The past couple of weeks have been fairly busy for legislators under the Gold Dome. We have now completed 15 days of the Legislative Session and have passed seven bills on the Senate floor. We are moving quickly and I look forward to keeping you updated as we move forward at the Gold Dome.
On Monday, Senate Resolution 167 was adopted, which sets the legislative calendar for the remaining days of session. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, April 2 and it is my hope that you are able to make it to the Capitol before then to experience Georgia’s lawmaking process firsthand.
Previously, in the state of Georgia, only medical doctors and psychologists were able to perform emergency examinations of individuals needing involuntary treatment. Last year, Senator Renee Unterman (R – Buford) sponsored SB 65, a measure that allowed licensed professional counselors (LPC) to be among those authorized to conduct emergency examinations on individuals who are mentally ill or drug or alcohol dependent. These examinations are used to determine whether an individual requires involuntary treatment. SB 65 included a sunset clause that repeals the act in its entirety if not amended through legislation by March 15, 2015.
This year Senator Greg Kirk (R – Americus) sponsored SB 53, which passed the Senate on Monday and extends the sunset clause from March 15, 2015 to June 30, 2018. This extension will allow for collection of enough data to determine if it is beneficial to authorize LPCs to conduct these examinations. SB 53 now goes to the House for consideration.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has been working tirelessly the past few weeks going over the House’s version of the Amended Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, also known as the supplemental budget. Because of their efforts, the Senate was able to pass our version of House Bill 75 on Wednesday. The Senate’s version of the supplemental budget was set at $21.1 billion with the Department of Revenue’s reported tax revenue growth of 3.6% over actual FY14 collections. The revenue increase includes additional funding for K-12 education, public health care initiatives and more. If the House agrees to minor changes made by the Senate during our budget process, the bill will receive final passage and head to Governor Deal’s desk. If not, a conference committee will be appointed to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.
This week, the Senate passed significant legislation to enhance Georgia’s efforts to end sex trafficking in our state. Sen. Renee Unterman (R – Buford) sponsored both Senate Bill 8 and Senate Resolution 7, which aim to bring more severe punishments to those who capitalize on the innocence of a child and establishes a fund that provides support services to these victims.
Senate Bill 8 establishes the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission to provide care and assistance to sexually exploited children through persons or programs designated by the Commission.
Senate Resolution 7 provides a funding mechanism for the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund by placing a constitutional amendment for approval by Georgia voters on the 2016 ballot. The proposed amendment would allow the Georgia General Assembly to set additional penalties or fees in cases where a person is found guilty of committing severe sex crimes. The proposed amendment would also permit the General Assembly to impose state regulatory fees on adult entertainment establishments.
The Senate will return for Legislative Day 16 on Tuesday, February 12 ready to debate and pass legislation. As always, I am honored to represent you in the 17th Senate District. Please feel free to contact my office at any time to talk about pending legislation or address other concerns in our district – my door and phone lines are always open!
Sen. Rick Jeffares (R – McDonough)