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Posted: March 5, 2017 5:00 a.m.

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Jeffares: Week 8 from under the Gold Dome

The Capitol halls were buzzing with excitement this week as we reached another important milestone in the 2017 legislative session: Crossover Day. This is a milestone for the General Assembly because it is the last day a Senate bill can be passed in the Senate chamber and a House bill can be passed by the House. After this day, bills “crossover” to the other chamber for consideration.

Oil pipelines are extremely important to ensuring there is an adequate supply of oil, gasoline and natural gas to keep up with demand. However, these pipelines do not come without land disturbances and environmental risks. To help with this, the Senate passed Senate Bill 191 which creates a two-step application process for companies wishing to construct an oil pipeline in the state of Georgia. Companies must first obtain a permit from the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources, and then get a certificate of need from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. SB 191 also provides for the use of eminent domain for building and expansion of oil pipelines in Georgia. We want to make sure we have the proper pipeline networks to keep up with demand, but with as little environmental impacts as possible.

During the four days we met this week we passed more than 50 bills. We covered everything from criminal justice reform, opioid addiction and treatment centers, education, sex trafficking and autonomous vehicles just to name a few. Here are a few brief summaries of some of bill the Senate passed this week:

SB 206 requires insurance companies to provide coverage of up to $3,000 per ear for hearing aids and replacements to children 18 years or younger.

SB 1, the Protect Act – Protecting Georgians against Terrorism, works to protect Georgians from domestic terrorism by redefining domestic terrorism to include damaging, disrupting or destroying critical infrastructure. SB 1 would also create a separate Department of Homeland Security as well as a State Board of Homeland Security to create a homeland security strategy and oversee its implementation by state and local agencies.

SB 174 requires the Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia to develop a peer review process to ensure that Veterans Division Courts are abiding by the same policies and procedures as other accountability courts.

SB 170 requires the Department of Human Services to develop a uniform statewide foster care volunteer certification system. The statewide database keeps track of volunteers who are certified to provide child care services for foster children.

SB 219 provides for the operation of automated driving systems (ADS) for use in autonomous vehicles. Human operators are not required in vehicles equipped with ADS and therefore passengers are not required to have valid driver’s licenses. These vehicles must be registered as automated vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles and must maintain a valid insurance policy in order to operate on highways in Georgia.

Next week will begin on Monday, with legislative day 29, and the Senate will continue making strides in a positive direction. As always, my doors will be open, and I encourage you to reach out to my office with any questions or ideas. Thank you for putting your trust in me, and allowing me to serve as your Senator.

Sen. Rick Jeffares serves as Chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.  He represents the 17th Senate District which includes portions of Henry, Rockdale and Newton counties.  He may be reached by phone at 404.651.7738 or by email at rick.jeffares@senate.ga.gov.

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