By Lynne Riley, Georgia State Rep. (R-Dist. 50)
February 8, 2014
Our fourth week of the 2014 session was very busy and quite productive. Throughout the week, committees and subcommittees met to review proposed legislation, and my colleagues and I met on the House floor every day to vote on many different bills and resolutions.
On Wednesday, we heard Chief Justice Hugh Thompson give his first State of the Judiciary Address in a joint session with our colleagues from the Senate. In his address, Chief Justice Thompson applauded a series of criminal justice reform bills that we have passed over the last few years. One of the goals of criminal justice reform was to increase the number of accountability courts in Georgia. Chief Justice Thompson proclaimed that 93% of these court graduates remain free of criminal charges and 85% are employed. With fewer people in prison, these courts save Georgia more than $20 million in prison costs each year.
One of the bills that we passed last week could have a significant impact on Georgia’s education system. House Bill 766 would allow students over the age of 16 to obtain coursework credit for work based learning programs. House Bill 766 will enable school districts and businesses to develop partnerships, so that they can better prepare tomorrow’s workforce with the skills they need to thrive. This bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.
One bill that was heard in the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee this week was House Bill 875. HB 875 has many components, but would primarily expand Second Amendment rights for current Georgia Weapons Carry license holders by increasing locations where those individuals can carry their weapons, and emphasizing private property. The bill would allow private property owners to decide on the prohibition or permit of weapons at churches and bars. HB 875 also allows veterans under the age of twenty-one who have been honorably discharged from service to receive a weapon carry license, eliminates the re-fingerprinting requirement for weapons carry license renewals, prohibits the creation of a database of license holders, and lessens the penalty for license holders who are found carrying a weapon on college campuses. HB 875 was voted out of committee this week, and now awaits further action in the Rules Committee.
Another piece of legislation that was heard in the House Education Committee this week was House Resolution 486. This resolution would call for a constitutional amendment to allow any newly created cities or municipalities to set up their own school system. The legislation was passed out of the Education Committee and now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must pass by two-thirds of the state House and Senate before it can go to the voters for their consideration.
This week, the Senate passed the Amended Fiscal Year 2014 budget. The Senate passed a slightly different version of House Bill 743 than was previously passed in the House, so the amended budget will now move to a House and Senate Conference Committee to work out a final spending plan, to then be presented for a final vote in both chambers.
On Tuesday, it was a privilege for me to invite to the House Chamber the President of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, Dawson County Commission Chairman Mike Berg, and to honor ACCG on the occasion of its centennial anniversary. Chairman Berg was joined by other officers of ACCG and Ross King, ACCG Executive Director. My fellow colleagues who had also previously served as county commissioners joined me in paying tribute to ACCG, which has served with distinction for 100 years as the legislative advocate and voice for Georgia’s 159 counties.
On Thursday, I presented House Bill 788 to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it received a “do pass” favorable vote. HB 788 will provide for a state wide referendum, asking the voters of Georgia if they approve the preservation of tax exempt status of real property owned by the University System of Georgia in order to allow private management and operation of the property. The Georgia Board of Regents Chancellor Hank Huckaby joined me in giving testimony in support of the bill, as it will provide financial relief to the University System, and also allow for efficient management of student housing. HB 788 has been transmitted to the House Rules Committee for their consideration.
On Saturday, North Fulton welcomed Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal as guests of honor at the Fulton County Republican Party breakfast in Roswell. Governor Deal gave an update of Georgia’s economic growth over the past three years, and provided insights on his future goals and objectives to a sold out crowd of over 300 attendees.
Please make plans to attend a Town Hall meeting on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 11:00 am at the Newtown Community Club Building at Newtown Park in Johns Creek. Senator John Albers and I will be joined by other Johns Creek legislators to update you on the progress of the 2014 session, and get your feedback and input on legislation under consideration this year. Additional information on the Town Hall can be found at www.LynneRiley.com.I invite you to visit the Capitol while we are in session to see your legislators at work. You can also stay in touch by visiting our website at www.house.ga.gov to watch the House in action, view live and archived committee meetings, and review legislation that we are considering. I hope to hear from you on your ideas and opinions regarding the issues facing Georgia, and your suggestions on how we can enhance your quality of life. Please call my office at the State Capitol at 404-651-7737.
Editor's note: Georgia State Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek) represents District 50 which includes the city of Johns Creek.