This was a hard week at the Capitol with the sudden loss of Rules Chairman Richard Smith. Chairman Smith was from Columbus and lived a life of service, serving in numerous local and state-level roles throughout his career. Our colleague was a member of the Georgia General Assembly for 20 years and a dedicated representative to his constituents. His bright smile and humble spirit will be greatly missed. Our prayers are with his wife, children, and grandchildren who will miss their rock.
While we mourned the loss of our friend and colleague, we continued our legislative work and gave passage to several bills this week and also saw Governor Kemp sign one of the first bills into law from this session, HB30, which I was a proud co-sponsor of.
This week my colleagues and I also took time to recognize and honor our United States Armed Forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice to serve our country. On Sunday, January 28, three Army reservists stationed at Fort Moore, just south of Columbus, Georgia, lost their lives in a drone attack while stationed overseas in Jordan near the Syrian border. Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah; Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton; and Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, all Georgia residents, gave their lives in service to our great nation. On Wednesday morning, my House colleagues and I paused for a moment of silence to remember these three brave Georgians.
Seeking Suggestions for Honoring Late Leaders in our Community
Are there roads, bridges, or roundabouts you think should be named for someone in Ansley Park, Brookwood, Brookwood Hills, Garden Hills, Lenox Park, Lindberg/Morosgo, Lindridge-Martin Manor, Midtown, Morningside, Old Fourth Ward, Peachtree Hills, Piedmont Heights, Sherwood Forest, or Virginia Highland? Please submit your suggestions to my chief of staff, Kennedie McClung at [email protected]
Update on Prosecutorial Oversight Committee
On Monday, the House heard HB881. This bill is one more in a series of attempts to undermine prosecutorial discretion of our district attorneys. When the bill to create the Prosecutorial Oversight Commission passed last year, it included a provision for the Georgia Supreme Court to review the commission’s rules. The Georgia Supreme Court questioned its jurisdiction to review the rules, however, and declined to do so, citing separation of powers concerns. Instead of selecting an alternate oversight mechanism or abandoning this short-sighted politically motivated effort to create a commission, proponents just deleted any mechanism for oversight of the rules. The bill also creates a problematic system for hearing appeals from the Commission, one fraught with conflicts and other jurisdictional concerns. Not to mention the appeal system leaves out any voice for juries, a/k/a the voters. I spoke against the bill, click below to hear my thoughts.
Other Bills this Week
HB905 would remove the authority for administrative officers and quasi-judicial officers to exercise zoning powers in specified circumstances. The bill would remove the authority for quasi-judicial boards or agencies to hear and render decisions on special administrative permits and conditional use permits. This bill passed the House and is now moving to the Senate. I voted yes.
HB976 would require all election ballots to be printed on paper that includes a visible watermark security feature, and this visible watermark would identify the ballot as an official Georgia ballot. Currently, all ballots have an invisible watermark that is not visible to the human eye, but this bill would ensure that a watermark security feature would be visible to the naked eye. If this bill receives final passage and is signed into law, this enhanced security feature would be implemented in time for the general election in November 2024, and the low, one-time cost to implement this change would be included in this year’s amended budget. This bill passed the House and is now moving to the Senate. I voted yes.
HB985 would abolish the Georgia Higher Education Assistance Corporation and transfer its obligations and liabilities to the Georgia Student Finance Authority. This corporation no longer has a purpose due to the retirement of portfolios and programs administered by the corporation, which is the reason this legislation is needed. Currently, there is approximately $28 million in reserves in the corporation that could be released to the Georgia Student Finance Authority and utilized for education purposes if the corporation is abolished. These funds would transfer to the Georgia Student Finance Authority and would be held in a separate reserve, and the Georgia Student Finance Authority would not be able to utilize these funds without direction from the governor and General Assembly. This bill passed the House and is now moving to the Senate. I voted yes.
HB878 would provide the proper procedure for motorists passing a United States Postal Service (USPS) vehicle. Current law includes procedures that motorists should take when passing sanitation vehicles, but this bill would update current law to include procedures for passing USPS vehicles that are in the process of delivering mail. Due to a number of accidents in these situations, HB 878 would require a motorist to slow down and, if safe, pass on the left adjacent lane as they approach a postal service vehicle with its flashing lights on. If the motorist is unable to pass the USPS vehicle, this legislation would require them to slow down, stop, and wait for the postal service vehicle to re-commence its route. This change in our law would provide greater safety for our postal service workers, as well as other drivers on our roadways. This bill passed the House and is now moving to the Senate. I voted yes.
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As always, it is an honor to represent you under the Gold Dome. Please continue to reach out to me with your questions and thoughts on legislation. Also, please remember I’m here to help with issues you may encounter with state agencies.