By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
Monday began the last week of this year’s legislative session. We will adjourn, Sine Die, this Thursday, March 29. This week we passed 54 House Bills and resolutions, and I expect the twelfth and final week to be a marathon of vetting, amending and voting on legislation. Of the 56 different pieces of legislation we passed this week, I want to highlight a few I believe most resonate with us at home:
• HB 381 eases the process for landowners to remove abandoned and unwanted mobile homes off their property. We encountered this situtation several times when I was on the county commission, so I was happy to help with a solution.
• HB 732 would expand the offenses of sex trafficking. We have strict penalties against the suppy side of sex trafficking (think, the pimp). This bill goes after the supply side, (the “John”) and would penalizes knowingly patronizing a person in sexual servitude.
• HB 792 increases the surcharge from $1 to $3 for counties who have landfills. This would discourage out-of-state trash from being dumped in our landfills, including coal ash. (another bill has the language as well, but coal ash was exempted. Rep. Bill Werkheiser and I are diligently working to have it re-included)
• HB 701 adds opiods to the list of drugs that are tested for during state employee drug screens.
• HB 843 helps protect Georgia bases from the next round of BRAC (federal Base Relignment and Closure) by including census tracts in counties containing certain federal military installations in the definition of areas eligible for addition jobs tax credits. This is especially important for places like Liberty, Tattnall, and Long Counties as Fort Stewart will likely be positively impacted by this legislation.
• House Bill 779 creates the Emergency Operations Command and the Board of Homeland Security that would work to manage Georgia’s public safety emergencies. However, the newly created agencies would not be tasked with the operational authority of Georgia’s public safety.
• House Bill 906 would allow the personal information of foster parents, like their home address, phone number, banking information and other things known to the Department of Family and Children’s Services, to be shielded from public records.
A big problem that I have heard from many of you is the need for different rules within the trucking industry. Many truckers carry perishable items and materials like food or different animals such as cattle, horses and chickens. Senate Resolution 989 encourages the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to withdraw Electronic Logging Device regulations and in turn fully honor the hours of service provisions for the agriculture industry. This would allow prevent food from perishing, or even worse, animals being trapped in trailers, due to regulations that apply to traditional cargo truckers.
Health care is always a topic of heated discussion and this week was no different with the passage of House Bill 65. This legislation would create a THC Medical Oil Access Study Commission that would be tasked with making recommendations based on medical research in relation to the dosages, patient responses and drug interactions of medical cannabis oil. Additionally, I voted for an amendment to support the expansion of medical marijuana for PTSD, mainly due to stories of veterans and others in our community. While the amendment failed, the THC medical Oil Access Study Commission did pass.
Much more of the work this week took place in committee. Much of that legislation will likely come to the floor of the Senate next week and I’ll do my best to update you then.
In addition to the multitude of legislation and hours of committee work, we also had some very special guests join us in the Senate. The first was Lucas Andrew Warren. Lucas is from Dalton, Ga and was chosen among thousands of applicants as the 2018 Gerber Spokes Baby. Lucas also was born with Down Syndrome. He is the first special needs child to be the face for Gerber. Along with being the cutest visitor to the chamber this week, he was also one of the most inspirational. We were also able to entertain a legend from my childhood, Chipper Jones, and congratulate him on his election into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Chipper spent 19 seasons with the Atlanta Braves and was a part of the 1995 World Series Championship team, among a host of other accomplishments that you likely know. What you may not know is that I saw Chipper in person on family vacation to the Braves Spring Training camp in West Palm Beach, Florida when I was about 13 years old. Chipper Jones signed the baseball of the kid on my right. He also signed the ball of the kid on my left, but he skipped right over me! The Senate Chamber didn’t feel like the appropriate place to remind him of that.
The state of Georgia lost a true legacy this week, former Governor Zell B. Miller. Governor Miller is best known for establishing the Georgia HOPE Scholarship, which now sends hundreds of thousands of Georgia high school students to colleges throughout the state by paying some of their tuition costs. When recounting his life in chamber, we were told a story of his childhood when his mother told him that “you can get anywhere in the world from this one place.” And it is because of him that so many across Georgia have been able to peruse dreams that lead them anywhere in the world. He will be greatly missed.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve you. Many of you have my email or cell number and have not hesitated to use it. Please feel free to continue to do so as the 2018 draws to an end.