I want to thank all of you for taking the time to give me your opinions of HB69 and HB179. HB69, the local option on Sunday sales of packaged alcohol appears to be dead for this Legislative session. It does not look like the Senate has the votes to pass their version of the bill (SB10), thus the House probably won’t waste time dealing with a bill that won’t pass. HB179 appears to be moving forward however.
This week, Rep. Josh Clark introduced HB296 which would call for the collection of data regarding the legal status of students and medical patients. Federal law requires us educate all children within out State and for hospitals to treat all patients regardless of their ability to pay but the Federal Government’s failure to enforce current immigration law is costing our taxpayers a lot of money. We need to know just how much it is costing us so we can work with the Congress to recoup that money. I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation.
Wednesday’s business included the State of the Judiciary speech. Chief Justice Hunstein began her speech by calling for sentence reform in Georgia. Currently, Georgia has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation, costing the state more than $1 billion annually. The ongoing economic recession and resulting budget constraints have made it clear that we simply cannot afford to continue this high incarceration system. Many states, including Texas and South Carolina, have already discovered they can keep the public safer and spend less money by supervising some non-violent offenders outside of prison and treating the root causes of their crimes. Here in Georgia, we are now looking at alternatives to incarceration for certain offenders with two goals in mind: 1) improving public safety, and 2) saving taxpayer dollars. The ultimate goal is to make criminals into law-abiding taxpayers, not tax burdens.
To further study criminal justice reform, Governor Deal, Speaker Ralston, Lieutenant Governor Cagle and Chief Justice Hunstein held a press conference Wednesday to announce legislation that would create the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. This council will meet during the interim to study this issue, much in the same way the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians reviewed our state tax code. After the council completes its work, it will submit a report to the General Assembly before the beginning of the next legislative session. That report will then be turned into legislation.
This week saw the passage of several other pieces of legislation. Click here for the list of the House votes thus far this session.
The Legislature will be back in session on Tuesday the 22nd and will meet Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You can watch every Legislative session live online. Once again I’ll have a report for you at the end of the week. As always if there is anything I can do for you please don’t hesitate to contact me.