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(ATLANTA) February 27, 2020 - Twenty-one legislative days have passed under the Gold Dome. We are now more than halfway done with the legislative session. We’re moving at a quick pace, setting each calendar day with multiple bills and resolutions for consideration. Crossover Day will be on March 12. We have until then to get as many Senate bills as possible over to the House for consideration.
Week Seven - Senate Report
Week seven of the session was very successful. Senate Bill 123, which I authored, passed in chamber on Monday. This requires solid waste disposal facilities to charge $2.50 for all materials. This is a change from the current $1 imposed fee. Georgia has become a dumping ground for coal ash in recent years, due to our lenient surcharges on waste at dumps and landfills. Our health, soils and waters have been adversely affected in some communities because coal ash pollution contains high levels of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, selenium and other cancer-causing agents. SB 123 aims to protect Georgia’s natural resources and local ecosystems, in turn protecting our citizens.
Additionally, my sponsored resolution, SR 690, also passed in the Senate. This will encourage the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to support the building of the Coastal Georgia Greenway, which runs from St. Marys to Savannah, and would tie into the East Coast Greenway, extending from South Florida to Maine. Bicycle greenways not only provide recreational activity, but they also enhance tourism by providing a path to see various parts of coastal Georgia. Property values also increase along these greenways.
Another piece of legislation I was glad to see get passed in chamber was Senate Bill 320. SB 320, which I cosponsored, would require all sex offenders to register or update their registration information annually on their birth date. Failure to do so, or providing false information, will result in a felony offense. Furthermore, for all those who are classified as sexually dangerous predators, there is an additional requirement to register six months following their birth date. These stricter requirements for registration will help keep communities safe.
On Wednesday, the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee passed Senate Bill 384, which I sponsored. SB 384 would prevent new landfills from being built within three miles of a blackwater river. This legislation would not impact 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.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also passed two of my bills this week. One I have already mentioned in a previous column, Senate Bill 318. Also known as the FORUM Act, this legislation protects the First Amendment rights of students on higher education campuses, particularly their freedom of speech and freedom of association. The other bill passed by the committee was Senate Bill 429, which is the annual code revision bill. This legislation, referred to as the commas and semicolons bill, simply makes changes to conform to the style of the code and keeps all language consistent, as well as updates terminology to be more current. It also removes provisions that have been declared unconstitutional or suspended by other laws.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you. Next week is sure to be busy. As we rapidly approach Crossover Day, I’ll be sure to update you on as much as I can, but in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out on any issues if you have questions or concerns. If you just want to leave a message on how you think a vote should go, my secretary keeps a running list of those in favor and those opposed. This helps me know how my district is thinking about a particular issue.