As Crossover Day draws closer in the state Capital, week seven was a very long one. Feb. 29 is the day that a bill must pass in one chamber to be considered by the other.
By far the most significant bill this week was HB 859 or “Campus Carry”. It’s a fact that 92 percent of the mass murders committed in America in the last few years were perpetrated in so-called “gun-free zones.” I realize this is controversial to some, but I believe if law-abiding citizens had a weapon at these events they would not have been so tragic. Additionally, perpetrators seek out these “gun free zones” to carry out their atrocities because they know they can do so with impunity. Campus Carry allows citizens that that have a concealed carry license (ie: have already been vetted by law enforcement) to carry that weapon in colleges, but not to sporting events. A companion bill (HB 792) allows Tasers as well.
I’m very excited about two complimentary bills (HB 1061 and SB 364) in the education committees that will directly help teachers by lowering their evaluation portion that is based on standardized testing from 50 percent to 30 percent. I like both, but prefer SB 364 which also addresses SLO’s and reduces TKES and LKES visits on veteran teachers. That may sound like gobbledy-gook unless you work in education, but trust me…teachers are desperate for the lessening of administrative burdens. I attempted a similar bill last year, but it was defeated before it got to Committee. However, after the DOE survey last summer — where teachers loudly voiced their frustration of overly burdensome mandates and standardized testing — the mood of the Golden Dome has changed. The posture now is to correct these burdens sooner than later. Another bill we discussed (HB 864) would allow dual-enrollment students to use those credits for accredited religious universities. Another education bill (HB 614) gives schools the option of placing video cameras on special education teachers.
There were two important rural bills. HB 911 helps protect the GATE program by tightening some provisions of who can use these cards. The Departments of Revenue and Agriculture worked together to ensure this program would not be cancelled by misuse and abuse. HB 919 would give people a 90 percent state tax credit to people to donate directly to rural hospitals up to $2500 a person. This passed on party lines as opponents argued this takes away from the need to expand Medicaid.
The Street Gang and Terrorism Prevention Act (HB 874) was an important step to increase the penalties of prison guards who smuggle in devices (especially cell phones) to dangerous inmates. It has a very narrow scope to deal with the worst criminals who are ordering drug deals and murders while in jail. Another important bill (HB 205) allows the option of repeat DUI offenders to maintain their driver’s license while they await a trial by installing an ignition interlock device (IID) on their car. They would then have to pass a breath test every time they start their car so they can continue to go to work. Most states already have this, and MADD and law enforcement greatly desire this as it would help keep drunks off the road. Another important bill (HB 216) helps firefighters by making it legally easier to prove they have gotten cancer from firefighting. HB 770 adds protections to trafficked persons by adding disabled people to their definition. HB 763 allows a tax exemption for food companies to donate food to charities and HB 897 makes it easier for pharmaceutical companies to donate drugs to charities.
I was very happy to visit with Newton County Chamber President Ralph Staffins. The House officially thanked Honor Flight volunteers Gena McLendon and Pete Mecca for their selfless service to WWII veterans, and Jackson Henry of Covington paged for me this week.
In a surprise move, this Monday the House will consider allowing the Casino Gambling bill. My posture is to vote no, but I welcome your thoughts.
As always, I am eager to hear how you feel about these topics. I hope you’ll continue to pray for me, and contact me with your constructive comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-372-4114.