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(ATLANTA) February 7, 2020 - Last week marked our fourth under the Gold Dome this session. We met for three legislative days with plenty of committee work in between.
Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to present Senate Bill 123 in the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee meeting. It has passed out of committee. The bill, as explained in last week's column, would require solid waste disposal facilities that accept certain materials, including coal ash, to charge $2.50 for all materials. This is a change from the current $1 imposed fee. Georgia has become a coal ash dumping ground in recent years due to our lenient surcharges on waste at dumps and landfills. Because of this, our soils, waters and most importantly, our citizens’ health may be adversely affected. Coal ash pollution contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium and other cancer-causing agents. I believe SB 123 will protect our state’s natural resources and local ecosystems, and as a result prevent these toxic materials from harming us.
Week Four - Senate Report
Additionally, the Senate passed Senate Bill 26 in Chamber last Wednesday. I was pleased to sponsor this bill which allows a past member of the Georgia Defined Contribution Plan to buy-in to the Employees’ Retirement System, as long as the member was a temporary full-time employee and is willing to pay the full actuarial cost of the creditable service. Members of the Georgia Defined Contribution Plan include any employee of the State who is not a member of another public retirement or pension system. SB 26 also gives members the option of financing up to a period of 10 years. This plan will not cost the State any additional money, but it is extremely helpful toward helping our hard working citizens create a more stable future for themselves and their families.
Over the next few weeks, the legislature will work on taking the Governor’s budget recommendations and the requested funding needs for Georgia’s agencies by turning them into two bills, the amended budget for the 2020 Fiscal Year and the budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year. The General Assembly will not meet back in general session until Tuesday, Feb. 18, after these extended budget discussions take place.
During the budget break, however, a few committees are still meeting. For example, on Tuesday, February 11th, the Coastal Greenway Resolution (SR 690), which I authored, was just heard in the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee. The legislation was approved.
Next week after we return to the session, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear another resolution that came to me from a local group that has been active in helping our citizens who suffer from mental disabilities. I am proud to sponsor the Mental Health Alert Wristband Resolution (SR 546) and hope this effort gains traction throughout our state. Already, law enforcement is praising this simple way to ensure that mental health patients in crisis are easily recognized and obtain the help they need rather than going to jail. I will share more about this after the resolution is heard in committee.
Thank you for your continued support as we move through the rest of session. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office by phone or by email. We are here to serve you. It is my pleasure to serve Senate District 3.