Robertson’s Update from the Capitol

Published 5:18 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2020

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This week, the Senate reconvened for an extensive five-day period of legislative activity, with Thursday signifying the official halfway point of the 2020 session. At this point, members of the General Assembly have entered a regular and ongoing cycle of passing legislation on the Senate floor, discussing bills and resolutions in committee meetings, and building relationships with members of the community. I believe this week was particularly productive in doing so, as a number of my bills were passed out of committee meetings and the Senate floor.

The first bill I would like to address is Senate Bill 341, which was passed unanimously out of the Senate on Tuesday. SB 341 would allow retired peace and correctional officers to continue their commitment to service by supplementing local law enforcement agencies in the case of a declared disaster or emergency. Through this, retired officers would be required to remain up to date on annual training requirements, while still receiving the same level of autonomy as active law enforcement officials when it comes to the powers and immunities of arrest. In crafting the legislation, SB 341 looks at circumstances in states like Mississippi, where a hurricane substantially compromised the public safety of local residents, and tries to prevent the same course of action from happening here in Georgia. Likewise, our public safety officers work day-in and day-out to make sure our neighborhoods are a safer place for all and this bill will provide them with the extra support they need.

Relative to the public safety of our state and the powers of our local law enforcement officers, I presented two bills in the Senate Public Safety Committee intended to diminish instances of harm. The first bill is Senate Bill 402, which would limit the number of bonds of recognizance issued in Georgia and revise the list of offenses in which an individual may be released on their own recognizance. Under the current system in Georgia, an individual who committed a rather serious and violent crime could still be released out to the public on bond. This creates a large threat to our communities, as convicted violent offenders are able to freely walk without some kind of structured security. Rather than taking away any authority given to our law enforcement officers and judges, SB 402 will establish greater mechanisms to ensure our neighborhoods remain a safe environment to raise a family.

The second bill is Senate Bill 226, which would mandate all passengers to wear a seatbelt, regardless of their age and whether or not they are sitting in the front seat or back. Those found not wearing a seat belt will have an increased fine from $15 to $75 and adults who allow children between the ages of 8 to 17 to not be restrained would have an increased fine from $25 to $125. Our first responders can attest to the horrific conditions produced by unrestrained passengers; not only do they cause significant harm to themselves, they also cause unwarranted and sometimes deadly danger to all other passengers. This bill attempts to reduce the occurrence of such accidents, to make sure more moms, fathers, sons and daughters are able to make it back home safely to their families. Vehicle seatbelt safety is an issue I have been strongly promoting since I first took office last year and I am encouraged by its passage in the committee. Lastly, I was given the opportunity to present Senate Bill 329 in the Senate Finance Committee. SB 329, the Motor Vehicle Title Loan Act, would redefine title pawns as title loans and place them under a licensing process established by the Department of Banking and Finance. This would subject vehicle title loans to the same usury statute as other lending products in Georgia and coupled with an annual percentage rate cap of 36%, SB 329 would create an equitable playing field for Georgians looking to loan. Senate District 29 and Georgia, in its totality, represent a diverse group of individuals including veterans, educators, small business owners and more. Instead of aiming to put people out of business, SB 329 wants to give Georgians a fair chance at economic stability.

The Senate will meet next week for four legislative days to continue our efforts to pass bills that better the state of Georgia