The most important bill we passed in the sixth week of Session week was the Senate’s changes to the Amended or “small” Budget. Thanks to the hard work of the House and the Senate, the House was able to “Agree” with very few changes. The small budget will now go to the Governor and we will continue to work on the “Big” Budget.
We passed another Rural Broadband bill in Committee. This bill was a bit more contentious as the internet providers and EMC’s were still not in agreement with the cities and counties in how to access utility pole fees. HB 244 creates a standard pole rate that is identical to the federal standard pole rate. We think this bill will level the playing field in search of progress, as some cities and counties had outrageous fees, making it economically impossible to provide broadband there. This bill sat in committee for 3 years already, and we are very impatient with any further delays. Another measure, HG 243, will try to standardize fees on the installation of telephone facilities. That measure has not yet passed Committee.
I was very pleased that another of my military children bills received a unanimous vote on the floor of the House. Another Education Bill, HB 130, will create a 501(c)3 to fund public education as well as the academies for the blind and deaf.
I was also very pleased with the passage of HR 164, a resolution that states that any fees collected for a specific public purpose should be used only for that purpose. The classic example of problems of this sort is the landfill business. This legislation would require honesty and transparency that you, the hard-working taxpayer, rightfully expects.
Another resolution, HR 37, creates a Commission on Freight and Logistics. You’ve heard me say this before, but the main reason Atlanta is the capital of the South is because of transportation. The ATL is the World’s Busiest Airport and the intersection of 3 Interstate highways and many railroad lines. Savannah is the 4th busiest port in America, and the only port in the USA with both an intersection of 2 Interstate highways and the intersection of 2 major railroad lines. This Commission will seek ways to improve traffic while leveraging these economic advantages.
The most contentious bill so far is HB 316 which will decide what sort of voting machines will be used in future. This bill would require that voters use a touchscreen machine that would create a paper ballot with their vote annotated. That paper ballot would be scanned into a separate machine that would count the actual vote. That same paper ballot would then be kept on file so that in case of a problem, the ballots could easily be recounted and/or audited. The competing view is that voters should fill out a paper ballot by hand and then that paper ballot should be fed into a counting machine. The problem with this 2nd idea is that – as we saw with the embarrassing Florida recount in 2000 – paper ballots are easy to mess up.
We use touchscreens on our phones every day. Elderly and disabled people have great difficulties with paper ballots, and as former Secretary of State Cathy Cox (a Democrat) testified, paper ballots actually stifle voting because of the length of time and long lines they create.
Everyone wants to defend the sanctity of the vote. Both sides are proposing paper ballots. The only difference is whether those ballots are marked by a touchscreen machine or a person.
Finally, I want you to know that I have received numerous calls about the recent situation about the Speaker of the House. I value and appreciate your concerns, and want you to know that I and my fellow colleagues are taking the matter very seriously. While no one wants us to rush to judgement based solely on a media account – as was previously done in the past few weeks in the Covington Catholic School and Jussie Smollett incidents – we are weighing clear facts as they come in. Then we will take action if it is called for.
I hope you will continue to pray for me as I serve the people of Newton and Morgan counties. You may contact me at 706-372-4114 or email@example.com.
Belton is a Republican from District 112, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives.