21 March 2016

Week Ten Update From the Gold Dome

Rick JeffaresBy: Sen. Rick Jeffares (R – McDonough)

Week 10 has come to a close as this year’s legislative session moves into its final days. We worked long hours this week as we prepare for the final two days of the session.

Even though the days were long, it meant we were able to work our way through a significant number of bills. Because these bills have already passed through the House, a favorable vote from the Senate means the bill will go to the Governor’s desk for his signature into law. However, if a bill is changed while in the Senate the bill would have to go back to the House for approval.

House Bill 768, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, would allow those with disabilities to create an untaxed savings account to help pay for “qualified disability benefits,” such as transportation, housing and education. Current Georgia law imposes too many restrictions on the finances of the disabled. The ABLE Act will open the door for these individuals to be able to achieve a comfortable standard of living.

We passed two bills which protect the children of our brave men and women in uniform. House Bill 54 would provide for post-secondary tuition grants for children of police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, prison guards, and Highway Emergency Response Officers who have been disabled or killed in the line of duty.

House Bill 535, the Protecting Military Children Act, would call on a child services organization investigating allegations of abuse or neglect to notify the military installation in which the child’s parents are based as quickly as possible. It’s important that we support the families of the brave individuals that serve our state and protect them as best we can while also investing in their future.

After months of careful deliberation, study and discussion, the Senate voted to approve HB 757. Recently titled the Free Exercise Protection Act, the bill is a combination of the Pastor Protection Act, the First Amendment Defense Act and the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. If signed by the governor, this bill will allow those with deeply held religious beliefs to worship and practice how they believe is right. The finalized version of HB 757 balances free expression of faith with the equal rights of all and simply upholds the constitutional right of religious freedom for all Georgians.

Other important pieces of legislation we passed this week include:

  • HB 979 increases the prison sentence for those convicted of aggravated assault against health care workers to five to twenty years.
  • HB 727 imposes new time constraints on when fireworks can be ignited, and would allow the governor to restrict the use of fireworks during times of drought. The State Fire Marshall and other appropriate agencies have the responsibility to enforce these new regulations.
  • HB 238 would cut all taxable income for Georgia citizens to a flat 5.4 percent. The bill would also raise personal exemption amounts and eliminate the corporate net worth tax.
Only two legislative days remain of the 2016 legislative session and we’re anticipating them to be long, but fruitful. Both the House and the Senate will be working well into the evening on Tuesday and Thursday to do the people’s business. The end is in sight, but there is still much work to be done before the legislative session concludes. If you have any questions on any upcoming legislation, there is still plenty of time to get in contact with my office. I greatly value the feedback of my constituents in District 17. I am here to serve you!

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Sen. Rick Jeffares serves as Chairman of the Regulates Industries Committee.  He represents the 17th Senate District which includes portions of Henry, Rockdale and Newton counties.  He may be reached by phone at 404.463.1376 or by email at rick.jeffares@senate.ga.gov.

 

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