Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

February 3, 2014

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

The third week of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2014 legislation session started with several important and productive meeting with local city officials.

While they heard from the governor and legislative leaders, we were also able to hear their concerns. As always, it is great to have folks from home come to the capital.  

Having passed the adjusted fiscal year budget, the real order of business became the matter of existing legislation left from last year and new bills being offered by members of the General Assembly.  Daily, we receive new legislation assigned to our committees. Our job is to review and investigate the merits of these potential laws. It is the job of the chairmen to schedule meetings and to have hearing on these bills.

That began in earnest last week. Quickly, our calendars filled with scheduled meetings and hearings. Monday and Tuesday was very busy, and then the weather changed. Winter Storm Leon had a major impact on our ability to conduct business as usual.

As much as we want to complete our tasks at the Capitol, it is much more important to see to the safety and security of the public. Our concern had actually been for folks at home. The biggest problem was expected to be in south and middle Georgia. However, late in the planning the storm moved further north and everyone adjusted at the same time.  We saw schools close early — at the same time employers released employees — and it seemed as if everyone hit I-75 at the same time.

On a normal day, Atlanta traffic is brutal to us from south Georgia. As the governor and other officials ordered, we needed to stay off the roadways.  We needed to make sure first responders were where they needed to be, but when it was safe, some of us were able to come to the Capital. However, for safety reasons most meetings were rescheduled. We were able to use the time to catch up on our correspondence and review existing bills. It was a good time to read the new bills and prepare for upcoming committee meetings that have already been rescheduled. 

On Friday, we were finally able to direct our attention to several important bills. One of our first orders of business was the passage of House Bill 176, the “Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development Act,” which could result in better cell phone service for Georgians. This legislation would allow previously approved wireless support structures and wireless facilities to be modified without additional zoning or land use review beyond what is typically required by the local governing authority that issues electrical permits.

House Bill 176 would streamline the permitting process for companies investing in wireless infrastructure, which would ultimately allow wireless telecommunication companies to increase the cellular bandwidth for Georgians. Increased cellular bandwidth is not only crucial for business and recreational communication, but it is also an essential factor in public safety and emergency response.  For example, when thousands of motorists were stuck on the roads last week, many were unable to call their families and friends because phone lines were jammed.  Increased bandwidth would have allowed those motorists to more quickly communicate, so they could make those important phone calls. HB 176 will now go to the Senate for consideration. 

Also passed on Friday was House Bill 715, which clarifies the acreage of land permitted for development on Jekyll Island.  This bill states that the Jekyll Island Authority cannot convert more than 1,675 acres of the total land area of the island into developed land.  Additionally, HB 715 designates 12 acres for the expansion of an existing campground, 46 acres for public health, safety or recreation, and 20 acres for unrestricted use, which could be used for future commercial development.  Setting these standards for development will ensure that Jekyll Island remains a place of rest, relaxation and recreation for the thousands of Georgians who vacation there each year.

Senate Bill 297 was another piece of legislation that passed the House on Friday.  This bill made a technical change to an elections bill that passed in 2013. It gives candidates for municipal or county office the option to waive campaign finance disclosure requirements if that candidate intends to accept or spend less than $2,500 on their campaign. This bill will also cut unnecessary government regulations, so that citizens can more easily run for local office in their county or city. 

In addition to passing these pieces of legislation this week, we also took time to recognize some of our brave Georgians in uniform. On Jan. 27, we celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in the House. Dozens of airmen and soldiers visited the State Capitol and we recognized their accomplishments on the House floor with House Resolution 1131. We also had the great privilege to Skype with troops who are currently deployed in Afghanistan.  It was an honor to show our appreciation to these incredible heroes.  We are so grateful for their selfless actions both abroad and at home.

We want to again mention some of the special folks from home that came to Atlanta. We shared time with representative from the Georgia Council of Public Libraries. Thank you to all who provide us with the many resources the library has to offer.   We also had a good meeting with the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia and heard of the many important and vital services they are providing to the community.

Again, thank you to all of our City Officials for their hard work and service. We appreciate you sharing with us your needs and concerns.

We also hope to hear from you on your ideas and opinions regarding the issues facing our great state.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at the Georgia State Capitol. Reps. Sam Watson and Darlene Taylor are both located in the Coverdale Legislative Office Building, in Suite 501, their telephone number is 404-656-0178. Amy Carter is located in the Capitol Room 218, her telephone number is 404-656-6801. Our email addresses are sam.watson@house.ga.gov, darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov, and amy.carter@house.ga.gov.   We look forward hearing from you we thank you for allowing us to serve as your state representative.

 

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