Legislative session nearing end

Published 4:34 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly has five legislative days left. This past week, the House spent time considering several bills as well as the fiscal year 2018 state budget which must be passed before we adjourn. Also known as HB 44, the FY 2018 budget estimate has been established at $24.9 billion, which is $1.25 billion more than the FY 2017 budget. There have been two procedural votes on the budget and a conference committee, comprised of both Representatives and Senators, has been organized to work through any differences and to form a consensus about the fiscal needs of our state. I will keep you apprised about this process, but if you would like to read updates and highlights about the budget, you can find them on the House Budget and Research Office website at www.house.ga.gov/budget.

This week, we overwhelmingly passed a bill to honor our state’s law enforcement officers and give Georgians a way to show their appreciation to these brave men and women. Senate Bill 169 would create a specialty license plate with the phrase “Back the Badge” displayed across the bottom of the plate in support of Georgia law enforcement officers. These license plates would be available for purchase, and the proceeds from license plate sales would be distributed to the Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Georgia, a fund that prepares Georgia’s peace officers for retirement and provides retired law enforcement officers with pension benefits. My colleagues and I are immensely grateful for Georgia’s law enforcement officers’ heroic and selfless service to our state and this measure provides a mechanism for Georgians to thank and express support for the peace officers who put their lives on the line for each and every citizen.

Another bill that the House passed this week was Senate Bill 109, a measure designed to quickly and effectively mobilize the day-to-day movement of out-of-state emergency management services (EMS) personnel across state lines during a declared emergency. Senate Bill 109 would create the Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA) to allow emergency EMS personnel to enter Georgia and provide care to communities and citizens during declared emergencies by the governor. Additionally, SB 109 would support the licensure of military members separating from active duty tours and their spouses, promote compliance with EMS personnel laws in member states and authorize member states to mutually recognize member state licenses. Furthermore, this legislation would encourage member state cooperation and regulation and facilitate the exchange of information regarding EMS personnel licensure and rules between member states. The compact has been enacted in eight other states and would become fully operational once ten states have enacted the compact. SB 109 was introduced in response to the devastating crises that have greatly impacted our state in the past year, including the forest fires in North Georgia, Hurricane Matthew in Georgia’s coastal areas and the severe weather and tornadoes in South Georgia. This compact will unify member states in an effort to more efficiently provide relief to people in need, increase accessibility of EMS personnel and enhance our state’s ability to preserve the health and safety of all Georgians.

House Bill 146 passed which requires legally organized fire departments to maintain insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2018 for all firefighters in the department to pay claims for cancer diagnosed after a firefighter has served at the department for 12 consecutive months. As you undoubtedly know, a cancer diagnosis can be emotionally challenging and a financial burden. This is good legislation that takes care of our courageous firefighters who selflessly give of themselves in order to help the people in their communities.

As we continue the last few days of the session, I continue to be grateful that you place your trust in me and allow me to represent you in the State House. Please know that I am interested in your thoughts and concerns. I can be reached at (404) 656-5146 or by email at randy.nix@house.ga.gov.