Nix: Legislature in last week
Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2017
The Georgia General Assembly reconvened under the Gold Dome on Monday, March 20 for day 36 of the 2017 legislative session. Sine die is less than a week away, and the House had another busy week of reviewing legislation in committee hearings, voting on bills and resolutions on the House floor and giving final passage to several bills that will now be considered by Governor Deal. In these remaining days and weeks of the session, we have especially ramped up our House efforts to perfect legislation before the 2017 session comes to an end.
As I mentioned in last week’s report, we are bound by our state constitution to pass a balanced budget for the next fiscal year before the session ends. I’m pleased to report that House Bill 44, the fiscal year 2018 budget, was passed by both the House and Senate. The revenue estimate of the bill is $24.9 billion with the most funding earmarked for education. This includes a merit pay increase for teachers, a salary increase for bus drivers and school nutrition personnel, and funding for specialists who will focus on school safety and the reduction of disciplinary incidents. Of course there are many other state departments and programs that will receive funding. This includes a salary increase for law enforcement officers, provisions for Medicaid and behavioral health services for autism patients, to name a few. I believe that this is a fiscally responsible budget that provides for many aspects of our state’s needs. It is an extensive document that is available at http://www.house.ga.gov/budget if you would like to see it in its entirety.
This legislative session, the House has passed several measures to improve our state’s military installations and honor and improve the lives of our active duty military personnel, families and veterans. Continuing in these efforts, the House unanimously passed Senate Bill 108 this week, which would instruct the Department of Veterans Service to create and maintain a women veterans’ office to better serve Georgia’s nearly 100,000 female veterans. The women veterans’ office would conduct outreach to female veterans to inform them of federal and state veterans’ benefits and services eligibility, as well as assess the specific needs of women veterans regarding benefits and services. Women veterans oftentimes have different needs than those of their male counterparts, and it is essential that the General Assembly leads the way in ensuring that Georgia meets the unique needs of our female veterans.
Over the past several years, we have seen significant advances in the technology behind self-driving vehicles, and many states have passed legislation allowing these ‘futuristic’ cars to operate on state roadways. This week, the House passed similar legislation in Senate Bill 219 that would amend Georgia’s motor vehicle laws and allow fully autonomous vehicles to operate on Georgia’s roadways. SB 219 would let Georgians operate fully autonomous vehicles without the presence of a human driver. In order to operate, the vehicles would be required to have an engaged automated driving system that would obey all traffic laws and would have to be certified by the manufacture that the vehicle complies with federal motor vehicle safety standards, covered by motor vehicle liability coverage and registered as a fully autonomous vehicle. Without a doubt, autonomous vehicles could have a great impact on our state by increasing mobility, reducing congestion, improving land use and positioning Georgia for future growth. As this technology quickly develops and changes, our laws and regulations must also evolve, and the passage of this legislation is an exciting and innovative step that will bring this new technology to Georgia.
In an effort to provide greater security for members of law enforcement and deter those who would seek to do them harm, we passed the “Back the Badge Act of 2017.” This bill, SB 160, first defines a public safety officer to include peace officers, correctional officers, emergency health workers, firefighters, highway emergency response operators, and certain officers of the court. This legislation expands the crimes of aggravated assault on a public safety officer and aggravated battery on a peace officer and increases the punishment for these offenses. Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line daily for our protection and this legislation emphasizes that they are deserving of our respect.
As we enter the final week of the session, I am grateful that you place your trust in me and I am always interested in your thoughts and concerns. I can be reached at (404) 656-5146 or by email at email@example.com. Thank you for allowing me to represent you in the State House!