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Update on activity under the Golden Dome

The General Assembly met this week for legislative days 13 through 16, and they were the busiest days yet. With 24 more legislative days ahead of us, I anticipate the upcoming weeks to be just as productive, if not more, as we begin to work toward resolving some of the state’s most unrelenting challenges. Elected to serve you, I promise to continue advocating for your needs in each legislative work and fighting to ensure every Georgian feels safe in the state they call home.

With that, I must recognize the brave work and sacrifices of the Georgians who protect our state every single day. As a retired law enforcement officer, I am proud to tell you that we have passed Senate Bill 60 unanimously out of the Senate; this is a piece of legislation I had first mentioned when it was heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee. This bill would expand the Georgia State Indemnification Fund to allow compensation to be paid to public safety officers who suffer from a heart attack, stroke or vascular rupture resulting in death or disability that was sustained as a result of serving on duty. When making the decision to serve our state, these valiant individuals also recognized the sacrifices they would make to their own safety and the consequences of working in the line of duty. This includes suffering from physical injuries, emotional distress and long term-health complications, among other things. At the very least, we owe financial assistance to the selfless heroes who risk their lives to protect us. While there will never be enough words to thank our servicemen and women for their work, I hope this bill serves as a reminder of our continued appreciation of their service to the great state of Georgia.

To continue to serve our constituents, we must pass a balanced budget that supports the agencies and programs that build the foundation of our state. House Bill 80, our 2021 amended budget, reflects just that by giving priority to education, healthcare and public safety. I am proud to help pass a budget that I believe supports those who deserve it most, including our men and women in blue. The amended budget will hand out $1,000 bonuses to more than 57,000 state employees who earn less than $80,000 a year. These bonuses will go to the long list of employees who have continued to work and keep our state running, despite the challenges they faced. These are our frontline healthcare workers, our state law enforcement and so many more who have selflessly dedicated themselves for the well-being of others. Some other notable funds include a 10% pay rise to juvenile correctional officers and correctional officers (departments who have unfortunately experienced a high rate of turnover over the years), $12.3 million to replace law enforcement pursuit vehicles, $223,600 to assist the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s gang database, and $455,000 to support our state’s domestic violence shelters and sexual assault shelters. To the individuals who showed up every day in the midst of the pandemic, we cannot thank you enough.

The legislature has shown time and time again our commitment to strengthening security throughout the state and ending the practice of human trafficking. This week the Senate passed out two bills to support the governor and first lady’s mission of protecting Georgians from this heinous crime: Senate Bills 33 and 34. These bills would respectively allow a victim to file a civil cause of action against their perpetrator and to petition for a sealed name change under court of law. Anonymity, as we have seen, can be key in preventing repeat cases of abuse, and I believe it is our duty to offer as many available protections as we can.

This week I also sponsored Senate Bill 115, which I believe will strengthen the relationship between civilians and police officers during a time when it is so desperately needed. This bill would provide an instructional course within the Department of Public Safety that would educate drivers and police officers on the best practices to implement when interacting with law enforcement officers. Educating all parties on these matters will help improve the outcome of traffic stops and help keep everyone safe, which is my top priority as your Senator. I will keep you updated on the status of this bill as we move through session.

I am proud of the work we have accomplished this week, but I know there is still more to be done. With the adoption of the adjournment resolution, the Senate has set a schedule for legislative days 17 through 25, bringing us all the way to March 1. Next week, the Senate Ethics Committee will also begin convening to discuss election bills, one of which is mine. Throughout these next outlined days of session, I will continue to put forth legislation that aims to serve you and your interests. I thank you for your support and for letting me serve you under the Gold Dome. Please contact my office if you have any questions about the bills being discussed or my work here at the Senate.