UPDATES                SENATE REPORT                                
           UPDATES                SENATE REPORT                                
March 9 -13, 2015

Crossover Day was Friday, which was the last day for the Senate to pass any legislation that will be heard by the House of Representatives and become law this year. The same process occurred in the House as they raced the clock to send their final bills over to the Senate.

One bill that made it over easily at the beginning of the week was SB 132 which expands dual enrollment opportunities for all high school students. Under current Georgia law, only high school juniors and seniors are permitted to enroll in dual enrollment programs where they take post-secondary classes to receive high school and college credit. If SB 132 becomes law, students from 9th through 12th grades, whether they are enrolled in public, private or home schools, will be eligible to participate in dual enrollment programs. Post-secondary institutions that offer dual enrollment credits to high school students are required, by law, to waive the tuition and fees and provide books for eligible students. Having this opportunity available to students will allow them to begin working on their college degrees without having to worry about the cost.

On Wednesday, SR 80 passed, directing the state of Georgia to develop alternatives to the College Board's monopoly over coursework and testing for college-bound students. In addition, the resolution urges the College Board to return to its former AP US History (APUSH) framework, which would provide a more traditional approach to the teaching of U.S. History and more classroom flexibility than the current 70 plus-pages of topics and detailed thematic guidance now required in the APUSH course. The new framework unfortunately reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes the negative aspects of our nation's history while minimizing its positive aspects. It narrows curriculum into seven dominate themes, and, throughout the document, it repeatedly focuses on gender, class, racial, and ethnic identities within the context of social conflict at the expense of presenting what makes America a successful and free society.


Last week, SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed the Senate 37-15.

The bill language has been drafted to reflect the language of the federal RFRA, which has a time-tested success record of over 20 years for protecting the religious liberty interests of citizens whose religious rights have been burdened.  As seen in the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, even laws that appear to be neutral toward religion can burden First Amendment religious free exercise rights.

When considering the actual history of RFRA principles, the courts have applied the RFRA standards of strict scrutiny and the compelling governmental interest balancing test for 50 years. These are the key elements of the Georgia RFRA language in SB 129. It is important that the bill language reflect the original federal RFRA so that Georgians can have the same protection for religious freedom in Georgia's courts as we have in federal courts.

To watch first-hand interviews regarding issues at the Georgia Capitol, tune in to Capitol News, a brand new show just getting underway to keep Georgians more aware of what is happening under the Gold Dome.

The news channel link is https://vimeo.com/channels/875726.

There are a number of shows dealing with the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

There are two shows posted that cover concerns related to the new Advanced Placement U.S. History Framework.

Saturday, March 14 through Tuesday, March 17 - in adjournment

Wednesday, March 18 - Legislative Day 31 convenes

Thursday, March 19 - Legislative Day 32 convenes

Friday, March 20 - Legislative Day 33 convenes

Saturday, March 21 through Sunday, March 22 - in adjournment

Monday, March 23 - Legislative Day 34 convenes

Tuesday, March 24 - Legislative Day 35 convenes

Wednesday, March 25 - Legislative Day 36 convenes

Thursday, March 26 - Legislative Day 37 convenes

Friday, March 27 - Legislative Day 38 convenes

Saturday, March 28 through Monday, March 30 - in adjournment

Tuesday, March 31 - Legislative Day 39 convenes

Wednesday, April 1 - in adjournment

Thursday, April 2 - Last Legislative Day 40 convenes
Some constituents have expressed an interest in SB 159 and SB 45  - both of which deal with no-knock warrants. These were heard in the Senate Judiciary Non Civil Committee. No-knock warrants occur when law enforcement officers are permitted to serve a search warrant without first knocking or announcing their presence. While the statutory law appears to require law enforcement to announce themselves before entering a home, the Court of Appeals has interpreted the statute to permit the use of no-knock warrants. Testimony in the committee indicated that these types of warrants have been in use for about 30 years in the State of Georgia. SB 159 was introduced to regulate and reduce the use of no-knock warrants. The legislation will be reviewed in committee again next year before it moves forward.

I am back in the district for a few days and will return to Atlanta on Tuesday. We do not go into session until Wednesday. That will give both chambers the opportunity to track all the bills that have crossed over so that when we do return, we will be able to quickly assign the House bills to the proper Senate committees for review.

As you contact me about the issues that concern you, remember that the Senate will now be taking up House bills for the next couple of weeks. So, the best way to pass along your concerns to me is to identify the House Bill number that addresses your concerns. If you are contacting a House member, then you will need the Senate Bill number to reference for them.
The Senate also passed SB 116 on Wednesday, a bill I authored to establish the week of September 17 as Celebrate Freedom Week in Georgia public schools. The bill strongly encourages Georgia public schools to implement at least three hours of instruction in each grade levelís social studies classes during the week. We want future generations to know, understand and appreciate the importance of documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, so they are better equipped to uphold the principles of liberty as they become responsible adults. We chose the week of September 17th because that day is already an official federal observance of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Federal law requires that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational instruction on the history of the Constitution on that day, but this bill will provide more guidance and ensure that our teachers have more resources to enhance their instructional time.

On Friday, the Senate passed SB 36, which requires the Board of Natural Resources to adopt regulations on or before July 1, 2016, providing for the protection and preservation of the Floridan Aquifer. The Third District depends on the Floridan Aquifer to supply the majority of our clean drinking water, and this legislation will help protect our aquifer if it passes the House and becomes law.

That same day, I also presented SR 26, a resolution that creates a joint House and Senate Coastal Greenway Study Committee to consider the proposed Coastal Georgia Greenway trail that would eventually connect with the states along the East Coast to create a trail leading from Maine to Florida. The Senate has approved the measure so that we can determine whether such an effort would create a positive impact on Georgiaís tourism industry and our economy.

Sen. William Ligon provided a response to an Atlanta Journal Constitution article which misrepresented Senate Resolution 80.

Access Sen. Ligon's article: Leftist Slant to AP U.S. History Turns America's Melting Pot into Boiling Pot
                          Third District