We have passed the half-way point of the 2016 legislative session and are rapidly approaching Crossover Day as we finish week six. We had the opportunity to hear a number of bills this week, all of which I’m sure will benefit many in our state.
Senate Bill 115 would allow physician assistants the authority to prescribe schedule II drugs to patients, as long as they have been authorized from a physician to do so. Many communities in our state lack an adequate number of physicians to provide care for their citizens. By granting physician assistants the authority to prescribe these drugs we are taking some of the burden off of Georgia’s overworked physicians and providing care to a greater number of Georgia’s families. The measure passed the Senate and has been sent to the House for consideration.
We also passed two bills enhancing Second Amendment rights for Georgians. SB 282 is designed to make it unlawful for financial institutions that provide credit services to unfairly discriminate against any person or business legally involved in the firearms industry. The second bill, SB 270, would grant more access for qualified law enforcement officers on where they can carry their weapons. The bill would also extend to former police officers who previously worked in a different state but are reside in Georgia. Both bills passed the Senate.
Another bill designed to enhance freedom for all Georgians is House Bill 757. This bill combines the Pastor Protection Act and the First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia. This bill would protect the right of a pastor to refuse to perform a wedding ceremony which goes against his or her personal, deeply held religious beliefs. It also protects faith-based religious organizations from government discriminatory actions for saying, believing or acting in accordance with their belief that marriage should be between and man and a woman. However, this bill would not protect clerks or other public officials whose duty it is to issue marriage certificates.
I’m also pleased to say that the FY 2016 Amended Budget received its final passage from the Senate this week. After careful consideration, the Senate agreed to add an additional $1.16 billion to the budget, bringing its total to $23 billion. Part of this budget allocates $200,000 from the Department of Transportation for Newton County to cover some of the cost of repairs for washed out roads after our recent flooding. Specifically, the areas of Bentley Place Way, Elks Club Road, Sewell Road, Henderson Road and Guy Jones Road will benefit from this funding. Additionally, Newton County has applied for an additional $1.4 million in federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover additional damage resulting from the flood.
Another measure the Senate passed this week was SB 309. This bill would remove previous prohibitions on a student athlete’s right to express their faith during sporting events. Under this bill, athletes would be free to express their religion freely at athletic events. An additional part of the bill calls for member and nonmember schools to be allowed to compete in games, matches or scrimmages against each other.
While we’re on the subject of schools, we passed a bill expanding opportunities for our students. SB 329 would award high school diplomas to students if they have completed post-secondary dual credit coursework and have earned certification in an industry described as “in need” by the Technical College System of Georgia. The bill would also consider those who meet these requirements as eligible to earn the HOPE Scholarship. Many students in our state are choosing technical careers to meet increased demand and this bill would allow these students to earn a high school diploma in addition to a technical certificate.
As we wrap up this week, we have completed legislative days 21 through 24. We are quickly approaching one of the most important days of the legislative session, Crossover Day. This is the last day of the session that bills originating in the Senate can be passed and move to the House for consideration and vice versa. Because this day is rapidly approaching, we’ll be kept busy all next week reviewing and voting on exciting pieces of legislation. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in contact with my office. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the people of the 17th district and I greatly value your feedback.
Sen. Rick Jeffares serves as Chairman of the Regulates Industries Committee. He represents the 17th Senate District which includes portions of Henry, Rockdale and Newton counties. He may be reached by phone at 404.463.1376 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.