Thursday, February 11th brought to a close the 20th legislative day of 40. It is hard to believe that we are halfway finished with the 2016 session. Last week was productive in the House chamber as we passed a number of bipartisan measures for the benefit of our Georgia citizens. Education, religious liberty, public safety and help for our military servicemen were main points of discussion as a number of positive measures received favorable support.
Spencer Pass Law Expanded
In order to ensure the safety of our state’s utility service workers, we unanimously passed House Bill 767. HB 767 is a bi-partisan measure which adds utility service vehicles and workers in the fields of electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, cable, telephone, or telecommunication services to the list of those covered under Georgia’s “Spencer Pass Law.” The law requires drivers to make a lane change when approaching any stationary towing, recovery or highway maintenance vehicle parked on the shoulder of the highway. If changing lanes is impossible, or unsafe, the driver is required to slow down to a speed less than the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop. Violators would now be subject to a fine of up to $250. Originally passed in 2003, The Spencer Pass Law, also known as Georgia’s Move Over Law was passed in an effort to reduce risks for public safety and emergency personnel as they performed roadside job duties. It is our hope that by including utility workers in the Spencer Pass Law, additional lives will be saved.
Transparency in Education
Last week, Education once again made its way to the floor as we passed two measures aimed at improving funding transparency in our Georgia school systems.
House Bill 739
The first education measure came in the form of House Bill 739. HB 739 would give the State Board of Education the option to establish a committee to study and recommend instructional materials and content. The legislation also allows local boards of education to implement a review process for any locally approved instructional material. In order to improve transparency, any instructional material approved by State or local boards, must post proposed materials on their website for public view. Content will also be available for individual review upon request. We are hopeful this process will further local control and parental involvement within our education system.
House Bill 659
To further transparency within our education systems, we also passed House Bill 659. HB 659 requires each local school board and state charter school to make financial information available for public access. As education funding now accounts for more than half of our state budget, transparency of those funds is critical as we continue efforts to improve our educational systems. If passed into law, local boards would be required to publicly post financial information to their website, for each individual school in their district. State charter schools would also be required to post financial information. Further, each school and district would be required to send the information to the Department of Education, to be compiled by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement where the information will be published on its website as well. The bill also requires schools to post costs of the following:
All materials and equipment
Staff salaries and benefit expenditures
Professional development, including annual training and tuition
Small capital projects
New construction or major renovation on a cost-per-square-foot basis for each individual school
Similar to schools, local boards of education would also be required to publicly post the following:
Ratio of expenditures to revenues
Total dollar amount of local property tax revenue the school system is authorized to collect
Total program mill levy
Total dollar amount of all other tax revenue collected
The bill is now in the Senate and awaits further review.
Pastor Protection Act
Another bill that passed out of our chamber this week was House Bill 757, also known as the Pastor Protection Act. This bill codifies our state’s strongly held belief in the rights of conscience for religious leaders and protects our ministers and other religious practitioners from having to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of his or her religious faith. This legislation also protects private businesses from being compelled – by city, county or other government ordinance to operate on a day of worship. Furthermore it exempts religious organizations from being required to rent, lease, or otherwise permit the use of their facilities for events that are inconsistent with the church’s religious doctrine. Members from both sides of the aisle spoke in favor of the bill which passed unanimously out of the House chamber.
Bipartisanship was a common theme last week and I am pleased to report the unanimous passage of House Bill 821, which supports Georgia’s military spouses and veteran population. HB 821 would require all state licensure boards to streamline the licensing process, specifically for military spouses and transitioning service members who move to Georgia from another state. The bill would allow those eligible to qualify for temporary occupational licenses, licenses by endorsement, or expedited licenses facilitating their entry into Georgia’s workforce. Streamlining the licensure process for qualified military spouses and transitioning veterans will give individuals who want to enter our workforce the chance to do so in a more efficient manner. Servicemen and spouses are eligible for expedited licensing if they meet the following criteria:
Currently holds a license from another state where the training, experience, or testing meets or exceeds that of the Georgia license requirement they are seeking
Transitioning veterans currently on active duty status or are within 24 months of their retirement who have received specialty, certification, training, or experience in the military which meets or exceeds Georgia license requirements
With 12 military bases across the state, and the fifth largest military population in the nation, it is imperative that we help these families transition with ease and I am honored to join my colleagues in support of this measure. I cannot thank our servicemen and their families enough for the sacrifices they make on our behalf and I am hopeful that this legislation will make their transition into our great state a positive experience!
We welcomed the Georgia Realtors Association to the Capitol on Tuesday, February 9th!
Pictured with Rep. Jan Tankersley:
Michelle Franklin, Jean Ricketts and Regenia Hamel.
Congressman Rick Allen made a visit to the House chamber,
Monday, February 8th.
On Thursday, February 11th, Representative Tankersley and Speaker David Ralston welcome Page for the Day, Christian Scott, Trinity Christian School to the House chamber.
Representatives, Penny Houston, Barbara Sims, Katie Dempsey, Lynn Smith and Jan Tankersley pictured with Speaker David Ralston.
As we make our way through the remainder of the legislative session, I will continue to update you on issues important to our Georgia citizens. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. It is an honor to serve as your voice under the Gold Dome. As always, if you need assistance, please feel free to contact me anytime.
Representative of the 160th
Georgia House of Representatives