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Georgia General Assembly Off and Running in Week 3

ATLANTA - January 29, 2016

We have now successfully completed day 12 of the 2016 legislative session, and we are fast approaching day 30, or Crossover Day. This means we only have 18 more days to vet and vote on legislation originating in the Senate, before we focus our attention on House Bills.

This week we have had several new pieces of legislation read for the first time and referred to a committee, including Senate Bill 281, which I sponsored.

Last year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 89, the Digital Classroom Act, and it went into effect on July 1, 2015. The Digital Classroom Act encourages all boards of education to transition all text books to a digital format by 2020, and to provide each student with a wireless electronic device like a tablet or laptop computer. SB 89 was designed to bring Georgia into the future of learning and to ensure that every student receives the technical skills required in today’s job market.
Unfortunately, with this new classroom technology comes a serious potential threat for our students; identity theft through data mining. I introduced SB 281 on Thursday, which aims to protect students’ identifying information by allowing parents, guardians or eligible students, who are 18 years or older, to opt out of using this new technology. The schools must also be transparent with parents and students about the role this technology will play in the classroom and the information that the software is designed to collect. SB 281 requires that parents have total access to all information available to students within the platform and that all information collected on students be destroyed at the end of the course. I feel that this legislation is extremely important to protect our children and their information.  
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.
Be Sure You Are Registered to Vote in the Presidential Preference Primary

The Presidential Primary in Georgia is March 1, so the deadline to register to vote is February 1. Go to the website link provided below to check your registration to be sure it is up-to-date. If you have moved from one Georgia county to another, you may need to register again.


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.

Click here for the brochure with all the details.

Click here to register.
After Studying the Standards at the Link Above, Do This Next

To give your feedback on the proposed standards, please go to the following surveys:

Survey for Feedback of Revised Science Standards

Survey for Feedback of Revised Social Studies Standards

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:

Spaceport Legislation Filed

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.
Budget Notes

Governor Nathan Deal's budget recommendations in his "State of the State" address included a proposed three percent pay increase for teachers and an end to furlough days. For the Third District, there are also funds in the budget for renovating Nahunta Elementary School in Brantley County and funds for renovating Glynn Academy in Glynn County.

He also has additional proposed spending for transportation. For the Third District, the transportation budget includes the replacement of two bridges in Glynn County, two bridges in Camden County, and one bridge in McIntosh County, in addition to a number of road improvements scheduled for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year.
Wednesday, the Senate and House of Representatives gathered in the House chamber for a joint session to hear the annual State of the Judiciary Address delivered by Hugh P. Thompson, the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Chief Justice Thompson reinforced the importance of modernizing our judiciary system. Doing this will allow our courts to handle a wider variety of cases, including those with more complex litigation, and be equipped to handle an increasingly more diverse population.

I sponsored a resolution Thursday that aims to improve transparency and public confidence through reviewing the procedures on how legislation is passed. Senate Resolution 842 will create the Senate Study Committee on the Legislative Process. The Committee will be charged with reviewing the process to determine if there are areas that could be improved to enhance efficiency, increase transparency and openness, and ensure a proper deliberative approach to the making of laws.
Senate Bill 272 requires a constitutional amendment to be voted on by all the voters in the state of Georgia. If voters approve, then the citizens of unincorporated areas of Georgia would be free to vote by local referendum to set up a township.

Interest in the township model is evident in other areas of Georgia. Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R - Johns Creek) has filed similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Click here to see suggested map of St. Simons Township Voting Districts.

Click here to see the Report of the State Senate Annexation, Deannexation, and Incorporation Study Committee which recommends Georgia consider adding township governance as an option for unincorporated areas seeking to be incorporated.
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.

If you have any questions or concerns about pending legislation, please feel free to reach out to me. I am honored to represent District 3 at the Capitol and look forward to continuing putting you at the forefront of my decision making.
Currently under Georgia law, property insurance providers are required to cover the full value of a one or two family residence that it is entirely destroyed in a fire, when insured by a legal sole owner. Senate Bill 137, passed unanimously on Wednesday, amends and expands previous law to allow for corporations to collect property insurance payouts in full if a residential unit is destroyed completely by fire. The bill was the first to hit the floor and the first to pass into law.

Georgia’s law enforcement officers go through many training and recertification programs over the course of their careers. However, once they retire or leave duty due to disability, they must return their weapon and badge. Senate Bill 263, which passed by a vote of 50-1 Thursday, will permit, but not require, cities, counties and boards of education that employ P.O.S.T. certified peace officers, to adopt policies that would allow a sworn officer to retain his or her weapon and badge as a form of compensation after leaving duty due to retirement or disability.
Sen. William Ligon Introduces Georgia Townships Act

(January 20, 2016)  |  Sen. William Ligon (R - Brunswick) Wednesday introduced Senate Bill 272 and its supporting constitutional amendment, Senate Resolution 724, to provide unincorporated areas of Georgia the opportunity to create a township.

“The Glynn County legislative delegation was pleased to see the Senate Annexation, Deannexation and Incorporation Study Committee recommend the township model as a way to incorporate in our state,” said Sen. Ligon. “I am pleased to introduce this legislation that will allow us the opportunity to explore the feasibility of this kind of incorporation on St. Simons Island.”

A township will continue to utilize and pay for county services such as water and emergency services, but will allow local citizens, elected to a township council, to control land use and local zoning rather than the county government.
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