With only nine days left in the 2016 legislative session, the Georgia Senate is now focused on reviewing House bills, approving any changes made to Senate bills by the House, and finalizing the FY 2017 general budget. The next three weeks will be a challenge, as all business for this year’s legislative session must conclude on Thursday, March 24. I remain committed to supporting legislation that will increase public safety, encourage business growth and allow hardworking Georgians to keep more money in their pockets.

This week, the Georgia State Senate passed two resolutions that will ask voters to determine the outcome of two constitutional amendments, if the resolutions also receive House approval. The first one, Senate Resolution 756, proposes a constitutional amendment that would trigger a reduction in state income taxes based on the size of Georgia’s general fund and “rainy day fund.” If the general fund is at least $23.6 billion and the “rainy day fund” totals at least eight percent of that amount, the state income tax rate would be reduced by 0.1 percentage point. If the general fund reaches $24.2 billion, with at least eight percent of that amount in reserve, the rate would drop by an additional 0.1 percentage point. The resolution also states that the reductions would need to occur by 2020.

The second resolution, Senate Resolution 604, would prohibit the collection of state ad valorem taxes after January 1, 2017. This measure would apply to tangible property and would not affect school, county or city revenues. Both SR 604 and SR 756 are now under review in the House of Representatives.
I was proud to present two bills to the full Senate body this week. Senate Bill 402 seeks to address the rapidly increasing use of heroin in Georgia—a troubling and well-documented trend. The legislation would place a moratorium issuing new licenses to narcotic treatment clinics in the state. This will provide us with the time needed to properly assess the current state of narcotic treatment programs in Georgia, as well as develop recommendations for the licensing and regulation process. Senate Bill 417 showcases Georgia’s growing entertainment industry by creating a trail of film and TV production sites. The Georgia Department of Economic Development would be responsible for developing and locating the sites, while the Department of Transportation would be responsible for trail maintenance.

Several other notable bills passed the Senate this week, including:
• Senate Bill 6: This bill would create a special driver’s privilege card for immigrants granted lawful alien status under the deferred action program and creates a special identification card for lawful aliens. These cards are noticeably different from a standard issue driver’s license.
• Senate Bill 355: Students with a doctor’s note for illness or life-threatening sickness would be excused from standardized testing and also able to request standardized tests in paper and pencil format. The State School Superintendent would be tasked with developing policies for evaluating non-participating students.
• Senate Resolution 388: This is another resolution requiring voter approval in order to be fully enacted. SR 388 would allow religious or faith-based organizations to receive state funding for social services. Current law prohibits money from the general fund to be used, directly or indirectly, to aid any religious or sectarian organization. This bill creates an exception for providing social services.
• Senate Resolution 675: This would amend the Georgia Constitution to declare English as Georgia’s official language.
Although there is a still lot of work to be done this legislative session, I want you to know I am never too busy to answer your questions or hear your concerns about proposed legislation. As always, it is an honor and a privilege to represent Senate District 53 at the Georgia State Capitol.