UPDATES SENATE REPORT
UPDATES SENATE REPORT
GEORGIA STATE SENATOR
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Week 4 Under the Gold Dome
ATLANTA - February 2, 2018
During the last week of January, we heard and passed six bills on the Senate floor. These bills covered a wide range of topics, from retirement to Medicaid fraud to animal cruelty charges. Over the next few weeks, we will hold Appropriations subcommittee meetings to ensure our budget is conservatively and responsibly allocated.
I sponsored the first bill that came to the floor, Senate Bill 101, which will allow Georgians who participate in the Georgia Defined Contribution Plan to buy into the Employee Retirement System (ERS) if they meet certain criteria. For example, the bill applies only to former temporary full-time employees, and they must pay full actuarial cost for the benefit. I mentioned this bill in my column last week and was glad to see it pass unanimously in the Senate. I look forward to favorable consideration of this bill in the House. Senate Bill 129 also deals with retirement, but allows former military servicemen to receive retirement credit through the ERS if they served on or after January 1, 1990. In order to qualify, veterans must show proof of service, have had membership in the ERS for two years and pay equal to the cost of creditable service. It passed the Senate as well.
On Tuesday, we vetted and passed Senate Bill 321, which will bring some revisions to the current Medicaid fraud reimbursement process. Currently in Georgia, only 35 percent of Medicaid fraud reimbursements stay within Georgia, meaning the other 65 percent goes back to the Federal government. By passing SB 321, 45 percent of those reimbursements will stay here in Georgia. As a result, the minimum Medicaid fraud penalty fee will increase from $5,500 to $11,181.
In addition to this legislation being passed on the floor, I introduced Senate Bill 375 this week to help protect the First Amendment rights of faith-based adoption agencies. The “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act” would protect faith-based adoption agencies from having to perform any service that would cause conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs. This bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where I’m hopeful that it will receive favorable consideration before being sent to the Rules Committee and Senate floor. I’ll continue to keep you updated on the progress of this bill, as well as HB 159, the Adoption Bill, which we will likely take up next week.
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.
During the 14th legislative day, Senate Resolution 502 was presented to the chamber. SR 502 urges the United States Congress to develop and fund policies to work towards extending high-speed broadband coverage into rural areas across America. As some people from our corner of the state might know, broadband connectivity can be difficult if you live in a more rural area. But internet access is more important now than ever before. It not only helps connect us, it also helps expand access to things like Telehealth. It’s important to do everything we can to ensure that people across our state are just as connected as the people in metro areas.
Another bill I sponsored, Senate Bill 338, was assigned and discussed in the Judiciary Committee this week. SB 338 will allow greater legislative oversight of rule-making by government agencies in Georgia. This bill would extend the amount of time a committee has to take action to oppose a rule change by an agency. This bill would also change the current rule of having a two-thirds vote to a simple majority in chamber and committee meetings to oppose rule changes of executive agencies. This bill is a way for us to check and balance executive agency changes, guaranteeing we are doing our legislative duty to ensure all proposed changes reflect the best interest and will of the people.
Schedule for 2018 Session
We have also set the legislative calendar for the remainder of the session. Crossover Day will be February 28. 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. However, we will not convene on Monday, February 19th, which is President's Day.
This week also marked the first Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee Meeting, a committee that I chair. We met to discuss Senate Bill 358, sponsored by Sen. Michael Rhett of Marietta. This bill, though it needed some work, is a way to help our communities gain better access to banking through banking improvement zones that will encourage the opening of financial institutions in underserved areas. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue improving the bill language so that its goal can be accomplished.