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Nix: Bills to speed up vaccine rollout

On Monday, March 15, the Georgia General Assembly began its tenth week of the 2021 legislative session. By the end of the week, we completed legislative day 35 and are nearing the end of the 40-day session which is expected to be Wednesday, March 31.

As we reviewed the Senate bills that came to us before the end of the official “crossover period,” one bill that the Senate passed was the expansion of who is eligible to assist in the administering of the COVID vaccines shots through-out the state. Senate Bill 46 allows emergency medical technicians and cardiac technicians to administer vaccines during a declared public health emergency upon the order of a duly licensed physician. This bill also clarified some definitions and laid out specific protocols for allowing these professional to administer the vaccine. We are committed to supporting the governor’s efforts to get the vaccine to all Georgians who wish to receive it. This bill will allow for the greater administration of the vaccine especially in rural and underserved locales in our state.

On Tuesday, March 16, Chief Justice Melton delivered his third and final State of the Judiciary address, which is an opportunity for the legislature to receive an update on what Georgia’s courts have accomplished during the previous year and what lies ahead for our judicial branch. During his speech, Chief Justice Melton reflected on his upcoming retirement from the Supreme Court, where he has served for the last 16 years. He also announced that the Supreme Court unanimously voted to name Presiding Justice David Nahmias, who also joined us for the address, as the next chief justice. Judge Melton informed us that, as a result of the pandemic, criminal and civil jury trials have been suspended for most of the last year due to the number of people involved and the length of such trials. As this backlog continues to grow and may extend for several years, he urged the General Assembly to champion legislation to address this issue long term.

To that end, my colleagues and I passed Senate Bill 163 this week to provide a solution to the court’s handling of backlogged cases. When the Statewide Judiciary Emergency eventually ends, SB 163 would allow chief judges of Georgia’s superior court judicial circuits or state courts to continue to suspend statutory speedy trial deadlines until the deadlines could be reasonably met. The bill includes a sunset date of June 20, 2023, to specifically target this backlog, but the chief justice of the Supreme Court would also have the ability to reinstate the speedy trial requirements at his or her discretion before this sunset date. This bill is a top priority to the Judicial Council and Georgia’s superior and state courts this session, and I am confident that this legislation will extend necessary support to the courts as they work through the case backlog over the next few years.

One bill that will have significant impact on K-12 education in Georgia is SB88. This legislation will allow the Georgia teacher of the year to serve as advisor ex-officio to the State Board of Education. It also includes a provision that requires local school systems to support a pathway for non-traditional teacher certification programs for armed forces veterans to become certified teachers. This legislation further revises the tiered evaluation system and requires the Professional Standards Commission to create innovative programs to promote teacher education programs at historically black colleges and universities.

One of our best-known governor’s and U.S. Senator’s was Zell Miller. Governor/Senator Miller was a pragmatist who knew how to work with all to create a better Georgia.

The House approved S.B. 140 which authorizes the placement of a monument in honor of the Honorable Zell Bryan Miller upon the capitol grounds of the state capitol building.

I believe this outstanding Georgian deserves this recognition for his important contributions to our state. Our biggest to-do item for this session remains election reform. House and Senate committees are working feverishly to combine and refine bills from both chambers to produce a comprehensive legislative reform package that can pass in both bodies. Stay tuned!

You can reach me by phone at my Capitol office at 404-656-5146 or by email at randy.nix@house.ga.gov.

As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.