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Greg Kirk: Week 8 update from the Capitol

This week we were able to successfully complete Day 27 of the Legislative Session. Your legislators are quickly picking up speed as we work to vet and pass legislation before the end of the 40th day.

Georgia is a beautiful state that is home to many fantastic lakes and a stunning coastline. This week, we passed SB 101, the Erosion and Sedimentation Act. This Act establishes a 25-foot buffer around all Georgia waters including, but not limited to, lakes, rivers and shorelines. The bill prohibits any land disturbing activities within the buffer. These buffers will not only protect our states coastal marshlands and waters, but they will protect the tourism industry in Georgia.

Our children are the future of our state and it is crucial that we provide them with the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills that will help them succeed in the 21st Century. SB 89, the Digital Classroom Act, was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. This bill encourages all learning and educational material purchased by the local boards of education to be in an electronic or digital format by July 1, 2020. Under this bill, all students are to be provided with a free laptop, tablet, or other wireless electronic device by the local board of education. However, not all school systems have the funds necessary and cannot afford to make these purchases. For this reason, funding assistance will be provided through state appropriations to assist certain local boards.

Thursday, we passed two pieces of legislation, SR 287 and SB 133, that work together to create the “Opportunity School District” in Georgia. SR 287 is a constitutional amendment, which requires approval by the voters in Georgia, to create the school district. Once approved by the voters, SB 133 will establish a statewide school district designed to turn around failing public schools in Georgia.

On Thursday, the Senate took a step towards ensuring the citizens of Georgia have the freedom to express their religious beliefs with the passage of SB 129, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act. SB 129 was written to closely mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993. This bill restores a higher standard for the state government to restrict the free exercise of religion. Thirty states already have a version of this bill in place and I hope that Georgia will become the thirty-first. As a co-signer of this piece of legislation, I worked diligently to ensure the passage of this bill. SB 129 will now move to the House for consideration.

Thursday, the House passed HB 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015. This legislation calls for replacing the current motor fuel sales tax with a 29.2 cent excise tax in an effort to fund nearly $1 billion in transportation projects. I believe this funding is crucial to our state’s transportation infrastructure, but I think it will be put under the microscope for intense examination before it is heard on the Senate floor.

Day 30, also known as crossover day, is the last day a bill can be transferred to the House for consideration if it is to pass this year. The end of Session is approaching quickly and we are working diligently to pass legislation that reflects the best interests of the citizens of Georgia.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns about pending legislation. My phone lines and doors are always open.

Sen. Greg Kirk represents the 13th Senate District which includes Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Tift, Turner, and Worth counties and portions of Sumter and Wilcox counties. He can be reached by phone at 404-463-5258 or email at greg.kirk@senate.ga.gov