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         GEORGIA STATE SENATOR
WILLIAM LIGON
                          Third District
Live Streaming of Senate Committee Meetings

ATLANTA - January 6, 2018

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.

http://www.senate.ga.gov/spo/en-US/videobroadcasts.aspx
2018 Georgia General Assembly Convenes

ATLANTA - January 6, 2018

The 2018 Session kicks off at 10:00 a.m., Monday, January 8th.

Anticipating another onslaught of bad weather, the Governor's Office has announced that state agency offices will be closing at 3:00 PM on Monday. Thus, the legislative session will probably not convene again until Wednesday. Another factor that has played into this decision is the fact that the College Football Playoff National Championship between Alabama and Georgia takes place on Monday night in Atlanta, an event that President Donald Trump plans to attend.
The delay pushes back the Governor's State of the State address from Wednesday to Thursday, and there may be other last minute changes.

One thing that I hope people will take advantage of this year is the live streaming of committee meetings in the Senate. The House has had this technology available for a while, but the funding for the Senate was just passed in last year's budget process.
Setting 2018 Up to Succeed

ATLANTA - January 12, 2018

Our first week marked the beginning of the second session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly. While the hustle and bustle of Atlanta was at an all-time high due to the College Football Playoff National Championship and the attendance of president Donald Trump, the Senate focused on conducting business both in the Senate chamber and in committee meetings. However, we did our part to cheer on our terrific Georgia Bulldogs and are proud of the job they did this year.
Of the many legislative meetings and events this week, one of the most important was the Senate Judiciaryís first committee meeting. We picked up where we left off on Sine Die to discuss the comprehensive rewrite of Georgia's adoption code. House Bill 159 was written to update the adoption code in the O.C.G.A., a process that hasnít been done since 1990. With over 10,000 children in the foster care system, itís important to consider changes that make adoption a more streamlined process for Georgia families.
The Judiciary Committee worked through the various changes and additions to the bill, one of which was the addition of language from last year's House Bill 359, which provides parents with the option to provide a power of attorney to temporary guardians to take care of their minor children for a short period of time without the need to go through the State's burdensome bureaucratic process. Already, grandparents can step in on behalf of parents to care for children, but grandparents are not always able or even available to provide such care. Parents may need to call upon family friends or extended family in crisis situations, such as military deployment, sickness, the death of a spouse, or incarceration. The bill overwhelmingly passed both the House and Senate last year, but was vetoed by the Governor due to his concern that it did not have any accountability measures involved. Thus, the committee added the requirement for background checks on temporary guardians.
Furthermore, the underlying bill needed a number of changes. One of the primary considerations was how the original bill allowed too much money to exchange hands within the adoption process without the proper oversight. One thing we are most concerned about here is Georgia is that we do not create inducements for what would essentially become the buying and selling of babies. Although it is reasonable for birth mothers, who for various reasons must give up their children for adoption, to be reimbursed for medical expenses and have their last three months of living expenses paid for by the adoptive family, it is not appropriate to set up any type of payments or vacation perks or other incentives for birth mothers to receive during the adoption process.
As many of you may remember from last year, I offered an amendment to HB 159 that would have ensured that all mission-based child-placing agencies would be able to continue their long-standing working relationships with the State of Georgia as they always have. The amendment treated all mission-based agencies alike, but the Senate Committee determined that it was too broad in its application. Therefore, I will offer a stand-alone bill that specifically protects the sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of faith-based child-placement agencies. Religious liberty is a high priority, and I will continue to champion all our First Amendment freedoms.
Governor Nathan Deal held his eighth and final "State of the State" address on Thursday. In his speech, he touched on several important budgetary additions and the future of our state. Governor Deal mentioned the importance of our Georgia's consistent ranking as the number one state for business and our booming film industry. While thatís extremely important, I think itís also important to consider what rights are being burdened at the cost of doing business. In addition to this, there is a lot of talk about the potential east coast headquarters of Amazon. Hearing conversations that the location of this business might hinder the passage of a religious freedom bill is disappointing for a legislature that prides itself on protecting constitutional freedoms. However, my colleagues and I are working hard to ensure legislation is introduced that guarantees people and their organizations, whether they are faith-based adoption agencies or small businesses, their constitutional rights.
During the "State of the State" address on Thursday, Governor Deal touched on the importance of the Technical College System of Georgia and the productive and educated workforce our technical colleges produce. I know that many students choose to continue their educational track within the Coastal Pines Technical College system, which has seven locations in rural and coastal Georgia. I believe the $1 million proposed increase to further enhance the Technical College System of Georgiaís HOPE Career Grant will be put to excellent use. The funds would help provide two mobile labs to bolster the thriving welding program that is already successful in our Coastal Pines system. I appreciate the Governor including our technical college in his budget. This will open more doors of opportunity for the citizens of coastal and rural Georgia, which is important for the future growth of our local communities. Programs such as these are vital to supplying industries, like the Georgia Ports Authority, with skilled employees.
While I sit in the chair for the Third Senate District, the seat belongs to you. If you have any comments, questions or concerns about legislation, whether itís being vetted in a committee or being voted on by the Senate or House, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. My Senate Committees remain the same. I serve as the Chairman of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, Vice-Chairman of Ethics, Vice-Chairman of Redistricting and Reapportionment, Chairman of the Judiciary Sub-committee of Appropriations, and as a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee. It is an honor to serve you and I look forward to keeping you updated throughout the next 40 legislative days.

The schedule for the week of January 15th will include Appropriations hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday. We will officially convene again on Thursday, January 18th at 10 a.m.