By Georgia Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro
ATLANTA – We are now in the final stretch of the 2012 session. At the end of the 10th week, we have completed 33 legislative days. The Senate is now reviewing House bills and the 2013 Fiscal Year budget as Sine Die – the last day of session – quickly approaches.
This week, the Senate passed legislation that would boost our state’s economic development, increase public safety and reduce the size of government. I was pleased to sponsor in the Senate HB 110, a bill that would standardize requirements of foreclosed or vacant real property registries. I have worked with realtors, bankers, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and many others to ensure there is accountability for the upkeep on vacant and foreclosed properties through this legislation. Georgia’s foreclosure rates are among the highest in the nation and pose a significant threat to property values if maintenance ordinances aren’t followed. Counties and municipalities will be authorized to enact uniform registries if needed in their communities as a tool to protect property values.
The Senate also passed HB 895, which would transfer the responsibilities of the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation starting July 1, 2012. This would streamline information processing so that law enforcement officers can do their job properly. We also eliminated the State Personnel Administration and transferred its functions to the Department and Commissioner of Administrative Services in HB 642. This is a step towards a more efficient government.
The Education and Youth Committee, on which I serve as secretary and chair for the Academic Support Subcommittee, passed out HB 692, which decreases the salary or bonus of a teacher who is found guilty of falsifying standardized test scores. The committee also passed HB 845 and HB 825. HB 845 would require early care and education programs to provide information on the influenza vaccine, and HB 825 would extend the time frame for hearings before administrative law judges in cases of students reporting inappropriate behavior by teachers.
We passed HB 706 in the Senate to delete obsolete, unused and unnecessary provisions relating to elementary and secondary education within the Title 20 code. HB 706 clarifies the language for Title 20, which outlines the role of education in Georgia.
I’m also a member of the Judiciary Committee where we passed out HB 711 to eliminate the spousal privilege from testifying in certain case where the spouse is a victim of domestic violence. The bill also creates protections for communications by a battered spouse with social workers. Both measures are designed to assist prosecutors and courts in curbing domestic violence.
HB 763 also passed the committee restricting convicted felons whose civil rights have not been restored or any person considered mentally incompetent from serving as a trial juror or grand juror.
In the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee where I serve as Vice Chairman, we heard presentations on HB 898, which would authorize creation and regulation of merchant acquirer limited purpose banks. This would help anchor businesses in Georgia which employ thousands of workers in the processing of credit card transactions for banks.
We are legally mandated to pass a balanced budget before the end of session. The Senate has already passed the amended 2012 Fiscal Year budget and is now reviewing the 2013 Fiscal Year budget. There are only seven legislative days remaining this year. As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback. Please contact me with your concerns via e-mail, phone or Face Book.