We began the week by working toward eliminating government waste with the passage of SB 223, also known as the Georgia Government and Accountability Act. If enacted, this legislation would create a Joint Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee to oversee the efficiency of government operations and maximize every taxpayer dollar. The passage of this legislation provides a clear solution to address the question of how efficient government should operate. Having passed in the Senate, this bill now travels to the House of Representatives for a vote.
The Senate also passed SB 117 on Monday with a vote of 51 to 0. This bill will reduce the risk of homeowners losing their homes during financial hardship through an exemption from levy and sale of property, so as to increase the amount of certain exemptions in a home. SB 117 will raise exemptions from sale or levy of real property that is the debtor's primary residence from $5,000 to $21,500. It will also increase the amount exempted for bankruptcy purposes. The last increase occurred in 1976 when the exemption dollar amount changed from $1,600 to $5,000. Representatives for the mortgage industry have been vocal in their support of SB 117.
The Senate also took up several bills dealing with hunting and fishing this week. Some of these bills include:
SB 307: One Day Saltwater Fishing License
This bill creates a one-day saltwater shore fishing license that may be purchased by residents and non-residents for a fee of $5.00. Hunting and fishing licensees bring approximately $20 million a year in revenue to our state budget.
SB 309: Taylor's Law
This bill would allow state officials to grant special hunting privileges to anyone 21 years or younger with a terminal illness, provided they have proper supervision and follow the usual rules. If passed, the bill's sponsor, Senator Rick Jeffares, has proposed to call it "Taylor's Law" in honor of Taylor Gramling, the 18-year old inspiration for the bill who passed away from leukemia.
SB 301: Use of Sound Suppressors on Hunting Firearms
This bill would repeal the current ban on hunting with firearms equipped with sound suppressors. Sound suppressors attached to firearms are an additional tool available to help protect the shooter's hearing, reduce noise complaints by surrounding residents, and increase safety. Similar legislation has already been enacted in 15 other states and has proven effective in helping to reduce the overall level of noise associated with firearms. The main benefit of this legislation is to aid in the reduction of nuisance species such as coyotes and feral hogs. These problem species kill our pets and livestock and destroy crops and landscaping all over Georgia. Of course, the possession of a sound suppressor for a firearm still requires a Federal Firearms License. The suppressors may only be used on firearms with special barrels made specifically for suppressors.
SB 319: Gives DNR Ability to Restrict Boats in State Park Lakes
This bill would allow restrictions on the use of boats on state park lakes and other state waters when the Department of Natural Resources has posted a sign or other form of notice restricting such use. State law currently restricts certain boats from operating on state park lakes. The passage of SB 319 removes these restrictions by controlling the use of boats on the waters of any park, historic site, or recreational area where a notice has been posted by DNR restricting such boating; exceptions exist for law enforcement and official use by DNR.
Unfortunately, while I was absent Wednesday for a family funeral, my Senate colleagues voted to pass SB 302 increasing the spending limit for the Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority (GHEFA) from $300 million to $500 million. The bill passed 45-5. Had I been present, I would have gladly been counted as an additional "nay" vote.
In my absence, I submitted the following sentiments to be recorded in the Senate Journal:
"Clearly the Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority has spent/lent all the money the law allowed. In their presentation to the Appropriations Committee, the Authority stated that if the cap were raised, the Authority would likely spend/loan the additional $200 million within two years and would be back asking for the limit to be raised again. Therefore, increasing the limit defeats the purpose of the limit and the protections it provides to Georgians.
I call upon our educational institutions to focus their spending on things crucial to education and make every effort to keep costs down so more Georgians can afford education. While student centers, bookstores, theaters, recreation centers and wellness centers are nice additions to a campus, they are not necessary educational expenses."
Albert Einstein once said, "What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right." I believe strongly in these words and I promise to serve you with this sentiment in mind. I will always weigh carefully the cost and benefits of each bill and will never vote for a bill which I do not truly believe will benefit the citizens of the 31st district and the great state of Georgia. As always, please feel free reach out to me and share your ideas and vision for the future of our state.