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(ATLANTA) March 13, 2020 - The first major deadline of the legislative session, Crossover, is behind us, and all of the bills that can be signed by the Governor after we adjourn on Sine Die, have passed their respective chamber and crossed over to the other chamber. There were several measures that passed this week that will have a direct effect on our district, and others that I believe everyone should know about, regardless of where you live. Here are a few of the 50 plus pieces of legislation that were passed on the Senate floor this week.
Week Nine In Review - Senate Report
Georgia Legislature Suspends after Completing Crossover Day
I am proud to say Senate Bill 318, the FORUM Act, was passed in the Senate. As mentioned in previous columns, this legislation protects the First Amendment rights of students on higher education campuses, particularly their freedom of speech and freedom of association. Senate Bill 442 was also passed, which prohibits certain homeowners associations from amending covenants that restrict the rental of residential property.
Additionally, Senate Bill 430 passed this week. This bill would authorize certain home school students and private school students to take courses at a college or career academy. This legislation would allow our private school and home school students to be eligible to attend the Golden Isles College & Career Academy.
Another bill I sponsored, Senate Bill 384, was passed in chamber. SB 384 would prevent new landfills from being built within three miles of a blackwater river, while not impacting any facilities currently in operation. This bill would specifically help protect the Satilla River, which is a blackwater river. Blackwater rivers provide special resources for the state, including recreational outlets with great fishing.
A measure that would protect students against hazing was passed this week. Senate Bill 423, the Max Gruver Act, would revise the definition of hazing and establish higher criminal penalties for hazing. Hazing can involve practices of alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep-deprivation and sexual acts. These practices can be physically and mentally dangerous to students, and some students have even died. Students should not be forced to partake in harmful acts to belong to any organization. This legislation seeks to combat dangerous hazing activities.
Due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, the legislative session is suspending its business for the time being. We will meet again for day 30 once we have more clarification on the severity of the situation. Although the coronavirus is not yet hitting Georgia hard, we want to do all we can to prevent it from doing so. The coronavirus is highly contagious, and there is no vaccine yet available. As our elders always have said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” therefore preventing large groups from assembling together is one of those easy precautions to take.
Please realize, however, this is not an alarmist reaction to the disease. It is simply looking at the math and seeking to prevent an escalation that would spike the number of cases in a short period of time. Spikes should be avoided because our healthcare system must not get overloaded with cases. We must have plenty of margin in the system in order to take care of all patients, no matter what ailments need treating.
In order for the people in my district to understand this perspective better, I am posting a chart that gives a visual diagram of how this preventative action works. In essence, it elongates the curve and slows down the spread of the disease when we avoid social contact, especially in large groups. For further information, please visit coronavirus.gov.
To track cases in Georgia, keep this website handy. It is updated by our Georgia Department of Public Health every 24 hours: https://dph.georgia.gov/georgia-department-public-health-covid-19-daily-status-report. If you have any questions about legislation, please contact my office. I look forward to supporting legislation that benefits our district and our state.