The 2014 Session of the Georgia Legislature ended Thursday at midnight and your citizen legislators returned home to work at their "real" jobs and prepare for the upcoming campaign season.
There were a large number of bills that passed, too many to talk about but I'll try to hit some of the highlights:
The Georgia Safe Carry Act passed in the form of HB60 after a lengthy battle with our colleagues in the Senate. The main differences between what the House passed as HB875 and HB60 are that all references to "campus carry" are gone and the default position in the law will be that guns cannot be brought to church, unless the church makes the affirmative decision to allow it.
The political Left has been attempting to portray HB60 as the "guns everywhere" bill, and that we voted to create a dangerous situation here in Georgia where people will be opening fire on each other in broad daylight. This sort of rhetoric is unfortunate. It is important to note that every provision of HB60 is already the law in numerous other states. It's also important to keep in mind HB60 only deals with licensed carry permits. To obtain a carry permit, one must pass a background check and follow other requirements, and you should know that people with carry permits are the most responsible users of weapons in our nation. This bill does not grant everyone the right to carry everything everywhere as some would have you believe.
Some of the other good news from the session include passing a proposed constitutional amendment to cap Georgia's income tax rates at 6%. You the voter will get the chance to ratify this proposal in November.
Also, my colleague Rep. Tim Barr was able to get HB930 passed on Thursday. HB930 sets limits on delegates to an Article V convention of states. It also allows the House and Senate to select the delegates, rather than the Governor, and creates a panel of legal experts to assist the delegates as they consider amendments to the constitution that might be sent to the states for ratification. I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation.
Other bills I co-sponsored that passed included HB920 making it harder for the state to claim unclaimed life insurance policies and HB804, which provides more flexibility to Courts in taking testimony from underage victims of horrific crimes.
Sadly there were several important bills which died this year. I'm disappointed none of the House's reforms to the state's education policy passed the Senate. The Senate appeared to be locked down against a small portion of our reform bill dealing with charter schools. Caught up in that drama was a failure to pass any legislation protecting Georgia's sovereignty in setting educational standards and protecting the privacy of student data. I hope cooler heads will prevail and we can take that issue up again next year in a responsible manner.
The expired bills that perhaps gathered the most media attention are the medical marijuana and autism insurance mandate bills. I voted favorably three times for various versions of the medical marijuana bill but was disappointed we could only get the Senate to agree to a study committee on the issue. The autism insurance mandate bill, known as "Ava's law" was never brought up for a vote in the House. In general I think Georgia has too many insurance mandates, but I would have voted in favor of Ava's Law because I think it would have saved money in the long run by preventing some of the problems autistic children face.
I do not know, however, if a separate Ava's law bill would have passed the House and in my mind, attaching Ava's law to the medical marijuana bill might not have been germane. For an amendment to a bill to be germane it must deal with the same subject matter and unfortunately medical marijuana and autism insurance mandates are not in the same code section of the law and thus not the same subject matter.
I will point out that the state health insurance plan now covers autism. This will allow us to study the issue and determine the cost of issuing such a mandate on insurance policies sold here in Georgia.
There are many other bills to talk about so look for an additional email on the 2014 Session later this week. I will also announce a post-session Online Town Hall meeting this week.
To see a list of all votes cast this session, click here.
Last week's poll: Should the Legislature pass SB397, known as "Ava's Law" to require insurance coverage of autism? Yes: 70%. No: 30%
This week's poll is about the upcoming Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Vote for your favorite candidate.
You can vote in the vote4buzz app or right here.
Please download the "vote4buzz" iphone app to keep informed on the latest news. Search for "vote4buzz" in the App Store or click here.
You can watch each day's Legislative session online here. House Committee hearings also can be viewed online: Click here for more information.
If you missed my most recent Online Town Hall you can watch the replay here.
There are a number of ways to stay in touch with me:
1) Download the "vote4buzz" app for your iPhone. Search for "vote4buzz" in the App Store or click here. In the app you'll be able to participate in "flash polls" on various issues.For those of you with Android phone, a version of the "vote4buzz" app will be available soon.
2) "Like" my page on Facebook.
3) Follow me on Twitter.
4) Follow me on Instagram.
5) Visit my You Tube channel to see videos, including videos from last year's online Town Hall meetings.
You can also contact or visit me at the Capitol:
Capitol Office: 504-B Coverdell Legislative Office Building Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Capitol Phone: 404-656-0188
I covet your prayers and value your feedback. Feel free to contact me any time.
Representative, State House District 102