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"The People's Business"
Monday, 29 March 2010

March 29--(by Senator Tommie Williams)The Georgia Legislature is quickly approaching the end of the 2010 Legislative Session.  We wrapped up last week with Day 30, known as Crossover Day and the last day for Senate bills to pass over to the House of Representatives.  The Senate has passed many bills important to saving tax payers’ money, protecting public safety, protecting Georgian’s health care rights, and Internet fraud.  The following are some bills that may be of particular interest to you and your families. 

Autism Taskforce (SB161): This legislation creates a 21-member statewide Autism Taskforce within the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.  The Taskforce's responsibilities include: Developing a plan to educate the public and health care professionals about the advantages and methods of early screening, early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment of autism; Educating parents regarding available diagnostics, as well as services and funding sources.  I applaud Sen. Johnny Grant for his hard work on this bill and his commitment to this issue.  Autism is a serious illness affecting families all over Georgia.  Identifying and getting treatment as early as possible has an enormous impact in helping individuals suffering from autism.  Studies have shown that getting early treatment increases the chances for these individuals to lead independent lives and become productive citizens.  Studies have also shown that early treatment will save the state money. 

Health Care Protection (SB 317): Georgians should have the right to choose their own health care, whether that’s with a private company, a government option or not to purchase health care at all.  The actions taken by the Democratic Congress in Washington, DC have demonstrated their clear disregard for personal rights and freedoms.  Therefore, the State Senate passed the Health Care Freedom of Choice bill, which aims to protect Georgia citizens from mandatory participation in any health care system.  The bill prohibits any mandate that would compel Georgia citizens, employers, or health care providers to participate in any health care system. The bill does not affect current health care services provided in Georgia.

Lawful Carry (SB 308): This is important legislation that will help both gun owners and property owners. Georgia’s 400,000 lawfully carrying citizens and Georgia’s law enforcement officials will have clearer and more understandable carrying laws under the Georgia Common Sense Lawful Carry Act, which will remove confusing provisions from the current law.  The final bill removes the confusing public gathering clause and specifically states where a licensed gun owner can and cannot carry their weapon.  Property owner rights were preserved by allowing them to have discretion as to whether or not weapons are allowed on their property.  The Board of Regents and Technical Colleges will have the authority to determine if lawfully carried weapons will be allowed on campuses and at athletic events (carrying a weapon without a license on a college campus will still be a crime).    

Immigration Programs (SB 385): This bill provides monetary incentives for local governments to utilize U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Section 287(g) and Secured Communities programs.  The legislation will help relieve monetary burdens from local governments and the state by quickly turning in criminals who are identified as illegal aliens over to the proper federal authorities.  The bill provides a 20 percent bonus from the state to local governments that utilize the ICE 287(g) program and a 10 percent bonus from the state for those that utilize the Secured Communities program.  ICE ACCESS (Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security) provides local law enforcement agencies an opportunity to team with ICE to combat specific challenges in their communities.  Due to fiscal constraints, this bill will take affect when funds are available to be appropriated. 

Paper Reduction & Transparency Acts (SB 388 &389): The Paper Reduction Act mandates electronic distribution and publication in state government, unless printing is necessary by a legal standard.  This will provide transparency and easier access to government information as well as cut costs of printing, paper, and mailing.  Every dollar counts, and reducing paper use has proven to yield cost savings for countless businesses.  There is no reason why we cannot do the same in government.  This bill ensures all fiscal actions of the entire legislative arm of state government are available for the general public to find. 

Public-Private Partnerships along Highways: Georgia’s rest areas and service to travelers along interstate highways will greatly improve if Georgia is allowed to establish partnerships with private companies and franchises.  Senate Resolution 822 urges the Georgia Department of Transportation to obtain a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration that would allow commercial operations in rest areas along the interstates in Georgia. The goal is to partner with the private sector to help save money, maintain our rest areas, keep them open later, serve more people, and help local economies. 

Abortion (SB529): This legislation criminalizes coerced abortions and abortions performed based on race or gender.  Once you devalue life at one level, you devalue life at every level.  Aborting children based on race or gender is dangerous territory and should never be tolerated in any nation that values life.  Regardless of gender or race, everyone deserves a birthday and a chance at life.  I want to thank Senator Chip Pearson for bringing Senate Bill 529 before the Senate to protect life. 

It is an honor serving you in the State Senate.  For more information on other bills in the legislature you can go to www.legis.state.ga.us.
 
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