UPDATES SENATE REPORT
UPDATES SENATE REPORT
GEORGIA STATE SENATOR
Live Streaming of Senate Committee Meetings
New this year in the Senate is the ability to livestream committee meetings. Keep this link in an accessible location on your smart phone so that you can livestream any Senate committee meetings that are debating bills of interest to you.
Week 9 Wrap Up from the Georgia Senate
ATLANTA - March 9, 2018
With the completion of Crossover Day, we saw a shift in focus in the Senate. From vetting and voting on almost entirely Senate bills over the past two months, we are now taking a look at the bills that have been sent to us from the House. In addition, we have held several Appropriations Subcommittee meetings that allow us to review proposed budget allocations in detail for Fiscal Year 2019 and consider any necessary changes. It’s our constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget, and we want to ensure that we are doing so in a fiscally conservative and effective manner.
This week, the Senate passed 11 pieces of House legislation, one of which I carried for House sponsor Betty Price. House Bill 162 would make minor changes in relation to the receipt of funds collected from debts by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). This bill ensures that the AOC is no longer required to charge an administrative fee for its collection process, but still provides discretion for the AOC to charge a fee to cover administrative costs as long as that fee does not exceed $20 per debt. The bill also requires the AOC to provide quarterly payments to the specific courts which are owed that debt.
Though I realize housekeeping bills like HB 162 do not usually get any press coverage, I mention it because much of the legislative process deals with just these types of tweaks to current law. They may be rather dull to read about, but making sure fees are capped and ensuring that the AOC has the option to waive fees can make a difference for people who are paying off their debts.
William Ligon's Georgia Campus Free Speech Act
by Stanley Kurtz January 23, 2018 9:53 AM
Georgia State Senator William Ligon has filed Senate Bill 339, a campus free-speech bill based on the template published by Arizona’s Goldwater Institute. (I co-authored that model along with Jim Manley and Jonathan Butcher.) The Goldwater proposal, already the most comprehensive legislative prototype, was recently updated to include provisions on speaker security fees and free-association rights for student organizations. So the Georgia bill is on track to become one of the most far-reaching campus free-speech laws in the nation.
Animated Video Provides Clarity on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
I would like for my constituents to view this short animated video, https://vimeo.com/252602308, which explains the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and then share this video link with people you know, share it on Facebook and Twitter, share it with your pastor who in turn can share it with the congregation. Rather than letting the media distort the explanation of RFRA, we need to show what it truly does and why it is needed. RFRA helps protect people of faith in the federal courts, and Georgia's citizens deserve that same level of protection in our state courts. Senate Bill 233 would provide the same strict scrutiny standard of review that the federal courts apply to cases involving the Free Exercise of Religion and to all our fundamental rights. Georgia's courts should do no less.
Schedule for 2018 Session
We have also set the legislative calendar for the remainder of the session. Sine Die, the last day of the legislative session, will take place on March 29, 2018. Until then, we are generally in session from Monday through Thursday.
One of the biggest pieces of legislation we took up this week was the amended Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. Sometimes referred to as the “little budget,” House Bill 683 amends various budget allocations in accordance with increases over the State's predicted revenue. With an increase of $108.9 million over what was expected, the total state budget for FY 2018 totals $25.4 billion. Thus, the budget has increased approximately 1.2 percent in state fund growth, and there was a 2.3 percent growth in revenue over the predicted revenue in 2017. This means that as a state, we are continually improving our economic outlook and overall business friendly environment. I am hopeful that with the passage of other bills, particularly those protecting faith-based organizations that wish to do more business in Georgia, we can see this growth continue as has proven to be the case in Texas.
In the proposed changes to the FY 2018 amended budget, the House and Senate agreed that $1.6 million should be allotted to the Jekyll Island Authority for improvements to the Great Dunes South Beach Park and the Ocean View Beach Park and $10 million for grants to local communities for beach nourishment projects. In the overall FY 2018 amended budget, approximately $1.798 billion dollars are derived from the Georgia Lottery and used to fund programs like the HOPE Scholarship grants and pre-kindergartens across the state.
I continue to track the progress of some bills I have sponsored this year, including Senate Bill 339, the Campus Free Speech Act, and Senate Bill 375, Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act. Both of these bills have been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee where they can be reviewed by members and will hopefully pass the committee in the coming weeks. I have already learned that the Campus Free Speech bill will have a subcommittee hearing on March 13th and a full committee hearing on March 15th. I look forward to testifying before the committee next week to explain why our college students need the First Amendment protections provided by SB 339.
On Friday of last week, Governor Deal signed the adoption bill, House Bill 159. On Monday, he signed the income tax percentage reduction, House Bill 918. Both of these bills represent positive strides for the people of Georgia, and I look forward to seeing much more beneficial legislation being signed in the coming months.
If you are ever up at the Capitol, please drop by my office. It would be a pleasure to see people from the Third District here in Atlanta.
Over the next few weeks we will hear many more House Bills on the Senate floor. If you have questions about any of these, please let me know.