February 8--  State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia reports from "The People's House."

New bills are starting to make their way through the House committee system. We are also beginning to hear on the effectiveness of some passed in previous sessions.

Rural Broadband. The House Economic Development and Tourism has approved legislation that authorizes EMCs to provide broadband service in rural Georgia. The bill clears up the uncertainty of state law governing EMCs on the subject and would give them the ability to access over $600 million in loans and grants from the federal government as well as $1.75 billion dollars in the new Farm Bill earmarked for rural broadband. The bill would prohibit EMCs from combining income from broadband services with their traditional revenue from electricity or using one income to subsidize the other. Neither would EMCs be allowed to disconnect service to broadband customers when they don’t pay their electric bill. This bill will move very fast.

Dual Enrollment. One of the best pieces of legislation the General Assembly passed in the last few years allows high school students with opportunities to get free college credits. To show how popular the program is look at how much it costs now. In fiscal 2015 the program cost 16 million. In the current fiscal year we will spend 105 million. It is kind of the same challenge we have with the popularity of the HOPE Scholarship. And when I said free I probably should use the word “earned”because we are investing a lot as taxpayers to fund dual enrollment. The Governor in his FY 2020 Budget has proposed two changes. The first is to limit dual enrollment to students in their junior and senior year. The second would limit the amount private colleges receive to offer dual enrollment to the average award that the states public colleges receive. Governor Kemp feels strongly that these moves are needed to ensure the long term viability of dual enrollment.

Hands Free /Cell Phones. According to the latest statistics, the bill that took effect in July prohibiting holding cell phones while driving is having a positive effect on safety. Traffic deaths fell 3.4% in 2018. The frequency of accidents involving injuries has also declined for the last three quarters. Some credit ,according to House Insurance Committee testimony , can be attributed to built in hands- free devices and automatic braking found on newer vehicles. The one bit of bad news is that although insurance claims have fallen, the costs of the claims have risen. That was primarily attributed to the higher costs of vehicles .