to be here standing up for religious freedom, and you can use the opportunity to talk with state legislators about your right to freedom of religion by walking over to the Capitol. For more details, visit my website at www.senatorligon.com.
Coastal Georgia Greenway Moving Forward
Many of us in the Third District spend a lot of time outdoors exploring the beautiful Georgia coast and everything it has to offer. We have been working on the local and state levels to try to create funding to build the Coastal Georgia Greenway, which will connect 16 coastal Georgia towns and counties with a hiking and biking trail, and will be an imperative piece of the proposed 2,900 mile East Coast Greenway, connecting Maine to Florida. Last year, I was appointed to serve as Co-Chair of the Coastal Greenway Study Committee, which found that the Greenway is an absolute win-win situation for the counties along the coast. A lot of you are looking for the trail to be built, and it is my hope that the committee report will be a catalyst to bring the state agencies and local governments together to support this project. You can download the full committee report HERE.
Family violence is a rising issue in our state. It comes in all shapes and sizes, affects men, women and children, and is often a result of repeat offenders. Currently under Georgia law, a person receives a misdemeanor for a first conviction of family violence. It isnít until a second conviction that an offender is charged with a felony and punished by imprisonment of one to five years. On Tuesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 193, which amends Georgiaís law and tightens penalties for repeat family violence offenders. SB 193 retains the misdemeanor conviction for a first time offender, but for those who have been convicted of family violence in another state, and are now facing a first time conviction in the state of Georgia, they will be charged with a felony.
It is important for voters and election candidates to pay attention to the rules and regulations regarding elections and polling places. This week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 199 which clarifies the language regarding what constitutes campaign material at active polling locations. Currently, vote solicitation, distribution of campaign literature including but not limited to cards, booklets and signs, are prohibited in and around voting locations on election days. This bill does not change any laws relating to where campaign material can be distributed, but it does offer new guidelines for poll workers to follow in deciding what constitutes campaign material.