Our Gold Dome activities ended this week on Legislative Day 18 of the 2013 Legislative Session. This means we are only 12 legislative days away from Crossover Day, which is the last day for legislation to transfer to the opposite chamber for consideration. As we approach the halfway mark, we’re working hard to pass a balanced budget and work through the hundreds of bills being discussed in committees.
Earlier this session, the Senate worked with the House to set an aggressive schedule for the first 29 days of the 40 day session. This calendar saves taxpayers money and helps legislators to more effectively plan their work at the State Capitol.
With only 40 days to perform the fact-finding groundwork necessary to analyze hundreds of bills, we certainly have our work cut-out for us. In the 5 weeks since session began, we’ve only passed a handful of bills. However, this will pick up significantly as more bills are processed through the committees and make their way to the floor of the Senate for a vote by the full Senate.
Every biennial cycle tends to start off slower. In a new biennial, no legislation is carried over from the previous year, so legislators are working to craft new policy solutions and refine legislation that didn’t make it through during the last legislative term. Additionally, the budget is the number 1 priority this year and must take precedence over everything else.
However, even with the slow pace, this week has been one of our busiest weeks thus far. There were five Senate bills and one House bill receiving votes this week, and numerous Senate Resolutions honoring individual and group achievements.
Several Senate bills were passed in the Senate this week. These bills will now transfer to the House of Representatives.
SB 65 authorizes licensed professional counselors to perform emergency evaluations of individuals who are mentally ill or alcohol or drug dependent and to issue a certificate stating that such a person requires involuntary treatment.
SB 66 amends Title 15 of the state code to increase the penalties imposed for contempt of superior and state courts.
SB 87 and SB 91 do something that is regularly requested of me; they repeal existing laws and programs. SB 87 repeals the Roadside Markets Incentive Program while SB 91 repeals the “Emerging Crops Fund Act.”
SB 97 creates the opportunity for beef producers to vote to create the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Beef. If approved by 2/3 of the state’s beef producers, the Commission will be allowed to impose a charge of up to $1 per head sold for research, promotion or education.
HB 55 allows investigators to conduct wiretapping state-wide regardless of the county in which a warrant was issued. Investigators who do not have the resources to build listening stations within their jurisdiction will now be able to legally conduct wiretapping at any listening station in Georgia, provided they have a warrant. This bill now goes to the Governor for his approval or veto.
The General Assembly is constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee is currently making decisions on the FY2013 Amended budget. Once the Committee determines its budget recommendations, the FY2013 Amended budget will go before the full Senate for approval late next week. Once it receives favorable consideration from the Senate, we will work with the House to negotiate the final amended budget.
The House is also in the process of analyzing the FY2014 General budget and will send its recommendations to the Senate. The Senate will then review that budget for potential savings or more efficient use of your tax dollars. Normally, it is not before the final hours of the last legislative day that the big budget is approved.
Most states’ constitution requires a balanced budget. It is too bad that the Federal Government doesn’t have that same requirement. As a public servant, the most important thing I can do on behalf of my constituents is ensure our state is making sound fiscal decisions.
Thank you for trusting me to be your voice at the State Capitol. I welcome comments and questions from my constituents, so please don’t hesitate to contact my office at any time.
Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen