Week 9 of the 2012 Session
Wednesday marked Day 30, a milestone in the legislative process known as Crossover Day, which serves as the last day Senate bills can pass out of the Senate to the House. Crossover Day must end at midnight and any legislation that has not been passed this year will have to be reintroduced during the 2013 Legislative Session. Day 30 is a long day that requires a lot of devotion and consideration. From this day forward, our time in the Senate will be spent strictly on legislation which has passed out of the House.
We debated a total of 40 bills on the Senate floor this week including 36 Senate Bills and 4 Senate Resolutions. One of these bills included SB 458, which would require verification of the citizenship status of all applicants for public benefits, including those receiving a post- secondary education in Georgia’s colleges and universities. Under federal code, post-secondary education is listed as a public benefit and therefore requires applicants to present a secure and verifiable document. Currently, the Georgia Board of Regents is circumventing federal policy by allowing undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities at the out-of-state tuition cost.
Another bill of note which protects the interests of hard working Georgians is SB 431. This bill creates and classifies the crime of medical identity fraud as a felony offense in Georgia. In Georgia, there are some who make a dishonest practice of willfully and fraudulently using another person’s identifying information for the purpose of obtaining medical care, prescription drugs, or financial gain, without that person’s authorization or consent. The cost of medical care and prescription drugs, with and without health insurance, is already outrageously high and we expect that it will only continue to rise. Instead of standing by while these fraud cases increase, we must be proactive in ensuring that those who choose to break the law are made to face the consequences.
One of the most impassioned debates of the week came on Wednesday with SB 438. This bill seeks to prohibit the primarily taxpayer-funded State Health Benefit Plan from providing abortion coverage. In 2012, the State of Georgia will insure over 672,000 state employees, school system employees, retirees and dependents. It is irresponsible for our state to force taxpayers to fund such a reprehensible procedure. SB 438 removes any potential ambiguity in the State Health Benefit Plan requirements by clearly stating that abortions are not an approved procedure. The bill passed with a vote of 33 to 18.
Also receiving a favorable vote in the Senate this week was SB 312. This legislation would require recipients of TANF to pursue personal growth activities such as working toward a general educational development diploma (GED), pursuing technical education, attending self-development classes, or enrolling in an adult literacy class. It should always be a goal of good government to lessen dependency on public entitlement programs and decrease the burden of unessential programs on tax payers. During challenging economic times, we must rebuild our state and our economy by encouraging citizens to seek the tools necessary to empower themselves through personal enrichment and professional growth.
The Senate also approved SB 432 this week. This bill ensures consistency in laws and ordinances restricting possession, manufacture or sale of knives across the state. This restriction does not apply to the local government’s regulation of knives in courthouses, schools or government buildings.
SB 493 and SB 350 which deal with firearm rights were passed this week. SB 350 would require that firearms used in the commission of a crime be returned to their innocent owners when it is no longer needed for evidentiary purposes. SB 493 passed the Senate and would allow Georgia residents between the ages of 18 and 21 to secure a weapons carry license dependent on the completion of a firearms course and if all other requirements (other than age) in Georgia code are met. These applicants must pass a firearms course within three months of the license application date and provide a certification of compliance from a licensed firearm instructor. These young adults are able to fight for our country, vote and are entitled to many other adult privileges. It is time that we allow these same individuals the right to responsibly carry weapons for professional purposes after being properly trained in safety and shooting procedures.
SB 473, a bill which honors our military, passed the Senate unanimously. This important bill extends the eligibility for Purple Heart license tags to include service members on active duty or in reserves. Previously a serviceman had to be retired from the military in order to display the specialty tag. Men and women throughout the entire state have made great sacrifices for our country by serving in our armed forces, and it was disheartening to discover that recipients of this distinguished award had to wait until retirement to receive their license tag. I was honored to support this measure for our veterans both past and present.
Finally, the Senate passed SR 673 which petitions the United States Congress to call a convention for the purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The resolution recommends that the total of all federal appropriations made by the Congress for any fiscal year may not exceed that total of all estimated federal revenue for that fiscal year. While Georgia works hard each year to manage a balanced budget in hard economic times, it is clear that our leaders in Washington care nothing about controlled spending or paying down our debt. I encourage each of you to write to your legislators in Washington demanding a fiscally responsible government and to keep this in mind as you vote for our nation’s future leaders.
For the next ten legislative days, we will focus on addressing bills that have passed the House and have been transferred to the Senate. Like Senate bills, House bills must endure the same committee process before reaching the Senate floor. By following this process, we ensure that only the best legislation becomes part of Georgia Code. If you have any questions or comments regarding legislation being heard at the State Capitol, please feel free to reach out to me.
As always, it is an honor and pleasure to serve the needs the 31st Senate District here at the Georgia General Assembly. Together, we will drive legislation that will create jobs, minimize regulatory and tax burdens, promote liberty, and strengthen the overall economic health of our state.